Anxiety during Lessons
I recently got a new violin teacher and I have been struggling with nerves before every lesson. I have been studying with them for about two months, which is the longest I have had a one instructor since February. A little before our first lesson, I had a mild panic attack, which I didn't realize until later. They are a very nice individual and I know they are here to help me succeed but I still feel unreasonably nervous. I talked with them about it briefly and it got a little better. But in our last lesson, I felt nervous like I hadn't ever before. My performance nerves were more mild. It was fairly obvious to them and they talked to my parent, concerned that I wanted to quit violin, which is not the case. Even though I know it's not true, I always think that they think I should already know what's wrong with this or why would I bother to play this if it's sounds like that. I am more self conscious about my playing in my lessons than I ever have before and it's really discouraging. I am constantly feeling unprepared for my lessons despite having practicing efficiently more than I ever have. Even with my nerves, I have without a doubt, improved since I started lessons and would like to continue to do so without all the anxiety. Can anyone help?
In lesson, do you start with pieces right away? My teacher and I always start with scales, arppegios or Schradiecks first to warm up. It makes you feel less nervous when you play pieces after.
I have lesson-nerves too, but it is less now than it used to be. I try to remind myself that I'm nervous because this is important to me, and I want to do my best. It sometimes helps.
Lessons are a great liminal zone between the complete freedom of practicing and goofing-off at home and the pressure of performing. Keep going - You will get used to it.
Try a little humor? Start by tuning your violin and then say, "It sounded better at home."
Performance anxiety didn't "grab" me until I was 17 and done with lessons except for a few coaching and masterclass sessions over the following (nearly) 70 years. The problem never left me in performance situations, but I reasoned in coached and masterclass situations that no matter how well or badly I did any person worth coaching or teaching me could find flaws with my playing so why worry - I was just there to learn; there was no way I was going to impress or entertain (without telling jokes).
The first thing for you to remind yourself is that the teacher is there to teach and help you to achieve your best. Assuming a normal teaching enviroment, nothing worse can come out of that. So there is nothing to loose, nothing to worry about or get intimidated.
It's probably related to white coat syndrome.
I had this happen last night, had done well at home and it was so bad at my lesson that my teacher discovered an underlying cause that we are now addressing (related to counting). In the long run my "bad night" will go far to help me continue to improve, so that's a good thing.
I'm loving these responses. My favorite in-lesson joke is to say, "geez, you'd think I did not even practice this since last lesson! What is happening?!" Usually my teacher will let me play it again, and sometimes it will go better and sometimes just as badly.
My least favorite anxiety-related problem are cascading mistakes. I make one silly mistake, redouble efforts to concentrate, but that only tightens up my muscles which leads to another mistake, then another, etc. Then I stop, take a deep breath and start again with an easy passage. Sometimes that works, sometimes I screw up the "easy" passage too.
My adult students consistently have cases of the nerves at lessons (never kids, though), and I always tell them the same thing: I'm already compensating by assuming you're only playing at 70% of what you do at home.
Could you clarify what you mean by “ 2 months is the longest I have had a one Instructor since February. “ ? Were there other teachers, and what happened with them?
"I have been studying with them for about two months, which is the longest I have had a one instructor since February."
I understand completely. My worst was when I did a year or so of singing to help more learn to hear intonation better (It worked briliiantly).
i love my anxiety during lessons, my vibrato comes out so much better
I tell my students that they are getting important information from passages which don't go as well in the lesson as they did at home. The information is NOT that the student can't play that passage. It's that the passage in question is vulnerable. So I suggest that the student give a little extra attention to the parts that suffered in the lesson even if they sound fantastic the very next time the student plays them at home.
To Mary Ellen's point, it can be useful to explore during the lesson
Can relate, but I had a professor in college who helped me enormously. For a long time I had tremendous lesson-related anxiety since childhood, but one day in college my professor stopped me during a lesson, looked very sternly at me for a good 10 seconds, then broke into a smile and said "drop it, dear. I know you're not going to play perfectly, and that's why we have these meetings". Somehow the way she said that caught me off guard in just the right way and I never felt anxious playing for her again.
@Michael Pijoan That’s awesome!
Mary Ellen, that's a great way of explaining what is happening to students! I always felt nervous for my lessons, and I think it's quite a normal part of the process. It is a performance of sort, we want our work to show in front of someone we care abo, the ut and often admire deeply. Totally human reaction. Now that I'm more on the other side, I tell my students not to worry, the more they "screw up", the more I know what I need to help them with. I also ask students to perform for the next student walking in the door, just to practice performing every week.
I don't know how old Emily is. But I can say that without exception, every single adult student I've ever had has been an absolute nervous wreck in lessons.
Michael - I appreciate you relaying that story.
Scott I'm not a nervous wreck during my lessons but at the beginning (as a re-starter, some years ago now), I was more nervous than I thought I would be. I'm still a little nervous, but not falling-apart nervous.
I can fix that.
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