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Stage fright and stuff

Nick Wyver

A thread started by Andrew Sanders about his second live performance (hope it went well) prompted this ramble.

I've been doing stuff in front of an audience for about 50 years now (no sniggering at the back please). Started at primary school with country and scottish dancing displays and moved onto school plays and operas at secondary school. I was also one of the rare ones that used to volunteer for doing readings in assembly.

After school it was all pretty much saxophone based - starting with a prog rock band then concert bands, classical quartets, dance band, big band, ceilidh band, more rock, blues - all sorts of stuff. Audiences ranging from 1 (the barman in an otherwise empty pub) to a perhaps a couple of thousand.

I don't recall ever suffering from stage fright. It may be that my memory's not what it used to be (it isn't) but I think I'm fairly sure about this. It may be that I don't put myself in situations where I think I might struggle and be totally exposed - as opposed to hiding away in the sax section. For instance, I've never done a full classical recital - just the odd piece. I'm not really good enough and have absolutely no intention of ever doing so, but if someone managed to persuade me (for a charity?) I guess I'd have a bash at it. I don't suppose I'd get worked up about it.

Anyway, all of this waffle about me serves as an introduction to ask, "What do you dread about performing? What situations give you the collywobbles? What do you do to cope?"

Also, I suppose, "What drives you to do it in the first place?". Is it a tendency to want to show off (probably me) or do you feel you have to communicate something? I don't think I've ever felt that.

Just wondering.

Yeah, I'm bored tonight.
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old git

Tremendous Bore
Not only bored but possibly in the early stages of dementia

It wasn't Andy, our magnifying glass banjo maker, wot posted the thread but STB.

Me? Love the applause whether a solo folk act or part of an ensemble.


Well-Known Member
For me,

Playing in stupidly loud bands always bought the issue of hearing yourself enough/with some quality.
I dreaded certain venues where the sound would boom around so much and the higher the over all volume of the band the worse it got. So bad in fact that the sax mic was up so loud it that when no body was playing it would feed back through the monitors just by putting the bell flare within 4" of it and not even blowing. Band starts up, can't hear the sax!!!!!!!
Ye godsss! thanks for reminding me!


Senior Member
Hi Nick, O.G. & Trev,
I was too full of myself when I started playing in a band (at 15 in1957) consisting of 6 old men aged 21/22. We worked the South coast and played mostly instrumentals by John Barry, Duane Eddy etc. and for once I didn't have to work at pulling the birds (the singer looked like Adam Faith and got the pick of the ladies). Volume was controlled by an A&R man out front. Happy days!
Now it's turn up at the gig, say Hola! to the guys (the limit of my Spanish), plug the bell mic. cable into the mixer, turn the volume control on my strap down to + a quarter, so that I have plenty in reserve and do the sound check (a guy actually goes round with a DB meter). We start at 12.30 a.m. no one ever tells me what we're playing, or the key. Then the "Rock Gods" turn up and the volume goes through the roof. Trev the last track I sent you was recorded before any increase in volume, so you can hear what I'm up against, just as you used to be!
However the Spanish ladies do love the sax. I get chatted up (they do stand very close :thumb:) and I'm pushing 70!
Stage fright.................Nah!
Still full of myself........................Yeah!!


Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Hi everyone.
I have been been on stage in every sort of situation for about 30 years (I started young).
A bit of fright has always been there and to overcome it is part of the fun.

A couple of years ago I did a concert in a school, for children 5 to 15. That was scary!
300 eyes and 300 ears on you that wouldn't miss anything you do. I played, but my alto's tuning (the instrument I was less familiar with) went out of the window.
I swear that playing in front of thousands at festivals is much easier.


Well-Known Member
I worry myself slightly in that I suffer with severe anxiety in my everyday normal life (long story had some serious life threatening illnesses a few years back),............. but have no fear when performing - I LOVE IT! (even when I stuff it up badly - which I do often!) I think it's because I'm with the band, and we always get loads of people dancing and lots of applause. I get more worried at the occasional jam I have attended when the audience are fellow musicians as I know they will be critical :)

But if I had to stand alone on a stage and do it that would be different - I remember as a child having to take part in music festivals on the piano every year - I just used to freeze with fear! (possibly something to do with not being very good at the piano?! :))) )

I suppose for me, having cheated death 3 times, performing is an escape to a kind of parallel universe/pretend world that takes me away from my worries :mrcool


Interesting comments so far - no-one yet has said they're really affected though..? Hopefully this is making interesting reading for those that are.

