There are a lot of "tips" but they will only help if you take them to heart and choose to use them.
1. Remember that a dulcimer sounds beautiful even played simply ( sometimes more so). You don't have to be a seasoned player to make beautiful music.
2. If you like the pieces you are playing then they are probably worth listening to. Others will appreciate the music for its own uniqueness and beauty...not quite so much for the uniqueness or beauty of the musician...( as much as we would like for them to...)
3. Playing things that you are familiar with is safer. It may not test your ability to its limit...but then ...that's not the idea. So what if you are tired of them....is your audience? You can throw in a harder piece between the easy ones. OR just work on the harder one at home until it becomes an easy one. Don't bring it out of the closet too soon.
4. So what if you make a mistake? You arent really going to die. And no-one is really going to kill you. And most of the time no-one will even notice but you. (Especially if you are playing pieces that are not so familiar). Even when I have played familiar pieces and had to add an entire measure or two due to a wandering mind...or wandering hammers ( I've often thought they had a mind of their own)...People thought it was just my own arrangement.
5. Count the people in the audience who can play hammered dulcimer. Are you still nervous?
6..Then count the people in the audience who have the nerve to play dulcimer in front of others. Are you still nervous?
7....Then give those people the benefit of the doubt that they are kind and appreciative of anyone who would care enough about them to share such a wonderful gift with them.
8. I have found that mistakes may sometimes even endear you to
people...it brings you into their world.. Just keep going if you do make a mistake ... keep the rhythm going and they won't notice a thing. Are you still nervous?
One of the most valuable lessons I learned was when I went to church one Sunday morning and someone played for the entire congregation to sing but could only play the treble staff with one hand. I knew that there were others in the congregation who could have played better. (including me). But they would not play for fear that there may be someone better who would pass judgement on how they played ( including me). It was an extrememly humbling experience. I would not do it for fear of others. She would do it for love of others.
9. But the best tip is to keep playing for people. Experience will help.
Thanks Cindy ... and from Gillian, this advice:
11. Actors perform, so when you play you become an actor. Walk onto the stage confidently with a big smile on your face. You are setting the scene here. The smile tells the audience they have something to look forward to and the smile also reminds your body that you smile when you are happy, so you must be happy ...
12. Use a playlist and have it placed so that you can see it clearly. It is useful to have something familiar, which you prepared so you know you can rely on it. Use Big Letters.
13. Arm yourself with knowledge. Familiarise yourself with the place in which you are to perform. Know where the steps are, so you don't trip up them. If at all possible walk onto the stage and look out at the seats, so that when you do walk out there to perform you are not shocked by anything unusual.
14. Focus on the music. Eliminate any interference brought on by nervousness. You can choose to banish fear by focussing on playing the music. Tunes are living things which you are creating out of your dulcimer. That is the job to do. Don't let your ego get in the way of the music.
There's more information on improving your dulcimer playing here.