Rock Drumming System

Tips for Overcoming Drummer Pre-Show Jitters

Pre-show jitters are a very common aspect of performing, and all musicians experience them to varying degrees. They are a manifestation of processes occurring in the body which prepare it for action -- the “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is the part of the body responsible for the symptoms that a musician experiences, and epinephrine (“adrenalin”) is one of several hormones released into the bloodstream. The goal of this nervous system activation is to help the body achieve peak performance and is a survival mechanism.

Some of the specifics of the SNS response include improved reflexes, enhanced memory, regulation of blood flow, and a switch to a catabolic state.

The downside of SNS activation is that it causes a series of annoying symptoms. Diarrhea, intestinal cramping, tremors (“shakes”), sweating, palpitations, nervousness and irritability are some of the distractions that an musician may face. Sometimes these symptoms may become so great that they go beyond the nuisance stage and performance suffers as a result.

SNS activation is important part of performing well (with energy and emotion), but too much can cause a decrease in performance. Ultimately, the goal is to reach a middle ground. This will maximize performance, but keep the adverse symptoms to a minimum. There are mechanisms musicians can use to regulate their degree of SNS activation -- as well as some things to avoid -- and these are vital to achieving consistency.

Tips for Conquering Pre-Show Jitters

1. Establish a routine. The day-of-show routine starts when you wake up, and ends when the show starts. A few of the components in the routine are calorie intake, fluids, travel time to show location, warm-up, stretching, gear check, mental exercises, etc.... Some components will vary depending upon the type of show, but the basic framework will remain consistent. Every time you perform it is different, but developing a consistent routine will provide a familiar base from which to launch your routine. It will also give you confidence that you know you are ready to play.

2. Mental exercises. You will often see top musicians close their eyes and engage in seemingly strange behavior, appearing either catatonic or moving to some unseen rhythm. They are rehearsing all the elements required in the performance. This mental imagery can help you focus and plan each stage of your show. This takes the over-energized concept of “PERFORM”, and changes it into a series of steps, calmly planned and executed. Sometimes music (via headphones) is useful but it must not be distracting nor result in the wrong mood.

3. Breathing exercises and progressive muscular relaxation are other techniques that can alter your level of SNS activation and reduce unwanted muscular tension. Ultimately this will relax you, and should be done right before show time.

4. Monitor your body. Look for, and pay attention to, the signals your body provides. This will give you feedback as to the state of your SNS. Pulse rate, respiration rate, sweat rate, tremor and other clues give you a way to see where you are, and how effective your modulating techniques are.

5. Be well practiced. The more you rehearse the performance material - the less more relaxed you will be when it's show time. Having a few tricks up your sleeve, like the heel-toe or freehand technique, for a possible drum solo is also a great way to be prepared. This way you will be confident that you can win the crowd over.

6. Work together with others. Try to build your routine with others in the band. Have simple pre-show rituals or group exercises that help calm the group down as a whole. Some ideas include: a quick game of hacky sack (or footbag), a simple acoustic guitar warm-up, or perhaps a brief prayer (especially for a religious group).

Also, try not to work against each other. Practicing rudiments on a practice pad, or strumming recklessly on a guitar in the same room as all of your band mates may relax you while irritating the rest of the group.

If you are looking for tips on how to get gigs - visit How To Play Drums .com.

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