How to Build Confidence as a Musician

Being a musician is a calling. Once you’ve hit the stage you will always crave more. It will define who you are and it will be a burning passion throughout your life.

But we are human beings with mental stumbling stones. We often receive more than a fair share of critique that makes us doubt ourselves and make us wonder if we’re still on track to reach our dream. How can we stay strong and build ourselves up?

Long-term confidence is built by practising regularly, performing new material to close relatives, and having mental coaching. Mid-term confidence comes from having a practised routine, a well-rehearsed setlist and a recognisable image. Short-term confidence is gained by having a performance routine, goal setting, implementing regular reflection and making notes of positive feedback.

I would definitely categorise building confidence into long-, mid-, and short-term sections. There are many people that do one section well and others not as well, and then they would wonder why they struggle with parts of their confidence, or they doubt themselves without knowing why.

Let’s look at the elements within each of these periods.

Let’s see if we can get a hold of your thoughts and exchange the negative ones with much stronger positive ones.

How To Build Confidence As a Musician Over a Long-Term Period

The long-term section is critical because this is the base of the performance house you are building. Since you started to learn an instrument and visualise yourself on the big stage, the dream started. What you do during this phase also has an impact in the long run.

See it like driving a car. Once you start learning, it feels intimidating and scary. But as soon as you learn, you implement a wealth of factors to support you during the journey to become an experienced driver. Performing music has the same concept, just other types of factors will be implemented.

Regular Correct Practicing

This is probably the most obvious factor, but it’s important that the practice once you start as a beginner is the correct type of practice, focussing on setting your standards high from the start. It’s OK to make mistakes while practising, but allow yourself mini gigs like performing for a family member to cut out mistakes.

Once you manage to achieve this on a regular basis, your doubt will fade and you will realise that YOU CAN DO THIS.

Have a Mental Coach

This does not mean that you need to get professional help, but build a small base of people who build you up and supports you. This could be the family members that you perform to or a trusted friend. Go for regular visits and check-ins and discuss your fears and worries.

I regularly needed support from close friends and relatives to share my ideas and my doubts with. After a good session of reflection, I felt motivated to continue my journey. This support base helped me from a beginner, all the way throughout my journey.

Have Mentors and Dreams

We all have our favourite artists and musicians. Locally and internationally. I can remember being a young boy and just loving watching Bryan Adams perform. That’s where my dream started. I always had this vision of performing the music that I loved live.

This is important to never lose. You should stay loyal to the young version of yourself. As a child, we don’t struggle with self-doubt. We just live and do. That young version wouldn’t understand why you doubt as an adult. Stay true to your dreams and remember why you started in the first place.

How To Build Confidence As a Musician Over a Mid-Term Period

The mid-term period is classified as the duration of between 1-3 years. Some artists would see this as from album release to the next album release. A lot can happen during this period and we would like you to grow and develop to become a more confident version of yourself during this mid-term period.

Remember that the long-term elements should still be implemented and regularly exercised.

Have a Recognisable Image

Your image as a musician defines who you are and will determine your success. Having a good image has plenty of factors to take into consideration which I summarised well in a previous blog post that you definitely shouldn’t miss. It will help you through finding the image that fits your genre and supports your confidence on a professional level: Your Image as an Artist.

If you feel like you are acting the way that you approve of and that the young version of you wanted you to be, you can only be confident. Your fan base will continue to grow and give you the recognition you deserve.

Have a Solid Setlist That You are Proud of

Knowing your setlist and being able to adapt and be flexible to your audiences does come with a bit of experience, but building this experience one also should experiment and sometimes take risks while on stage. You can only do so with success once you feel confident.

I wrote a post about How To Make a Good Setlist which could guide you to having a confident performance set together as a beginner, intermediate or professional musician.

Try to Go One Step Better Than Before

During each mid-term period, it is a good thing to check what other musicians are doing. What is the trending market? Even though this should not influence your style or genre, it will prove to you with evidence that you are unique and above the rest.

