Inderal Use

August 16, 2004 at 05:34 AM · Dear Friends:

I'm writing a newspaper story about musicians' use of beta blockers. I would like to hear from musicians who have used Inderal for concerts or auditions.

I'm a professional oboist who has played with major orchestras, taken auditions, played a New York debut recital. I have used Inderal and am familiar with its effects, good and bad.

I'm especially interested in issues of psychological dependence (or not), and why musicians who are fairly open backstage are mum about using it to outsiders. (or occasionally to their colleagues,) as well as ethical issues surrounding some musicians having an "advantage" at auditions that others do not.

Also, has anyone had bad experiences from taking too much, mixing it with a contraindicated drug, using without a doctor's supervision (consequences are serious for asthmatics and diabetics), or from buying abroad/online?

You may email me directly at crimsons@hotmail.com. In case this application blanks out email addresses, that's crimsons-at-hotmail-dot-com.

Thanks very much, and I look forward to your discussions both online and in my email.

Yours,

Blair Tindall

Replies (79)

September 5, 2004 at 08:49 PM · Email me privately and I can answer just about every topic from experience which was mentioned in your post.

jennifer_47336@hotmail.com

-JW

September 6, 2004 at 03:04 AM · At the risk of appearing stupid i must ask -what are beta-blockers? i gathered that they must be some sort of a drug, but im not completely sure. Can someone fill me in?

~Lindsay

September 6, 2004 at 03:11 AM · Greetings,

they are a streoid which block the adrenal receptors thereby preventing the physical symptoms of stage fright (usually) such as bow shaking. Not recommended at all. You can find a good article on them at:

Internet cellosociety.com -sorry can`t remeber the exact title but a google search will pull itup. AQlternatively just look up beta blockers on your search engine,

Cheers,

buri

September 6, 2004 at 04:03 AM · I had problems with shaking and sweating for a couple of years. When I talked about it with my doctor, she recommended that I try Inderal (propranolol), which she had prescribed to many patients in the business world for public speaking and the like.

I used it on several occasions for high-pressure performances and auditions over a period of about 1 1/2 years. I found, personally, that it didn't have nearly as much of an effect as I thought it would. A mild relief from the physical symptoms of stage fright (sweating, shallow breath, pulse increase), but certainly not a cure-all or anything close to what I would term an 'unfair advantage'. Eventually, I stopped using it. Now my main talisman backstage is a little Vitamin C and some deep breathing.

I do credit using the Inderal with helping restore enough self-confidence for me to go out on stage and not have the symptoms appear. That seems to have been its best overall effect.

September 6, 2004 at 04:52 AM · Recommended to some and not to others, as with any drug. Has saved my life. And that is not an overstatement. My life is playing the violin. Which I cannot do without Inderal. Period. It will have different effects on different people. Some might barele notice its benefits because they don't really need it. To those who need it, like to those who need, say, iron pills or insulin to have any system in their body regulated...it works.

JW

September 6, 2004 at 05:17 AM · Beta Blockers are not something to be used without supervision of a physician. Taking them for a performance and then stopping abruptly can precipitate a heart attack. Also, they can lower your blood pressure and heart rate enough to cause you to pass out and destroy your violin. Just my two cents worth. Please do not find them on the net and use them without consulting your doc.

September 6, 2004 at 07:47 AM · It was of my knowledge that they are a prescribed drug therefore requiring a prescription therefore requiring a visit to your doctor in which he would consider things like your blood pressure and have the knowledge in his brain regarding how you should take it. You are right about the dangers...as with any medication including over the counter ones...Beta blockers are actually FDA approved for people with high blood pressure. It is their main purpose. I used to take them every day. They caused my blood pressure to drop too far because it is only about 80/56 anyway. However...now I take them when I wake up and my hands are shaky. Those days. I take them when I have a stressful day ahead that requires me to NOT appear so nervous that I can't hold a sheet of paper still or get a cup of liquid into my mouth without spilling it. I take it when I have to play my violin in front of anyone. I take it when I'm just plain feeling like my heart is beating a mile a minute and I'm about to panic. I take a very small dose. I make sure that I eat well. I drink coffee (which raises blood pressure). Etc. Critisize all you want, but it works for me and has made my professional life a possibility whereas before it was crippled. Also, to keep in mind, I take other medications which cause tremors, so inderal counteracts that nasty side effect. Anyhow. Oh, and one thing I know to NOT ever do, is think that since one dose was good, that two will make me even less nervous. I think most people run into problems because the dose is too high. The least amount needed is the best answer.

-JW

September 6, 2004 at 03:28 PM · My message was not one of criticism it was one of concern. I envisioned younger less informed violinists obtaining these medications over the internet without consulting their physician first. My concern is genuine as I am a Registered Nurse and have worked in Cardiovascular Intensive Care for 12 years and in the Emergency Dept for 5 years prior to that. So please do not take it as criticism.... Only Concern. Tim

September 6, 2004 at 03:51 PM · Oh, I didn't. I know it sounded that way...ahhh....the bane of the writen word...they have their own tone sometimes. I am curious, though...what is this about getting medication over the internet? Is that legal? Is it possible? Not that I'm interested in DOING it, but that is really scary. I mean...really scary. Explain! If you would like, email me...I don't know if this really pertains to the violin. Well, maybe. Many of the violinists on this board are youngsters and youngsters like to experiment with medicines and if one can just order whatever they want on the internet without a prescription...my God!

