Nervousness -- Shaking and Sweaty Hands

July 26, 2005 at 07:22 PM · Hello,

I know that this is a classic problem, but it is really starting to aggravate and discourage me. I am having serious problems with getting nervous when playing in front of an audience.

My main symptoms are that my hands start to sweat badly. (Sometimes when I place my left hand on the fingerboard, the sweat makes it wet.) Also, my fingers on both my left hand and bow hand start shaking and it is extremely difficult for me to do shifts (making my playing out of tune) or to play musically (because my bow is shaking).

It is strange because I do not even think in my mind that I am nervous. The sweaty and shaky fingers seem to be reactions. I guess whenever I am aware of the fact that I will be performing, these reactions just occur.

While waiting until it is my turn to perform, I try my best to take deep breathes and calm down and spend time trying to wipe the sweat away from my hands, but it just does not work.

It is getting really frustrating and is starting to discourage me from playing the violin because since performing for other people is basically the point of violin, what is the point of me playing if I get scared of performing and can't perform pieces the way I want to?

Do any of you have any suggestions for helping me with this nervousness problem? I hear that experience will help it get better, but I kind of doubt it in my case. I think that I will get nervous reactions every single time I perform.

It frustrates me because some of my friends also tell me that they get nervous, but the nervousness does not seem to affect their playing to a vast degree at all (even if their performances aren't as good as when they practice, they can still play in tune and so on.) I feel very much alone.

Please give me some advice.



Replies (66)

July 26, 2005 at 10:11 PM · just make as many opportunities to practice for yourself as possible. You'll still get nervous but the effects will hurt your playing less.

July 27, 2005 at 12:24 AM · I had a really encouraging situation this May which really made me feel more confident about stage fright (yes, more confident about stage fright, not more confident about playing violin, neccesarily). It was a solo judging from NYSSMA-New York State School Music Association.

1. I prepared far in advance. This really makes you feel good. You know what's going on with the music, you didn't feel like you crammed, and you're ready for it.

2. I didn't get my violin out until I had about 15 minutes before my adjudicating time. I didn't touch my violin before that time.

3. I practiced only a few scales, carefully, beautifully, musically, to calm myself down (not that I was that nervous, because I was just sitting, waiting, not running through the music a billion times w/bad intonation and making mistakes which would haunt me later).

4. I didn't practice in the practice room besides the scales. Those who do make a HUGE mistake. Everyone else is practicing there, how can you even hear yourself?

After using these four steps, I got a 99/100 score...the only point I lost was the speed of the Gigue (Partita 2-Bach)...too slow in opinion of my adjudicator. If anything, wouldn't slowness show confidence and relaxation? So, I was very pleased with that performance.

However, the very next day, I had to play the same peice for a chamber orchestra, and I didn't relax amply ahead of time, and was very nervous throughout the piece. So, if you have time to do something like I did, I would try it. It worked really well for me.

On the other hand, perhaps you're thinking too much about how nervous you are and trying to calm yourself down. Just a thought.

Try eating cheese or something, too. Maybe your blood sugar is off or semething.

You could also try putting deodorant or something like that on your hands, if that's a problem, but it doesn't really matter too much, in my opinion, if your fingerboard is wet. I know a violinist who gets very sweaty, and he still plays very well. It might just be adreneline.

Ok, my thoughts in a mis-spelled order for the night...hope they help!

July 27, 2005 at 01:47 AM · My experiences have led me to the following conclusions:

1. Those who perform more frequently in front of audiences tend to get less nervous. This is not an absolute rule. Even some of the greatest artists suffered from nerves. Milstein confessed that he couldn't eat on days when he had to play.

2. Know the piece cold. This is a more personal experience thing. I recently decided to examine and evaluate all my past auditions to see what I can learn from them. I found that when I did poorly, it was due to lack of total knowledge which led to verves taking over.

3. Taking beta blockers. This is a much more controversial approach. Some say that taking beta blockers prevents the positive nervous energy, and that it makes the playing cold and lifeless. Even so, I have heard players who have taken them and have played absolutely beautifully, so I'm on the fence for that.

4. Eat a banana. It's the same thing as taking a beta blocker, but at least it has other nutrition for you as well.

5. Meditate. I recently performed the Bach B minor partita. But before I even put the bow to the string, I just waited until my mind was 100% settled. The audience didn't care at all.

6. Above all, just go out there to have fun. To me, that's the easiest way to relieve pressure. I just go out in front of an audience thinking, "ok, this is it. whatever happens, happens." Then I play. It's just so much easier knowing that there are no real pressues except whatever you impose upon yourself.

July 27, 2005 at 01:57 PM · Thanks for all the advice!

But the thing is... I don't really get nervous while I'm practicing or warming up. It's just when I'm waiting until it's my turn to perform (you know... in a program, there might be a couple of people ahead of you or something.), that's when my heart starts racing and my hands start shaking and sweating. And I tell myself, "Stop this!" But no, when I get up on stage, I'm still shaking and everything.

