Observations on Performance

Edited: October 28, 2018, 2:06 AM · I started learning the violin as a child, had a big gap and restarted a few years ago. I detested playing in public as a child, I don’t know why, no terrible experiences or anything. Now as a returned learner, I am trying to overcome my performance fears. I should feel pleased with what I’ve achieved in the last year (passed another exam nearly 40 years after my last, leading the local community orchestra, played in an Eisteddfod, played a solo section for orchestra and now performing to larger friendly audiences) and I do but I also made a couple of realisations today.

Doing certain techniques make me more nervous, namely vibrato and trills. I think the fast movements my mind/ body interprets as trembling which then makes me more nervous even if I wasn’t particularly in the first place.

I feel detached from the experience, as though my mind and body are no longer together. Things are running through my mind, totally separate from the playing.

Any tips for overcoming these?

Thanks
Sonia

Replies (4)

October 28, 2018, 10:45 AM · Get ready...

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Practise. Perform more.

October 28, 2018, 12:09 PM · Check out the Bulletproof Musician: LINK

The blog is terrific, and his performance-anxiety tips are grounded in science and are extremely useful.

October 30, 2018, 9:20 AM · I have also had quite a struggle with performance anxiety and it's interesting what you say about certain techniques making you more nervous. For me it's similar, but it's more that certain techniques I might be able to do fine in the practice room routinely don't go well in performace:spiccato, and bow changes at the frog sound rough and unnecessarily accented. My left hand generally stays consistant from practice room to performace.
I haven't found the solution for these physical inconsistancies yet. But I have figured out the main psychological hangup I was having about performance and how to combat it. For me there was just too much of a contrast or disparity between the practice room environment and the performance environment-- you go from having no audience and an ability to repeat the piece endlessly or even repeat one note endlessly until you were happy with it, to all the sudden being in a room full of people giving you their full attention and you have only ONE chance to play the piece and to represent all your hours of practicing. For me this was too extreme (and I also realized I have a general psychological hangup in other areas of my life about having only ONE chance to do something). When I returned to music I started busking, which really occupies a "middle" space between these extremes in that there are people listening, but they usually aren't giving you 100% attention for the whole piece, you don't get to repeat small sections but the performance of the piece doesn't feel as "life or death" because you can repeat it later in the day, or another day, if you want another chance to perform it better. It has really worked for me-- I now get much less nervous when performing. I think in a sense busking regularly has "normalized" performance for me so it doesnt feel like such a big deal anymore. I realize busking isn't for everyone, but there are other ways of getting at this intermediate stage between practicing and performing, allowing youself to "work up to it," such as having little practice recitals for family/friends (personally I can't stand that haha). The bottom line is I think everyone who struggles with performance anxiety has slightly different things that bother them or freak them out about performing, and i think it's really useful to do some soul-searching and figure out exactly what it is for YOU. No teacher was ever able to help me with performance anxiety because they looked at the problem very generally, and couldn't know about my personal mental battles with it.
October 30, 2018, 9:35 AM · There's a difference between performance anxiety and simply not enjoying performing (solo). I fail to see why people insist on some correlation between having musical talent and desiring to stand on a stage in front of loads of people. Although I suppose if you had no performance anxiety, you wouldn't care either way about standing on a stage in front of a load of punters. My teacher feels the same. She plays in quartets, but mainly she plays in orchestra pits.


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