How do you cope with performance anxiety?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by hicks, Jan 18, 2008.

  1. hicks

    hicks Member

    I've always suffered from nerves, especially during a solo performance. So much that I usually don't play to my best ability. This can even happen during short solo passages in pieces. I try to relax, but still get tense, and this has a bad effect on the performance. I actually prefer playing 2nd trom, because there are fewer exposed parts, and less pressure.
    Performance anxiety is an acute problem for me, but I'm sure many other people suffer the same problem to a certain degree. I'd be interested to any views on how to cope with this.
  2. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

  3. hicks

    hicks Member

    Thanks. I see the comment about focussing on the audience, however I'm all too aware of the audience. That is the problem. I'm too conscious that people are listening and evaluating. It's probably a confidence issue really, but then I can play a piece perfectly during individual practice, only to play it significantly worse at performance time.
  4. screamlead

    screamlead Member

    I suffered terribly from Performance Anxiety. I read a book Called Performance Power by Irmtraud Tarr Kr├╝ger ( she is married to an american trumpeter living in Germany called Edward Tarr ). It has some useful relaxation excercises in it. There is also a book called The Inner Game Of Music. This was adapted ( I think ) by Barry Green from the original, The Inner Game Of Tennis by professional tennis player Timothy Gallwey. Both of these books are very good - the inner game is basically a set of coping strategies.

    Whilst at the RNCM I attended hypnotherapy sessions with an ex student at the RNCM who was offering free sessions. The hypnotherapy worked really well for me and there was no eating of onions etc involved !!!

    I think really that you have to find what works well for you. Most musical performances are attended by music lovers who hope for an enjoyable experience listening to music. However, brass band contests are probably one of the most hostile environments in which to play. Yes there are the hardened brass enthusiasts but there will always be the other principal cornet or whatever from a rival band sat on the front row trying to put you off. One has just simply to deal with it. Contesting is what enhances the standard of bands and the bar is always being raised. It is our task as conductors / players to prepare to the best of our abilities, whatever level we perform at. All anyone can do is ask that you give your best.
  5. sudcornet

    sudcornet Member

    I'm sure it's been said before (and will be again)....performance nerves are a function of our own's that fear of total embarassment. Now I could shake with the best of 'em as a young player but learnt to conquer that by a few techniques.

    The main one (obviously) is your mindset....if you have the attitude that - if I make a mistake or be it - and reduce that fear of embarrassment, down come the nerves a few notches.

    Breathing - in through the nose (with a good deep diaphragmatic technique) over 8 beats - out through the mouth (controlled) over 12. (Repeat three or four times)

    Then - more attitude - focus on the music (the audience/adjudicator are irrelevant) - use the tenet "always rehearse like a performance - then you can perform as if it were a rehearsal". (You've already said you can play perfectly at home.)

    Don't know if I've got it across well - but it works for me.

    Best of luck,
  6. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    I did some research into performance anxiety when I was training to be a hypnotherapist. 4 bars rest kindly let me do some there and I received many thoughtful and honest replies from all levels of bands.

    Some talked about eating just prior to performing, suggestions included bananas, mars bars and even tomatoes.

    One suggestion that works for me is no caffine at all that day and slowing everything down i.e. taking twice as long do do things like cleaning your teeth.

    The one thing that stood out was that the higher the level of competing band the more usual it was to take Beta Blockers. If you decide that this is an avenue for you please go to your own G.P. and don`t just borrow someones tablets as they are not suitable for everyone.

    A technique used in hypnotherapy is "modelling" in which you basically imagine you are someone you admire and experience performing as if you were them under trance conditions.

    You can use that method and "act" as if you are a soloist i.e. stand and move confidently ect...

    Try to remember that on the whole most people (even at contests) are listening to hear fine music played well and do want to enjoy your performance. You have put the work in, you are there because you can do it so just go out there look and act the part and give them the gift of your own personal music making
  7. johnsop

    johnsop Member

    A great piece of advice Professor David King gaves us in our 3rd year performance classes at Salford Uni, was this:

    "As soon as you stop worrying about how much the audience care about your performance, the sooner you'll realise that they actually don't"

    In other words, similar to what other people ave said above, forget the audience and just make music!!
  8. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    I have to take the contrary view to this, my tactic is the very opposite, focus on the audience, make eye contact and smile. You'll find they smile back and on the whole want you to do well.
    If I feel they are on my side that relaxes me and I don't worry about the odd duff note. I think the secret is to act/appear confident even if you are cr***ing yourself, you can end up fooling them and yourself. Its worth a try.
    If things go wrong which occasionally they are bound to, just put it down to experience and put it out of your mind, go and wow em the next time.
    Good luck and don't give in. :tup
  9. johnsop

    johnsop Member

    For lots of people, focusing on the audience works. Hicks said in an earlier post that he couldn't do that because it made him worse. My previous post was a repsonse to that.

