Eight ways to conquer fear as a musician
Though I loved playing my chosen instrument (the ‘cello) as a teenager, fear and anxiety often limited what I was truly capable of. The mandatory recitals and concerts in front of an audience often made me freeze up, resulting in a wooden performance at best. I remember leaving that stage as fast I entered it! Even just playing for my teacher would sometimes cause me to panic, especially when I knew I wasn’t sounding as good as I should be. Battling these kinds of fears can be frustrating, limiting and even debilitating. I would like to explore eight ways that may help you to conquer fear in your life as a musician.
1. Recognize where fear has crept in
Take some time to consider what aspects of playing the flute might make you feel fearful. Is it the fear of performing in front of an audience? Or maybe you’ve decided to study the flute by yourself, spent lots of money on a good instrument and music lessons, and now you are afraid of failure.
What if it doesn’t work out the way that you had hoped it would? Realizing what specifically you are afraid of can be a first step in conquering and managing the specific fears you are facing.
2. Realize you are not alone
Upon doing some research, I came across this article which talks about famous musicians who still suffer from stage fright. In fact, I would wager to say that most performers probably still face some form of performance anxiety, even if they have learned to manage it effectively. Speak to your teacher about your fears or share them with a fellow student. Chances are, they have faced similar feelings and will be able to empathize with you. This may help you to feel less intimidated by these fears.
3. Focus on your strengths as a musician
One sure-fire way to boost your confidence is to focus on what you’re good at. Write it down if necessary! It doesn’t even have to be directly related to the technicalities of music. It could be: “I am committed to my flute lessons and practice regularly.” This is a strength! Instead of the continuous loop of negativity you may be tempted to slip into if something is difficult or you feel like you are just not progressing, stop yourself right there. Ponder the positive aspects of your musical life and keep remembering them. If this is hard for you to do, ask your teacher or possibly a spouse or a friend to help you to see where your strengths lie. An external perspective can be very valuable to gain a better view of reality.
4. Celebrate how far you’ve come
Remember when you first unpacked that flute and didn’t even know how to hold it properly? And now you are playing entire songs and rocking those arpeggios. Yes! You may still be a far way off from your end goal, yet you have come a long way since Day 1. Remember that. Know that you are going and growing.
Looking back at your progress every now and then, (no matter how much or how little it is), can really help you to boost your confidence.
5. Practice in front of a mirror
It may sound odd but try it! Practicing in front of a mirror can have a few advantages. Firstly, you will get used to the sight of you playing the flute and getting more comfortable with that. It may even help you to self-correct a few things that you know you might be doing wrong, such as posture etc. It will also help you to get an idea of how you come across. Do you look confident? If not, try and fix that. The old “fake it, till you make it” may apply here. When you have confident body language, you will naturally feel more confident.
6. Realize that your journey is unique
Realize that you are on a unique journey. There is no need to compare yourself to anyone. You should never feel like you are trying to keep up with the musical Joneses. Compete with yourself if you must and learn from others, but don’t try and be who they are. You have a unique set of circumstances, a unique set of gifts and a unique way of learning. And that is the way it should be.
7. Plug into a supportive community
I know I am most likely preaching to the choir here, but yes – please do continue to engage in this wonderful community you have here. Make use of the support, the tips, the ideas that you are exposed to on this platform. It will help you to feel less alone and be that proverbial hand that guides you on your musical path.
8. Figure out what helps you to calm down
When it comes to some hands-on tips to manage fear, I know that there is not a one-size-fits all solution. I know that for some people, deep breathing is very helpful. For others, it may be to share their fears on a supportive community such as this. It could be a quiet moment of prayer or meditation before starting your practice routine. A cup of hot tea, perhaps, or even some stretches. If you don’t know what might work for you, do some research. Find out what others do. Try it and test it.
Fear is a part of our lives as human beings. Most of us battle it in some form or another, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it may have snuck its way into your flute playing. Don’t be discouraged! Fear can be managed and diluted of its potency. It doesn’t have to keep you back. In the words of the great Nelson Mandela: “I learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear.” May your fears take up less and less room as you grow in courage on your musical journey!
If you would like to transform your approach to your flute playing, through July and August, we are going to be taking some time to explore this concept of "Letting Go" as a community. We have a few events coming up to help you do this, starting with our Letting Go course that kicks off on the 13th of July.
If you sign up for the course before the 8th of July, we have an early bird promo running and you can get 10% off. The promo code is: LettingGo10, this code expires on the 8th of July.
On the 16th of July, we will host a live workshop, ' Becoming a more confident flutist', in this session Tatiana will give you concrete tools that you can implement in your flute journey and lives to becoming a more confident musician. if you would like to sign up for the workshop, click on the button below.
Renate Yotti is a writer and language teacher with a soft spot for music. She loves creating beautiful music on her piano and used to play the cello as a teenager. Renate has co-authored a poetry collection with Tacham Deowm called Cross-Over (available on Amazon) and her conversational blog can be found at: https://fireplace-chats.blogspot.com