And I DO tell myself to just go up there and have fun. But it's hard to do that when your body won't cooperate with you.

And about the deodorant thing... This is just like a couple of minutes when I'm waiting my turn to play. So I can't really put it on my hands.

July 27, 2005 at 02:17 PM · Grace, this might be a very unorthodox suggestion, but it has worked for me. Drink coffee or something caffinated before/while you are practicing. The coffee triggers adrenaline and if you get a *little* bit used to practicing while feeling the effects of being nervous, it might make you feel less strange when you have to play when you actually are nervous.

I read (someplace I can't remember) that it is best to practice in all kinds of conditions because when we get to the stage, you aren't going to have the luxury of being in a comfortable temperature and being relaxed and taking your time about playing. On stage it might be hot or cold and you will be nervous, so if you practice under all kinds of temperatures and states of nervousness, you shall be all that much more prepared when concert or performance time happens. I think suggestions about playing in front of the neighbors or playing as often as you can is the same idea....duplicate nervous conditions a lot and you will no longer feel as nervous.

July 27, 2005 at 03:25 PM · Why don't you get in touch with a psychologist? Even better, a performance psychologist. Believe it or not, they do exist.

They would probably put you through some sort of behavioral/modification therapy that I'm sure would prove quite useful. If your situation is as serious as you suggest, why not see a professional, someone who is trained in dealing with these kinds of situations?

As for sweaty hands, try baby powder. I know of one concert violinist that uses this regularly.

But in reality, the sweaty hands/nervousness is psychological. If you were playing in a hot room and your hands became sweaty, I'm sure you would still be able to play very well.

The performing arts in general seem to be years behind the sports world. Sports psychologists have played a huge role in the devlepment of athletes for decades. Really only within the last 10 years (and that is pushing it) has performance psychology played a larger role in music.

Anyway, that's my suggestion. You can overcome this problem, and there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help to do so.

July 27, 2005 at 03:45 PM · The only way I know of getting rid of sweaty hands is to wipe them on your pants!

all kidding aside, it just sounds like you don't have enough experience playing for other people.

Everyone gets nerves, even those big name soloists we all like.

It's just that you have to figure out how to deal with them.

You get used to nerves after awhile. It tokk me quite a few auditions to get over them.

I am assuming that you sweaty palms are triggered because of nerves.

One thing to keep in mind is that when you are playing for another person, they WANT to hear you play well.

You shouldn't fear playing for other people. I know I used to, but I got accostumed to playing for other people.

July 27, 2005 at 05:23 PM · So Beta Blockers are available in any drug store?

And it basically calms down your nerves, or what?

What are the side effects of using them? And it doesn't matter how young you are, right?

July 27, 2005 at 05:36 PM · Don't do beta blockers, just get more experience performing. They are really for treating high blood pressure.

July 27, 2005 at 06:52 PM · As I said before I think that its mostly a matter of experience. The more you perform the better you get at it, just like anything else. Knowing the piece well is also an important factor.

Sometimes I find that once I start a piece I stop being nervous. When I run or dance or perform I feel my heart beating faster and faster up until the moment I start, and I begin to calm right after I begin. The point is that you should throw yourself into the piece to a rediculus point where your nerves become unimportant. If your always concentrating on the very phrase your playing, how you can make it intense, how you can make it sweet, how you can make it sound yearning, or whatever your nervousness will gradually fade, but it has to be excessive. You can't just think, oh well I'm going to extend this note and vibrato kinda faster. It has to be more like OH MY GOD!!! THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL!! I'M GOING TO START CRYING!! :P, but you get the idea. I was performing this chamber piece once and I was really nervous, but as soon as the first notes started playing I was totally calm and ready to go. Ok, I was a little tense, but it made me more meticulous and gave me energy rather than hampering me. You should try becoming absorbed with the music to eliminate your nerves. Hear the music in your head and start phrasing it for a few seconds before you play to get "in the zone". :D

Edit: Everybody from my martial arts instructor to sports psycologists talk about the importance of visualization so visulize the piece you're playing

July 27, 2005 at 10:07 PM · Greetings,

Recently I gave a performance of Gerhswin's Ain't Necessarily So, Achron's Hebrew Melody and (the world premiere of) my own composition for violin and piano. Generally speaking I think that a strong and well established technique for pulling the sound out of the violin is necessary to reduce nerves to a minimal level. I found that if one has a technique that allows them to produce a loud, powerful and even sound throughout the bow with minimal physical exertion this helps because it allows one to relax somewhat in the exam however still be able to produce that powerful sound when needed. Anything tense and inflexible I think falls apart in performance conditions as you really need to feel free in your arms. It's difficult to explain I know...:D

Also I found that closing one's eyes helps one concentrate on the music and ignore the audience glaring at them, I use this sometimes, only thing is that you need to know the music very well and not be totally reliant on the score.

Of course total preparation of a work helps you to play it with confidence and that is a fact. Also, Oistrakh I heard practiced his pieces very often senza vibrato and of course this is an excellent way of checking one's intonation, and practicing the whole work without vibrato is often very difficult because one can come across passages that are actually out of tune, but they didnt really notice those fine tuning details whilst they were rattling the violin :D.



July 27, 2005 at 10:16 PM · I am a pharmacist, so I can tell you a little bit about beta blockers. It was designed to decrease the blood pressure, but there are some older generation beta blockers which are not particularly specific. Drugs such as propranolol are sometimes prescribed to musicians with excessive tremors due to nervousness because of the effects on the brain. It's not a sedative, so you will be still nervous, but the tremor will be much less visible and will less likely to interfere with your playing. Doses for strage tremor are very low so that you will not likely to experience dizziness, but people respond differently and you can experience dizziness during performace. This is worse than tremor in my opinion. You need a prescription to buy a beta blocker.

I discourage musicians to rely on beta blockers. Nervousness is a part of the learning process. You will need to cope with it mentally. Generally, if you perform well in public a few times, the positive experiences will allow you not to be excessively nervous.

July 28, 2005 at 10:48 AM · I am an amateur violinist who performs only occasionally, but as such I have always viewed my violin study as a developmental tool for life (as opposed to a way to make a living). Study of the violin has helped me learn focus, discipline, patience as well as skills for facing fears. I have transferred these skills to professional and personal life. Learning to deal with my performance anxiety has helped me become better prepared for business presentations (not much difference between left hand shaking and voice shaking). I guess what I am trying to say is that you won't be able to go through life taking a pill for every type of situation in which you might be placed, so don't start by taking the Beta blockers for anxiety.

July 28, 2005 at 05:12 PM · When I first started to play I would get nervous about performing. As I got better as a performer I became less and less nervous. Now when I play I am confidant in my ability, and I feel right at home when I am playing for an audiance. Just enjoy being on stage, have fun.

July 31, 2005 at 03:43 AM · When I was at the MasterWorks music festival this summer, one of our teachers, Leo Altino, spoke about three motivations for doing anything: pride (many people use the terms "cockiness" or "selfishness" in this context), fear, and love. Pride says: I want to gain. To gain approval, sense of self worth etc. Fear says: I don't want to lose. To lose the esteem or acceptance of others, self confidence, or skill. Love says: I want to give. Lately when I've been performing, I couldn't figure out why I felt so paralysed, why was I so unhappy - even angry - with myself and my performance? But after thinking about what Leo had told us, I decided to try it. Mainly, what I did was try to think of all the things I was thankful for. Try doing this even starting a few days before the performance. The last performance I did - the second mvt. of Bach Double - I just prayed and thanked God for whoever the person in the third row would be, for the carpet I would stand on, for my teacher, for my parents who pay for my lessons, for the priviledge of even being able to physically make the motions that are necessary for playing. Be thankful for every silly thing you can think of. :-) Then when you play, it dosen't matter what goes "wrong" - something will - what mattered to me was "this is a piece I love, if I love it, they will love it and enjoy it also."

I don't know if this will help you, it helped me and has made playing the violin so much more fun.


October 1, 2005 at 06:37 PM · Not to get off subject or anything, but I'm not so sure i can take this violin thing anymore.the stress of auditions is getting to me majorly. im actually pretty good, but my nervousness just makes me feel even more discouraged. i just got back from an allstate audition and i really did bad. its like all that hard work didnt even pay off just because i was nervous! its not fair...because i just no there is a slight chance im going to get over this soon enough.(by the way im a sophmore in symphony at DHS)

October 1, 2005 at 07:28 PM · I'm an amateur violinist, but I'm a psychologist by profession. From a psychological point of view, there are of course a number of things you can try, including the many good suggestions on this discussion thread. But once it involves an actual physiological reaction (sweating), a few simple psychological or practice tips may not be enough to break into the habit pattern (which is what these things eventually become).

I would suggest you contact ASCH (the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis). It is NOT made up of stage hypnotists, but rather physicians, psychologists, and dentists who use clinical hypnosis as a professional tool in their practice. Ask for a reference for a professional who has worked with musicians or is experienced in working with "performance anxiety." This approach has been very successful for this kind of problem.

Sander Marcus

October 1, 2005 at 08:26 PM · It happens to me too when I perform. I get over my nervousness by taking a deep breath before I start to think about only what I'm playing. It helps sometimes.

October 1, 2005 at 08:25 PM · I could have missed this an earlier post but it seems as if no one has mentioned the most simple an inexpensive option:

Do deep breathing excercises before you perform to slow your pulse and relax your muscles.

October 2, 2005 at 12:26 AM · Sarah, re your suggestion on taking caffeine before playing, and trying to make practising conditions as varied and as awkward as possible, I would like if I may to make a few comments of my own on that.

I agree that it is good to practise varied and awkward situations, because they frequently occur during concerts, and if you are used to things not going as they should, it will disturb you less if you have practised it.

However, I feel that this type of practise should be done only very rarely and only from about a week or so before the concert. I will explain my reason for that:

I can personally vouch for this, having done a lot of experimenting, and I can say that if you overdo it, and you are not prepared for it, you can develop an attitude of "Oh well, this note was out of tune (or this difficult passage didn't work) because of the difficult conditions, and it wasn't SO bad, so I'm sure that in a concert it will be fine since it's unlikely to be under SUCH awkward/difficult conditions".

Therefore I would only introduce less than optimal conditions soon before the concert. Only when you can say "Ok I've practised under perfectly optimal conditions, and it WORKED, and I know it well, and I couldn't possibly have practised it better, and now I will test that IF condition X or Y occurs, I should be able to play through it".

Also, the conditions should be kept relatively moderate, I believe. Let's say, you decide a couple of days before the concert "Ok, I am going to wake up at 3am, run round the block, do twenty pushups, dip my hands into frozen water and then try and launch into my piece without any warming up", you are setting yourself up for failure! Now, the piece which you know perfectly well has come out sounding less than satisfactory, and you start to doubt your ability to play properly in the concert, adding to the nerves.

So rather keep it to something like getting a relative to sit and watch you while dipping now and then into a packet of sweets and opening the sweets (very common!) or have a cellphone go off at some random place, or play through the piece after warming up for about ten minutes. (Doing all at once might be rather extreme!!)

These are all moderately challenging and very realistic scenarios that one is likely to encounter, and it boosts the confidence when you pass them. And you should pass them, because you are already well prepared, and there are no excuses!! And if you do fail, and you know you prepared well, you know just to practise that situation more until it doesn't bother you any more.

I'm not saying that you intended or didn't intend to say all these things I've listed, I just wanted to elaborate because I feel that from my experience this is the best approach to take for "conditioning" before a concert.

Most of other good suggestions have already been listed here. I'd just add to remember how you feel when you are practising. Most of us become far more aware of our surroundings when we are in a concert situation, and therefore suddenly start to question things that we took for granted (mostly subconsciously). However, at the end of the day, whether you are playing at home, playing for your dog, playing on top of Mt Everest, or playing in Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic and live TV broadcast to millions of people around the world, you are actually going through the exact same motions, just in a different environment! So know your environment well (that is, your practise environment, and the feeling it gives you) and merely "take in" you new environment when you play elsewhere, without worrying too much about it, because you are just doing exactly what you normally do, but with other people watching. Also, stay in the present! Don't start to think ahead of what might be, just live in the present and merely "acknowledge" the goings on around you. (I am not talking about "thinking ahead" in the music! That is obviously a given! I mean external thoughts).

One more thing! When you are practising, or if you are playing in a not-so-important concert, DON'T say things like "Well I'll be nervous now for this concert as practise for my next big concert, where I'm sure I'll be nervous too, so this will give me practise in dealing with being nervous". I used to do this an awful lot, and it just does not help! This is a very sub-conscious thing, and you need to be very aware to catch yourself doing it!

Grace, I know very well what you mean about not being nervous, but still sweating and shaking. The good news is that it is a rather mild form of nerves, as you are not really nervous, you are just experiencing the symptoms. My advice would be to check that you are perfectly relaxed. Check your legs, neck, stomach and arms for any tension, breathe normally (and throughout the piece!!) and swallow before starting. I am sure that the nervous symptoms, like my own, are just caused by tension and uneasiness, rather than adrenaline. I've improved my situation greatly by relaxing. Also clear your mind of everything before playing. Practise now while you're in front of your computer to just clear your mind of EVERYTHING for a couple of minutes. So much so that you don't even think about whether you are succeeding or not, because your mind is so clear. You should clear your mind before starting to play, too. It is sort of like pulling the plug out of the sink to let all the old water out (your daily thoughts), in order to be able to fill it up properly with fresh water (that is, the music).

Sorry for the long rant, just my sleep-deprived thoughts from 2am after a very longgggg day! :)


October 2, 2005 at 11:27 AM · I could probably use a lot of this advice! I get so nervous nowadays, for everything, tests, quizzes, violin auditions/recitals. It really feels terrible. I can relate to you, Grace, it can be really discouraging, but try new things to conquer your nervousness every time until you find a good way.

October 2, 2005 at 11:46 AM · Hi,

Thanks for advice Sander. That is an interesting approach.

Sander may correct me if I am wrong, but in the end, nervousness is normal. The Fight or Flight principal in front of a difficult situation is natural and has been discussed many times in this forum in other threads.

However, I seem to notice as a player and teacher, and just in general, that excessive nervousness stems from a disease called perfectionism. This, especially in classical music, is heightened as is the nervousness by the constant bashing that musicians do of one another (just look at how people treat great soloists in comments on this site...). The excess of self-consciousness that comes from these factors seems to lead to nervousness more than anything else.

In the end, I have not, or have yet to figure out a way to beat this. I don't know if there is one. But, this problem is usually systemic, not just to one's life in music, and it needs to be defeated on an all-around level. I guess that a minus-one tolerance to B.S., improvement as a goal rather than perfection, getting things done as a goal rather than getting them right, and respect for others in a positive way and a realistic view of one's self are the best remedies that I have seen so far.


October 2, 2005 at 01:14 PM · Hi, Christian:

You're right; nervousness is normal. And it is often caused by an undue (but understandable) sense of perfectionism. And there are indeed many ways to deal with it.

What I was trying to say is that it is a question of degree. If the intensity gets beyond a point where the ways you would usually handle it don't work, then maybe that's the point where some professional help is advisable (and the need is probably short-term).

Perfectionism is an interesting thing. I believe that perfection is the proverbial coin with two sides. To STRIVE FOR PERFECTION is fine. Without it, we wouldn't achieve up to our potential in anything as individuals. Also, without it, there would be no Paganini, no Heifetz, no Bach, no Beethoven, no Tchaikovsky, no Perlman. And there would be no YOU at your best.

STRIVING FOR PERFECTION is I believe a healthy and admirable thing, and I don't believe it is the problem.

The other side of the coin -- the problem -- occurs when we feel that THE ACTUAL ACHIEVEMENT OF PERFECTION is the ONLY ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME. In other words, if we imperfect human beings feel we are no good unless we achieve perfection, then we know that we will always fail and we expect every performance to be a failure. In that case, being adequate only happens when we actually achieve perfection. This unrealistic and unreasonable expectation is what creates the kind of tension that can impede musical performance (or anything else).

Also, I'm sure that you'll agree that a certain amount of tension is not only expected, but is healthy and is even what gives a performance an excitement and an "edge." I have always thought, for example, that of all of the great violinists, Nathan Milstein's play lacked that kind of tension or nervousness or edge. I don't know how he actually felt inside, but the playing is, in a sense, without a feeling of risk or imperfection. Mind you, I love his playing. I heard him play many times, including his last performance in Chicago at age 80, and his playing of the Chaccone was magical and is still ringing in my ears. But after a while, if you listen to enough Milstein, that tension or feeling that he is risking anything is missing (to me). You know exactly what is going to happen. And then I'd rather hear someone like Menuhin, who seems to be taking risks every time he picks up the violin.

I hope that clarifies it.

Cordially, Sandy Marcus

October 2, 2005 at 02:49 PM · Hello,

Sander, thank you. That clarifies it. It is interesting that Heifetz stated that perfection did not exist, only improvement and that is what he sought. Tiger Woods also once mentioned in an interview when asked about how to perfect one's golf swing: "You cannot perfect a golf swing because perfection does not exist. You can however improve it. What I strive for is not perfection but a standard of professional excellence in what I do."

I find that many musicians feel the need to be perfect as the only means reasonable because of two major factors: 1- recordings and 2- critics. Therefore, the end up with the philosophy that Nietzsche arrived at in The Birth of Tragedy. That pessimism is the only answer because the goal cannot be reached and only the goal matters, not the process.

You mentioned Sander that the things could be improved in a short while if properly addressed. Since you seem very qualified to do this, would you have suggestions for defeating the mindset that leads to excess tension? That would be great!


October 2, 2005 at 03:08 PM · Hi again, Christian.

Yes, I don't think that what I had to say was particularly original, and many have commented on it. And thank you for your faith in my skills, but I think it's a very individual matter. There are a few things that you can do, however, that are probably quite common.

1. Physical and mental relaxation. It has already been mentioned that breathing and relaxation methods are worth doing, always. The key here is to pay attention to the effects of the breathing and the relaxation. It's the attention to it that makes it work. For years I've been teaching my clients a simple and practical relaxation technique, the key to which is paying attention to the effects. There's not enough time or room to share it here, but contact me if you're interested. I'll be happy to share it with you.

2. It has also been pointed out by many (including Perlman on that Art of Violin program) that playing the violin well requires so much attention to minute, specialized technical details and eye-hand coordination and perceptual-motor skills, that this occupies all your attention and there's no time left over to think about making music. I think that the fact that the violin is so, so, so technical almost makes it inevitable that perfectionism will become a problem. I think that the antidote to that is to focus at least part of the time on the making music part and to celebrate it, regardless of what happened technically. Otherwise, all you're paying attention to is technique. If you focus on making music, then perfectionism isn't really as much of a worry.

3. Learn to accept and even celebrate the mistakes. The Toscanini approach of not tolerating even the smallest mistakes may be the way he became a great artist, but I don't think it works for the rest of us. (By the way, in Jan Peerce's autobiography, he talks about ALWAYS being prepared at Toscanini rehearsals, but that he once made a big mistake in a rehearsal. He was expecting a tirade from Toscanini, but instead, Toscanini said quietly and sadly, "Peerce, you too?").

4. I think it's helpful, too, to listen to great recorded performances and live performances and celebrate the occasional imperfections and mistakes as part of a total musical experience. My favorite recording of the Beethoven Concerto is the Francescatti 1950 recording with Ormandy and the Philadelphia (Biddulph came out with it last year). It's a studio recording, but it was done in one take. There are a couple of "whistled" notes and a few other imperfections in the performance, and it just doesn't matter. In fact, the imperfections are part of the charm of the performance. If you (that is, anyone) can celebrate that, then maybe you can celebrate your own focus on making music, and then you may not worry so much about the mistakes.

5. I think it's important (as I said before) to make that distinction between a) how wonderful it is to STRIVE for perfection, and b) how terrible it is to JUDGE OURSELVES and our personal worth by whether or not we actually reach that level of perfection. Maybe, for example, after a student has played something, and after the critiques and discussions, a final question may be, "Did you feel when you played that that you were making music?" In other words, have the final comments about the performance or practice be about the emotional and non-technical aspects of the playing.

Anyway, those are things that occur to me at the moment. I'll probably think of 10 more after I log off.

Hope that helps.

Cordially, Sandy Marcus

October 3, 2005 at 12:12 PM · Hi,

Sander, thanks for the good advice. I will take into consideration for sure!

All my best,


October 3, 2005 at 01:33 PM · OK, Christian. Be well. Sandy

October 4, 2005 at 02:55 AM · Grace-

A violinist friend of mine at Peabody suggested eating 3 or 4 bananas a couple of hours before a performance. He found this to be an effective alternative to beta blockers. The idea is that bananas have a lot of potassium, which is a key element in your body's natural air conditioning system and so keep your adrenaline levels, etc., low. In that theory, potassium of any kind, or even gatorade, should work to some degree. But i have tried bananas and they help.

October 4, 2005 at 03:34 AM · Take a public speaking course - they teach techniques to get over stage fright, and you get to practice being in front of a ton of people without ever picking up your violin.

Also try practicing outide - like in the ront yard or porch (remember to do this during hours that are socially acceptable).

October 4, 2005 at 04:30 AM · Outtide in the ront the neighbor will toot you with a waffle.

October 4, 2005 at 12:56 PM · how can a girl eat 3 or 4 banannas!?

October 6, 2005 at 03:21 AM · Oh my, that was bad spelling wasn't it? ::blushing::

Reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon I have in my office (picture of Dilbert with one of those sand filled stress ball that explodes over the keyboard and handing the boss a purchase req for a new one) "What is a kybard?"

October 6, 2005 at 04:09 AM · Being nervous and having sweaty shaking hands can do that to your typing skills. Try deep breathing.


October 6, 2005 at 10:11 AM · i took atenolol very low dose for heart problems, i found that it also calmed me before performing. then my doctor told me that it is a common med performers use to control adrenalin.

October 6, 2005 at 04:59 PM · I really don't endorse taking beta blockers. I know a pianist who does, and she has become overly reliant on them before performances. It's terrible to rely on drugs for something for which experience is an antidote. Plus, the more you use beta blockers, the more it loses its effectiveness. Also, lots of drugs have side effects that are both known and unknown.

October 6, 2005 at 05:45 PM · Julie,

Building tolerance to beta-blockers would be very difficult at the dosage used by most musicians.


October 6, 2005 at 06:10 PM · HI Lil,

Bananas are a good potassium source but by no means the top on a pound-for-pound basis. I believe that potatoes out-do them, as do avocados. Fresh tomatoes are good, too.

I think it is easier for a girl to eat 4 bananas than to eat two baked potatoes, though. I am a guy, and I have been known to eat 6 or 7 bananas within a 1/2 hour period. So a girl should be able to down 4 bananas no problem!:-)

October 6, 2005 at 06:45 PM · Prunes, too. They have more than bananas.

October 7, 2005 at 12:28 AM · You shouldn't eat too many bananas, there is something in them that shouldn't be overdosed on.

Also, never eat the bottom half-inch as apparently there is a chance that a native worm can have burrowed upwards into it, then you eat it and it lives in your gut.

October 9, 2005 at 08:43 PM · haha emily, prunes....

I know exactly how you feel grace. I'm trying to work on it and you should too, even if it seems hopeless. I agree about playing more often in front of people. I'm even nervous to do THAT, not just performing. I suggest first practicing on children and dogs! I'm not kidding! And play randomly in the hallways. Also, i think it's good not to think about who's listening but to focus on the music. Try to make it sound the way you want to pretending that you're the only one in the room.

October 12, 2005 at 01:39 AM · Hi!

I am in the process of reading "The Inner Game of Music" and I find it is helping me a lot, take a look here:

April 27, 2006 at 07:04 PM · I'm interested in knowing if you over-came this. It would give me some hope.

April 27, 2006 at 07:30 PM · I wrote an article which may have some points of interest for you. Here is a link:

I also find it really helpful to perform before a performance. If you haven't performed publicly in a while, get two or three neighbors into your home and play through your piece for them. Then when *the* performance comes, you can say to yourself: "I just did this the other night."

May 1, 2006 at 04:45 AM · I quite like a sweaty right hand - gives a good bow grip. But for shifting it's an absolute killer, so I always carry talcum powder in my violin case, and will even take it onto stage with me if I think I'll get sweaty. It's great having a simple solution to at least one problem!

May 1, 2006 at 01:14 PM · Interesting. I do not like a sweaty right hand since it feels as if I'm going to drop the bow but I feel that a sweaty or wet left hand can actually faciliate shifting. I have many friends of mine who backstage sometimes wet their hands between pieces to keep the feeling of the fingerboard loose and smooth. I also wet my hands even when I'm practicing if my fingers feel dry like during the winter season.

May 6, 2006 at 06:43 PM · Hi!

Well i have some advie on this issue....I usually go through the same thing!

1. I bet you have heard this a lot but months before you preform start your piece and practice,practice practice! It will help you be more confident in yourself when you play at the audition if you know you know it!

2. Even months before you play at your recital,audition etc, always tell yourself before you practice that you are the greatest violinist in the world....think about how great you are and how great you will be at the concert! I also think that you should never think about messing up but about playing everything perfectly! It is all a mental proccess that you have to go through.

3. Believe in yourself!

4. Play in front of people as much as you can....exspecially people you hate to play in front of my greatest fears would be playing in front of classmates! Espcially in orchestra cause you know that they know how to play and they will know when you mess up. Let them judge you and get as close as they want to you!

5. Before going into the audition or concert room...

-I like to occcupy myself with other things like listening to music...or playing a vidoe game or reading so i wont worry about what is too come!

- like someone said earlier only play scales and not the whole piece before you go in! just difficlut spots but not a lot

- i usually dont eat that day untill everything is over...that is just me though

- One time a colleuge of mine that was doing a duet with me(a really good violinist i might add) told me before we went in that everything was going to be ok and we would do great and that made me calm down....and we did do great!

-I dont know if you are a religious person or not but i usually pray to god to give me guidence and grace and to play through him!

- remembe though nervousness is common through people and can be fixed so dont give up because of it!

best of luck!

July 6, 2006 at 10:54 PM · Used to have thios problem...its such a pain isnt it??

Always keep a small clean towel handy to dry your hands on

I was once told eating bananas shortly before a performance helps, but i always forget to buy them!

dont put any oily handcreams on for 24 hours before the performance.

Other than that, There's not much I can say. Like i mentioned I had this problem, and the reason I overcame it was my friend (who's completely non-musical) told me that if i started slipping around the fingerboard she'd ask for a refund of the admission ticket! This just made me laugh so much I forgot to be nervous and played my very best!! :-)

July 8, 2006 at 06:05 AM · Meditation/self-hypnosis.

These are the answers to lifes problems

July 8, 2006 at 12:08 PM · Hi, Grace:

I second the advice to give hypnosis or self-hypnosis a chance. The psychological-physiological phenomena that hypnosis have a significant impact on include blood flow to the skin and other subcutaneous functions. You have a good chance to find a reasonably effective solution in a short space of time.

Contact ASCH (American Society of Clinical Hypnosis), and they will give you the names of physicians and psychologists in your area who utilize this clinical tool. You can also ask them if they can recommend a professional who has worked with this kind of problem, especially if they have worked with musicians or other performing artists.

Even if hypnosis doesn't do the trick, the absolute worst thing that can happen is that you learn to relax.

Hope that helps. Cordially, Sandy

July 8, 2006 at 09:05 PM · Order "Self Hypnosis for Musicians." Problem solved.

July 9, 2006 at 01:49 AM · Well, problem almost solved. Some people do better learning it on their own. Some do better with a little coaching or teaching how to achieve self-hypnosis. And some people just do better being hypnotized by someone else. But, by all means, go the self-learned self-hypnosis route first.


July 9, 2006 at 04:06 AM · The way I've always gotten rid of stage nervousness and the physical effects of it was to play for at least one hour right before getting on stage.

By getting myself revved up before the concert, I'd ensure that I'd step out in a warmed up state. Once I had the audience's attention, then the rest was all downhill.

July 9, 2006 at 08:05 AM · Hi Grace,

Take some advice from someone who has been in your shoes...

I'm not sure exactly what level your playing is, but here's a comforting thought:

The nervousness is usually a result of one simple thing: a situation that we do not have any control over. What I'm saying is that if your technique is not fully developed yet (and that's ok, if you are new to this), you don't have complete knowledge of how to make your muscles do what they need to do in order to produce the sound and music you want. It took me two terrible years of shaking during my undergraduate years before I was out of this.

