Playing live and nerves

I found with the first OM I did, I was a little nervous but not to bad, I got through and if I recall I didn’t make any mistakes.

Second OM I set off and the nerves were okay, then as I was playing they really kicked in, making me do an incorrect chord change.

Third OM as soon as I started playing the nerves were there and I know I made several mistakes whilst playing.

How is it, when I know I’m in a safe and supportive environment that my nerves are getting worse, to the point of it spoiling my enjoyment of playing live?

Is there anything I can do to stop this? What do you guys do to ease your nerves whilst playing?

I will add, I’m not nervous before hand, it just seems to start now when I start playing.


Maybe you’re playing more complex songs? Maybe it’s performance anxiety that you did well previous times and you want to live up to that?

I’ve only done two. First one I was nervous beforehand and hands sweaty and wooden during. This one I wasn’t nervous beforehand, but nerves kicked in when I started playing- made some mistakes etc - and got more relaxed as it went on.

No idea on the psychology behind this stuff though.


That’s what triggered open mic performance anxiety for me.

I changed and made sure my first song is a slow and easy one.


Possibly just the peaks and troughs of doing something live.

It’s not quite the same specific thing but when I started doing big customer briefings in a work environment I was horrendously nervous despite knowing my stuff, gradually got better but I will still find that sometimes I’ll have nasty nerves during a session now some 20 years after starting to do them.

Do you play in front of family / friends at all? How do you find yourself in that environment?


An interesting and important topic @SgtColon
I found my first OM, my hands were like concrete, and I was super nervous.
This second OM, no concrete hands, but still pretty nervous.
Who knows what the next one will bring?

I’ve sometimes had the thought that, as I’m developing as a player, people will expect a certain level from me, and I put pressure on myself. I know its all mind games in my own head, with no real basis in reality. In this community, as in life, other people are not thinking about Shane most of the time :rofl:.
The last OM, just before I went on, I actually did a few breathing exercises while walking around the house, telling myself all was fine, its no big deal. Probably helped.
Funny little creatures we are.

You’re a fine player Stefan, with a great voice as well. And I’ve heard around the traps that you’re a pretty good bloke too. :grin:

Cheers, Shane


Your performance was ace Stefan. I could really not see any signs of you being nervous at all. And you sounded great.
I dont have any spesific tips for you, but i do believe it is 100% normal to be a bit nervous and i dont think that will blow over anytime soon either. Think you can turn it around and say that instead of it working against you it can be used as a benefit and strength. That a little anxiety keeps you a bit on the «edge» and helps you focus even more.
My second was ok… i was nervous, but the «good nervous» feeling and i do belive that it will always stick with me…

As i said… in my opinion you were 100% :fire:


That’s a good point @tRONd a small degree of nerves can be a good thing to keep us a bit on edge, I suppose the fight or flight syndrome. The challenge is not letting the “Flight” bit win which is where it can become unsettling to the point of harming what you want to achieve.

I’ll also agree with the others here in that if you were feeling what you describe above then it did not show one little bit in your slot, you came across, if I can put it this way, “easy”. I don’t believe anyone will ever be their perfect selves live, but as always will an audience notice it? 99.9% no.

PS - I’m also no psychologist but very interested in the subject.


Same goes for you aswell @Notter
Looked as relaxed as anything. Playing/singing was very very good. Impressive debut!


Thanks @tRONd !

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This will not be very helpful :scream: !!

I’ve done everyone so far and still get nerves. The first few I was bricking it as soon as the slot before me started. Then it started to kick in the minute the spotlight hit me. For a few OMs I used a different camera and also ensured I could not see myself in Zoom or OBS. That seemed to help a little and for OM VIII and IX I have been practicing while looking at the video feed, easier this time as I was sitting down again.

I honestly thought I’d cracked it this time but as soon as I started my intro banter (which is semi rehearsed) I felt that old feeling again and once again made a couple of snafus.

What I would recommend is to play the song so many times until you are sick to death of it and can play it in your sleep. You will still get the nerves but your playing and singing will be on auto pilot. And that’s where I screwed up this time, I got complacent.

I had decided on 2 Bad Co songs before the cut backs. One has some fiddly bits while singing and was getting a bit of a challenge, so I parked it. For DRBYW the progression just fell into place and I spent most of my time chasing the intro and how to play it. So rather than play the song(s) every day for the two weeks before the show I left myself 5 days and then didn’t ramp up until Thursday. So I fell into the old 6 Ps trap.

Don’t think they will ever go away, as Justin acknowledged at the Livestream. But its how you use them and how you prepare.

My 2 cents.



Stefan I was very nervous this time around, I had put myself under a lot of pressure to deliver a song I can rarely play through without error, the last open mic I was just enjoying playing the songs.

One tactic I am going to try next time is to get out on the mountain bike a few hours before to get that nervous tension out. If you have another hobby which gets the adrenaline flowing maybe worth a shot, I remember playing the best round of golf ever after a super sketchy session on the bike and it was down to being so relaxed.

