Audition Nerves?
Learn These Insider’s Solutions For Auditioning With Confidence

Don’t let anxiety overpower your hours of hard work and practice. Learn expert tactics that keep nervous symptoms at bay so you can stay in the zone and perform at your highest level.

It’s a long wait before your audition begins. You’ve spent the last week learning your part, months of looking for roles that suit you, and years of practice, honing your art.

In that hour before an audition, you may feel like your whole life has been narrowing to this moment. Every second of practice and rehearsal was leading up to this one audition that will make or break your career.

Despite all your training, that pressure begins to sink in. You wipe your hands to clear the sweat and realize that they’re shaking. You try to mumble your lines to yourself, but all that comes out is a strangulated groan.

As your heart pounds away like an over-enthusiastic rhythm section, the thought of speaking your lines or playing your instrument starts to feel laughable. Your vision narrows to the door of the audition room, behind which you’re sure either life-long success or humiliating embarrassment awaits. And it’s starting to feel more like the latter already.

Why is it so easy for anxiety to overpower years of training and preparation in the space of a few short minutes?


About Audition Anxiety

Whether you’re a musician, an actor, or a dancer, auditions are a fixture of your career. Other folks go on job interviews. They get a job, and then they’re set for the next 3-20 years.

But not you. You need to continuously prove yourself.

Some jobs last months, while others may only be a single performance. That makes auditions critical to success as a performing artist.

Audition anxiety goes by many names: performance anxiety, stage fright. It all refers to that trembling, agitated sense that you’re about to vibrate out of your own skin.

But what’s actually happening?

The short answer is that your body’s survival response is sabotaging you.

Those finely tuned senses that are primed to light up if you find a snake in your bathroom are less desirable if you AREN’T trying to jump up on the sink and frantically call animal control.

The pressure of an audition, whether self-imposed or not, can easily tip us into fight-or-flight mode.

Adrenaline floods your system to ensure that your muscles have all the blood they need to scream into the phone that you found your neighbor’s missing ball python.

Symptoms of audition anxiety can include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling hands
  • Nausea
  • Excess sweating

Unfortunately, sending all that energy to your muscles is detrimental to the rest of your functions. Fine motor control, critical for playing instruments, evaporates under anxiety. Meanwhile, our voice and breath, similarly vital to actors and singers, become ragged and strained.

In addition, anxiety symptoms are especially detrimental to performing artists, to whom emotion is critical. Exceptional performing arts often require openness and vulnerability to connect with your audience.

Fight-or-flight mode does the exact opposite, locking you into a survival state that shuts others out to protect yourself.

As you redirect your emotion to manage your terror, the performance suffers. Things like ‘passion,’ ‘joy,’ or ‘playfulness’ are difficult to evoke when you’re fighting not to panic.

The result can feel both deeply frustrating and disempowering.


Why Audition Anxiety Happens

Most of us feel some kind of anxiety before an audition or performance.

And many performers thrive off of a little bit of fear, using it to imbue their art with feeling and emotion.

The trouble comes when that “little bit” tips over into the debilitating fight-or-flight mode that we discussed earlier.

It’s a common problem. According to a 2015 study, 23% of male actors and 28% of female actors suffered from debilitating performance anxiety at some point. Other studies have shown similar percentages among musicians and dancers, all of whom need to prove their ability in auditions on a relatively constant basis.

Strangely, among actors, experience alone doesn’t prevent audition anxiety. In fact, the more professional training an actor had, the more likely they were to experience performance anxiety. That goes for singers too.

In fact, performers like Katy Perry, Shawn Mendes, and Barbara Streisand have all publicly acknowledged their struggles with performance anxiety, despite being at the very top of their respective professions.

Stage fright can be particularly acute during auditions because they are so isolating. Actors in a play can rely on their cast for support. Musicians and singers often perform with an orchestra or band, which can lessen the feeling of being under a microscope.

But in auditions, it’s just you and the people explicitly there to judge you.

Auditions are generally designed to be winner-take-all. There are rarely runner-up parts for Hamlet, or for the second-best trombonist. Acknowledging the pressure is both natural and necessary, but too much fixation on it can undermine your abilities.

The good news is that because so many people suffer from audition anxiety, there is no shortage of ways to address it. Here we’ll take a look at some of the most common ways performers address their pre-audition jitters.


Change Your Perspective On Auditions

We tend to assume that our audition is the sole factor in our success or failure to get a role. Part of our anxiety stems from a sense that the audition is all-important: a make-or-break moment that we have control over.

The reality is a bit more nuanced. Actors in particular often enter auditions for roles that have been filled for months. Many theaters are required to hold auditions for shows, whether or not they have any roles to offer.

With this understanding, auditions are still important opportunities to gain recognition and meet casting directors, but they are hardly the critical career-makers that many expect.

Performing careers are built through long-term commitment and dedication, rather than on single auditions.

So, internalize each audition as the small part of the long-term journey that it is. Remember that the audition isn’t just how you get jobs; it’s part of your profession.

