Severe audition nerves - please help

February 1, 2006 at 07:28 AM · Any help please?

I have just done an audition which was almost completely destroyed by nerves. I was shaking so badly, legs and arms, that my bow bounced on the string and I struggled to keep going. I did keep going, but none of the sensitivity or subtlety that I had practised was evident.

This was for a job I really wanted, and I think the pressure of that made my nerves even worse than usual.

I almost always suffer from nerves, (and have done since I was 15 - and am now 30), but thought that recently my shaking had got better. Obviously not, as this was one of the worst shaking episodes I can remember. I tried everything that I could before the audition, - banana, deep breathing, complex carbohydrates three hours before, no caffiene for 4 hours before, drinking enough water, positive visualisation, positive self- talk. I have done Alexander technique in the past (hoping to feel more "grounded" and less prone to shaking) and this has not helped me.

I feel dreadful, because all my practise and preparation for this audition seems to have been wasted.

Can anyone help? Of course, if I want to work, I will have to do another audition soon, and I really want this not to happen again, or at least not to happen to such an extent.

Replies (57)

February 1, 2006 at 07:32 AM · All you can do is play enough that it feels "normal." Take your violin to your local piano bar and play the unplugged version of Layla with the guy. Give a concert for your friends. Set up in the local bookstore. You have to really want it.

February 1, 2006 at 08:33 AM · Hey,

The trembling bow arm is a common occurance amongst many violinists in lesser or greater degrees and I'd like to quote from Kato Havas' excellent book "Stage Fright" concerning this particular problem.

-----------

Causes:

1. Blockage in the rhythmic pulse because of excessive bow grip

2. Rigid finders and thumb because of vertical pressure on the stick

3. Excessive wrist movement caused by stiff elbow

4. The straight idea of the down and up strokes

Cures:

1. The inside outward rhythmic impulse with the elimination of the bow hold as such

2. Eliminating finger pressure by the balance of the thumb

3. Transferring bow motivation of the strokes to the shoulder socket

4. The idea of a curved line in the bow strokes.

I think that the 1st and 3rd "cures" are the most important points Ms. Havas makes and I quote again

"The reliance upon instinct, of, 'let it happen', applies to us all, but only when the movements relate to ordinary, everyday activities...for example we take it for granted that the movements of everyday activities are always carried out by inside outward impulses, the source of which is right in the centre of the body itself. We would consider it very odd indeed if somebody threw a ball from his fingers, while the hand and arm follwed the movement backwards, via the shoulder, to the energy source of the body. Yet we don't seem to think it odd at all when the bow is pushed and pulled by the fingers and wrist with the arm following behind"

"The acceptance of the fact that the energy impulse in violin playing is manifested in the rhythmic pulse and is directed from inside-outward, is one of the MOST important factors towards the elimination of stage fright in general, and of the trembling bowing arm in particular. For these inside-outward rhythmic energy impulses will not only ensure the fundamental play-actions of a co-ordinated arm movement, but will also help convey the natural energies of the body, through the arm, hand, bow and instrument to the listener, in the form of music. In other words it will establish organic communication"

Hope that helps a bit

Adam

February 1, 2006 at 04:05 PM · I'm medical doctor

If it is emotional shaking,you have to take

propranol 40 mg ,1 hour before playing

I's very efficace and no dangerous

It diminish shaking and heart pulse

February 1, 2006 at 04:05 PM · I'm medical doctor

If it is emotional shaking,you have to take

propranol 40 mg ,1 hour before playing

I's very efficient and no dangerous

It diminish shaking and heart pulse

February 1, 2006 at 05:07 PM · First I would sign up to see a performance psychologist on a regular basis. With this performance psychologist/psychiatrist, etc. I would discuss the use of beta blockers. There is no doubt that beta blockers will take your shaking away, but there is still a psychological problem/block/whatever you want to call it that will continue to plague you in your ultimate quest for peak performance. Glad to hear you've tried some psychological things already.

Don't take this battle on alone. Get some help. There are people out there that specialize in this area.

Ultimately, it may take the combination of psychological techniques AND beta blockers, but you can definitely solve the problem one way or the other.

Do not take no for an answer. Do not accept this state. Make a decision today, right now, in this moment, to solve this problem, no matter how difficult it may seem.

Good luck to you!

February 1, 2006 at 09:08 PM · I found books by Don Greene very helpful. The book Fight Your Fear and Win is a great pick me up. It outlines and explains his method - a must read.

The book Audition Success is specifically for us musicians. A trumpet player and a singer are preparing for an audition, and the book is written in a dialogue form. So you are with them every step of the way.

One of the practical things from these books that I recommend you try right away is this: run up and down the stairs or do jumping jacks or any other kind of exercise, until you get your heart rate way up. Than play through your piece and see how that feels.

February 1, 2006 at 09:17 PM · I wrote an article called: "Performing Under Pressure" which may have some ideas that you'll find useful. You can read it by going to:

http://oliversteiner.com/article1.php

February 11, 2006 at 03:56 AM · Dear Mark,

I want to try and encourage you to fight this problem and continue to seek any resolution to conquer this dilemma.

As a very talented young musician, I was traumatised early with forgetfulness and shakiness during recitals and auditions. I continued to play but ONLY in an orchestra with no thoughts of pursuing a career in music. I evenutally stopped playing.

I am now 52 and picking up my violin again. How I have agonized throughout the years by not playing. I see what I have missed because I gave up so soon on trying to overcome this terror. (Back then, girls didn't were pants, and I would be so embarressed because every one could see my knees shake!)

I never really found a "career" and felt that music really was my soul's job. At least I am happy now playing again but frustrated at the level I am playing.

So please, follow up on everyone's advise, continue to seek a solution to your nerves. Remember that the more times you do something, the easier it does get.... try to have fun doing it to.

The best of luck to you,

Catherine

February 11, 2006 at 04:34 AM · eating bananas...

also, sometimes i carry several motivational index cards which say a couple things that cheer me up:

1. you are an excellent player

2. you love your music

etc. and so forth.

good luck!

February 11, 2006 at 04:27 AM · Mark:

I completely empathize with your "battle of nerves." As a professional violinist whose mother started me just before the age of 3, I have experienced nerves at all levels of playing and performing and would like to offer a few observations.

First, I applaud your courage and was pleased to read that you have truly made an effort to prepare yourself in all the right ways (banana, breathing exercises, no caffiene, etc.).

I'm sure you have heard this as I did my entire life: "You just need to play more, perform more, take more auditions, . . . don't worry, you'll grow out of it!" Well, guess what? I NEVER DID. If the performance was remotely important to me (and they ALL seemed to be more important than the last!), I was ALWAYS a nervous wreck, whether on my mother's Suzuki recitals or playing for the Pope!

I convinced myself that it would all go away with more experience or if I really had mastered the piece. This simply didn't happen for me.

BOTTOM LINE: Everyone is different. Everyone handles the stage and performing differently. Everyone prepares differently. There is no ONE RIGHT WAY to "get rid of the nerves" or how to handle them. That said, here is what I can offer that has been effective for me and many others whom I have coached in my performance seminars:

1. Rather than hope you will one day be RID of the nerves--choose to EMBRACE your nervousness. I finally surrendered to the fact that I would always be nervous and THAT was when I began to take control of the matter.

2. Create a ROUTINE for yourself that you do EVERY time you perform or have an audition. (e.g., eat the banana, use the same warm-up routine [one that is calming], find an inspirational passage from literature that always motivates you, listen to the same inspiring music with headphones--could be rock, film music, anything--not necessarily all of these, of course.)

3. Get to wherever the performance or audition is held in plenty of time to allow your routine to take place successfully so that you OWN YOUR SPACE AND TIME prior to performing. That said, try to remain loose and flexible to change or unexpected circumstances. Things sometime happen that are out of our control. Accept them and in turn continue to "own your space."

4. Visualize the performance space and imagine yourself filling it while you are running the piece during the weeks prior to the performance. (Ideally, if you can get in the hall to either play or just stand on that stage, this is often helpful.)

5. Often, I've found that one source of nerves comes from the fear of memory slips. I have a routine in which I play through the piece (concerto, etc.) THREE times in a row with the following conditions in place: 1st TIME, WITH music--truly reading EVERY note, EVERY dynamic, EVERY articulation. 2nd TIME, withOUT music--THINKING about every note, etc. 3rd TIME, without music, but thinking about ANYTHING BUT the music. Watch TV, have a CD playing, think about what you'll have for lunch, etc. If you can do this, you truly know the piece. (There are other variations of this on a smaller scale--such as labelling the music with landmark letters and training yourself to begin at any one of them at any time--exercises to strengthen the memorization.)

ALSO, if you can think of a scenerio you once experienced in which you were terribly nervous, imagine that for a moment and remind yourself that, "Hey, at least I'm not preparing to perform THERE! (under those circumstances, etc.)"