-JW

September 6, 2004 at 03:55 PM · I just re-read my earlier post and the comment about "critisize all you want" was not directed at you, I remember an earlier thread on this board concerning beta blockers where people went wild with the negatives of taking beta blockers and I guess I was incorporating all opinions into my little overactive brain as I responded...sorry.

JW

September 6, 2004 at 05:33 PM · I know what you mean, Jennifer. You mention beta blockers to some musicians and you get a look like you're Mark McGwire bulking up on andro...

The way that my doctor explained it to me is that they're not performance enhancers, they're performance providers -- meaning they allow you to perform when otherwise you couldn't. But that doesn't mean that they make your performance any "better".

As far as experimenting with it, it's extremely dangerous to do so... I am a 240-pound man. When I was taking Inderal, I would do so in 10 mg (sometimes 5 mg) increments. The possibility of overdose on Inderal is very real, and an overdose can be fatal if it drops your blood pressure too much. So the word of warning is that it's not to be used unless absolutely necessary, and only with the advice and supervision of a physician.

September 7, 2004 at 12:27 AM · I have suffered from severe performance anxiety since my teens, and it was one of the principal factors in my decision not to pursue a career in performance. I was recently prescribed Inderal as a migraine preventative, and since I had my violin teaching diploma on the horizon I thought, okay, so let's see what happens... In the event, the only thing that went okay in the exam was my playing. My head was on another planet. I concluded that, for me, while the typical *physical* symptoms were curbed during my performance, the psychological ones were not. Can your body function efficiently when your mind cannot? Discuss...

September 7, 2004 at 01:19 AM · I used once something...don't remember the name of pills. I lived in a former Soviet Union, and was preparing to silly Marxism-Leninism State(!) exam (in the Conservatory!) I never felt well in this area, but I had own ombitions and was going to get 'red diploma'. So, on the exam I was too relaxed and hardly tried to fight with my sleepy condition. Don't remember how I passed this exam. Anyway, not too bad, but not excellent. After that I've never used something, like Inderal.

Actually, today I have some problems with my high blood preasure and my doctor prescribed me to take 'Atenolol' for life. Effect is positive: less headache, less stress feeling too... (it's about stage fright. But, really,

I believe to selfcontrol only).

September 7, 2004 at 03:50 AM · My brother had a short term memory problem. Imagine going to a lesson and understanding everything and then when you got home you couldn't remember anything except that you'd been. Your notes and the teachers look like greek. And you can't even memorize the first line in your piece of music. My brother's problem turned out to be a chemical imbalance. The correct chemical was prescribed, problem solved.

I too have a memory problem, but only when I get really nervous. My problem isn't the kind that should be solved with chemicals. I know from experience that the more I work on relaxation techniques and mental focus exercises the less I go completely blank.

Everyone is different, but I personally lean towards non-chemical cures if possible, though I realize it is not possible for everyone.

September 7, 2004 at 07:59 AM · People have told me that even though they don't feel all that nervous, they down these pills before auditions, just to cancel out anyone elses possible advantage from doing it.Foolish!

September 7, 2004 at 02:38 PM · My teacher actually says that most people who take performance drugs, though they are relaxed, don't perform as well others do who don't need it. He, from experience, has witnessed people on performance drugs think that they have played much better than they actually did. Remember that there are MANY antianxiety medications out there. Don't get them confused. Some people experience mind alteration with beta blockers, but most people don't. It affects the HEART. It is a regulation drug. Using it to calm tremours is a side effect it has if your heart is beating too fast. You will still be nervous. It just helps some people hold the bow.

JW

September 8, 2004 at 08:50 AM · Perlman has been on said med for decades.

September 9, 2004 at 05:00 AM · What are the good/bad effects of taking it?

September 10, 2004 at 08:03 AM · For folks wanting a more natural remedy for nerves: A high-strung violinist friend of mine at Peabody used to eat four bananas a couple of hours before a performance. I have tried this to good effect as well - it seems that Potassium improves the functioning of your internal "air-conditioning" which helps calm the nerves.

September 10, 2004 at 03:21 PM · Thats interesting about the Bananas, I was waiting around for my performance diploma about 6 weeks ago and my accompanist said 'here have some of my banana' and i never eat them usually, I just had half of it. I didnt think anything of it, but I was very relaxed in the 20 - minuite warm up and the recital. Im not sure about having 4 though, but id be interested to hear anyone else's banana theories :-)

September 10, 2004 at 09:22 PM · What if we don't like bananas?!!

September 10, 2004 at 11:23 PM · Freeze it and coat it chocolate.

September 11, 2004 at 03:58 AM · This is like, the third or fourth thread that I've read here that eventually gets around to the banana discussion. I think musicians have a banana fettish. For real. Potassium lives outside of bananas, and isn't all that important to worry about unless you are low in potassium. If you have enough, adding more won't make you play better or be less nervous. If you don't have enough in your system, I can see the validation of the whole banana thing. Oh. Musicians and wrestlers. Have you ever seen wrestlers cram whole fistfulls of bananas in their mouths after weighing in? I.e. after starving and dehydrating themselves for days and before going out onto a mat to try to pin someone to the ground with all their muscle? Must be the bananas, no?

JW

September 11, 2004 at 03:50 PM · But the banana thing works! Certainly better than a vanilla latte before a performance.

September 11, 2004 at 04:28 PM · ...or the four shots of espresso in a monster jug 'o coffee with four or five cigarettes.... :)

JW

September 11, 2004 at 04:40 PM · Hi,

Veryinteresting string. For those who don't like bannanas, strawberries have a good amount of pottasium too. Also, cocoa products, but it has to be a good amount before it really goes into effect. Oh yeah, and those who take certain medications should be aware, because too much could have bad side effects. (I used to take drugs that I couldn't eat high pottasium foods with, it could lead to seizures).

September 11, 2004 at 10:26 PM · So, besides bananas, are there any other supplements/vitamins that help reduce performance anxiety?

September 12, 2004 at 05:45 AM · Cocoa has caffeine, yes?

September 12, 2004 at 03:26 PM · I just saw this thread and had to respond. Like several other posters, beta-blockers saved my life and kept me from giving up playing the violin. I always enjoyed performing until in my early twenties, when I began having performance anxiety. It was totally unconnected to how prepared I was, or how nervous I thought I was. My arm would begin to shake and the ONLY thing I could think about was controlling the shakes. Slow movements were especially excruciating. I could not think about my musicality or my emotions...only the panic feeling of worrying that my arm would begin to shake. The more I performed, the more I became consumed by fear. I spoke with several professors, and they all told me about breathing exercises, or mental tricks, or just simply performing more often. It got to the point where I would become nervous simply playing for my roommate. I am a firm believer that nerves, when left unattended, can become a physical problem not easily solved by mental trickery and relaxation techniques. Luckily, a sympathetic quartet-mate clued me in. Now that I'm using inderal, I can enjoy performing again. I can concentrate on making beautiful music and I am beginning to be able to perform without it in certain siuations. I would be more than happy to talk to anyone about this.

October 18, 2004 at 11:33 AM · Baloney, beta-blockers are not steroids. They are in a class of drugs

called sympatholytics which oppose effects of sympathomimetics such as

epinephrine (Adrenalin(R))and norepinephrine ('fight or flight') neurotransmitters

associated with body's natural response to stressors. Beta-blockers are chiefly prescribed for hypertension with effect of lowering blood pressure, however, there are other, or 'side-effects' (not an all-inclusive list) which may include masking body's response to hypoglycemia e.g. the shaking tremors, and inside quiveriness, decreasing production of aqueous humor in eye e.g. anti-glaucoma, and effects in lungs. Not something to mess around with without proper advice from the physician or pharmacist. Several friends with inherited tendency to tremors find that use of propranolol, or other beta-blockers with less effects in the brain e.g. atenolol, metoprolol, enable them to block the 'shakes' so that they can control their bows and continue playing careers. I don't know if surgeons take these drugs, as well ...

October 18, 2004 at 11:09 PM · Blair Tindall's superb article appeared in the Arts section of the Sunday New York Times. It is accessible on line. Though no members of this board were quoted that I could find, I hope this thread was helpful in the creation of an article on a topic of critical importance.

What do you all think of the story that begins the arcticle, about the flute teacher fired for recommending beta blockers? It seems unjust to me. Medical experts should be consulted as well as musical mentors, but it seems to me that a musician is the appropriate person to ask for advice on matters of musical performance, and therefore that the teacher was within her rights to advise her students as she saw fit. At the same time, the statistics about the illegal attainment of beta blockers are disturbing.

October 20, 2004 at 01:27 AM · Greetings,

nate, here is an anti dememrit so you don`t feel bad. A little blunt but why should you be penalized? That is exactly how I feel except for a small number of people whose nerves or problems have a genuine basis in `dis` ease and a profound emotional need to perform. A lot of the rest of the time it is indeed running away from the problem, not doing the homework, wanting too much too soon. Much of this comes from the pernicious influence of others or the inhumane world we live in and those problems are much more urgently needed to be addressed in the big picture of things.

I have no wish to be cruel, hurtful or whatever, but there is a kind of natural way of finding out our capabilities and potential and using them to build a happy life. If you can`t get out on stage and -enjoy it- then you are not a performer and shouldn`t bother pursuing that dream when one might have so much to offer as a teacher , orchestral player or chamber musician or in another profession. Let us elevate all professions and people to equal worth in our eyes then stop mucking around with this stuff exept in the minority cases mentioend above,

Emeritus, demeritus, blunderbuss, prunes,

Buricuss.

October 20, 2004 at 01:44 AM · Greetings,

in fact, just pulled out my beloved book of Blake to calm down and the following highlighted line leapt out:

`No bird soars too high

If he soars with his own wings.`

Blake was clearly a prune lover,

Cheers,

Buri

October 20, 2004 at 04:07 AM · "If you need drugs to play well in concert you don't know too much about playing."

