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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Do you ever get nervous when you perform?

May 29, 2009 at 11:43 AM

It came to a surprise to some people that even someone like Itzhak Perlman gets nervous performing now and then.

Why? Because some people play so well, they just never seem like they're nervous! Could it be that some people never get nervous when they play? Let's see!



From Thomas Gardner
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 12:23 PM

My first private teacher asked me before my first recital : "so...are you nervous?"  Being ten and never having played a solo in front of anyone I of course said "yes" with my knees knocking, teeth chattering, etc.  He said "good....being nervous for something like this is normal....not being nervous is insane."  He then went on to explain that being nervous when you were prepared was good...that it could be used in positive ways.  Being nervous when you weren't prepared was called a wake up call.  Fortunately I was prepared (at least that time).

From Gail Tivendale
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 12:57 PM

A long time ago I came across a book which discussed  the mind battles we go through in order to perform and offered some very practical help. It's entitled The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green (with Timothy Gallwey).  At the time I read it I was a rather nervous 20 something violinist and desperately needed some help in this area. The book is available through Amazon or you can check out Barry Green's website for more information.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 1:05 PM

I agree with Tom.  I heard once that beeing nervous was sign that you cared about what you give to people!  I don't mean beeing overly nervous is good, just the little dose who will make your do your 100%.  In the biographies of some of the biggest soloists including Menuhin, Oistrakh and the like, I read that they have been nervous on many occasions but they do not show it and I think this is the good attitude.  If you are nervous, pretend you are not and eventually it helps :) When you look students recitals, those who play better don't look nervous in their 'acting' at all even if they maybe are.  And telling to people that you are nervous can (IMOH) be quite dammagable because you make emphasis on it.  Not really even if it is a lie is a better answer than YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS I am etc (your heart rate increase just by telling such a thing.... )!!!


From Laurie Trlak
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 3:27 PM

I think it depends on why you're nervous. To echo some of the other comments already made, if you're nervous because you're not prepared, then that's a sign you should prepare better. If you're nervous because you want to do your best, that's good. A little nervousness keeps one alert. But if you're so nervous that you just cant get the focus off yourself, then performing may not be for you.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 5:15 PM

Wow, it's not 100% yes?

From Graham Clark
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 7:59 PM

Most of my work is in improvisation.

Just before playing, I don't know what I am going to play.

A little while before playing, I wonder whether I will have anything to play. That is a terrifying thought.

BUT, once I play that first note, and make a commitment to perform, my nerves melt away.

They have to, or I would never play another note.


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 9:50 PM


being nervous is a central part of being an artist.   One of the fundamental aspects of training (and widely ignored except in Laurie`s reporting...) is accepting and using nerves as `nervous energy` that heightens the msucial awarness and experience and morphs into playing in the zone.  Without this tension a performance is essentially dead.   One of the most nervous performers ever?  Heifetz.   A perfect demonstration of how a well ordered mind,  perfect preparation  and understainding of nerves and their essential role equates with perfect control. Milstein describes how Oistrakh actually had to push him out on stage at Carnegie Hall one time.  Oistrakh was similarly nervous.  If you cannot utilize your nerves ,  which after all,  are the basic signal thta oyu are alive ,  then you will be `nervous` in the negative sense.  the result-  an unhappy performer and audience.  




From Graham Clark
Posted on May 29, 2009 at 11:52 PM

There is another side to this question: what are you nervous about?

Nervous that you will make mistakes? Then make a mistake - the world will not stop spinning.

Nervous that the audience won't like you? Well, that is up to them - you can do nothing about it.

So what is one nervous about? One's ego?

Remember that we are giving the audience a gift

Nothing else matters.


From Daniel Blomdahl
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 1:29 AM

 I don't have a nervous making mistakes's a nervous my hands are shaking nervous. Sometimes there's involuntary vibrato. It takes a lot to get my hands under control.

From Bethany Morris
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 2:13 AM

I hate the involuntary vibrato!  Also shaking knees...makes me feel unstable, although that can be hidden by a long skirt. :)

From Kim Vawter
Posted on May 30, 2009 at 10:20 PM

 Do you ever not get nervous? Do you ever not get anxiety when asked to play for anyone other than your mirror? Teacher? A friend? The digital recorder? Analyze it to death. it is never a rational fear like you are flying a plane and "forget" how to unlock the landing gear. It is not like you are afraid that all your strings are going to melt away because they are made of cheese or you forgot to bring a bow and put a samori sword in it's place. Irrational and unexplainable fear.Before an audition a coiple of weeks ago I visited the place where I was to take the audition.I called ahead and came several days before the appointment. I worked out all the problems of traffic and time. Then I played for an hour in the room (rooms) that the audition was to take place and worked out all the problems of airspace and acustics. Then I spent some time just looking around for bathrooms and water fountains. Working out all these little details before they becaome big problems  so I could concentrate on the music I was to play. Helped a little. I think. Won't know until Monday, June 1.

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