So prepare for the audition the way you would for a job.

Break the audition down into parts:

  • Do you know how you’ll greet your auditioners when you walk in? Will you be curt and professional or open and friendly?
  • What questions do they normally ask?
  • Do you have answers to them?
  • Or will it be a blind audition where you’re expected only to perform and not engage with your judges at all?

By focusing on the details of the audition, you can give it the attention it deserves while treating it like any other role.

If it helps, think of the person auditioning as another part to play. It isn’t you auditioning; instead, it’s your persona…your “audition-you”.

This strategy can relieve some of the anxiety around auditioning and may also help you take feedback and criticism less personally.

By changing your mindset, you may spend less time holding the audition up as the pinnacle of all your hopes and dreams. The pressure to perform will always be there. The goal is simply to recognize it as just another performance.


Rehearse For Friends Or Family

Part of the challenge with auditions is that artists rarely get to perform in a low-stakes environment. Performing artists practice alone a lot. They work individually or in groups with no audience and then graduate to do-or-die situations.

No wonder you feel anxious when you suddenly face three strangers critically analyzing every mistake you make.

Finding a middle ground is worthwhile. Before a major audition, take the time to do an “audition rehearsal” for friends, family, strangers off the street, anyone who can make you feel like you’re being watched.

Some musicians have even reported practicing in front of their pets! The limited pressure of a sympathetic audience can make the real thing feel less terrifying when we need to face it.

Your audience may also give you feedback that can help you prepare for the big day. As non-experts, they may not be able to give you precise direction, but feedback like “I couldn’t understand your third line” or “it felt a little rushed” is practical information that you can use to improve before your audition.


Audition…As Much As Possible

Some anxiety around auditions is the fear of the unknown. Even people who can perform without issue often encounter stage fright when they enter an audition room. The sense of isolation and fear of judgment are powerful drivers of anxiety.

One trick that many professionals use is very straightforward: go to as many auditions as possible.

Especially if you’re just starting out, you should look beyond auditions for any opportunity to perform. County fairs, local talent shows, non-profit fundraisers: grab any opportunity you can find to sit in front of an audience, push through your anxiety, and play anyway.

This technique works for practice too. Many of us put off practicing things that scare us. It may be a particular monologue that challenges you or a complicated riff that you can never get right. Sometimes we fear rejection or criticism and avoid putting ourselves in situations where others might judge us.

It’s natural to avoid what we fear, but overcoming these blockages is critical to auditioning and performing well. So, work on those passages that scare you, piece by piece, until you know them backward and forward. Open yourself up to critique and feedback, and sometimes even rejection.

As you attend auditions, perform at events, and generally expose yourself to your fears, you may discover that they carry less power. Some experiences will go well, while others won’t. You’ll start to notice that the world doesn’t end when you perform poorly.

Eventually, you may find that anxiety symptoms affect you less, even in auditions.

You may notice that your heart rate doesn’t spike as much, or that your hands don’t become quite so clammy. Reaching that point is a huge step in addressing your anxiety. What you’ve essentially told your body is: “it’s ok, this is normal. This is just like any other day. We’ll be fine.”


Talk Through It

Therapy is often stigmatized and associated with weakness or an inability to “handle” problems.

Sadly, the stigma is deeply harmful, as therapy can provide numerous benefits to just about anyone.

It can help us process emotions, become more empathetic, and overcome an internal conflict. No matter where you are in life, those are useful skills to have, particularly as an artist.

Roughly 20% of actors have reported using therapy of some sort to address their performance anxiety. If you feel anxious before auditions, therapy is a popular treatment that many professionals advocate.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is designed to change how we respond to stress and anxiety. If you tend to get anxious before auditions or performances, that response can become automatic. Your body recognizes those pre-audition jitters and uses them as a cue to ramp up your adrenaline, just in case you need to climb a tree during your violin solo.

Therapists use CBT to rewire those conditioned responses. Over several sessions, they work with you to create new neurological pathways. Eventually, when you feel that pre-audition buzz, it should prompt a totally different automatic response. One that locks you in and gets you ready to perform.

Talk Therapy takes a different approach, exploring your past to address the root causes of your anxiety. Generally, we feel anxious because we’ve felt humiliated before, or bombed an audition and couldn’t recover.

By identifying and working through those causes, talk therapy can help you let go of your triggers. That way, you can walk into the audition room without feeling tormented by that time your voice cracked during Hamlet’s soliloquy in high school.


Release Pent-Up Stress With Exercise

A recent survey of performers indicated that 44% cope with stress using physical exercise or sports. This isn’t surprising, as exercise has been shown to counteract many anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety hijacks your body’s alarm system to spike your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, and raises your internal temperature, prompting an upsetting amount of sweat.

Exercise does all those things too, but in the long term, it’s a natural way to resist the symptoms of anxiety.