For my part it's a similar story - started young at school with singing and moved on through recorders to clarinet and sax, then 'real' gigs at weddings etc. with a semi-school band. I now do have 'stage fright' of a sort with my singing, having had about fifteen years without doing any I know I'm not great at it and therefore I get over critical of myself. This means I don't relax, so mistakes are inevitable which perpetuates the whole thing.
Having made an idiot of myself with a sax many times over since my formative years, getting on stage doesn't really hold any dread any more. My first improvisation to the public was performed while under the influence of quite a lot of alcohol (it was at a beer festival), and therefore will have sounded terrible, but I've never had nerves about it - maybe that's why ;}. Nerves only figure if I have to front a band, actually talking to an audience is way harder than playing to them!


Andrew Sanders

Northern Commissioner for Caslm
I only ever play live with the guitar and suffer from wobbly legs before every performance, but never get wobbly fingers.
No matter how nervous I get the fingers never let me down. Play sax for family and friends but never paying customers.


Formerly known as "nachoman"
Very interesting topic indeed.
Stage fright- for me its extremely rare and has nothing whatsoever to do with the specific gig, size of crowd etc. The only time I ever feel nervous is when I’m extremely fatigued before going on stage (I’ve got two small kids, it happens). Having said that- once I’m actually on stage, I’m usually too busy doing my thing for nerves to be an issue- it’s the waiting around beforehand that occasionally gets to me (green room cabin fever).
Fronting a band can be somewhat nerve wracking too- I’m o.k. as long as I’m just playing but as soon as I’ve got to talk to an audience I hate it (odd, seeing as I’ve got quite a gob on me most of the time :0 ).


Well-Known Member
I have been gigging for about 15 years,don't get stage fright however i do get some apprehension before some gigs mainly because i am the one who sorts out the sound from the PA and i am no sound engineer,once it is sorted out its time to have fun,the playing is by far the best bit.
I much prefer the gigs we play at festivals and the sound is all sorted out professionally.



Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM
I haven't been on stage for some twenty odd years but I used to have stage fright whenever I hadn't bothered with knowing my stuff well enough. On a normal gig however, I used to be a bit tense before it started. But once it was well on the way, everything was fine.

Depending on the definition of stage fright, I think a little bit of it is just fine. We need to be on the 'alert' do do a proper job. To much of it suggest that perhaps a little work on the self confidence is in order.

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
As a youngster (mid teens) in the 70s my interest was astronomy. I joined a society and at the regular weekly observatory meetings, they made youngsters like me take turns each week to give a short talk on a given subject. I got used to standing in front of an adult audience and having to present something vaguely sensible....

Wind forward 20 odd years to when I started singing: because I was used to standing in front of people through various activities (not just the astronomy, but I have addressed a lecture theatre filled with a couple of hundreed people and read to an audeince of over 2,000) I wasn't overly phased - admittedly there is a certain safety in numbers. However, if you are singing 'a cappella' if you get it wrong, it's obvious to all and sundry.

I will admit that unusually I had some nerves at the concert last Saturday where I was not singing with my own choirs (I was depping). It was a very small chamber group of only 14 singers and only 3 of us on the bass line (2 baritones (one me) and a 2nd bass). That was challenging - not least as in some places the bass line was split into 2 or even 3 parts. Some very difficult music (Bernstein, Britten and a young composer called Tarik O'Regan - Algerian/Irish I believe). I'll admit I was very aware of some of my exposed entries.

Fortunately it went well...
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Well-Known Member
First suffered in the choir, this time of year, aged about 10. They asked for a soloist in the xmas service. My hand just went up. I didnt even know I had done it. Suffered terribly until the DAY, then opened my mouth and all was well. Still suffer this especially if singing is involved but still the same, open the gob and all is immediately well. Have spoken for two jam sessions in the new year when the lip is joined up again and am a bit frit but not very. I am adopting a strategy I read in something of Pete´s. I am not just practicing till I can get it right, I am practicing till I cannot get it wrong. I think I do want to show off. Yep, definately.

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Purely out of curiosity and to stem robust humour, what are your exposed entries?
Plucking an F out of thin air when the last chord sung by the altos and sops was an F against an F# and in the two bars since then, the harp had played an atonal passage with just about every note except an F.

Nothing else was exposed...


still get a bit of stage fright before I go on stage. I go over in my head what could go wrong and there are always certain tunes that can be more tricky. I worry about the players around me, will they remember to count 9 bars and not come in after the 8th etc...

But for me it helps to focusd my concentration on the job ahead, sometimes the worst gigs are when you are too relaxed and let your concentration lax, and its strange out it becomes contagiuos!

So dont be afraid of stage fright use it to sharpen your performance !

Best Regards Rikki
Saxholder Pro
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