I had a wonderful opportunity almost 3 years ago when I had the privilege to perform "Schindler's List" under the baton of composer John Williams. While this was no concerto, I can't remember ever being as nervous as I was--not only before the performance--but before the FIRST REHEARSAL with him! I followed my preparation advice and my routine and all went well--because I ALLOWED myself to be nervous and embraced it. Since then, my nerves have largely been under control perhaps because I've been able to say to myself, "Hey, at least your not playing 'Schindler's List' with John Williams!"

Finally, let me leave you with something that was said to me by composer Bill Conti (Rocky) as I was about to board a plane to my audition for the White House Orchestra of the Marine Band. I told him after our performance together at Disney World that I was travelling to DC for this audition but that I was VERY nervous about it--and really wanted the job!

He said to me, "You are prepared and ready, right?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Then the only thing you should be concerned with is going up there and having the BEST TIME PLAYING THAT AUDITION.

If you DON'T win the audition . . . it WON'T be because you aren't good enough or not qualified for the job.

Remember this: There are hundreds of people out there who love YOUR playing . . . they just haven't heard you yet . . ."

Great words of wisdom.

With that, I listened to "Rocky" all the way to DC.

The audition was a success for me, but even had I not been offered the job, I will always remember truly enjoying myself during that audition.

Best of luck!

Please forgive the length of this message.

Hope it helps.

Best wishes,

Peter

February 11, 2006 at 06:22 AM · Peter, you're obviously a first rank player. My question is, as impressive as your engagements are, how frequent are they? Personally I can't fathom anyone with say, twenty dates without a break not being calm before the end of it.

February 11, 2006 at 06:22 AM · Jim:

Thanks for the kind "label." I wouldn't call myself "first-rate." Experienced, perhaps. In any event, you ask a very valid question. I should have qualified my previous entry a bit by distingusihing between solo performances and everything else.

For example, I can't say that I've ever been particularly nervous while playing in orchestras. I've certainly had greater adrenaline rushes when playing a great concertmaster solo, but that's to be expected. I play a great deal of chamber music in concert. Here again, it really depends on the piece, but typically, I'm not too nervous if I have music in front of me.

It's the big performances like soloing with an orchestra, an audition, or perhaps a solo recital (even sonatas with piano if playing Beethoven's "Kreutzer," for example!) where I tend to get the most nervous.

I also meant to mention that I believe nerves are good in that they show one truly cares about their craft. This isn't to say that those who never get nervous simply don't care; however, I do believe that it is important to be moved enough about the music to have a bit of a nervous edge about performing. It can truly give life to a piece, if embraced (love that word!) properly.

My most recent solo experience with orchestra was performing The Red Violin: Chaccone for Violin and Orchestra. I was in correspondence with composer John Corigliano, so I felt a deeper connection to that piece and a great sense of responsibility to be a true as possible. That kind of mentality brings on the nerves a bit.

-Peter

February 11, 2006 at 07:06 AM · vilayat,

40mg seems to be a very large amount. Most everyone I know, (including myself) takes only 10mg to 20mg. I know everyone is different, but I'm not a small person and I have a very high metabolism and I only take 10 or 20mg for high stress situations.

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "emotional shakes". Do you mean shakes caused by adrenaline? Because I'm pretty sure that all beta blockers do is control adrenaline rushes. It's not going to put a damper on your emotional output or your nerves for that matter if you don't take too much.

I've found that if you are nervous over the shakes, beta blockers will rid you of nerves. If you are nervous over the actual performance, they will not take away the nerves...only the shakes.

Best,

Preston

February 11, 2006 at 08:04 AM · It's funny, I'd prefer you emailing me in private (samuelathompson@yahoo.com) to talk about this, as I am the KING of performance anxiety...but my question is this: with everything that you have tried, did you at any time THINK about shaking?

Recently, in South Carolina, I shook - a lot, during slow movements. Simply decided to let it happen and get through, and the shaking stopped. There is a book titled "The Simplicity of Playing the Violin" that talks about the nature of opposites - and it seems (and this has worked) that when something is going "wrong" in one hand one should think about the other, i.e. i the bow starts shaking concentrate on left-hand accuracy, vibrato, etc.

For that performance I did, nonetheless, not have the private time that I needed - but sometimes I don't have the time that I need to "prepare" and it's so much easier and so refreshing, when worrying about how a performance will go, to think about the following things before the bow goes on the string:

1. Posture - whole body

2. Position of violin

3. Position of left elbow under violin and finger posture

4. Right lattismus dorsi - think of using the whole right side to put the bow on the string

5. Hearing the first note in your head

6. Most importantly, never - NEVER - EVER - put the bow on the string unless you feel physically and mentally at peace with yourself.

7. Equally as important - making sure that your musical and technical concepts are so airtight that you KNOW what's going to happen when you do put the bow on - even down to HOW the bow is going to go on the string.

That's a lot, yes, but it's saved me many times, including playing The Lark Ascending, Elgar Concerto, etc.

Stephen Hough wrote a very interesting article about "nerves" and says that being nervous, to the point of it being debilitating, is a sign of ego. Interesting...I'm going to read it again soon.

Write me back and let me know how the next one goes!

February 11, 2006 at 11:48 AM · Do you play differently if it is a regular audience? Or a panel of judges? If you find that the nerves are primarily when it is a panel of judges, think of them as what you really ought to think of them as - an audience. You are playing for their pleasure. It ain't American Idol. If you think you're going to screw up because of nerves anyway, you might as well relax and share your joy of the music.

Hope that helps.

February 11, 2006 at 06:26 PM · There is some great advice here already.

I used to get the bow arm shakes too. Part of it was an underlying technical problem, because it sometimes happened even when I wasn't nervous, but was greatly exacerbated when I was nervous. I went to a teacher who taught me to open up at the elbow and really relax the shoulder, which got me to a point where I could play very comfortably in low-stress situations.

But the thing that took me the rest of the way was to "embrace the nervousness". Before, as soon as I noticed my pulse get faster, I would start worrying about the shakes and that would send me into a big panic attack. Now, when I notice physical signs of nervousness, I try to think to myself (and believe it!), "Good, this will make the performance extra exciting!" and I sort of accept the fact that my palms feel tingly or whatever. If the first note is a bit shaky, I just accept it rather than try to exert more control over the bow. Usually that does the trick.

Everyone is different, but this is what worked for me.

February 11, 2006 at 09:31 PM · Again this is all great advice.

I think that probably the most important thing with ANYTHING in music is getting used to whatever your doing.

Before your audition perform in the type of audition environment like 1,000,000 times. Use a hall or something at a local college or a room or something and have like 2 people watch you and do it as regularly as you practice.

and whatever you do DO NOT over think the thing that are not musical about the performance (I want this really bad so I might screw up ect ect). Just play the damn music.

February 11, 2006 at 09:58 PM · My teacher did not reconmend this, he only said that it was a theory.

"Move your toes. The idea is that you take the stress from your fingers, hands, arms, and everywhere else in your body and put it into your toes."

it is just an idea. I haven't tried it out before, but I might like some feed back on what other people think of this.

February 12, 2006 at 12:04 AM · Hi Samuel,

I think you're right that nerves are a sign of ego....whether it be thinking a lot of yourself or a little...ego is thinking about yourself and worrying about how YOU come across rather thinking about the music. My father has told me all my life that "it's about the music" and not about me. How hard it is to realize that! This has helped me though. I still am nervous at the start of pieces, but as I focus more on the music, the ideal I have in my head, I find that it takes over and the nervousness disappears. The only times I am nervous now other than when I'm first starting the piece are when I'm trying to impress someone with MY playing. Those are the times I play badly.....So basically, play the "damn" music, enjoy it and forget about impressing people.

February 12, 2006 at 02:08 AM · If you do it frequently enough that it becomes normal, these are all excruciating analyses of something that doesn't exist. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it :)

February 12, 2006 at 09:19 PM · Ok, having been in a situation today that made me nervous and made me shake a bit, I can say the following with confidence (at least for myself):

The nervousness can set in within mere seconds, you can really be totally calm one second, and nervous the next second.

It tends to disappear very slowly (what feels like an eternity in a concert) and disappears far more rapidly once you've stopped playing.

The shaking, despite what so many people say, has NOTHING to do with how tense you are. I'm sorry, but that is just not true! If you are tense as well, the shaking will influence your playing for the worse, that is for certain, but it is completely possible to be totally relaxed (in your muscles) AND shake at the same time...I was in a fairly comfortable environment, and I had quite a lot of time and opportunity to really think about what was going on with myself, and that is my conclusion. The shaking did not affect my playing too much, because I was really relaxed, but it definitely existed, and it definitely made my bow less stable than it should be.

Most of you will also agree that you can play tensed up (and not nervous) and you will not shake in the same way that you shake when you are nervous, even if you are less tense.