If you’re not into exercise normally, maybe a brisk walk would do the job.


Thank you everyone for your replies.

@jkahn Just thinking of the three I’ve done, none of them are overly complicated. I think that maybe I’m over thinking the mistakes I make in my practice and I’m taking that into the performance.

@Notter I play when my wife is around or the boys but I’ve not played in front of anyone else. Though there is a family bbq on the 30th, I’m taking my guitar along so it will be interesting to see how I perform then.

@sclay Oh yes, it is my that is putting pressure on myself but I don’t know why? If people don’t like what I do then they don’t have to listen. Our heads are all very odd.

@tRONd I’d like to take that and turn it in to a positive but at the moment it’s turning it in to a negitive.

@TheMadman_tobyjenner It’s reassuring to hear you still get nervous Toby. You look super laidback when playing and I just thought that all you guys that had been doing it a while didn’t get nervous anymore.

@liaty That sounds like a good idea Dave. I think I need to get on my bike a few hours before the event.


Hi there! I played in front of a lot of people for the first time in June: If you’re happy and You’ve got a friend in me with my 45 3to6 yo pupils singing along and my very supportive colleagues. We had rehearsals with my guitar for a couple of weeks and when I was making mistakes, but keep on going nevertheless, then I’d complain at the end “I did 2, 3 mistakes!” and my colleagues went like “Really? You’re the only one who noticed them, we wouldn’t tell”. The practice had been really intense as I did it imagining to be at the party in front of all the kids’ families…like this, I thought, I’ll train myself to be able to cope with those emotions that will occur at the actual party. I didn’t play perfectly, I did a few mistakes but kept on going and anything went well at the end. So…yeah…maybe trying to practice with all those emotions going on seems a good idea to me. Cheers :slight_smile:


I forgot to say that I think I heard this tip (imagining to be in the situation) from Justin, can’t really remember in what occasion, maybe he was talking when he had to perform in front of teachers…don’t remember…


I still get nerves too Stefan I don’t think that goes away that easy! But it’s definitely better than on my first OM - I couldn’t fo a simple fingerpicking song mu right hand literally stopped working as I wanted it to!

I try to set my mind to a thought that a - this is a supportive community and no one will be mean or criticize you and b - just treat it like any other practice on my own and just have fun. That’s all I came up with, if it eases your mind it gets easier to perform but nerves are always there!


Stefan, I’m late to this party. Lots of good ideas and feedback already shared.

Part of my mindset and approach is to accept that I will make mistakes, so I am not stressing myself by thinking about playing without mistakes. Of course I am trying to play without mistakes, and I often do play a song error-free. My thinking is that quality of performance, as judged by number and severity of mistakes, follows some kind of normal distribution curve.

And when playing live, when you know this is it, that adds a little bit more pressure. But funnily enough since I stopped worrying about making mistakes, I think I make less mistakes. I feel more relaxed and carefree when playing. And it has been a long time sice I got almost to the end of a song mistake-free, and the inner voice said ‘that’s great, almost there, don’t flub now’ which was inevitably followed by a flub.

So I was happy on Saturday overall and will not let my one flub take anything away from the moment.

And it has got better over time, the more one plays, the more you just enjoy it for what it is, the more times you do OMs, AVOYP recordings, the better it gets. Then as we used to say in Toastmasters, you get to the point when the butterflies are flying in formation and giving you the energy to entertain … I’ll get there.


Apparently, there are many famous musicians who still suffer from stage fright…even after playing for decades.

One anecdote I read many years ago - I think it was Bruce Springsteen…

He said that when he feels the butterflies in his stomach, he labels the feeling as excitement, not anxiety, and that really helps him.

Maybe it’s a mistake to try to suppress the feelings, and it’s better to assume

  • you will probably feel anxious,
  • you will probably make some mistakes,

So it’s better to have already practiced a coping strategy when these things inevitably happen? e.g. “Just keep playing through mistakes”, etc

I’m just guessing here…it’s gonna be a while before I do anything more than AVOYP!


@adi_mrok @Tbushell Thanks guys for your thoughts. I’ll be keeping theses thoughts in my head, in future when I play in the OM’s.

:rofl: Yes, that is spot on. I even do that sometimes when I’m practicing. Why do we do it to ourselves?

There is some great advice in here and I’m going to try and be a little more zen about it all if I can.

Thank you everyone. :slight_smile:


When I was a lot younger and me and a few mates were pub players standard fare was a couple of pints and or a few drags of herb, used to work OK (I think!), now if I have to play in front of anyone or record anything I tend to do some meditation, mostly mindfulness or just relaxation.


Funny I am normally a couple of beers into the show before my set, this time I waited until I was done. Not sure it made any difference, so maybe it was the whacky backy that was missing :rofl: