Pre-Stage Ritual: A Guitarist’s Guide to Nailing the Performance

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Stepping onto the stage as a guitarist is an exhilarating experience, but the moments just before can be nerve-wracking. To ensure a flawless performance, it’s crucial to have a pre-stage ritual that encompasses aspects like controlled breathing, managing nerves, and effective warm-ups.

In fact, having a pre-stage ritual is something that can help in itself! Having a ‘list’ of tasks to do before you perform can help you focus and keep nerves at bay. However, what should you put on the list? What things can you do to ease nerves?

Breathing and Control

The first pre-stage ritual is Breathing! mastering the art of controlled breathing can be a game-changer. As you await your turn in the wings, take a few moments to focus on your breath. Inhale deeply, allowing the air to fill your lungs, and exhale slowly. This simple practice not only calms nerves but also helps oxygenate your body, providing a boost of energy and mental clarity. Repeat this process until you feel a sense of calmness settling in.

Nervousness is a common companion before hitting the stage. Embrace those butterflies; they signify that you care about your performance. Instead of trying to eliminate nerves entirely, channel that energy into excitement. Remind yourself of the thrill of performing and the joy it brings to both you and the audience. Positive self-talk can be a powerful tool in shifting your mindset from anxiety to anticipation.

Warm up and Stretch

A strategic warm-up routine is essential for ensuring your fingers are nimble and ready to navigate the fretboard seamlessly. Start with simple finger exercises, gradually progressing to more complex patterns. Pay special attention to the areas of the fretboard you’ll be focusing on during your performance. This not only readies your muscles but also serves as a mental rehearsal, boosting your confidence in your ability to execute challenging passages flawlessly.

Engage in dynamic stretches to loosen up your shoulders, neck, and wrists. These areas can tense up due to pre-show jitters, and releasing this tension is crucial for maintaining fluidity in your playing. Rotate your wrists, gently roll your shoulders, and tilt your neck from side to side to promote flexibility and prevent stiffness during your performance.

Tune up, a few times!

Tune your guitar meticulously. A well-tuned instrument not only enhances the overall sound but also contributes to your confidence on stage. Double-check your tuning just before going on, ensuring that each string resonates perfectly with the intended pitch. Consider having a backup tuner on hand in case of any last-minute adjustments.

One thing I always recommend is purchasing a clip-on tuner and keeping it on your headstock. Even if you use a pedal tuner, having a clip-on tuner acts as not only a backup but also a way to check tuning mid-song at a moment’s notice! It will stay on, and you will be able to reference it while playing and just keep an eye on your tuning.


Take a moment for mental visualisation. Picture yourself on stage, surrounded by the music, lights, and applause. Imagine every detail – the feel of the guitar in your hands, the connection with the audience, and the satisfaction of delivering a stellar performance. Visualisation primes your mind for success and can be a powerful tool in overcoming stage fright.

Group Huddle

Lastly, establish a connection with your fellow musicians. A quick huddle or words of encouragement can create a supportive atmosphere, fostering camaraderie and shared energy. Knowing that you’re part of a team can alleviate the feeling of being alone on that stage.

What if you are a solo performer? Well, chat with family or friends who might be at the gig, or make a phone call or send a text! You could even try listening to music beforehand to get focused!


In conclusion, the moments before going on stage as a guitarist are crucial for setting the tone of your performance. Controlled breathing, managing nerves, and effective warm-ups should be integral parts of your pre-stage ritual. Embrace the excitement, visualise success, and step onto that stage with confidence – you’ve prepared for this moment, and it’s time to let your music shine. I believe everyone should have some kind of a pre-stage ritual. Something to focus and get you in the moment. A kind of “It is time” action.

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