Then have a look at yourself a year ago. How have you grown since then and what are you doing better? Looking back makes one realise that you are constantly growing in becoming a better musician each year. Now look to the future and try to ask yourself where you would like to be in a year’s time.

This would keep your mind on track with your dreams.

Believing in yourself shines out the confidence to be a mentor to others that’s still only dreaming.

How To Build Confidence As a Musician Over a Short-Term Period

The short-term period would be anything within a day to a month. This is about setting short-term goals and following up on them. You are basically squeezing out any chances your mind might have to lack confidence, by becoming more goal driven and ambitious.

Setting Short-Term Goals

Goal setting is the one thing that keeps the dream on track. Going on goalless would not let you reach your dreams, and to be honest, only you can make it happen.

Sit by yourself once a month and check the following:

  • Is your budget on track?
  • How is your songwriting coming along?
  • Pay attention to your brand. This could be social media or doing some advertising for gigs.
  • How’s your gear holding out? Are you satisfied with what you perform or practice with?
  • Any contact or communication you need to have with managers, agents, labels etc.

Once you have set up a few goals for yourself, you are set for the month. Next month you just follow up on them and add a few new ones. You will realise that you are the architect of your career and that no one can influence the way how you do things.

You will feel confident and motivated once you do this regularly.

Have a Performance Ritual or Routine

Every artist has a different routine before each performance. Some have a drink and others stay sober. Some take a nap and others have certain times during the day when they will eat. You need to find what works for you and stick to a comfortable routine that will add confidence in how you do things.

This does not mean that you should become superstitious. In fact, staying flexible is the most powerful weapon you can have in a world where nobody is flexible. Be happy to try out new ways of doing things and do the same that works for you.

Reflect About Practices and Performances Regularly

Reflecting on each performance is a great way to make sure that you grow and develop in terms of musicality and confidence. Once you see that things are working, write it down and be proud of it! Collect all the things that are going well for you at this stage and put them up against a board for you to look at and see that you are doing great.

Even if you failed to try out something new, be proud for trying. That’s the only way one grows! Perhaps it’s just “not yet” instead of “never again”.

Have a “Brag Board” with Compliments and Positive Feedback

Believe me, this does magic to one’s confidence. Once you receive positive feedback or great comments on your social media that you are really proud of, post them against your wall or in a space that you can see regularly.

This could be from fans, family, producers, friends or other celebrities that compliment you on the work you are doing. This reminds you that you are doing the right things and that you are adored, no matter what.

Bond with Your Musician Colleagues

Having a group of musicians together is also a way of supporting one another. If you have a band, that’s great! You are perhaps able to motivate and bond with each other. Within a group, one deals much better with critics and embarrassing moments instead of being alone.

Make sure that you have a supportive circle of musician friends and spend regular time together also outside of music. This will create a supportive structure for everyone.

This was also my best source of confidence when any doubt occurs. We connected with other bands and we very often realise that we all struggled with the same type of mental stumbling stones which made it much easier to overcome.

I wrote a post about Building Chemistry in Your Band if this might be of interest to you. I often motivate musicians to bond and meet away from music once in a while to be there for each other as mental and moral support.

If you have any questions or tips to share, please leave them in the comments for us to learn from each other.

Until next time, rock on and be strong!

De Wet

The dream started during a school tour at the age of 15 years old. One that might take a long time to reach. De Wet was 16 years old when he got his first bass guitar as a gift from his dad. The guitar was found, hidden under boxes. As if it was waiting for its owner to come by and pick him up. He practiced every day to improve and to teach his fingers to dance to the music. After finishing high school, he played in various bands where he collected valuable experience, before being signed by a record label as an upcoming band. He reached success at age 22 when he released two albums with his band, which also included televised music videos for publicity. By age 24, he co-started management, artist promotion, and booking agency for successful and upcoming musical acts.

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