The conclusion is that the shaking is purely an adrenaline thing. Maybe some people have more active adrenal glands than others or something, I don't know, but that's that. So the solution is 80% in the head. Solve the problem of WHY you are nervous, and you will not be nervous (or will be a lot less nervous). Just being relaxed is not enough! (although of course it is important at all times and it leads to the most effective playing...I'm just saying that you CAN be relaxed AND shake! Being tense just makes it definitely worse).

February 12, 2006 at 10:14 PM · "The conclusion is that the shaking is purely an adrenaline thing. Maybe some people have more active adrenal glands than others or something, I don't know, but that's that."

100% agree. I think the fright of having the shakes can cause tension, consequently making it worse, but if one's andrenaline begins to rush (even from excitment and not nerves) the shaking begins. I'm like a puppy in that sense. You know when a puppy gets really excited to see you or hear the word w-a-l-k that it starts to shake? Well, I get so excited to be performing that I start to shake (no piddles though, thank-you). I think the only time I'll not feel that rush of adrenaline is when I stop caring about performing and stop caring about music (hopefully never!).

Preston

February 12, 2006 at 10:14 PM · Hi Mark, well i'm glad you posted something like this about a week before an audition I have at uni. I woke up this morning and suddening my stress levels of learning my excerpts has increased....i'd say by about 100%. Anyways, I think what most of what everyone is saying is really helpful and useful - particular practicing a million times in the environment of the audition.... i guess its different audition for a job than it is for a uni one - but i think in any audition you just need to prove yourself to you....not to the auditioners - but to yourself that you can make it through an audition without letting your nerves control you - let your personality come through your playing, work on improving your weakness such as nerves but don't forget to really show them your strengths of your playing and show your personality, nothing worse than seeing a decent audition but a blank face on the performer...anyways that's what i'll be testing out for myself this week. Good luck for the future.

March 17, 2006 at 12:34 PM · Hi Mark,

Don't know if this is helpful, but I know some wind players who often run on the spot in practice to increase their heart-rate to simulate performance situations. Seems more appropriate for wind players, but perhaps it would be worth practicing after excercising to learn how to play with an increased heart-rate.

James.

March 17, 2006 at 06:33 PM · vilayat,

i'm curious about the difference between propranol and atenolol. i take 25mg of atenolol if i feel i might be nervous, which isn't all the time. it was originally prescribed for something else, and i discovered on my own, that it had a positive effect on my playing in stressful situations.

March 18, 2006 at 09:55 PM · Greetings,

actually I think James' suggestion is equally good for string players. Very goodindeed.

Cheers.

Buri

March 18, 2006 at 10:14 PM · Hi all,

Wanted to let you know how I was getting on. And also to thank you all for your great ideas and advice.

I've found myself a music performance/careers psychologist and have seen him three times so far. I've just made a link between an event that happened to me and the first time I remember shaking in a performance. I'm not sure what I will do with it now, but I hope the psychologist will have some advice.

I've also been to the doctor who prescribed quite a high dosage of beta-blockers - 80mg. I asked the chemist about this and he said that it was a slow-releasing one (over 24 hours) and it would be the right dosage. I tried it out at home and did not feel any side effects and did not feel my playing to be sluggish. The psychologist said that one thing about beta-blockers is that it can show people that it can be possible to perform without anxiety and that then once people see this in themselves, they can try and bring the feelings from the beta-blockers to performing without. I hope I've explained that understandably.

As for the running - I've tried things like that - maybe I should do more of it. I've been given a skipping rope of all things, does anyone remember them from childhood PE lessons? I have tried skipping/jumping with the rope for nominal amounts of jumps and then with an elevated heart rate, gone and played (in my home). It's uncomfortable, but doable, and I don't have the shakes from it.

maybe I can find something that gives me the shakes and practise playing while shaking?

Anyway, I appreciate everyones responses and I will update you on how things go.

March 18, 2006 at 10:28 PM · Natalie, just noticed your message there (from a month ago!) How did the audition go?

March 18, 2006 at 11:41 PM · Mark,

I think you are barking up the wrong tree with the running/skipping and then playing. If you are looking to recreate the symptoms of severe stage fright a better exercise would be to go play right after you have had a burgler shove a gun in your face. Shaking from exhaustion is different from shaking from nerves/excitement. It's difficult to effectively reproduce that situation without putting yourself in an extremely uncomfortable situation.

I've not heard of this slow-releasing beta blocker. I'm no expert but it sounds fishy to me, especially with an 80mg dose. Sounds more like a dose for someone who's just had heart surgery.

