Stage Fright

December 10, 2006 at 05:58 AM · Have any advice or ?'s on Stage Fright?

My advice is if you are afraid to play in front of people, "Play in front of people". It will help you be more comfortable on stage and in class (students).

Replies (23)

December 10, 2006 at 06:02 AM · Hi Safa,

Sure, there is a huge element that comes with experience. I can tell you that I used to have my own share of failures on stage. My bow used to shake like crazy and my intonation would go completely out of tune. It turns out that this wasn't because of "nerves". Contrary to what many people believe, "nerves" are a positive - they keep you from playing like a dead fish! On the other hand, what the real issue involves is control. When my bow shaked, that was because I didn't know what to do with my right hand. When I played out of tune, it was because my left hand position was not yet secure. So basically, what I've learned is that from each performance came something positive - I learned about what needed the most attention (of course, having wonderful teachers enabled me to do this) and I also learned that in performance, there is no hiding - you give the audience full disclosure of all your weaknesses and strengths!


December 10, 2006 at 06:15 AM · There's all kinds of stuff on this in the archives... It's 'very' common. al

December 10, 2006 at 03:03 PM · Playing in public again and again is the best help. What worked for me was having a banana or two about an hour before I stepped onto the stage. There is something in them that helps the nerves, and they provide carbohydrates.

Oh yes, and don't forget to practise really hard ... :-)



P. S. I once had to play the "Jalousie" Tango, the one with the opening violin candenza. I practised a lot, and in performance, the cadenza came off very well. When it was over and everything was easy, however, I started to play crappy, because only then I noticed that my knees were shaky and my hands wet -- before, there had been just other things to concentrate on ...

December 10, 2006 at 04:47 PM · Having a look at:

might help.


December 11, 2006 at 03:37 AM · BREATH!!!!

December 11, 2006 at 04:08 AM · This may be of interest:

December 11, 2006 at 01:35 PM · I recommend this book:

Also, just do a search on for 'mental toughness.' A lot of stuff comes up.

The sports world is way ahead of the arts when it comes to peak performance.

On top of that, get a performance psychologist and force yourself to schedule multiple concerts a month. No, multiple concerts a week. You must conquer your fear.

Don't let fear stop you. Break through it, and don't stop until it's conquered. You're nervous???? Get in line!!!

Learn some techniques, and then start using them in action, over and over and over....

just some thoughts

December 14, 2006 at 01:46 PM · I suffered greatly with stage fright for a long time. Keeping at it helps, and actually just getting older seems to have made a difference, too. I want my students to feel happy and comfortable on stage, so I made myself appear at ease in front of audiences. A sort of getting out of and over myself, and paying attention to their body language and feelings. The effort became real after a while. Also finding a music that I really, really love playing-Cajun fiddle-and developing an attitude that this was something I could help promote and preserve even though not perfect (and not born Cajun.) Sue

December 15, 2006 at 07:34 PM · I like what you say, Sue, about communication with the audience. I try that too, as long as there's no distraction (like a woman with a big hat).

December 15, 2006 at 07:51 PM · I agree. If you fear performance then you should perform as much as the oppurtunity arises. The only way to become a good performer is to perform. One thing to consider is the fear of performing may root from weak technique. The more confident/solid you are in your abilities the better you will be able to handle the stress of live performance. Maybe we focus too much on practicing but do not practice the performance like we would intonation, rhythm, and phrasing...etc.


December 15, 2006 at 09:30 PM · Practice makes perfect, just force yourself to do it as much as possible. In my music class, we all have to perform in front of each other once a month, and even worse, stand there for an agonising 5 minutes while everyone in the class critiques your performance. It was tough at first, but now, iv come to understand how useful it is. Also, my school runs monthly lunchtime recitals, where anyone can apply to perform, solo or group. We perform in a friendly atmosphere, but still in front of 300-400 people, so it helps prepare you for big performances. If you hear of anything like this happening near you, get involved.

Other little things can really help, like eating a banana about 30-60 mins before a performance....something to do with the potassium helps stop you shaking?? And also, always keep a cotton cloth in your case, as you can wipe your hands if they get sweaty! Try to remember to breathe too! :-)

December 16, 2006 at 03:02 AM · There's a CD out that is extremely good called "Self Hypnosis for Musicians." One of the items this covers is nervous stage performance and how to almost stop it.

