No matter if you drum on stage, in a studio or a drum circle, being nervous is part of the life of a performer. Those butterflies, nagging doubts and fear of failure can plague even the most seasoned drummer or percussionist, turning drumming into a love-hate relationship when it comes time to perform in public. Drummers, musicians, artists and performers share pieces of themselves with the audience, and the fear of rejection or failure can be paralyzing. However, drumming is a fun way to express creativity, release stress and become part of a larger community of artists and musicians. Beating on a Djembe, bongos or other percussion instrument has a natural ability to release tension and anxiety in the drummer or musician, as well as help the audience or drum circle relax. As such, getting into the groove can be just as life-enhancing as the drumming itself.
Prior to a performance, beat away the stress while you warm up your hands and arms. Use that warm-up time to express the emotions you are feeling, giving yourself some time to benefit from the rhythm played, and finding your own “self” in your beat. Before playing, meet your audience, get to know the people lucky enough to hear your rhythm and know that everyone else would be nervous in your shoes, too.
Practice, practice, practice – knowing your craft blindfolded and upside-down will instill confidence. Make sure your drum or percussion instrument is ready to play, too. Make a ritual out of it. Talk to your Djembe, soothe your congas and steady your hands while tending to your instrument’s needs. Give yourself, and your instrument, the pep talk that you’d give your best friend.
Set a deadline, like, “in three hours, it will be over.” Instead of anticipating the performance, anticipate the feeling of relief after the gig or performance is over. Fake it ‘till you make it – you’re a performer, after all, and don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re human, and you can and should make mistakes. People will identify better if you’re not 100% perfect, anyway.
Above all, believe in yourself. Sharing your love of music and gift of rhythm is a special moment that brings happiness and fun to the world. As a drummer, whether on a Djembe, cajon or doumbek, you are a part of an age-old tradition of reverence and joyfulness. Own your craft, take a deep breath, and just drum.