I would find a doctor that has seen other musicians before and get a 2nd opinion. You want to be 100% alert for your performances and 80mg will not allow for that. If it truly IS a slow release, you don't need that anywa; you don't need the effects all day, only for about 2.5-3 hours (taken 1.5 hours before your performance).

Best,

Preston

March 19, 2006 at 10:11 PM · How would it be if you found a small group which performs publically ? It may help you combat your nerves by getting used to playing for others when you are 'surrounded' by other musicians and can step into the background for a bit, until you feel more comfortable. This seems to be working for me, though my nerves aren't quite as bad as your's appear to be....bad enough though...lol...

I do hope this is something you can overcome ! All the best Mark !

March 19, 2006 at 11:02 PM · I've known violinists that have taken 80 milligrams and didn't appear sluggish at all.

However, if you can do it with less, that would be great.

It's funny, I've been trying to think of things to make me nervous to simulate intense adrenalin rushes for performance practice.

One thing that has helped is the microphone. Now for sure, it's not nearly as pressure inducing as the stage, but there are a number of psychological benefits, especially with good equipment. It's good for concentration, it's good to give you a true idea of how you actually sound, it allows, much like a visual artist, for creative musical ideas (not just sound, intonation and rhythm).

Now if you can somehow trick your mind into thinking the microphone is the stage, then you'll get somewhere.

Another thing is to play for everyone: students, family, friends, nursing homes, etc. If you don't get as nervous doing that, then set up the microphone AND a digital camcorder. That should spice things up a bit.

Please keep us informed on your trips to the performance psychologist. They can work wonders sometimes.

As Tony Robbins says, "Live with passion!"

March 20, 2006 at 03:20 AM · I think the Nerves Thread has come up before, you should search the archives to get all the information.

I think the summary is: There's nothing like practicing performing and practicing being nervous. I find that after a few nerve-wracking performances, I become familiar with the shaky feeling and can therefore effectively combat it in performance. In short, practice makes perfect.

March 21, 2006 at 06:32 PM · Practice as if everyone in the world is listening to you - that might help

March 21, 2006 at 06:43 PM · Ever heard of ASCH? It's the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis. It is made up of physicians, psychologists, and dentists who utilize clinical hypnosis within their specialities. It does NOT include stage hypnotists. These are professional people extensively trained in a serious discipline, and many of them have worked with problems like yours.

Look them up on the Internet (ASCH) and get a couple of referral names to professionals in your area who work with this kind of thing. It isn't effective the same way with everybody. And it's not like taking a pill. There are no foreign substances introducted into your body, it is safe (the worst that can happen is that you learn to relax), and you will know pretty quickly if it is helpful or not. Clinical hypnosis is often turned to as a last resort. It should be a first resort.

Cordially, Sandy Marcus

March 26, 2006 at 08:44 PM · What aboud meds? Who needs medication? Baseball players aren't allowed to take drugs before a game! Here's what I say:

We all get nervous. It doesn't help to just say "No, I can't get nervous because I want this job." Reasons being, everyone gets anxious before a performance or audition. I'm always the one who sits in the back room with my teeth chattering while I figit uncomfortably with my scroll hoping the Earth won't blow up yet.

Remember the stage is your friend. The people in the audience, whether they're called "judges" or not, aren't actually there to judge you. They just want to hear you play. The worst that can happen is they give you helpful criticism to get better, right? They want to hear a good performance, that's what they're looking for, and they've asked you to give it to them- so they believe in you just as much as you believe in yourself. Put your faith into your performance and trust yourself, you've worked so hard you can't miss. If you know the piece, there's no reason to worry.

If you're really desperate for a technique to stop shaking on stage, close your eyes while you play. The violin isn't like any other instrument, you can feel the fingerboard and the direction of the bow so you don't need to see the instrument to play it. And listen to yourself really hard! If you can hear yourself playing instead of concentrating on your heart rate, you'll be more focused and relaxed.

Ummm... I hope that helped in some way. Good luck on your next audition, then!

January 28, 2008 at 05:47 AM · Katie, in my mind there's a big difference between athletes looking for superhuman (but artificial) talent and someone who takes medication just so they can function without being crippled by anxiety.

January 28, 2008 at 06:41 AM · Mark,

Personally I would not take 40 mg of a beta blocker. For me, even 10 is pushing it. I can break a 10 in half and that's enough. At that dose it might be a placebo, but that's ok.