Now, as far as the left hand goes, I never had sweaty hands, but I heard about something quite interesting...You could try dusting your hands with talcum powder just before you have to play.

Good luck!


July 9, 2006 at 10:48 PM · Hello!

i am very intrested about something I read.What information can you give me about self hypnosis?I see it for the first time and if it helps I would like to know more...thanks!

July 9, 2006 at 11:34 PM · Self-hypnosis is a huge topic. Some professionals believe that ALL hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis. Without weighing in on that idea, there are 2 basic ways to learn self hypnosis:

1. By yourself (with the help of tapes or books on the subject).

2. Being trained or hypnotized by someone else to learn it.

There are many, many books on the topic, and there are many different forms of self-hypnosis that range from purely relaxation training to imagery to physical methods. I'm not going to bore you with my own theories on this often controversial subject, but if you wish to pursue it, take a look in the library, the internet, and your local bookstore. You'll find plenty of information and different methods.

Good luck. Sandy Marcus

July 10, 2006 at 05:12 AM · Someone mentioned eating bananas before performing-- if you are one of the people who thinks this works (I am) then also try eating a turkey sandwich (has a chemical that relaxes you) and a yogurt (for energy) also a cold drink with not to much sugar (like iced tea).

July 10, 2006 at 05:49 AM · Greetings,

iced drinks before performing are not a very good idea. Shocks the system, upsets the spleen, dfaws blood to the wrong places and so on. Now, a beer afterwards is not to be sneezed at,



July 10, 2006 at 05:54 AM · Anything with potassium (like bananas) should help lower your blood pressure before you play.

Try that before you do anything rash like remove your sweat glands.

July 10, 2006 at 08:20 PM · Yes, to a certian point, all hypnosis is self hypnosis. This is just because the sort of "focused trance" one goes into when being hypnotised is completely up to personal choice.

A warning though, self hypnosis takes just as much practice as anything else in life, so dont expect it to be a miracle the first time you do it. Although it felt like a miracle the first couple times I did it because I never realized how tense i really was without it lol.

on a very basic level all self hypnosis is is the art of learning how to control and focus your mind. Its not like any sort of witch craft or anything

April 26, 2008 at 09:58 PM · My problem is a hand tremor in my bow arm that's developed recently; I am 65 so I suppose it's natural, but it is intefering with my playing. I perform only occasionally, but wouldn't dare to perform now. I tried a home-made splint for my wrist which helped somewhat; but I'm thinking of inderal, botox injections, etc. Any advice?

P.S. this tremor occurs even when I'm home alone practicing; God knows how bad it would be if I tried to perform...

April 27, 2008 at 02:45 PM · I really recommend reading the book "Your Brain on Music." It has some "eclectic" ways to stop your nerves (physically and mentally) before a concert.

June 18, 2010 at 06:53 AM ·

Hi Everyone

I just have to get my two cents in here concerning beta blockers, specifically "Inderol". Regardless of whether you feel it is cheating, or robs a performance of it's risk-taking, my niece was prescribed Inderol for excessive sweating. She is not a musician or performer......she just sweats profusely, and the doctor prescribed Inderol to her, as it calms the body down, it also reduces sweat. If your problem is purely physiolgical, I'd say talk to a doctor and let him/her know what you are hoping to achieve by taking it.  ---Lora

June 18, 2010 at 01:33 PM ·

If I have two options:


a) I get so terribly nervous, that when I come on stage I cannot make a single note due to total shaking, that goes over to milk acid in left hand and total shaked right hand, so that I can't play a single passage.

b) Taking beta blockers, that do not reduce my nerves, but that allows the hands to work more or less OK,

I chose (b). The reason why it is said that betablockers can make your playing lifeless and cold, is because if one takes a too large dose (which might be otherwise a normal dose) it makes vibrato almost impossible. Also, it does not take away your nervousness, and a part of this is that one gets emotionally blocked anyway (which has nothing to do with the medication).

June 18, 2010 at 04:43 PM ·

Hi everyone. Seeing as how this thread has been restarted, please allow me to pipe in and say that I think that many in the community will be interested in checking out my blog post "Musicians and Beta-Blockers," which takes an impartial, research-informed look at the use of beta-blockers for performance nerves.

All best wishes, Gerald

June 19, 2010 at 07:33 PM ·

Hi, to go with what Sarah told, some say they run before playing to get used to adrenaline...  (just don't get sweat on your violin...)  On the strings, almost everyone do... 

Good luck,


June 20, 2010 at 04:30 AM ·

Sounds as if you are having anxiety problems .Some people like myself have to take medication for this type of thing .I am not saying you have this going on but it might be good to consider seeing as how it can effect performance and joy of playing

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