Finding musical friends

May 9, 2009 at 04:25 PM ·

So I feel bad. I turned down my instructor's offer to play in a very small recital-type thingie tonight. The thought of playing in front of people I don't know  terrifies me in ways I can't even being to explain. Even if I just did "twinkle" I think I might fall to pieces right there. I really do feel bad that I said no, though. It probably would have been good for me. 

How do I go about finding other adult beginners so we can get together and scratch away at each other? I already dropped off a number at the local violin shop. Put an ad on craiglist?

Replies (28)

May 9, 2009 at 04:50 PM ·

Can your teacher match you up with one or two other adult students at about the same stage?  Play together and also for each other. 

Also, will you play for someone you know?  That's good practice too.

Good luck!

May 9, 2009 at 06:36 PM ·

Hi, if none, you can always play with your teacher. In addition a teacher is an experienced player who you can rely on for tempo issues etc during a performance. Also, for me, an accompanist should not be called so.  It's a pianist and basically another musician. So I always say I make a duet with the pianist.  Like this, I don't see myself as the "soloist" (could never all myself like this anyway :) and it is a little less stressful to think like this.  In fact, I always say to the pianist that I accompany them and they laugh! Good luck!


May 10, 2009 at 03:45 AM ·

Just ask a few teachers. They all have beginners who are adults and you can play for each other. Adults are dying to connect to other nonjudgemental peers.

May 10, 2009 at 05:15 AM ·


Most of us have struggled with this problem. And most of us have resolved it or at least learned to live with it. You can start on that road by gaining experience in small easy steps. If the prospect of performing at your teacher's recital is too terrifying to you, you can start with something easier. Play for somebody who is not threatening or judgemental. Perhaps your husband or boyfriend. Or, who knows, perhaps your mother !! And play something that you are completely comfortable with -- maybe Twinkle. Or maybe something even easier. Once you have done that a few times and gained some comfort, then you can start raising the bar. Play something a little more difficult, but never the most advanced piece you are studying. And little by little you can play for some other people who might cause you a little discomfort -- BUT NOT TOO MUCH. The  important thing is that this is a gradual process.

Good luck. And remember you're not alone. We've all been there!

May 10, 2009 at 11:59 AM ·

Hopefully, this is still on topic, what are people's experiences/opinions about alcohol to calm the nerves?  I'm not talking about copious amounts that would impair your motor functions, just a little bit to loosen up the inhibitions. 

May 10, 2009 at 01:04 PM ·

If you work for a large company you could always try finding like-minded colleagues on the work intranet. Or if you don't, do you have any friends who could put up your advert at their place of work?.  This approach worked for me.

It's something we all have to go through. I've heard children being advised to line up their teddy bears and perform for them, although I'm not sure what would be the adult equivalent of such a show  - my Matryoshka dolls?.

May 10, 2009 at 01:09 PM ·

@Hsu ~ I can imagine that working. I am an incredible light weight when it comes to alcohol. I thought it was normal practice for peformers to take a shot before they go on stage.

May 10, 2009 at 02:22 PM ·

Learn to fail publicly, and take it in stride.  This should let you relax and start to get comfortable performing.  This insight - if it counts as such - I get from friends who teaching comic performance, clowning more or less.  And the point is that clowns always fail; things don't work, they come up with bizarre solutions to problems, but are never discouraged.  And that's why people love these performances - the laughter is shared and sympathetic.

Music is full of perfection, and teachers just make it worse.  It's nice to be able to play something perfectly (whatever that means...), but few enough of us manage to operate satisfactorily all the time. And let me suggest that it's at least as valuable for you to stand up and play something you enjoy, and let your audience know that you're having a good time doing it, including whatever errors insert themselves.  An audience, any audience, is there because they want to be, and they've taken the trouble because they want to see the performance and the performer.  They want to like you, and they want you to succeed.  If you fail and take it in stride they will be sympathetic and laugh with you, and you'd be surprised at how much you can get away with.  Remember, Jack Benny made bad intonation on the violin the signature symbol of his career.

Do others have stories of spectacular failures in performance and how they made them work?

May 10, 2009 at 02:34 PM ·

This idea about alcohol is funny.  For someone who don't take alcohol, I always find that those who take even a little bit and brush their teeth after still smell... I don't know how it would be to have an autograph sign by a famous soloist who smells alcohol.  I have always heard this was for after the show.  (see Slava and his little Vodka after shows!)  I would just find it funny but I don't know if it would pass well everywhere!  However does it works? Who am I to tell yes or no!!!!!!!!

At each one to do his experiences!


May 10, 2009 at 06:40 PM ·

Gee, why did Smiley just fall off the stage??????

