Printer-friendly version weekend vote: Do you feel comfortable having caffeine right before a performance?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: May 3, 2014 at 6:18 AM [UTC]

Can you have a big cup of coffee right before playing in a concert, or does it give you the jitters?

Coffee dog

Certainly, musician break rooms seem to be universally stocked with coffee machines; and I've certainly ridden in a number of carpools in which the mutual agreement was to stop at Starbucks before the rehearsal.

Whether it's caffeine from coffee, soda, tea or something else, does it work for you to have this before an actual performance? Does it change things for you, or is the effect neutral? Does it actually help your performance? Does it magnify feelings of nervousness?

For me, I can have my usual coffee in the morning, but I tend to hold off on the caffeine before performing because as much as I like the stuff, it gives me the jitters when combined with the normal amount of performance adrenaline!

How does it affect you? Or do you just forego the stuff?

Posted on May 3, 2014 at 3:30 PM
Coffee, for me is a high performance stimulant. Works for me as a musician and athlete. I think it's gotten a bad rap, yet for some it might not be the right pre-concert recipe.
From M.L. Scott
Posted on May 3, 2014 at 3:30 PM
I don't drink large amounts of caffeine at any time - typically just a soft drink at lunch. As long as I don't exceed the amount I am used to, it doesn't give me jitters and wouldn't be likely to affect my playing.
Posted on May 3, 2014 at 3:42 PM
Even though I voted NO on having a swig of caffeine before a performance, I think, in general, that is fosters high performance not only in the musical realm but in sports, endurance milieu. I can practice for longer periods on it, and have increased musical acuity, and technical fluidity. At gym it's a major workout boon.
From John Rokos
Posted on May 3, 2014 at 4:57 PM
Coffee in the evening will keep me awake all night, so in general I would not want it just before a performance, but tea at teatime or coffee up until shortly after lunchtime has never adversely affected any performance I've been in. Indeed, had I had tea before the time at school I was playing in the B-minor mass, I might not have become so semiconscious in the crucifixus that I failed to come in for several bars of the et resurrexit.
People vary enormously in how sensitive they are to caffeine (Eysenck based a system of psychological classification partly on this) - I'm near the more sensitive end of the spectrum.
From Ryan McDonnell
Posted on May 3, 2014 at 6:43 PM
I drink a large amount of coffee, usually 3 to 4 mugs a day, sometimes as much as 5 or 6. Oddly enough, I have clinical anxiety and OCD but these are not really worsened by caffeine. Before a long practice session, a drink coffee and usually have one in the room with me to sip on. Before performances, though, I definitely cut back a bit, especially if I'm performing solo or auditioning.
Posted on May 3, 2014 at 7:33 PM
I save my coffee for the practice rooms and long rehearsals. I don't really think it's necessary to down a cup of java right before a performance. I tend to tense up during solo violin auditions or performances and the coffee doesn't really help. If anything, I'll have a glass of wine before a performance or audition. If you know the material as well as you should, and the only thing you have to worry about are your nerves, then I definitely recommend a nice glass of wine to calm you down. Keep nerves at bay and let your hard work do the talking!
Posted on May 3, 2014 at 8:13 PM
What kind of caffeine, when, and how much depend entirely on the performance.
From Paul Deck
Posted on May 4, 2014 at 2:49 AM
Depends what I'm going to play.

Same for beer.

From Cristina Haines
Posted on May 4, 2014 at 4:43 AM
Because of the nature of a drug (you get acclimated to it), I find it's best to still drink coffee on performance day as just I normally would (e.g., at 8 am and 4 pm). I also try to drink the same type of coffee that I normally drink, eat the same breakfast I normally eat, and have lunch at the same time that I normally do. This helps eliminate any extraneous variables that can become a distraction. Just my two cents!

Although a nice trick for everyday use is that if you drink caffeine at DIFFERENT times every day, you'll never get withdrawal headaches! Truly, the best system is to drink the same amount every day, but at different times!

Posted on May 4, 2014 at 5:39 PM
Yes, I am comfortable with coffee before and during a concert at intermission
Posted on May 4, 2014 at 7:48 PM
Coffeeeee GOOOOOOD
From Jim Hastings
Posted on May 4, 2014 at 8:06 PM
I voted no, because I don't want the stimulant in my system before a performance or any other time. Friends and strangers alike have told me about caffeine getting on their nerves, speeding up their pulses, interfering with their sleep. Some have told me what it's like trying to get off the stuff -- splitting headaches, falling asleep during the afternoon.

Never liked the taste of coffee -- that's another reason I didn't pick up the habit. When I was in high school, a friend likened the taste to that of "carbonated mud." Whether he had actually tasted mud at some point for comparison, I don't know, but I don't think I could have described the taste better myself.

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 7:36 AM
It depends on the situation- the quality of coffee and how you feel before. A good espresso before a concert where I am shattered from lack of decent sleep is a good thing for me as it gives me that injection of focus that I need- my fingers can move again. However if I'm nervous already, for example once someone gave me a filter coffee in the middle of an exam where I had to walk out because my string snapped... After that quick swig I was shaking from the coffee as much as anything else
From Paulo Azevedo
Posted on May 5, 2014 at 3:52 PM

I voted no because I had a bad experience. Once, before a scale exam I was a little bit sleepy and then I decided to drink two expressos 15 minutes before the exam. Well, my right hand shaked like never before!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 5, 2014 at 5:46 PM
Cristina, I think you make a good point!
From Christina C.
Posted on May 6, 2014 at 12:58 PM
I always have 1 cup of coffee in the morning (definitely addicted... gotta get it before 10 am or I'm likely to get a headache) & if I'm playing that evening I'll usually have another (or tea) in the late afternoon.

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