Ukulele Performance: Dealing with the Dreaded Jitters.

Scared Eyes 3

You’re on the stage, your throat and mouth go dry, you have shortness of breath and a sick feeling in the stomach.  You fumble the chords on your ukulele and the audience seems to morph into a scary monster.  You don’t have a virus.  You have Stage Fright.  If you have never experienced this before, don’t panic.  It can happen to anyone, even professional musicians.

After a couple of years occasionally playing with a small group, I experienced a sudden attack of stage fright.   At a small community event I made the mistake of focusing on a grumpy looking member of the audience and started to imagine that there was something terribly wrong with my performance.  This made me really tense and nervous and I found it difficult to concentrate on my playing.  At the time I did not consider that the grouchy faced person may have had a bad day or was unwell and it probably had nothing to do with me.

Once it had manifested I found that this type of anxiety kept happening, so I searched for information about coping with the problem on numerous websites.  Here are a few strategies that I find helpful, as well as some I worked out for myself:

  • Thoroughly practice so that you can play a song under pressure because you know it so well.  This is the most important factor for a good performance.
  • Make sure you are well hydrated so that you can produce some saliva to wet your lips and swallow if your mouth and throat become dry and keep a water bottle handy on stage.
  • Allow time for a good warm-up before a concert and go out there smiling.  After the first song it is usually easier to relax. If you do make a mistake through nervousness, don’t stop but keep playing.  You don’t need to be perfect for others to enjoy your performance.
  • If it is obvious that you have forgotten the chords or the words of a song when performing alone or as a lead player in a group, don’t freeze, but laugh or make a joke.  Many professional performers use this technique.  It diffuses the situation and puts the audience on your side.  If this happens when you are with a large group, stop playing, mime and where possible, move behind other players while you get yourself together.
  • See the audience as benign and friendly.  Concentrate on entertaining everyone and ignore any grumpy faces.  Many more will be smiling and tapping along.  If it helps, you can imagine the audience as happy little furry creatures, like Wombles (Google it) or as anyone else who is non- threatening.  Whatever it takes for you to feel comfortable.

Remember to smile and have fun as this is contagious and the feel good aspect of playing the ukulele will prevail.


Bayside Ukes member.