Wrong. Dead wrong. This is a judgement I used to make too when I thought that inderol was cheating and that I could find something else (read mental/natural remedy/rehearsed technique) to control my enormous shots of adrenaline. I had such bad problems not with nerves but with adrenaline rushes from the excitement of being on stage. My right arm would not just shutter, but actually physically freeze and stop moving. I would calmly massage it out during rests in order to continue playing. As you can imagine, this was not at all condusive to continuing a career in performance.

I tried everything from changing my diet, to eating bannanas before I would play, to meditation/prayer, to breathing exercises, to waving my elbow while playing and almost started taking Java root before it was pulled from the shelves in Canada because of the links it has to liver damage. You name it, I tried it.

My body metabolism is set in such a way that in any situation, whether it be fear, being startled, excited, angered (especially angered) that I get HUGE adrenaline rushes and I physically begin to shake, my lip twitches (anger), my bow arm locks (violin), and my I vision goes tunnel (being startled or in fear). I don't know why, but that's the way I am and NOTHING helped except Inderol.

I would never encourage someone to use it as an excuse for not having a proper set up, or proper preparation, or mental state etc. but it does have it's uses for those that really need it.

The side effects are minimal. If taken in the proper doses, one does not feel sleepy, or dozey, or disconnected and ones' playing certainly does not become any less exciting or riviting. For those who need it, it actually brings out their actual abilities that nature has, in confusion, tried to suppress.

I am certain that had the drug been available to Elman (who had TERRIBLE nerve problems) or Glen Gould, or Rabin, that they would have had no problem using it if they correctly understood it's function and uses: just as a shoulder rest is a great tool for those that need it as long as they properly understand it's function. Personally I don't find it controls my nerves (I still get nervous, which is a good thing in performance if you control it) but it keeps me from having to worry about my adrenaline rush and locked bow arm.

I think it's a rather nieve outlook to rule out elements like inderol or a shoulder rest (as that argument is often made as well) if they help someone be able to perform at their truest ability.

So please be sure to have all the facts before making a blanket statement like you did about "not knowing too much about playing."

Preston

October 20, 2004 at 05:22 AM · I'm sorry if my comments offended you. But they are truly what I believe and I stand by them. Drugs in my opinion are definitely not the answer.

My teacher told me a story about Henryk Szerying and how Szerying had to be drunk before setting foot on stage in order to play well. This one time however when my teacher went to his concert in Mexico Szerying was fighting off a viral infection which required him to take medication. As you well know I hope by now that one cannot mix alcohol and anti-biotics or other such drugs. So this was the very issue with Szerying that night since he was on the medication. According to Friedman, Szerying's bow that night could not stop shaking. Which brings me to the point that I made of how we can naturally become reliant and develop habits that are very hard to break.

For instance look at Nomar Garciaparra the Boston Redsox SS when he's at bat. The guy has to adjust his batting gloves and cleats after each pitch cause that is his ritual. Who knows, if he didn't do this after every pitch he might not do as well because of this habit if you will.

Here's some food for thought for possible new beta blocker users, one common side effect of beta blockers is impotence.

The antidote to nerves are knowing what you are doing, having a solid technical foundation, practicing scales and arpeggios in every key, bow distribution and division on every note, and knowing how to practice without tension which carries over into great proportions during high pressure situations.

Drugs are not the answer to playing at a higher level. You mention Michael Rabin, His real problem was his intake of barbiturates which led to his downfall in performance and later inevitably his death. I seriously doubt Rabin could have been a better player as you suggest had he taken beta blockers. He was great as is.

October 20, 2004 at 05:23 AM · Greetings,

I am gping to beg to differ on your second post nate.

If performing without the external manifestations of stage fright was that simple then the issue would never be raised.

One hihgly effective way to block the reeaction is to prevent the ttrigger occuring in the firts palce which is done very successfully using Alexande r Technique;)

Cheers,

Buri

October 20, 2004 at 05:36 AM · Nate, it seems to me that that story about Szernyg (I've heard similar ones) demonstrates the usefulness of beta blockers, as much as the danger of depending on drugs. Is it not a good thing that a healthier and more socially acceptable antidote to stage fright than alcohol abuse and the like exists? And wouldn't Rabin have been better off on beta blockers than on barbiturates?

October 20, 2004 at 07:43 AM · Nate, like I said, MY problem wasn't nerves. I STILL get nervous. It has everything to do with how much adrenaline my body produces. TOO MUCH. If there is something that can regulate that, then why not use it?

The solution for nerves is not as simple as you think. Solid technique, practice, etc. is not going to cure nerves. It may help you feel more in control when the nerves come, but it's not going to stop them.

Szerying may very well have benefited then from Inderol as it is a mild drug that simply blocks the adrenal receptors (or something like that). It can be taken while on other meds too (always check of course).

As for Nomar Garciaparra. I think this is a weak comparison to using beta-blockers. It better compares to the pre-performance rutine most performers go through before getting on stage (for me: pray, check zipper, deep breaths with eyes closed, play the beginning of the piece in my head, begin). It has nothing to do with habit, and everything to do with mental preparation.