Here's something you really should ask yourself: what happens if you were to actually win an audition? What if you were told you'd be playing on the outside? Right behind the concertmaster? Your nerve problem wouldn't just be an audition problem--it would be a "how-will-I-keep-this-job" problem. What happens when the orchestra has to play super pianississimo and your bow starts shaking and your stand partner glances over at you? When the conductor is glaring at you? When the audience is staring at you?

I'm not trying to torture you by weaving nightmarish stage scenarios. But you may want to ask the hard questions about whether a life on stage is something that you'd really enjoy--or suffer doing.

Some have said that everyone gets nervous. Yes, but it's different for everyone. Some people can handle it and enjoy performance. Some handle it--barely--and spend their musical lives being miserable. These are questions you need to answer now.

January 28, 2008 at 08:13 PM · Doesn't sound like a physical problem to me at all so why should it be treated with drugs. DRUGS!!!! It sounds like you're doing all the right things like eating a banana, meditating, relaxing, stretching, etc. But these are only helpful on a surface level.

I have problems with nervousness and i see it as a battle with myself. I can literally see my "small self" (the part of me that sabotages myself, that is insecure, and ego-fearing) creep up and try to ruin it for me. Well I just battle it with my "better self" the part of me that realizes that the result of this audition will not be the end of the world, that these people looking at me are here hoping for my success, not my failure.

It's a constant everyday battle to believe in yourself but if you don't do it, who will? Anyone hear of "The Secret?" I mostly think it's fluff but I find that if I think positively good things come of it. Check it out.

January 28, 2008 at 11:37 PM · The problem is that you care too much about what others think. It appears you have the same problem as me. Although I do not shake, I do have anxiety prior to performing. I have found that it is bad to practice the day of a peformance. Never practice the day of a performance. Schedule something that takes your mind off of the performance....go out with your friends...go see a movie, or bug your friends with a phone call....anything to get your mind off the peformance. And remember, in most cases, those listening, don't even know how to play a violin. I realize that in some cases, they do. If you know they are better than you, just immagine them naked. That always does the trick! Instead of shaking, you will be holding back the laughter!

Erick

January 28, 2008 at 11:44 PM · well I had a big problem with shaking real bad at my last high school fall concert. So for the winter concert, I just thought "You know what? Who cares if I mess up because seriously, what is the audience going to do if I mess up? Kill me? Throw tomatoes at me and scream Boo!? Will they even hear me mess up?" So I treated the concert as if i was back in my room practicing or rehearsing with the orchestra and soon enough I forgot about the audience and it felt like a rehearsal with no talking or extra noises. But then at the end I heard the clapping. Everyone is different so different techniques have different effects on people but I will tell you that this works for me. I just don't think of it as a big deal and if I mess up.... oh well the past isn't going to change. But of course that dosen't mean I shouldn't try hard either. I'm not jut shaking all over the place and looking like as if I saw a dinosaur that is going to eat me.

January 30, 2008 at 04:41 PM · I shook once when I was little. I was around ...10 or so. I was playing solo at a church within my town. My bow bounced all over the place. It was like watching some old black and white slap stick comedy (abbot and Castillo meets Dracula) Since those days, I do not get bothered as then. I play solo often. And I find it best that I play for people while I practice. This has helped me and helps me stay used to playing for people that "watch and listen"

Erick

January 30, 2008 at 05:35 PM · What ^ he said: play for people as often as possible. I am struggling with a shaky bow as well. Maybe, try adjusting your bow hold. And know exactly where you want your bow to be and in what part of the bow to play in.

January 30, 2008 at 06:24 PM · Also, if you can not calm yourself and you know your bow hand is going to shake like crazy....yes, follow the advice above. Until then, loosen the bow so that it is not so stiff. The loose hairs will absorb some of your tension and will keep you from bouncing all over the place. In time, when you get comfortable playing, place the bow at it's proper tension for the piece you plan on playing. Remember, each piece might require different bow tensions. For example, there is one piece I composed where I must bounce the bow quickly across 3 and 4 strings at aprox 3/4 of the way up the bow. I loosen the bow for this to get the correct sound.

Erick

January 30, 2008 at 09:19 PM · Mark, I could have written this post last week. Or today for that matter. Damn auditions!

January 30, 2008 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

if somebody ha sproblems with bow shakes I strongly reocmmend that in their private pracitce they pay a great dela more attention to the whoel arm mechanism rather than the fingers. As Havas argues, the arms and hands can either be heavy and incline towards tension of be light and free in the air. The latte rcondition is achived by learning to feel a seesay effetc so that both arms are actually raised by the weight of the huge muscles under the shoulder blades rising and falling. BY learning to be consicous of these muscles musch of the tension in the smaller units can oftne be alleviated.

Cheer,s

Buri

January 31, 2008 at 02:20 AM · What Buri just wrote is really the best advice in a nutshell. Here, here! Amen!

January 31, 2008 at 04:14 AM · Greetings,

I assume everyone knows what a `seesay effetc` is....?

Cheers,

Buri

March 25, 2008 at 01:05 AM · Well,

I must have selective nervousness. I think it is only when I am worried of what other people will think of my playing that makes me nervous. In front of my teacher I'm fine, because they're more of a doctor than a critic. Once I started caring more about the music, only wanting to hear good music. I doesn't matter who's playing it. It's for the sake of music.

I know someone already mentioned this, but hey...

March 25, 2008 at 04:49 AM · Visualization techniques are great, Inner Game of Music is highly recommended, but I have to say that in my experience the majority--perhaps overwhelming majority--of people at an audition are taking betablockers. I certainly did, back in my auditioning days, as did everyone else that I knew. I can't say that auditions became enjoyable but the medication allowed me to play the way that I play, which after all is the point of an audition. I think that if a musician needs medication to function in his job on a daily basis, there is a problem, but taking medication to help with the physical and mental stresses of an extraordinarily unusual setting is a different issue. This isn't the Olympics and we're not drug tested before and after auditions and concerto appearances. But I would take the lowest dose that works, and for the least amount of time.

May 25, 2008 at 05:04 AM · I'll just put my two cents in--I perform a lot, mainly in orchestra, but also in chamber music settings and recitals. The only time I get the "shakes" is for auditions. I don't sweat it--I just take a little pill and then I can play the way I prepared to play--I play much better when I don't have to worry about my whole body shaking! But that's my own personal experience. I started taking beta blockers after a series of particularly disastrous audition experiences, and it solved all my problems. Other things that help--getting enough sleep, eating well before an audition, and being super prepared!

May 25, 2008 at 11:19 AM · I actually took beta blockers for another reason (it needed to be in combination with another medicine) but it obviously was useful when playing, too.

I've since stopped, but that helped get rid of a ton of nerves.

C

May 25, 2008 at 02:39 PM · Maybe if you told yourself that the audition isnt really that important to you and that you dont really care how it turns out, you'd just play as you would at any other time.

May 25, 2008 at 03:43 PM · The CD "Self Hypnosis for Musicians" is great.

May 28, 2008 at 08:21 AM · Two words: Beta Blockers.

I was afflicted very badly with nerves when I was trying to pass my driving test. After two abysmal attempts, I visited my Doctor on the advice of a friend, and he prescribed them to me. You just take one an hour or two before the nerves-causing event in question and they help you stay calm. They're not addictive and they don't make you drowsy. Highly recommended.

May 28, 2008 at 09:58 AM · I second the Beta Blockers.

I used them under supervision of a doctor who was also a musician. You can reprogram your body's response to performance situations. The beta-blockers do just what they are named for...essentially block the messages that say "heart...speed up because you are going to need to run really fast out of this audition." There are no side-effects and they are not habit-forming. I no longer use them and can now perform without shaking, knees knocking. Don't waste another audition opportunity with the shakes. See your doctor.

May 28, 2008 at 01:40 PM · The guy at my music store gave the same suggestion, beta blockers. Said that's what he used when ever he performed.

May 29, 2008 at 03:18 AM · Chilling in New York for the pass couple of days, I noticed that street/subway performers are amazing. Okay, pretty obvious. Other than their, I stress "sometimes," excellent talents, the fact that they have been performing so long that they have become numb to the 100s of passing faces and solely focused on the music, dance, or whatever, impresses me. They give testament to the idea that the more you perform in front of people the more natural it will become. Today, I decided to walk up to a woman who was practicing ballet in the subway. It took me fifteen minutes to get her attention, as she silently chanted beats, her left foot tapping like a metronome, her right following natural choreography. I asked her, "How can you just stand here and chant to yourself? Aren't you scared people will think you're crazy?"

She replied, "What people?"

Anyways, go to a really crowded area and forget the people. Soon, you'll be able to perform anywhere.

However, an audition and recital are totally different than street performing in the sense that the people in these audiences are watching you intently, whereas on the street people will ignore you, pass you up with a quick glance, or stand and passively listen while waiting for that 9 a.m. appointment. But give it a try, who knows.

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