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Performance anxiety?


LHMark
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I'm dealing with a weird phenomenon. Shuttered in my bedroom, well away from delicate wifely ears, I practice away until I can play a tune slowly, but with reasonable competence. There I sit, taking some pride in my progress, until It's time to play it in front of my bandmates or at the instructional session I sometimes attend.

 

At that point, everything I learned goes out the window. My fingers are blunt instruments. I can't remember how my bellows movement worked. The tune becomes a train wreck and I look like an idiot. This happens whenever someone else is watching or listening to me.

 

I really feel I need to conquer this, lest my only function at the session be Guinness-fetching-boy. Can anyone offer any thoughts? Is this common?

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I'm dealing with a weird phenomenon. Shuttered in my bedroom, well away from delicate wifely ears, I practice away until I can play a tune slowly, but with reasonable competence. There I sit, taking some pride in my progress, until It's time to play it in front of my bandmates or at the instructional session I sometimes attend.

 

At that point, everything I learned goes out the window. My fingers are blunt instruments. I can't remember how my bellows movement worked. The tune becomes a train wreck and I look like an idiot. This happens whenever someone else is watching or listening to me.

 

I really feel I need to conquer this, lest my only function at the session be Guinness-fetching-boy. Can anyone offer any thoughts? Is this common?

 

Hello LH.

I've seen a number of past comments on this forum describing the same phenomenon. I share your affliction as well, but I can say that with experience your ability to play in front of or along with others improves. That has been my case, though you have to screw up a lot of courage to play with a group that one has had a train wreck with previously. I'm still avoiding one particular group in whose presence I had wrecked my train several months ago. They were very nice about it, but I was sufficiently (and justifiably) humbled that I don't plan on going back till I'm much more confident in my abilities and repetoire. That being said I have been able to get better playing with another very supportive group from time to time and in front of individuals. So hang in there, it'll probably get better for you too. My advice: look for low-pressure opportunities to play in front of others and play along with CDs or You-Tube videos whenever you can, to get used to playing along with other instruments in the same key and at tempo. Good luck.

Edited by CaryK
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It is common,I have gone through every stage of performance fright,it has annoyed me from the first time I performed in front of an audience.It has taken me years to overcome it and only practice and determination has slowly made things better.So what would I fear most ? Sweaty hands that slip off the buttons and worse than that a runny nose.So even on a cold day my hands became sweaty almost immediately I started playing and with no sign of a cold I started sniffing.

These distraction made me think more of what was happening than my playing.Simple tunes that when practising at home became a nightmare when on stage.

The more difficult pieces I did not air because of this.After watching John Kirkpatrick try a really difficult tune and completely mess it up made me realise that even the greats make mistakes and he was not concerned and neither were the audience.

The more you practice the better you are at covering up errors,you notice them, but others do not,or if they do it does not concern them too much.One day someone will say how much they enjoyed your playing.A few boosts of confidence works wonders.

Al

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It is common,I have gone through every stage of performance fright,it has annoyed me from the first time I performed in front of an audience.It has taken me years to overcome it and only practice and determination has slowly made things better.So what would I fear most ? Sweaty hands that slip off the buttons and worse than that a runny nose.So even on a cold day my hands became sweaty almost immediately I started playing and with no sign of a cold I started sniffing.

These distraction made me think more of what was happening than my playing.Simple tunes that when practising at home became a nightmare when on stage.

The more difficult pieces I did not air because of this.After watching John Kirkpatrick try a really difficult tune and completely mess it up made me realise that even the greats make mistakes and he was not concerned and neither were the audience.

The more you practice the better you are at covering up errors,you notice them, but others do not,or if they do it does not concern them too much.One day someone will say how much they enjoyed your playing.A few boosts of confidence works wonders.

Al

 

From my knowledge of NLP I would advise anyone to rehearse successful perfomances in his mind in the liminal state before sleeping. Your unconscious does not differentiate between this and the 'real' world and you will be better prepared. Just before you have to play for real, concentrate on your feet being on the ground. Never ever use a negative. Do not say 'I cannot fail', for example but rather 'I will succeed'. The unconscious mind does not recognise negatives. This is why it is so daft for a dentist to say, 'You will feel a small prick' before the jab. You will - he just effectively ordered you to.

 

Ian

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The best way to not be nervous, in my experience, is to be totally prepared and practised. That probably means not playing the hardest stuff in public (yet). Just get some experience of playing in front of people, and experience of it working, and as a result experience of _not_ being nervous!

 

Some other thoughts:

 

I feel _so_ much more "stable" if I've eaten something before playing. We (early music quartet I play with) did a lunchtime concert recently and I made the mistake of only eating an apple about an hour beforehand - and I was more nervous that I've been for years.

 

Shortly before playing in front of people visualise what it will be like - the whole experience of sitting/standing there and knowing everybody's eyes are on you - I try to almost scare myself! I don't know if this really helps... but I get the impression I'm just a little bit more prepared for the experience if I do this - when the time comes I've already done it once before.