A side effect of beta-blockers is impotance, but not continuing impotance. (In advance: Pardon me but I don't know how to put this in more "family terms" than this) Apparently one is unable to "get it up" while the beta-blocker is still regulating blood pressure. I don't know if , as I've not conducted any such...*ehem* experiment. Personally, that is something that I'm not thinking about anyway as I'm on stage. Once it's out of your body, systems are a go.

Your suggestions on practice habits are GREAT! Habits that I endorse and make use of every day. Everyone should practice scales every day in every key, practice without tension, etc. etc. But that will not help Everyone.

Michael Rabin did have issues with drugs, and perhaps had he not had those issues he might not have been deathly afraid of the stage in his later years. Perhaps I should not have included Rabin in my list as he had problems above and beyond what beta-blockers might have fixed.

You comments don't offend me at all. You are entitled to your opinion. I just think that you might consider taking a more open mind to this issue as you may some day have a student who, despite all other efforts, has problems with a shaky bow arm, or stage fright, etc.

Like I said before, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone if they don't need it or haven't tried everything else (considering of course that they must already have a solid and developing technique etc.) Not everyone needs it, but some people do. Had I continued in your line of thought, I would now be a musician miserably on my way to making a great living doing something else like anesthesiology.

Preston

October 21, 2004 at 06:03 AM · Hey Jude,

You could view it either way concerning Szerying's pre concert drinking ritual. Your opinion is certainly plausible. I personally think though that that account of Szerying really shows the destructiveness of relying on a harmful substance even to a person of Szerying's calliber whether it be alcohol or some other drug in order to perform better.

I think Rabin as Preston mentioned was beyond the help of any beta blocker to prevent his further performance decline which was due to his drug abuse.

Preston many professional musicians agree with you on beta blockers. I heard on the radio the other day that 40% of musicians in top professional orchestra in this country use beta blockers. I know a friend of mine who played in the NY Phil used Inderol for the audition.

I don't really agree with you on Garciaparra though, ( thank God the Sox won tonight btw) what he does after every pitch is totally habitual and certainly there is a correlation in my opinion to this and his mental preparation for the next pitch. I remember the umps a few years ago getting on his case when MLB was trying to speed up the game for better audience. I don't think that quite worked!

Nate

October 21, 2004 at 10:38 PM · Nate, point well taken about Szeryng (sp?). I wasn't really aware of the extent of Rabin's problems, so I probably shouldn't have referred to him.

I agree that the prevalence of inderal use is scary. Surely it's not needed as widely as it's used. Though I don't think that makes it an inherently bad idea, it is probably overused.

October 22, 2004 at 03:53 AM · As a diabetic with high blood pressure and cholesterol, I already have a chemical soup going on, thank you, and don't need to add any more to the mix.

I am adamantly opposed to the use of painkillers. The pain is there for a reason, it's your body telling you to stop or change what you're doing. Instead of taking a drug to conteract it, one should do something to correct the cause.

October 22, 2004 at 12:57 AM · Greetings,

yes, but only a little,

Cheers,

Buri

October 22, 2004 at 03:38 AM · What is going on with all the demerits?!?!

Preston

October 22, 2004 at 04:43 AM · The demerit system can't become an excuse to not articulate oneself! Poor Sam! What he said was perhaps off topic, but not offensive, and definitely not worth two demerits. I have moderator points right now, and I'd like to comment that if I could, I would use one of them to give a demerit to whoever keeps giving out demerits without any sort of explanation or even dialogue.

October 22, 2004 at 05:24 AM · Oops, this topic wasn't about painkillers. My mistake.

October 27, 2004 at 07:24 AM · A very interesting article on beta blockers can be found on

www.andante.com

October 29, 2004 at 02:50 PM · I think it is important to remember that inderol doesn't actually keep you from getting nervous. It suppresses the physical response to being nervous ie. shaking hands, pounding heart etc. You still have to deal with the psycological aspects of public performance.

It is probably fair to say that most people who are out there taking professional orchestra auditions have tried inderol. Professional orchestra auditions take a tremendous amount of preparation and time and money to go play a first round that can be as short as one or two minutes on a bad day. If taking inderol (under a doctors supervision) helps anyone play at their normal level under those terribly unnatural circumstances, then go for it.

October 29, 2004 at 06:30 PM · I tried the bananas recently due to a twitchy eyelid that was really bugging me, especially during practicing, and . . . poof! No more twitchy eyelid. Thanks for the suggestion!

January 22, 2005 at 07:50 AM · Seeing Requiem for a Dream will keep you away from even bananas and vanilla flavoring.

July 21, 2005 at 07:34 PM · Hello.

Jumping into to a topic that I don't know much about...

I didn't know about Szerying's pre-performance drinking. I have many of his recordings and absolutely love them. His Bach Sonatas and Partitas are more gorgeous and awesomely powerful than any other performance of them by anyone else that I've heard. It would have been a shame for these performances, and all of his others, to never have happened- a great loss for me and every other listener in the world. One could argue that if he couldn't handle the nerves, he didn't belong on the stage, that other "steelier" violinists would have stepped up to the plate, but I reiterate, there is simply no one that could play like he did.

