Contest nerves

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Blagger, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. Blagger

    Blagger Member

    so I left the Ballroom today with the usual feeling of "why did I feel like that playing such an easy piece?"
    To clarify - I have played, in the past Solo euph for decent top section bands with challenging cadenzas etc ( admittedly quite a few years ago) with a fair degree of success and have performed at near enough the highest level BUT nowadays I have an annoying tendancy to "wobble" physically when playing.
    I dont feel nervous when playing- quite the opposite - but seem to stiffen up when on stage and begin an annoying and embarrassing physical shake.
    Does anybody else suffer from this very annoying afliction?
    My neck stiffens up and I have trouble producing notes sometimes - Its doing my head in :)
    I'm confident about my abilty and not after a miracle cure but if anybody has suffered from this and has a decent story to tell then go ahead.... ;)
    By the Way - Well done to all the bands who qualified today in the third secion:clap:
  2. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Does this also happen on the concert stage?
  3. Blagger

    Blagger Member

    I play quite challenging solos in concerts with no ill affects
  4. cornyandy

    cornyandy Member

    I have had this problem when singing on the concert platform, although never when on stage and only a little when I play. I don't think there is a miricle cure a such but trying to look on the positive side of an outcome can help. Not thinking what if I fail or in my case who am I letting down if it goes badly. Try to remember everyone in the hall including the adjudicator is wanting you to perform well and rooting for you. In slightly more technical terms, as well as playing cornet I have sung in opera groups and had a bit of vocal training. I find that bringing the relaxation one has to have to sing well into the band room/ concert hall ( I am in a non contesting band 3rd man down so I can't really comment on contests). Singers need a relaxed top line and upper chest and a firm not pushed diaphram I have almost always controlled the nerves. If the nerves start to come I forget the music that should happen naturally and concentrate on what my last singing teacher called the diamond of support. I will always say I learnt more about breathing from my singing lessons

    Hope this helps

  5. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Are you quite sure about that? My experience is that the people in the hall are pretty much exclusively members of other bands and their supporters, all of whom would dearly love you to screw up your performance in order to improve their band's chances of doing well. (To OP - sorry, this isn't very encouraging!)

    My advice is, try reminding yourself that the contest is of no importance (hence the absence of the general public in the auditorium), and if you're going to get worried, get worried in your concerts, which in terms of communicating with an audience, musical satisfaction and making money, are infinitely more important. And as you say you don't get worried in concerts, problem solved!
  6. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Not a particularly helpful observation this, but there is something uniquely unsettling about contest playing. We used to have a 1st trombonist who was a pro, a really top-notch player who loved to play outrageously showy solos (I still remember hearing him play 'Czardas' at light speed years ago when I was with another band, ending on a beautiful and powerful 6-leger-line double high D!). He's played in professional groups all over the place, and done a lot of high pressure paid playing - but he once said that there was no playing that he did anywhere that made him feel as nervous as playing on a brass band contest stage did. We all take it so seriously! For me a key to relaxing somewhat on the contest stage was realising that the whole thing is really rather silly...
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2012
  7. Alyn James

    Alyn James Member

    Everyone is different. I have to give myself plenty of time and space so I can relax onto a stage. One of my sons goes hyper,eats a Mars bar and practically dances onto a stage. You've just gotta find what suits you and stick to it. Good luck ;)
  8. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    Dr Smirnoff's prescription might help?

    I can't play in contests, but I can stand in front of a band and play a solo.
    I finally identified the reason:
    At a concert the audience want me to play well, at a contest they don;t as they are my competitors and judges.
  9. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member


    That's what makes contesting more of a challenge.

    Also, you get an honest opinion from an adjudicator (and a competitor if they have to admit you were good, you really were) rather than friends saying you (or me) were fantastic when you know yourself how you really played.
  10. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    Lucky I very rarely suffer from nerves but in my experience they tend to come when others in the band when others "take the water in"...fear can be infectious. Best way i've found to stop nerves on stage is to stop playing for a handful of bars and break the concentration/stress factor before coming back in. As a whole, banders tend to work themselves up far too much before going on stage by either chasing a result or worrying about what others will think!

    Hopefully you'll be able to break your habit now you are aware of it :)
  11. Blagger

    Blagger Member

    Interesting reading so far- thanks :)
    Personally I move around quite a bit when stood up at a concert which helps me relax.
    Would love to do that on the contest stage but would look a bit daft I guess :)
    Maybe I should suggest revisiting "Revelation" for our next own choice piece .... or maybe not
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I remember David Thornton used to move around in his seat quite a lot!
  13. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    And he b*llocks his pupils for moving about!!! Double standards! :D
  14. Red Elvis

    Red Elvis Active Member

    I was contest secretary for my last band which , in a perverse way helped my stage "nerves" a great deal. I'd get so wound up in the week or so before a contest , what with late registrations / transfers (although thanks to the excellent team at the BBBR I never had real problems) and the recurring nightmare that somewhere / somehow along the line I'd have cocked something up and half the band wouldn't be allowed on stage that , by the time we'd gone through registration and were ready to go I'd be at my most relieved !!