 

Take a few seconds before playing to compose yourself, to make a kind of mental space for yourself, where you can shut out all external thoughts and distractions. Don't let yourself be rushed into playing, and don't start playing whilst you're thinking thoughts other than musical ones.

 

If you make a mistake, smile (inwardly or outwardly) and think of it as a personal joke between you and yourself! Stay focussed on what music you're playing, not on how you think you might be appearing.

 

I guess some of these things only work for me because I'm not a very extrovert performer (quite the opposite!). However - I don't normally get at all nervous (though I used to), so I feel the things above have helped me quite a lot.

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It's perfectly normal. I get it when I turn up for my monthly concertina lesson and all the stuff that worked at home sounds clunky and clumsy in front of the Guru. I get it with my singing, which sounds great to me in the car or on the motorbike, but is always an octave and a half too high (or low) in the pub. Last week at Morris practice I stumbled and spluttered through a tune that I can play perfectly well at home.

 

On your own, you listen to the music with your own ears. You hear the bits that work, and you notice the progress you've made. You convince yourself you're doing well - and if you didn't, you'd probably give up in despair.

 

In front of someone else, you listen with what you imagine to be their ears and you notice all the mistakes. You convince yourself you need to improve - and if you didn't, you never would.

 

Surprisingly, the other person misses most of the mistakes, and doesn't mind the ones she does notice. No one ever reads anything as carefully as it was written, or listens to something as carefully as it is said, sung or played.

 

Confucius said that for everyone ahead of you, there is another behind you. To improve, you need to aim to be up there with the experts; to stop yourself going mad, you need to remember the 6,000,000 people who can't play a concertina at all.

Edited by Mikefule
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It may surprise you to know that hundreds if not thousands of professional musicians also suffer from this, and for some it is not as easy as getting used to it or getting over it.

 

This following article from the 2004 NY Times is for information only...I'm not making any recommendations here, especially for a beginning amateur with a very mild and normal case of jitters. Building confidence over time is no doubt all you need.

 

Some serious musicians, however, literally have their fingers shaking with this ailment, though, and for them medical science has stepped in. I was amazed when I came upon this article and learned that a goodly percentage of professional classical musicians use this prescription remedy, that it is mild, and that it seems to be highly effective, as you can read in the article.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/arts/music/17tind.html

 

Cheers,

Dan

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It may surprise you to know that hundreds if not thousands of professional musicians also suffer from this, and for some it is not as easy as getting used to it or getting over it.

 

This following article from the 2004 NY Times is for information only...I'm not making any recommendations here, especially for a beginning amateur with a very mild and normal case of jitters. Building confidence over time is no doubt all you need.

 

Some serious musicians, however, literally have their fingers shaking with this ailment, though, and for them medical science has stepped in. I was amazed when I came upon this article and learned that a goodly percentage of professional classical musicians use this prescription remedy, that it is mild, and that it seems to be highly effective, as you can read in the article.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/arts/music/17tind.html

 

Cheers,

Dan

 

I would not recommend this. It is better to have it dealt with once and for all by going to a properly trained hypnotherapist, for whom this would be bread and butter work.

 

Ian

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It may surprise you to know that hundreds if not thousands of professional musicians also suffer from this, and for some it is not as easy as getting used to it or getting over it.

 

This following article from the 2004 NY Times is for information only...I'm not making any recommendations here, especially for a beginning amateur with a very mild and normal case of jitters. Building confidence over time is no doubt all you need.

 

Some serious musicians, however, literally have their fingers shaking with this ailment, though, and for them medical science has stepped in. I was amazed when I came upon this article and learned that a goodly percentage of professional classical musicians use this prescription remedy, that it is mild, and that it seems to be highly effective, as you can read in the article.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/arts/music/17tind.html

 

Cheers,

Dan

 

I would not recommend this. It is better to have it dealt with once and for all by going to a properly trained hypnotherapist, for whom this would be bread and butter work.

 

Ian

 

I quite agree with Hereward. There are several non-prescription medication ways of dealing with nerves, including various safe herbal remedies, as well as self-help techniques such as yoga, meditation, autogenic training (a bit like self-hypnosis). Simply taking a few deep breaths before you start playing can help to calm yourself down. A comfortable, relaxed posture, also helps, which is why a postural technique called 'The Alexander Technique', is taught in many music and drama schools. Granted, some of these self-help techniques can take time and repeat practice to become effective and require patience and might not suit everyone. A little 'stage fright' is suposed to be a good thing, according to actors, as it gives their performance an edge. My most common fault, brought on by nerves, is when playing in sessions and I start a tune and mess up the start, perhaps by playing one or two wrong notes. Once I get into the tune, I am usually OK, and when other musicians recognise the tune I have started and join in, then if I then play the odd bum note, it is covered by the other musicians playing, hopefully the correct note and I don't feel too embarassed! John Kirkpatrick sometimes makes mistakes in his playing. It's only natural. We can't all be on top form all the time. And, yes, playing with, or in front of other people, is quite a different experience to playing at home alone with only the cat for an audience. But, like everything challenging in life, e.g. learning to ride a bike when you are young, once you have done it a few times and got your balance, it beomes easier, and with luck, second nature. Just don't try riding a bike and playing your concertina at the same time. You might fall off! Now, where did I put those b**a bl***ers? :ph34r:

 

Chris

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It may surprise you to know that hundreds if not thousands of professional musicians also suffer from this, and for some it is not as easy as getting used to it or getting over it.