December 27, 2006 at 10:41 AM · I'm a professional player and most of my performing life has been blighted by dreadful stage fright.

In my experience, 'forcing' myself to play regularly only had limited results.

There are many causes including parental pressure, fear of criticism and issues of self worth tied up with standard of performance.

The real turning point came over the last year or so when I started to read Kato Havas's famous book 'Stage Fright' (It's causes and cures with special reference to Violin Playing - published by Bosworth).

It has not only transformed performing, but made playing the violin a deeper and more giving experience.

I can thoroughly recommend it.

Best wishes


December 30, 2006 at 11:52 PM · This banana thing is wierd. When I lectured I used to have a banana beforehand if I was nervous, but I had no idea other people did the same thing! So it must work.

I would say technical accomplishment and mastery of the material you are playing will help confidence. And having a instrument which is reliable and performs to your requirements. With the technical and "mechanical" elements under control, the remaining thing would be attitude. Are you going to lead the audience or are they going to control *you*? If you have the floor, then you have the floor - Make it your own.

It is about the music utlimately. Sports trainers distinguish between focus and flow. Focus being attention to technical matters (ie, when practicing), but flow being in the zone when your actually doing it. Perhaps learning to stop thinking about technical things when performing, and simply start "playing" will help?

good luck - I think nerves are a challenge for all performers, so just get right back in the saddle and laugh off any bad runs. Things can't be perfect all the time (or is that *any* of the time...). :-)

December 31, 2006 at 01:26 AM · "Effortless Mastery," By Kenny Weerner and that "Self Hypnosis for Musicians" did the trick perfectly. Effortless Mastery is superb and even comes with a CD.

December 31, 2006 at 11:03 AM · When i am on stage i think: this is my time to enjoy and make them enjoy... put balls and go to play... it helps... courage!!!

December 31, 2006 at 12:25 PM · My mom says to pretend that the audience are chickens. If you close your eyes you could even pretend that you are playing to empty seats! Concentrate on the feeling of the notes and just ignore the fact that there are people.

December 31, 2006 at 02:25 PM · Hi,

I think that everyone to some extent suffers from stage fright. This has been talked about before. Everyone looks for a cure. There is none. But, there are things that one should be aware of that can help, at least so it has been for me, and my students...

1 - Like Daniel mentioned above, things that are natural problems, like sources of tension, show up in performance like through a magnifying glass. Those should be analyzed, found out, and solved. Most often, they involve problems with setup (not the proper chinrest, shoulder rest for you - if you use one -, problems with body use, or your personal geometry between violin and bow). That needs to be addressed.

2 - Someone said practice hard; I don't know, but I now realize that the important thing is to practice well rather than quantity. Slow practice is a must, and like many artists I believe that slow practice is the last practice that should be done before going on stage. Good practice, with knowledge of how your hands are moving from place to place really helps. Hilary Hahn's website has really good tips on this.

3 - Your mind - keep it clear. Really! I mean this. This is actually what Nathan Milstein discusses in that clip from a French Television interview and it is primordial. On stage, one should not think. The inner radio should be turned off. WHY?! Because it all distracts from playing, but most importantly listening. When you are listening to your self-talk you are doing three things to not help yourself - first, you cannot listen fully to what you are doing; two, the distraction takes away from the ability to have your focus on your hands doing what they need to do; three - you are most likely creating doubt, and doubt is fatal because it create insecurities at the root of stage fright. So, shut off your mind. Like Ilya Gringolts best said it - the best place to leave your brain when playing a concert, is at home! Keep your mind calm.

4 - DON'T WORK HARD, WORK EASY! This was a comment told to me by Mauricio Fuks in a lesson a long long long time ago. We often wonder why great players make it look so easy and think "wow, they must be talented to play that easily!" BUT, it's the other way around like a soloist friend of mine once told me: they play great because they play easy. Relax your hands, but most importantly, don't force them to do something, let them do their job. If you find that you are struggling, don't try harder, try less. Amazing what this can do. Detachment does a lot in life. Really. In any difficult situation it is often best to let go rather than fight against it.