May 10, 2009 at 08:46 PM ·


I completely disagree with those who think a touch of alcohol before performing is okay.  The reason is simply that (health reasons aside) our physiology (using the word loosely to ebrace whole mind body strcuture) is capable of a numbe rof settings for want of a better word.  A drug like coffee will put us in one space and alcohol in another.  To illustarte the point consider someone who inflcits violence on their family after drinking.  Typically they will swear afterwards that they will never do it again-  and they mean it.  This is because the persona do the swearing is not the same thing as the comitter of violence which is what Echart has described as the `pain body` we all carry to some degre eor another and is often triggered by alcohol.

In order to be in the same state during practice,  which shoudl near perofmrsance time be optimal for performance one needs to practice and drink alcohol.  S how many times a day are you planning on drinking?   Therein lies the rocky road to alcohol abuse.

Incidentally,   I think many years ago this discussion came up and Emil Chussodovsky basically said that the kind of split second intense degre e of mental control to play at the highets level is impossible if one drinks and plays. (The bets i can recall what he said so apologies if he read shtis). 

Prune juice is not a problem except in the latter stages of the last movement where a discrete accelerando may prevent embarassment.



May 10, 2009 at 09:40 PM ·

Coming from a European background, my parents have always reminded me that its healthy to have half a glass of Red Wine :)

Its an easy way to get over your peformance anxiety, its like how those need it for fun. Why can't they have fun without it? So with all things - its can easily develop into a dangerous addiction.

May 10, 2009 at 10:10 PM ·


the trick is to have a glass or two -after- you play.



May 10, 2009 at 10:57 PM ·

red wine prior to playing????

I can see it now...the andante becomes adagio, and then largo and then ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ


May 10, 2009 at 11:35 PM ·

Buri lol about the prune juice and the little accelerando at the end of the piece to avoid embarassement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also it makes that you don't have to prepare an encore at least you want to make the Pachelbel Cannons...


May 11, 2009 at 01:55 AM ·


Your point about similating the exact conditions during a performance as during practice is precisely the reason why a little alcohol makes sense.  The point is, during a performance, there may be a great degree of anxiety.  Your knees may shake.  Your mind may wonder.  Some people throw up.  Do these things happen during practice?  Of course not.  So a little alcohol BEFORE a performance may even things up; e.g., make the performance more like practice by relieving some of the anxiety.  I think it makes sense.  And we're not talking about playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.  For someone on Emil Chudnovsky's level, I agree you need every bit of your reflexes and conciousness.  But for most average players, I dont think a glass of wine would impair your ability in any noticeable way.  And health issues aside, if it helps you relax and get into the music, I would think the benefits would outweigh the potential downside. 

May 11, 2009 at 02:53 AM ·


>Your point about similating the exact conditions during a performance as during practice is precisely the reason why a little alcohol makes sense. 

No it isn`t, at all.  That is a complete misrepresentation of my point which is dependent on the assumaption that there is no differnec ebetween the state of mind/body  if one has drunk alcohol or not which is an insupportable claim.    didn`t go into the issues of physiological states in any great detail so that is perhaps my bad.  But it seems to me you are rather blithely discounting them. Fields of reseacrh rooted in direct experience such as Neuro Linguistic Programming have shown clealry and consistently the effects of drugs or other stimuli in absorbing information and the problems or advantages thereafter of recreating the same kind of `anchoring` as it were.  

>The point is, during a performance, there may be a great degree of anxiety.  Your knees may shake.  Your mind may wonder.  Some people throw up.  Do these things happen during practice?  Of course not. 

Actually for most performers the mind wanders during perfromance on quite a numbe rof ocassions and this is in large part because players can often reach even a profesisonal standard of playing without ever having mastered the abilty to practice with consistent focus,  being in the present.;)  But the factors you identify are ephiphenominal to the issue I am tryiung to get across.   These facotrs can be controlled by effective coaching from both the teahcer and then the studnet in question a sthye work on themselves during practice.  Onre`s practice should icnlude built in work on all aspects of technique including breathing and relaxation.  Then you ad din the facotrs of playign one is truly ready and the studnet then applies what they have learnt inspite of the anxiety they experienced.  This is the differnece between a deep lesson which can lead to ever increased confidence and superficial success dependent on artifical aids.

>So a little alcohol BEFORE a performance may even things up; e.g., make the performance more like practice by relieving some of the anxiety. 

That is unfortunatley a rather superficial analysis.  Incidentally,  although I used a rather extreme example of a major soloist there is nothing elitist about the issue.  It is the same whatever level one is playing.

Cheers, hic,


May 11, 2009 at 07:12 AM ·

Incidently, I see that you can treat practice as peformance and peformances as practices.

Though its entirely on circumstances.