Benefits of exercise include:

  • Release endorphins: these enhance your sense of well-being
  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve your body’s response to stress
  • Distraction: fixating on your audition anxiety only increases its effects

All of these things are helpful when you’re standing outside an audition room, wondering whether you should maybe go to the bathroom for the fifth time.


Prevent Adrenaline Overload With Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers are a not-so-well-kept secret in the performing world.

In one survey, 72% of musicians reported taking beta-blockers for their anxiety, 92% of whom found it effective.

Beta-blockers prevent your body from releasing adrenaline, blocking the fight-or-flight response and limiting the physical symptoms of audition anxiety.

Musician Blair Tindall, author of Mozart in the Jungle, has written extensively on her struggles with audition anxiety and the benefits she’s seen from beta-blockers.

“Beta-blockers had such a positive effect on my career because I was so affected by stage fright that I could hardly play in the early years,” she recalled.

The most commonly prescribed beta-blocker for stage fright is Propranolol, and it doesn’t take much. Taking a low-dosage beta-blocker one hour before you audition can help you avoid the debilitating physical effects of anxiety. Beta-blockers can help keep your breath calm, your heart rate normal, and your hands steady.


Take An Improv Class

Many actors do improvisation as part of their training. It’s significantly less common among musicians and other performers, though. So, if you’ve never studied improv, you may want to consider it.

Improv forces you to respond in the moment to your partner without knowing what they’re going to say next. It trains you to think on your feet and to respond quickly to unexpected situations.

Improv can help you:

  • Get back on script after flubbing a line
  • Laugh off and overcome a small mistake
  • Chat easily and network with your auditioners
  • Boost your spontaneity
  • Become comfortable on stage
  • Figure out what to do with your hands

These skills can be the difference between a lackluster performance and a memorable audition.

Part of impressing your auditioners is projecting an easy comfort, and improv can help you behave confidently, even if you revert into a weepy puddle as soon as you get home.


Develop Rituals And Routines

Superstition has deep roots in the performing arts. The combination of uncertainty with insanely high pressure to perform consistently breeds rituals.

Theater, in particular, has taboos that range from refusing to say “good luck” to prohibiting whistling backstage or uttering the name “Macbeth” in a theater. Violators of these proscriptions are sometimes forced to leave the theater, turn around three times, spit, and knock to gain re-entry.

But it isn’t just superstitious taboos. You never know whether a show on a particular day will be good. So if a pair of underwear helped you nail one audition, you’ll be tempted to break it out again, just in case.

These routines and rituals give us a sense of control over things that are inherently uncontrollable.

The weird thing is, they seem to work.

A 2010 study found that participants performed better at golf when told that they had a lucky ball. Whether something is actually good or bad luck is immaterial; our belief in it can impact our performance nevertheless.

Routines and rituals also bring familiarity and comfort to our everyday life. Auditions, by contrast, often feel unfamiliar and foreign. We, therefore, benefit from the tasks that make audition day feel like any other day of the week.

So, maybe it’s the French toast breakfast that you just need or the vocal warm-up you do in the shower. Maybe it’s a particular pair of socks that you have to wear.

Whatever superstition or routine feels important to you, do it. The familiarity is reassuring and helps keep us centered when it feels like everything else is spinning out of control.


Learn Mind-Body Connection Techniques

Mind-body connection techniques help you center your mind, calm your body, and better cope with stressors around you.

In an Australian study, roughly 27% of actors reported coping with stress using the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais Method, or yoga techniques to improve their mind-body connection.

Now, all three methodologies are primarily physical. They focus on body alignment, posture, and tension relief. No substantive study has yet proven a direct causal relationship between them and anxiety relief.

Nevertheless, anecdotally, many performers swear by these techniques to overcome stage fright and anxiety. They argue that as they strengthen the connection between their mind and body, they improve their ability to overcome the fight-or-flight response.

Alexander Technique is a movement system based on releasing tension. Practitioners work on identifying where they hold tension during different movement patterns (walking, running, sitting). They then practice letting the tension go and moving with balance so that the minimum possible tension is used.

The Feldenkrais Method is similarly focused on movement to: “repair connections between the body and the motor cortex.” Feldenkrais practitioners claim to “rediscover their innate ability for graceful, efficient movement” and that those benefits carry over into other aspects of their lives.

Yoga, too, inspires many practitioners who begin training for the physical benefits and claim far broader psychological gains. Most yoga involves stances and movements, designed to improve the overall structure and posture of the body. People who have trained in yoga for years often claim improvements in anxiety-management and emotional control.

The underlying belief in these methodologies is that improving your physical posture and balance improves mental and emotional control too. People who use them often report feeling more confident, more centered, and less anxious after going through the programs.



Going into an audition isn’t easy.

It’s an isolating experience that can feel like the culmination of your whole life. And all of that pressure can easily spark symptoms of performance anxiety that undermine your performance.

But you aren’t alone. Though stage fright can be embarrassing and painful, using these tried-and-true techniques can start you on the road to easing your nerves and building your audition confidence.