How to respond when things go terribly wrong on stage [5th of the #Eightfor8]

Three tips on making the right moves in the middle of a musical meltdown

8fou8-2This installment of the #Eightfor8 series of our most popular posts, originally shared in November 2015, resonated with many musicians and artists who have experienced a meltdown in their performance career. Here’s three tips we shared to help you survive on stage when things goes wrong.


The moment is usually brief, but it feels like it lasts forever.

It is the moment in a performance where something goes very, very wrong. Far from a missed note or melody, it usually involves a issue that is painfully obvious. The musicians are lost, the leader or soloist is confused, and the audience can sense or even see that there is a problem.

At that moment, some musicians let fear and frustration overwhelm their ability. Instead of figuring out how to fix the issue, they panic.

What do you do when panic threatens to destroy your performance? Here’s three tips that will help you survive a setback in the midst of your show. 

  1. Maintain your poise. It’s not the audience’s fault that a problem arose, so the first thing you must do is maintain your professional mindset. Don’t accentuate the problem by showing frustration, blaming others, or generally drawing more attention to the issue. Taking a mishap in stride can soften the effect of a breakdown on stage.
  2. Make the simple adjustment. Many times a issue can be solved with an easy fix, i.e. going back to the beginning of a song, but often musicians overreact to the moment, and that can make things worse. Think to yourself, “What’s the simplest way to fix this?” Then act accordingly.
  3. Move as a unit. When performing with a group, communication is the key to solving problems with the least amount of confusion. If there is a leader, look to them for guidance and then transmit that information to the rest of the ensemble quickly. Even if an error is one person’s fault, fixing it is the entire group’s responsibility, and the situation can be resolved if the ensemble remains unified.

Your response to a mistake may prove that you are the right musician for the moment.

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