May 11, 2009 at 07:28 AM ·


after a few glasses of wine I will undertsand that better ;)



May 11, 2009 at 12:17 PM ·

Buri, You'd probably be able to play better too :-).  All I can say is I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

May 11, 2009 at 12:18 PM ·

The difference between a frontal lobotomy and alcohol is stage presence. (Wait what??)

It takes practice to have a good stage presence, some just have it naturally.

I think that was the whole purpose of this topic, comfort aye? :)

Whatever works for a person works. I just wouldn't rely on enhancers unless it was fish oil.

I just keep changing sides.

May 11, 2009 at 01:44 PM ·

I don't think it can possibly be a good idea to take a depressant which abstracts you to some extent from your ongoing physical sensations before you play - if you care at all what your performance is like.  (If you want to drink while noodling with your friends, that is your business.)  You need greater awareness of what you are creating to play well, not lesser.

I dance socially , which is a lower stress activity than playing a violin in front of an audience, and where much greater variation in performance is routinely tolerated.  At the same time, dancing well is dependent on many of the same things as playing well - experience, training, conditioning, pure ability, familiarity with the music (or at least the genre), attention to the music and the emerging experience, the "zen state" or "flow" of being in the moment.   I have been dancing for about ten years and I have never known anyone whose dancing was improved by alcohol.  I have known beginners who would not ask a partner unless they had a beer in them, but they did not actually dance as well then as they did in classes.  In my experience (and I both lead and follow), leaders who have had a drink or two are bolder but less precise in their lead, less aware of the follower's axis and position, and less able to navigate the floor.  Followers are less attentive to the lead and their balance is impaired.  It's social dancing and not brain surgery and I still dance with people who have had a drink (although not three or four drinks), but it would simply not be true to say that their performance was in any way improved by anesthetizing themselves.

May 11, 2009 at 08:25 PM ·


thank you Marianne.   You support my absolutely correct dogmatism beautifully. 



May 12, 2009 at 01:42 AM ·


Not to worry; dogmatism is a condition that afflicts many people.  It is easily cured with a bit of alcohol :-)

May 12, 2009 at 02:18 AM ·

Seriously though, performance anxiety is a very real problem for some people.  It can end careers.  Obviously, I would never advocate consumption to the point of addiction, however if it can help someone get over the initial hump of performing in front of people, I say it might be helpful for some. 

Not to discount the points made by Buri, which I believe are valid, but performance jitters can be absolutely debilitating for some.  And yes, alcohol may reduce your alertness somewhat, but I believe performance anxiety can have a far more detrimental affect on some people than a small amount of alcohol.  And if the alcohol reduces the jitters sufficiently, I believe it is plausible that it could help more than it hurts. 

So we can agree to disagree on this point.  Unless there are people with real life experiences, we will never be able to prove one way or the other.  Maybe we should submit this conundrum to Myth Busters.


May 12, 2009 at 02:58 AM ·

Where's my violin?

I'm a non violin person...I'm not a fighter I  like everbody

May 12, 2009 at 05:08 AM ·

SInce you've only been playing for, what, five months? you might want to get a bit more playing time under your belt before going public. The fact that you want to overcome this fear means that you probably have the grit to do so.

You state that you are afraid of playing before people you don't know. Consider a few possible options:

Wear a mask. They'll never recognise you afterwards, and it will add an air of mystery to the performance.

Play for people who know nothing of the violin. They won't know how bad you are, and will probably enjoy the performance.

Play on your front porch, but keep your back turned to the street. Once you've begun to expose yourself this way, you might try to turn around.

Find a less threatening way to make a public fool of yourself. It can be very liberating, and will carry over to arenas that you care deeply about, like making public music.

Play for children. Generally an easy audience, but with short attention spans. Don't be upset if they wander off.

Without going deeply into the drinking issue, bear in mind that to play well while tanked, it is absolutely necessary to practice in the same state.

While the above may seem frivolous, it is possible that one or more might actually work for you, so don't discount it until you've tried it. And on the subject of fear itself, be aware that it is frequently a doorway into a deeper area of your person and personality. It can be a liberating and life-changing opportunity for anyone to confront and overcome this sort of thing. Not to put too morbid a face on it, at the end, it's not what you've done but what you didn't try that you will regret most.


May 12, 2009 at 02:27 PM ·

Hi  Bev

Probably  you feel insecure due to  counting problems-I do too- I suggest you try to play in public short SOLO  violin  pieces until you feel "good". Meanwhile  play   Vln/Pno easy duets with your nearest friend/relative and gradually you will gain confidence  until you   are able  to immagine that the audience is a BUNCH  of FIRST GRADERS and  that they are not a threat you cannot  manage well.

good luck, ciao.

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