Anxiety in a test

June 23, 2020, 10:04 AM · I've been playing violin since I was 12/13, but I didn't have the best teacher, so I just learned some things wrong, didn't play so much concerts, I didn't learn to practice everyday and so forth(m not angry about it tho). Then now I am trying to fix some skills and I'm studying for a test in a music school.
So I ask you guys how do you perform under pressure? I'm asking because I don't feel good under pressure, I start doing things wrong and start shaking, so I fear not passing in this test :v

Replies (13)

Edited: June 23, 2020, 10:35 AM · You will be nervous, that's an inescapable given. The best thing you can do is practise, breathe deep, and convince yourself you're "excited to play some music" and not "scared of rejection". Take it easy and you'll be fine. In the meantime, playing for family and friends is a good way to start building your resilience.
June 23, 2020, 2:42 PM · Playing for family and friends is good, like Cotton suggests. If you have other people in your life, other musicians, maybe a school teacher, people who aren't as close to you, playing for them also is good.

There is no easy answer for anxiety and performance nerves. The book "The Inner Game of Music" has some good insights that can be helpful. There are other self-help books you can find online that might provide some good insights.

When I have students who are taking playing tests or auditions I suggest that they think of things this way:
1) you are trying to entertain the judges, not impress them. You can't know what they are thinking or what they are listening/looking for so you just drive yourself crazy trying to play "guess what's on their minds." But if you think of your playing as entertaining them, that's a different thing.
2) believe in yourself -- you are the only person on the planet that can play the way you do, with your nuances in your playing. Let that shine through when you play for others.
3) don't sweat the small stuff -- when you're taking the test don't freak out over any mistake you make or you'll just make more and more. Let the mistakes go -- be aware of them and if it's something like forgetting to play a flat or a sharp in the right place, look ahead to the next time you play that note or that rhythm and get it right then.
4) don't stop and go back over a measure if you've messed up a rhythm or the pitches unless the judges ask you to. That only interrupts the flow of the music and interrupting the flow of the music is as big a mistake as missing a rhythm or a pitch.
5) remember that the sun will come up the next day, that however you do, whether great or poorly, life will go on and if you are wise you will build on the experience of this test.

Looking to the future, one great way to lose the anxiety for many people is to take as many auditions as possible, even if they're for little things that aren't very important. Putting yourself into the nerve-wracking situations is the best way to discover for yourself how you can best deal with it all.

June 23, 2020, 3:39 PM · Josu,

Some anxiety is actually a good thing as it tends to make you focus. Too much is not because you cannot focus or concentrate.

At 18, what test are you facing? I will assume that you want to play the violin. How well do you deal with playing the accordion in front of others?

One of the many things I try to teach my students is that eventually they have to become "Autodidacts" (That's a really fancy word for taking responsibility for your learning -- essentially teaching yourself even if you have the assistance of a teacher.)

While there is a lot of very complex music that requires a teacher/guide to take you through it, there is a whole-lot of music that you can put on your stand and work out for yourself. For me, that is one of the joys - get a piece of music (often something I heard on the radio) and note-by-note, measure-by-measure learn how to play it.

Music is subjective. There is not an objective measure other than your own of yourself that you need be fearful of. Music is the language of emotion and the printed page has to be processed through your emotional response to what you see and feel.

Making music is a lifetime commitment, one test, one performance, one piece is just that "one out of a lifetime."

June 23, 2020, 4:28 PM · Can you set up a couple of fake tests? Grab a friend who's also taking it, a parent, ask your teacher to go through it with you - copy as much of the format as you can: wear the clothes you're going to wear, give yourself the same amount of warmup time that you'll have, wait in the hall, go into the room, have whoever you're playing for act as the proctor. Practice taking the test, similar to how you practice playing your pieces.
June 24, 2020, 1:44 PM · Totally agree with George Wells "Some anxiety is actually a good thing". If you had no nerves you would nto focus anything like as well. I can't say I've performed music live but i have done public speaking and I always find once you get going the nerves disappear and it just flows if you have put the practice in in the first place and know your stuff.
June 29, 2020, 11:29 AM · Thanks a lot guys, great answers. I'm gonna test myself more playing to my parents, great suggestion.
George, actually i've spent more time playing violin than accordion, I ve been playing violin in church for a while. I ve never went to a music school and I think it will be a great experience.
June 29, 2020, 2:14 PM · My scale of anxiety, nerves, stage fright looks like this;

It all depends on the context and the music sub-culture.

Worst: Playing solo for an audition committee of 3.
Bad: Classical solo performance with orchestra or piano, or 1st violin in a quartet.
Not so bad; Repeat performance of a solo. 2nd violin or viola in a quartet, or the concertmaster chair.
Very little nerves: any other place in an orchestra. Recording studio.
Zero nerves: Folk, pop, jazz genres, even when miked, even if the audience is huge.

July 2, 2020, 9:51 AM · Interesting, Joel.
I've already heard about jazz, but I didn't see anything about jazz w/ violin, does it sounds nice? Any suggestions?
I think jazz is cool but it seems boring when it repeats and takes long to finish, idk.
Edited: July 2, 2020, 2:29 PM · @-Joshue.
Jazz Violin will never be as prominent as jazz piano, saxophone, trumpet, but,
Violin for jazz has been around a long time. Photos from the formative years, 1910-1930, of both small and large ensembles show violins, but you don't hear them very well in the 78-recordings. The pioneer was Joe Venuti, the gold standard was Stephanie Grapelli, Jean-Luc Ponti is the modernist, even fiddle wizard Mark O'Connor did some time with his small jazz standard ensemble. My professional experience was modest; one year with the Don Ellis band.
At some point early in the process the violinist needs to add an amplification system ; Mikes alone have feedback, direct-line alone sounds lousy.
My opinion is that jazz musicians have the highest level of musicianship and working/instinctive knowledge of theory and harmony.
The anxiety level is much less for non-classical genres because the audience is there to be entertained, not to judge.
For two violinists with equal technical skills; the non-classical violinist will have more playing opportunity and employment.
Go for it.
July 3, 2020, 7:53 AM · "I think jazz is cool but it seems boring when it repeats and takes long to finish, idk."

Stop listening to Kenny G.

July 6, 2020, 3:11 PM · Some very good advice in the above responses. But it's good to remember that nobody is perfect.

I recall a quotation (I think) by Jascha Heifetz, historically considered perhaps the most "perfect" violinist who ever lived. Someone asked him if he had to practice every day.

Heifetz replied, "Yes. If I don't practice for one day, I can hear the difference. If I don't practice for 2 days, the orchestra can hear the difference. If I don't practice for 3 days, the audience can hear the difference. And if I don't practice for 4 days, the critics can hear the difference."

So, never give up. Never, never, never, never.


Edited: July 9, 2020, 7:45 AM · Thanks Joel, i'll take a loot at those ones.
wow Sandy, i didnt know that, interesting.
I'm never gonna give myself up, tks for the advice.
I rlly wanna improve my skills in order to be able to improvise, play music by ear, joke a little and have fun :)
July 9, 2020, 10:29 AM · Sometimes a little positive "self-talk" can go a long way. Here's a suggestion. Use it if it's helpful:
"I'm doing the best I can. If that's not good enough for some people, that's their problem."

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