Now for the parallel with performers who take beta blockers: If they are able to play beautifully in their practice rooms, it would be a shame for a physical problem like shaking to keep them from sharing that beauty with the rest of the world. As far as I'm concerned, there is no such thing as too much good music in the world, or too many good musicians. I would not feel at a "disadvantage" if there were other violinists performing with beta blockers while I performed without them. In fact, hearing a good concert always inspires me to better my own playing, so the more good musicians the merrier.

Of course, out of concern for the health of those who take beta blockers (side effects, etc.), I'd be very wary of endorsing it, and would even recommend against it unless absolutely necessary. However, I also don't see this as a moral issue, and don't agree with those who think that beta-blocker users do not belong on stage.

September 16, 2007 at 04:10 PM · I searched the archives for this thread and thought I would add a link to an article I read this morning.

http://www.ethanwiner.com/BetaBlox.html

September 16, 2007 at 08:34 PM · A quick scan of the posts here leads me to believe that some of the syptoms are expressions of various types of anxiety and/or social phobias. Has anyone here found relief from using drugs that are specific for these conditions?

While beta-blockers will attenuate the symptoms of anxiety, possibly a course of treatment that addresses the underlying causes might be effective?

September 17, 2007 at 03:04 AM · Beta blockers are not steroids. They block some of the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine). They are used primarily to treat high blood pressure. They are available on prescription in the U.S. because of adverse side effects. For example, if you're taking asthma meds, don't take beta blockers. Beta blockers do NOT suppress anxiety. They only suppress the symptoms of anxiety -- sweaty palms, shaking, etc. Some people find that they can relax and play better without the physical symptoms of anxiety. Some people need to take anti-anxiety meds for performance. Other people use relaxation techniques such as deep, slow breathing or imaging to counter the anxiety. Personally, I prefer chocolate. ;-)

September 17, 2007 at 03:15 AM · Please see our previous discussion of this subject at http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=6888. There is a lot of good information there.

September 17, 2007 at 03:44 AM · I'm curious, to those who know about this, what's the usual dose and when would you take it, an hour before, 30 minutes before?

September 17, 2007 at 12:59 PM · Our response to all this is simply to quote the late, great Harry S. Truman,...33rd President of the United States of America-----

"If you can't take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen."

Sincerely,

Skowronski: Classical Recordings

September 17, 2007 at 01:50 PM · if i interpret that presidential line and your use of it correctly, i think to apply that to performers who suffer from anxiety attacks is highly inappropriate.

what is missing here is probably empathy.

there may be some who abuse meds for one reason or another, but many people regain function in this society (or resume performing career) with the help of pharm agents. if you are not taking meds, good for you. if others do, it is none of your business.

instead of making collective effort to boost the value of classical music, you guys fight among selves over an issue that is best addressed by profs.

go back to your violin practice please.

September 17, 2007 at 02:18 PM · Dear Al Ku: SORRY,......but you kind of missed getting by the veneer of our Harry Truman quote.

We certainly DO empathize with the afflicted individuals who suffer from anxiety attacks prior to and during performance. Why else would we suggest their staying out of the kitchen? Curiously, though,.....what degree of fun or joyful music making can be anticipated by an individual if his/her rate of excitement and drive so necessary to produce 'sparks' is slowed down? Its smacks of too much whoa and not enough giddy-up!

Next.....we choose to simply ignore your supercilious "none of your business" remark.

Finally, "to boost the value of classical music,"

we will now proceed to engage in fierce violin practice,,,,,with a chilled, very dry Martini at our side. Cheers!

Thanks for your input.

S:CR

September 17, 2007 at 03:23 PM · from your writing, i see you have no empathy at all no matter how you want to put it.

in fact, your explanation is pretty silly and unprofessional.

September 17, 2007 at 11:00 PM · Without making reference to who is on which side (those for or against inderal), I'd like to make the following point: nerves come and go. Some people begin their careers without a hint of nerves, and become nervous later in life. Some people are able to cure their nerves. Some people experience flare-ups in nervousness, often inexplicable and in low-pressure situations. It's very hard to predict. Therefore, I don't agree with those who take the hard-line stance that those who get nervous shouldn't be performers. It's too simplistic.

September 17, 2007 at 11:57 PM · I guess there should be no Carly Simon "LIVE" since she suffers from performance anxiety? That would be a sad world.

It kept her off the stage for years one time.

Supposedly she has discovered something that helps. Get the answer here:

http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/article/simon%20spanks%20away%20her%20stage%20fright_1006576

September 18, 2007 at 03:24 PM · I use Inderal now & then, and I don't care who knows it. Here's what it does [for me]: it relieves the SYMPTOMS of nervousness. The shaking, the sweating, the pounding heart, all go away. It does not stop me from freaking out mentally, it does not help me concentrate, and it certainly does not make me able to play things better than I normally could. ALL it does is avoids the too-much-adrenaline rush, and its consequences that keep me from playing well. In other words, I end up being able to play only as well in an audition as I could play in the practice room. If they throw an excerpt in front of me that I didn't practice enough, then I am still screwed.