 

This following article from the 2004 NY Times is for information only...I'm not making any recommendations here, especially for a beginning amateur with a very mild and normal case of jitters. Building confidence over time is no doubt all you need.

 

Some serious musicians, however, literally have their fingers shaking with this ailment, though, and for them medical science has stepped in. I was amazed when I came upon this article and learned that a goodly percentage of professional classical musicians use this prescription remedy, that it is mild, and that it seems to be highly effective, as you can read in the article.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/arts/music/17tind.html

 

Cheers,

Dan

 

I would not recommend this. It is better to have it dealt with once and for all by going to a properly trained hypnotherapist, for whom this would be bread and butter work.

 

Ian

 

I quite agree with Hereward. There are several non-prescription medication ways of dealing with nerves, including various safe herbal remedies, as well as self-help techniques such as yoga, meditation, autogenic training (a bit like self-hypnosis). Simply taking a few deep breaths before you start playing can help to calm yourself down. A comfortable, relaxed posture, also helps, which is why a postural technique called 'The Alexander Technique', is taught in many music and drama schools. Granted, some of these self-help techniques can take time and repeat practice to become effective and require patience and might not suit everyone. A little 'stage fright' is suposed to be a good thing, according to actors, as it gives their performance an edge. My most common fault, brought on by nerves, is when playing in sessions and I start a tune and mess up the start, perhaps by playing one or two wrong notes. Once I get into the tune, I am usually OK, and when other musicians recognise the tune I have started and join in, then if I then play the odd bum note, it is covered by the other musicians playing, hopefully the correct note and I don't feel too embarassed! John Kirkpatrick sometimes makes mistakes in his playing. It's only natural. We can't all be on top form all the time. And, yes, playing with, or in front of other people, is quite a different experience to playing at home alone with only the cat for an audience. But, like everything challenging in life, e.g. learning to ride a bike when you are young, once you have done it a few times and got your balance, it beomes easier, and with luck, second nature. Just don't try riding a bike and playing your concertina at the same time. You might fall off! Now, where did I put those b**a bl***ers? :ph34r:

 

Chris

For the record, of course, I was not recommending anything....just informing. The fact that over a quarter of symphony musicians was reportedly taking mild doses of this prescription medication in 2004 (doubtless there are more now) says reams about confidence in yoga to tame serious cases of shakes in professional performing musicians. Doctors are probably better judges than us squeezebox players in such matters; that is what they are there for. But this is thread drift I suppose (mea culpa)....we were just asked about a minor case of newbie nervousness....no biggie there, and several folks had good suggestions for him.

Dan

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For what its worth, I've been using propranolol for years for a different reason; I still choke.

 

For those of us who don't have stratospheric careers to maintain, it would seem best to fint a less invasive way to deal with the anxiety.

 

It's why we play music, not work music.

 

Rob

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One of the ways to deal with the "stage panic" is to have a couple of drinks before you play, but I wouldn't recommend that to everybody :lol:

 

More seriously, the best way I found to deal with it is, simply, go busking. When you get accustomed to play in a street with a lot of people of any kind walking around, there are not anymore many things that can get you nervous.

 

Cheers

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I have a similiar problem...I 'talk up' how I'm doing on the concertina to others (and well I'm perfectly fine at playing when I practice on my own' but then when I have to 'show' what I can play it all goes wrong. I've been trying to slowly desensitise myself by recording my playing on camera...then trying to get one other person to sit in the room when I practice. lol!

 

still doesn't help though... :(

Edited by LDT
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Practice more:-)

I know what you're going through, as I feel the same way. I try to "practice for the session", meaning keeping the beat no matter what sort of mistakes might turn up. I do this with tunes I know others in my session play, so that they can join in, and I won't "buck up the feet". (I don't practice like this all the time, just with the 5 or 6 tunes I want to play in the session).

My experience as a fiddle-player (been playing for ca. 17 yrs) doing the same when I started. I sawed away for a few years, with a healthy mix of cockiness and humility, until one day things started to work. My session is a pretty friendly session, so this approach worked for me. Tonight I am going to the session I have been playing in for 19 years, as a beginner, again, with just the concertina:-)

Good Luck!

 

S

Edited by Snorre
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One of the ways to deal with the "stage panic" is to have a couple of drinks before you play, but I wouldn't recommend that to everybody :lol:

 

Cheers

If I have a couple of drinks before playing I'll play quite happily but the tune coming out note perfect at the fingers won't be the one that was expected :lol:

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