    In terms of my own preparations , where time allows I generally try and wander off on my own for half an hour or so to get the contest head on. Generally I'm not one that will take water on stage , but if I know that the venue is warm / hot under lights I'll have one to hand. Warm up with long notes in the lower / middle registers and generally psych myself up. I aim to be totally focussed on the performance but do tend to get a bit short and snappy with people during this preparation phase if its interrupted or delayed.Once I'm backstage, assuming that we're not allowed to play I'll keep blowing through the instrument with all the valves down to keep warm.

    Once on stage , I find it helpful just to look at the MD ( obviously helps!!) and will adjust the stand so that the MD is in a direct line of sight just above the top of the music - this filters out any perception of audience numbers for me. During this time I'll be doing deep breathing and some flexing of back / shoulder muscles.If I make an error playing , trick is to almost ignore it ( a quick outburst of violent language in my head helps) and save the analysis for the bar !

    The only thing that you can effect really though is your own performance / attitude. It's only happened to me twice ( once at the area last year , Doh !! ) but I've played on a couple of contest stages where the whole band appears to have suffered a joint meltdown / brain fart as soon as the first note is played - not in terms of wrong notes as such but just a combined sense of discomfort / loss of confidence which then has an obvious impact on tuning and intonation. How one deals with these eventualities I don't know.
  15. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    A contest is just another gig... I try and prepare in the same usual way and try not to treat it any differently.
  16. euphymike

    euphymike Member

    After leaving banding as a teenager and playing a totally different instrument for a living for thirty years I found that on the big stages then (thats 30,000 people) I learnt to focus on one preson in the audience and 'played' to them exclusively. However, normally after a few numbers things warmed up so I could relax a bit. As there was not always dots on stage then thats tricky at a contest. However, even then a lot of pros with big name bands used to sort of hide behind their stands. Maybe you should let the ego, listen to me' take over?
  17. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Learning not to give a **** was the only solution for me, I'm afraid ...
  18. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

  19. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I'm afraid all anyone can do here is give advice as to what works for them - what works for you may be totally different!

    For me I try to stay as relaxed as possible beforehand. I find if we have a long wait before playing this is really key. Try not to think about any part of the performance, in fact let your mind be occupied with anything but. I won't listen to any other bands - especially if its a set test piece contest. Try to stay hydrated and well-fed - this is difficult for me as I have absolutely no appetite before I play so I have to force myself to eat, I've found that eating fruit little and often is the best way.

    Hopefully, if you manage all that, then when it comes to the immediate pre-registration time you'll still be in a nice calm, relaxed frame of mind. Warm up slowly and with your normal warm-up routine. DO NOT be tempted to play bits of your test-piece, as the chances are you'll balls them up and start to get het up about it (I did exactly this at Leicester last year and had a nightmare on stage). Don't worry if things don't 'work' or feel right - just keep plugging away at the long low notes, or whatever it is you do. When you get into registration stay as calm as possible, do some deep breathing - nothing fancy - just long slow breaths in and out. It is now when I need to start getting the adrenalin flowing and my contest 'head' on, so I look through my part noting the 'corners' that I need to be careful of. I think about the opening several times over, playing it through in my head. Consider the scenarios - what if so-and-so splits that note, what if this is out of tune, so you have a back-up in case this really does happen.

    When you get on stage make sure your seat, stand etc are all in their normal position and you are sitting in the same sort of proximity to the players around you as usual. Make sure you can see the conductor, and if he does move that you are not going to get blinded by a spotlight (Butlins!). Once again go through the opening of the piece in your head a few times, then relax, and just play...

    In one of his method books, Alan Vizzutti talks about staying in 'present time only' during a performance. If you can do this it really helps. In other words don't think about the stuff to come, or the last bit you played, because if you are the chances are you're cocking up the present bit of playing.

    Most of all (sorry for the lengthy post BTW!) try to get some sort of enjoyment out of the whole experience - even if its only masochistic enjoyment. As many people have already said - it doesn't matter that much anyway in the grand scheme of things.

  20. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    I agree totally with Davidquinlan. I have known several players - not just 'corner men' who developed this super wobble and I have not yet heard of anyone who found a cure. The stress of playing a corner seat certainly doesn't help the situation, and one or two people I know moved place or changed instruments - not always successfully in an attempt to defeat the problem. I practise just as hard for a concert as I do a contest, and I am lucky not to suffer with nerves. Also my medication helps ;-) I wouldn't really reccommend drinking alcohol before a performance, though. You might sound better to yourself, but...

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