Effect of beta blockade and beta stimulation on stage fright

Am J Med. 1982 Jan;72(1):88-94. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(82)90592-7.


Stage fright, physiologically the "fight or flight" reaction, is a disabling condition to the professional musician. Because it is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system, we have investigated the effects of beta blockade on musical performance with propranolol in a double blind fashion and the effects of beta stimulation using terbutaline. Stage fright symptoms were evaluated in two trials, which included a total of 29 subjects, by questionnaire and by the State Trai Anxiety Inventory. Quality of musical performance was evaluated by experienced music critics. Beta blockade eliminates the physical impediments to performance caused by stage fright and even eliminates the dry mouth so frequently encountered. The quality of musical performance as judged by experienced music critics is significantly improved. This effect is achieved without tranquilization. Beta stimulating drugs increase stage fright problems, and should be used in performing musicians only after consideration of the detrimental effects which they may have on musical performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety* / drug effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Occupational Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Placebos
  • Propranolol / therapeutic use
  • Saliva / analysis
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Terbutaline / therapeutic use


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Placebos
  • Propranolol
  • Terbutaline