As for Vincent S's ".....what degree of fun or joyful music making can be anticipated by an individual if his/her rate of excitement and drive so necessary to produce 'sparks' is slowed down? Its smacks of too much whoa and not enough giddy-up!" remark, there can be such a thing as too much giddy-up, to the point where your hands will hardly let you hold onto the instrument. If you take a reasonable dose (Normally what's needed is about 1/5 of that recommended for heart/ high blood pressure patients), all it does is calm you down a bit. The effect is similar to NOT drinking 2 cups of strong coffee. It's not a lobotomy.

And yes, it's a good idea to have a checkup first. There's always a chance you could have some condition you don't know about & a reaction you'd never expect. I told my doctor "I'm a musician, I get performance anxiety [described the symptoms], and I'd like some Inderal." He checked me out & said OK. I didn't have to lie or get it off the internet.

It doesn't help everybody, for example if your problems are not physical symptoms; and I think there are people whose nervous systems just don't respond to it (the way some cats don't respond to catnip); but I highly recommend it to people who have trouble dealing with the physical symptoms of nervousness.

September 19, 2007 at 04:14 AM · I wholeheartedly agree with Bruce. I was still nervous when I used Inderol, but I didn't shaky or sweatty. In fact, I felt like I was in a practice room, although with a much higher anxiety level. The "spark" was still there, or at least it was to the teachers at least.

Listen, don't knock anything until you try it. And if you have a bad experience, please share it with us. However, do realize that NO medication is perfect on everyone. Some people will work well with inderol, some won't. Then again, some people work well by eating lots of bananas and some don't. Just be open minded and don't judge those who have used them- you'd be surprised how many musicians out there have big-time chamber or orchestral jobs and have used them as well.

September 19, 2007 at 04:45 PM · P.S. I forgot to say bananas don't help me. Not with nerves, anyway.

Okay, that's enough information...

September 19, 2007 at 05:45 PM · Its no secret that players, especially wind principals, in major symphonies use inderal for performances. There are also reports of opera singers using them because of the expectation that is placed on them, especially in places like the Met. I think in the end, to each his own.

September 19, 2007 at 08:14 PM · My question to the people who become reliant on these drugs in order to perform is, what happens the time you forget to take the beta blocker?

November 21, 2007 at 12:59 PM · What's this about you dusting Mr. Wizard with DDT?

November 22, 2007 at 01:55 AM · It takes courage to get up and address a problem especially 'Nerves'! Who hasn't had sweaty palms asking someone to a school dance or or even to accept! Getting up before a body of people to give an address...we've all been there. However, there are those that as time goes by (or someone like myself borne with morbid fear along with traumatic anxiety)it goes beyond "Just Jitters". And for anyone who has never expirienced this as those of us being treated for it, I'm shure you are quite perplexed! Let me give an illustration, I'll do my best. I'm shure that you've had a faucet over a sink become leaky? Well, our chemical valves to keep the nervous juice in check becomes leaky letting out more Epinepherin and Nor-epinepherine than what is required. So a new valve, in this case a chemical, has to be used. The drugs today, and what I use as well as those who have posted, are not like 30 years ago when Benzodiazapines like Valium were used. We are 'dependent', just as someone with diabetes is dependent on receiving insulin injections, or have to eat a prescribed diet. I've learned mental exercises to help me with specific issues, just as we warm up with an Etude before we play a certain peice. Working with an agency and a profesional will aid us tailoring a program and it will go through revissions as time goes by simply because..we change, with age, with developmental mile stones. Don't give up in your quests. It took me 23 years, heck 42 actualy. And I just know that the rest of you will also. You are in my thoughts. I wish you success, and thank you for your time.

November 22, 2007 at 05:05 AM · I can offer my father's advice:

"Beta-blocker's shouldn't be used in the long run partly becuase its REALLY bad for your health, but as somebody said before vitamin C mixed with other vitamins like vitamin A and B(a for eyesight and B for energy) these should be normal suppliments(tablets) that are crushed into a powder(via mortar & pestle or taking tin-foil and wrapping the tablets in it and crushing it with a heavy object) and mixing it into a clear, liquid. If you developed a dependence( relatively likely over a period of time usally close to 8 months to a year(depending on weight)) it is possible to increase the dosage to 1.5 tablets up to 2 tablets per 3 days. It is EXTREMELY imperative that you DO NOT take more than 2 tablets per 3 days you devlop vitamin poisoning. If you take to much vitamin A which can result in birth defects, liver problems,

reduced bone mineral density that may result in osteoporosis, coarse bone growths, hair loss, excessive skin dryness/peeling , if you take to much vitamin B the oppostises of beriberi and pellagra(to many symtomns to list), if you take to much vitamin C it can cause acute induced scurvy(exactly what the lack of vitamin C causes aswell), frequent and uncontrollable bowel movements, and anascrobemia. Vitamins are not addictive. Dependencey doesn't mean that the substance you are taking is addictive it just means that your body builds up a slight immunity to the vitamin. Ofcourse I highly advise you only take the mixture a day or two before you have the preformance."

November 22, 2007 at 06:42 AM · Erin,

I don't know what the usual dose of beta blocker is for performance problems, but I kept cutting my (Dr. prescribed) pills until I found that 5 mg (1/4 of a 20 mg Inderal pill) 40 or more minutes before a solo performance was all I need. I've been using these things for 30 years for about 12 -15 solo or chamber music performances annually. Before that, I had about 26 years during which less and less of my bow was useful in performance (jsut fine in pactice or orchestra concerts). Now I revel in taking it all the way to the frog in performance - just to prove I can do it.