5 - Energy, the right kind, projects in a hall. Good examples of this, Oistrakh and Heifetz. It is not a question of something external but internal. By focusing on the music and being in the moment, you can generate this intense inner energy, a sort of zone, that really projects in a hall.

6 - DON'T BE A PERFECTIONIST! That is the root of stage fright with the violin. Like Heifetz used to say "Anything can be improved!" Improvement and playing well are healthy goals, will perfection (which doesn't exist) is not.

My ideas this early in the morning....


December 31, 2006 at 02:43 PM · Something that I just tried that helped me was to isolate and treat the physical symptoms of stage fright. If you treat the physical symptoms there can be postive feedback to the mental state. It's also a way to get your mind off how nervous you are.

A particularly unhelpful stage fright symptom I have is cold hands. Ice cold--which doesn't do much for vibrato or intonation. I mentioned this and a friend loaned me her gloves to wear up until I played. It was great. It made my stage fright feel more normal, more manageable, when I didn't have to also deal with the effects on my playing of cold, stiff hands.

Another symptom I can have is holding my breath followed by hyperventilating. Remembering to breathe regularly helps short-circuit that whole negative spiral as well.

Conversely, I haven't found with my kind of stage fright that addressing symptoms from the inside, from the mental angle, works all that well. For example, consciously telling myself to "relax" just makes it worse. Then I start beating myself up about my inability to relax. There's also an old saw about "teaching your butterflies to fly in formation." The metaphor has been around so much that it must mean something to someone, but butterflies always seemed like way too pretty and friendly an animal, to me, to represent this particular feeling.

While I guess everyone has stage fright, I think the experience can be really different for different people. Knowing yourself is always good advice: figuring out what your symptoms are and addressing those practically can give you something constructive to think about and a sense of self-mastery that can only help in a performance.

December 31, 2006 at 03:40 PM · This may sound ridiculous, but I have taught myself to enjoy "stage fright." I look forward to that slight queasiness, that moment of self-doubt. Then, when it happens I can smile and plunge ahead. "Damn the torpedoes!"

It is that primal feeling of simply being extremely alive!

Also, don't forget to breathe. :-)

December 31, 2006 at 05:44 PM · Stage fright starts in the feet. Make sure you are standing with your legs shoulder width apart and balanced mostly on your left leg. Experiment with it. It should keep your legs from shaking. You must have a good foundation to stand on before you worry about relaxing your hands to get rid on the tight shifts and shaking bow.

January 1, 2007 at 11:24 PM · Hi,

Forget it, changed my mind.


January 2, 2007 at 03:31 AM · Assuming one is prepared, knows the piece, plays the piece well, etc., yet still has too much adrenaline, too much fear, the problem must start in the mind (unless there is something distinctly physically wrong, of course).

The performer must choose, consciously or unconsciously, the adrenaline response, the fear response, based upon how they perceive the performance- consciously or unconsciously...

So, changing your perception of performing is vital to one's comfort level. If you view the experience in a negative light (even if you don't think you do - you must self reflect just as much as you should in the practice room - a difficult but necessary task) at all, you will have fear.

Midori doesn't have fear when she performs. Why? Because she is a virtuoso? Of course that's part of it. But the real reason, in my opinion, is because she perceives performing as a purely positive, friendly, non-threatening experience- she is as comfortable on stage as a fearful performer is when no one is listening. I have heard her speak about performing. She basically said that performing is as easy and natural as talking and walking, and doesn't remotely fear it, not in the least.

I believe it's important to choose (and this starts in the mind) to view the performance, any performance, as joyful. Yes, it takes a lot of work to change how one looks at something, but this, ultimately, should be the goal to reduce stage fright to the bare minimum.

Treating symptoms can help rewire the brain to change perception, and that certainly can be a successful part of the solution for a "scarred" performer....

Really, the brain must be re-wired so to speak, to perceive the performance as a non-threatening event.

Here's an interesting link about dopamine and adrenaline:

It's a book about Parkinson's, but it sheds some light on the subject of stage fright. At least it gave me a different perspective. Hope you find it interesting. :)

Also, I guess some studies have shown that testosterone reduces fear. So, perhaps a little weight training and exercise isn't such a bad thing after all. :)

link about testosterone:

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