Music Performance Anxiety
As a child I never enjoyed playing in public, this seems to have been the case for as long as I can remember. Roll the clock forward and after many years playing for myself, I’m trying to play more in public. The trouble is I seem to be just as nervous as I ever was. On the scale of nervousness low to high: orchestra, quartet, solo, solo on stage for competition. The latter was a couple of days ago and the adrenaline hijacked my performance. My arms were like dead weights...not a pleasant experience and I seriously considered leaving the stage about 5 lines into the piece. I was well prepared, knew the piece, had play many dummy runs to various audiences but it didn’t help me play my best.
I’m looking for suggestions/recommendation for programs (over the internet) that work to help me conquer this.
There are lots of threads on this site and resources elsewhere on the internet about performance anxiety. Search them up.
Buy and read the book "The Inner Game of Music." It is the best approach to the psychology of performance that I know of.
My response on this subject was 5th down at this link 10 years ago: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/14124/
I've heard good things about Kato Havas books. I know some people dislike this approach, but I think it's still worth looking at.
Many years ago I was in a relationship with a well known (in Spain) pianist. She told me that on the day of her first important audition she was so nervous that she froze. Her arms would not move. She failed and would not be able to play for one year or more. Then she went back to the piano but was terrified of it happening again and just thinking about it made her miss notes.
I'll make my usual recommendation: Bulletproof Musician.
1. Perform in front of a camera and people a lot. You can read all you want and theorize about it (all those above mentioned are excellent and standard classroom text) but you just gotta do it. You'll develop a thicker skin.
As Dorian says, actually performing (a lot, like every week) is really the only way to begin to inure yourself to phobia of the stage.
I'm sorry to disagree, but I bought and
Just like how you practice something at home over and over, and sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't, until you are getting it with more and more consistency, I think the biggest thing is just performing. Look at each performance as its own practice for subsequent performances, and try to perform as often as you can (Just not so much that you don't have time to learn the pieces well or your technique starts suffering).
I believe some personalities cope with this better than others. What works for one person might not work for everyone.
Another unfortunate aspect of classical music training is that we are schooled to achieve perfection, and that perfection is all around is, taunting us. We're supposed to achieve perfection AND let go and "just make music" at the same time.
Scott, once again I'm so pleased to read your insightful comment. So true. It makes me pause and think.
The whole issue of "perfection" - an artificial construct if there ever was one - isn't helped by the recording industry who will do as many takes in the studio as they believe are necessary to achieve "perfection", and even then they'll splice in bits from other takes to help things along. No wonder everyone gets a false idea of constitutes a perfect performance. For my money a perfect performance is a live once which makes the audience depart with the music singing in their hearts and heads for days to come. Technical blemishes are then irrelevant.
"During the interval I spoke to a couple of friends in the front row of the stalls immediately in front of the soloist. They hadn't notice anything out of the ordinary, including the conductor holding out his score to help the soloist..."
We are really touching on some root of the problem now. For me, when it comes other forms of art, say when I finish a knitted piece, I'd show it to my friends and even ask a few people with proud: "what do you think?" or "cool, isn't it?". I was looking for affirmation. I love the result, warts and all. When it comes to violin performance, "I did ok" was my best self-estimate. When people told me that I did a good job, if I believe them, I'll say "really?" Otherwise, I just thank them politely and wish the whole thing never happened.
Seems like most of these answers mostly revolve around "stop caring about so much and just play".
"I saw a trend amongst fellow students in music school, and it included myself: The inability to take a compliment...To us classical musicians, compliments are suspect."
I think Scott hit the nail on the head when he wrote:
What do we enjoy looking for knowing it can't be found?
Not just perfection; perfection is not enough. We are trained to search for ideal.
I think anxiety is not something to be avoided or conquered. The only way to perform with anxiety is to embrace it. I agree with Timothy that it's rooted in shame, and the only way to step up and do it anyways is to have compassion and see how it takes courage to show yourself, to make yourself vulnerable.
"Observe without judgment"
"Observe without judgment"
"If anything, we revert to whatever is habitual in our thinking."
Toxic Perfectionism is part the problem. I forget the name of the psychologist who called it the 3 P's; Perfectionism leads to Procrastination, which leads to Paralysis. The culture of classical/mainstream music is different from other genres; from personal experience I can report that it is much less of a problem in jazz/rock/commercial genres. Size of the audience doesn't matter; an audition committee of 3 is much worse than an outside concert audience of 20,000. Technical level matters. Be sure that your solo is 100% within your technical limits. One dangerous spot can ruin your composure for the whole evening. Repeat successful performances help. One of my jobs, a very long time ago, was playing in a restaurant 6 nights a week, every week, for a year. Any nerves disappeared after about two weeks. Bow-shake ? Lower your right shoulder - let the string hold the bow hair.
The connection between perfectionism and procrastination
"The connection between perfectionism and procrastination has been shown to be a myth."