Until I was 17 I never had a problem and was completely startled the first performance when my bow started to shake; I had no different psychological sensations than I had for the previous 4 years of public performances. From then on it just got worse and worse - until Inderal entered my life.

The pills seem to retain their effectiveness for years - but it could just be that I really don't need them any more - I've heard of such people, but I'm taking no chances. I'm on regular asthma meds, so I'm very careful to use as little Inderal as possible. I do feel something that I don't like if I take them for performances on contiguous days.

With the fear of fear gone, performances are pretty much "no worries!"

November 22, 2007 at 07:10 AM · I, I guess thankfully, find that like on piano, repetition does it for me pretty good. But I was a ham from the beginning--I had no choice, I was accosted by a 50 year old man every day threatening to take my lunch at 6; and, had to both physically and morally whip his butt.. And though I like an occasional Pabst Blue Ribbon (Bud Light;)), I never perform under the influence; nor, do I do 99 percent of my practice etc.

I love violin, as much (maybe more) than I love Ms. New York--but at least she now knows it. Even through an unbelievable journey, it has been my

Inderal.

January 17, 2008 at 09:15 PM · for the record, I'm not sure why people focus on bananas as a source of potassium. Raisins have more potassium than bananas; whey protein powders are tremendously high in potassium, etc. (google 'foods high in potassium' to see more)

One thing that has helped by shaking bow arm is pumping iron to develop upper-arm muscles, triceps and biceps. My doctor explained that weaker upper-arm muscles can put too much a load on the elbow joint, causing shaking. The pumping iron seems to work!

January 17, 2008 at 10:10 PM · Prunes have more potassium than bananas, too.

January 17, 2010 at 04:12 AM ·

Hi,

I've been reading the posts on this thread, and I'm just looking for a little bit of advice from those of you who have taken beta-blockers. I am 17 (almost 18) and I have college auditions coming up... I have been having anxiety attacks over the past week due to my first audition (for my top choice school) being this coming Tuesday. Recently I have had pretty decent auditions (for community ensembles, all county, etc), less shaking and stress but now that the auditions are for something more important the anxiety is 10x worse than it ever has been... I shake, I cry, I hyperventilate... So today my doctor prescribed Propranolol to take before my auditions. I am hopefully performing for a group of my friends tomorrow and I plan on trying the Propranolol then, but what do you think of only trying it once before an audition? Also, my doctor said that i should take it 15-30 minutes before a performance but on here the time frame seems to be more like an hour and a half? Thanks for your time :)
-Kasey

January 17, 2010 at 08:28 AM ·

I've been using it for a couple of months now. I also have big problems with anxiety that seem completely unberable in performance situations. The dose I was perscribed wasn't making a huge difference so my doctor told me to take more. I would test it out a little bit so you know when to take it and how much works for you and what it feels like. Use it when performing for friends or in a lesson to see if it calms your nerves. It really worked for me. I usually take mine an hour before I perform. For me, 30 minutes is not enough time for it to really work effectively. The most important thing I discovered while taking it was that it is not meant to take away the nerves completely. It is there to calm you down and get your heart rate down enough so that you can get through it and focus on your performance. I would recommend it to anyone who has anxiety problems or really difficult times during performances or auditions.

January 17, 2010 at 08:30 AM ·

To answer your first question...You will have to be the judge to see if one experimentation with it is enough. I definitely felt a difference the first time but it is nice to experiment with it more than once to make it the most beneficial for you.

January 17, 2010 at 04:45 PM ·

Taking a beta blocker 40 - 60 minutes before the performance is due to start should be about the latest you can take it. 30 minutes before is too late.

I have found that a dose as small as 5 mg of Inderal works for me (1/4 of the typical 20 mg pill). I started using this stuff for solo and chamber music performances in 1977 and it has worked every time - after 26 years of solo shakes (after age 17; I was great before that).

There is no way to test if the stuff works unless you are in the situation where you need it. However you can try a dose to see if it has negative effects. But I suggest that if you are going to do that, take it a few days before you are to perform. I have found a cumulative effect (it makes me tired and slightly depressed) if I try to use it for performances on successive days.

However it sure solved my performance anxiety problems. I do know of violinists who used it a few times and it helped them realize their problems were all in their heads and they never needed it again.

Best of luck to you too!

Andy

January 17, 2010 at 09:19 PM ·

January 18, 2010 at 02:54 AM ·

I take propranolol 3x a day for medical reasons, in a higher dose than you are most likely using.  The first thing you have to realize is that it is NOT a sedative, tranquilizer, or anti-anxiety medication.  It won't do a thing for the feelings of terror and doom.  It will, however, keep your heart rate nice and slow and can keep your hands from shaking due to extra adrenaline in your system (or other reasons).  It won't allow you to play any better than your level of preparation- it will just keep your hands steadier while you play.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

ArmSymphony AI Violin Competition
ArmSymphony AI Violin Competition

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

AVIVA Young Artist Program

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe