Saturday, August 22, 2009

Conquering Stage Fright for Musicians with Emotional Freedom Technique

Stage fright is a special challenge for musicians and singers, as well as others who perform in front of audiences. There are a wide range of challenges, from simple jitters to debilitating stage fright.

There is plenty to worry about: dry mouth and shaking hands to begin with. And what about that difficult passage, what about forgetting entire passages, what about hitting the high notes? And what happens if we have to deal with all of these worries in the context of an important singing or instrumental audition? Or if we’re playing or singing before musicians with intimidating credentials? There is a method that can erase these blocks so you can shine with your peak performance.

When stage fright hits, fear grips our muscles, tendons and ligaments - and music cannot flow when the body tightens What’s driving that physical response and fueling that fear are our anxious thoughts and inner beliefs, many of which we don’t even know we have, since over 95% of our thoughts are unconscious.

We remember past failures (“I know I’ll blow this again”) and wonder about our talents and capabilities; in the middle of a song or a sonata, we realize that we may be rejected; or we may never get to the stage because we believe we have to be flawless and impress others in order to even perform.

And have I mentioned the fear of success?

All in all, this can be a lot to deal with.

Music teachers carefully prepare their students musically. Most have heard their students perform seamlessly in practice sessions, yet continue to watch some of them botch their performances because of anxieties they feel powerless to conquer.

One remedy that is becoming widely used among performers is Emotional Freedom Technique - EFT. Emotional Freedom Technique was introduced in 1995 by Gary Craig, a Stanford educated engineer who was struck by psychological research showing that, despite treatment, people with performance anxiety did not show significant improvement.

Based on the ancient principles of acupuncture, EFT is a simple tapping procedure that gently realigns the body’s energy system. The process is easy to learn and excellent results have been documented by people all over the world. ( see and additional resources on my website;

Conventional approaches tend to focus on one’s memories or other mental processes only, ignoring the body’s energy system. The premise behind EFT is that the cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system. When a pianist, for example, entertains thoughts such as “I don’t know this song well enough,” or “I always get nervous before competitions,” the negative thought starts a series of reactions. Chemicals from the hypothalamus flood into the cells and these chemicals are experienced as emotions - fear, self-doubt and the like. The resulting muscle tension interferes with the musician’s ability to perform.

There are a myriad of physical results from limiting beliefs that powerfully affect the beauty and strength of one’s sound. This is easy to see in symptoms like “butterflies” in the stomach, sweaty palms, the throat becoming dry, fingers getting tense and anxiety creating memory lapses. Our conscious and unconscious thoughts create a powerful biological dynamic, determining whether a performance soars, is “good enough” or just plain goes south.

With EFT treatment, the musician focuses on the negative thought or emotion while simultaneously tapping on basic acupuncture points on the face, collarbone, under arm and wrists. This stimulation is paired with having the client mentally engage a troubling feeling, thought, or image. When a person thinks about a troubling situation, brain-imaging techniques reveal that signals are sent to various regions of the brain. The signals sent by tapping energy points on the skin, and the signals generated by engaging a mental problem, interact in a manner that reduces and eliminates symptoms.

In preparation for her New York City audition, my client, a very talented opera singer, used EFT to clear the paralysis that had always kept her from practicing before important auditions. Tapping on specific points ( see “How does EFT work” on while focusing on the negative statements she was telling herself about practicing, created a significant shift in her mental outlook about practicing. After applying EFT she awoke to a day of easy and productive practicing, something she had not been able to accomplish for over a week. “I wanted to sing! . . . the act of practicing felt natural and easy!”

A little tweaking of our thought processes makes a vast difference in how we bring our music out into the world. Emotional Freedom Technique has proven to be a highly effective tool for erasing performers’ self doubt and physical tensions while tapping into their most superior talents. Let the music begin!

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