    Its the same as any topic to do with brass playing, we are all individuals. What works for some, doesn't work for others. We all have our own little ways of dealing with things. Be it performance anxiety (nerves) or articulation or range... the list is endless.

    I know when I have suffered with nerves in the past, I have wanted to knwo as many different different ways to deal with it as I could find out so that I could use these different techniques to come up with my own.

    Another technique, which has been kind of mentioned earlier (by sud cornet), is to breathe deep and slow before playing your solo, passage, or featured moment (whatever). This can be done before going on stage, and if you have enough bars rest preceding the passage (or your first entry if it is a full solo work) do it right up until you begin to play. This will not only slow your breathing down (which is often a consequence of performance anxiety) but it will also take your mind off the situation, briefly, but not so much that you are no longer involved in the music.

    Sorry for the long post ;)
  10. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    I'm one of the school that focuses on one particular member of the audience - someone I don't know from Adam.

    I play it to them. They'll never know, and it focuses me on one person, not the fact there's lots of them there.

    I'd always take playing to a thousand people I don't know to 6 that I do (the band don't count - they've heard me at practice)

    The first solo I ever did was to a small hall full of Salvationists - so a friendly audience - and I didn't know any of them. I think my teacher did it deliberately to convince me that it really doesn't matter.

    That being said, the last solo I did, I didn't know the notes in the piece - so was concentrating on the music and forgot all about the audience!

    I'd second Mesmerist's comment about not "borrowing" anyone else's prescription medicine: it could do YOU serious harm. Beta Blockers - particularly the stronger doses - aren't Smarties: they slow your heart rate and reduce you blood pressure, which isn't really good, and should only be done under proper medical supervision. They can also interact with other quite common things - like Ibuprofen - in unpleasant ways.

    Making a pig's ear of it is annoying for all of us (and happens more often to some of us than others...), but it isn't going to change the world (even if that pig's ear was on a record :oops: ).

  11. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Hi, Johnsop, Yes I agree there are all sorts of ways around the problem, I was just saying what works for me and realise it may not work for everyone.
    The deep slow breathing is a good one though, I do use that (well did) in difficult ensemble passages especially when a good deal of control is needed.
    Its a bit of a cliche, but it does gett better with experience.
    I have a fear of heights, but I love mountains. I put myself in challenging situations to conquer my fears. Works for me.
  12. Although I don't do solos on perc, I also get nervous before a contest and usually drive the others mad walking around looking worried. Concerts I'm fine with after the first for that particular band.
    Some people like to sit on their own before going on stage and some chat about anything but banding. I like to look round at the audience when I first get on stage as if making friends with them.
    Redhead has told me I look much better when I smile and he and Steve Clapton have acted up when I played the maracas in a rehearsal at summer school to make me smile and relax. I now have that image and use it to relax and smile.
  13. bigmamabadger

    bigmamabadger Active Member

    Yoga breathing. It takes a bit of practice before you can focus enough for it to be useful in the situation you need it in but I find it invaluable.
    It also opens the lungs up a bit before you start to play.
  14. weenie

    weenie Member

    I've always been a member of the 'Stuff this in your pipe and smoke it' brigade!! At the end of the day, not many people are taking note of you personally, they're listening to the band as a whole.
  15. barrytone

    barrytone Member

    I never experience performance nerves and surprise my fellow musicians by my laid back attitude. I used to get really nervious when I was younger, can remember shaking violently on stage in St. Georges Hall and desperately hanging onto a middle d for all I was worth.

    I've heard all sorts of advice from different people, like try to imagine you're playing in your front room and there's only you there, or focus on one person in the audience and wait until they look away thereby gaining the psychological advantage and so on and so forth.

    My philosophy is simple, we pass this way but once and while we're here we should make the best of every opportunity life affords us. No one lives forever and in the end we all end up in the same place, regardless of whether we played well at the contest or let nerves get the better of us. In my mind, there's nothing to be frightened of on a contest stage, unless the hall catches fire that is! The more nervous you get, the more chance of error occuring then the more you panic and let fear and nerves get the better of you.

    Take deep breaths, relax and give yourself every opportunity to give of your best. I must admit, to have my philosophy in life has taken a great deal of life experience but when you've been through the mill a few times, you learn what's important and what's not.

    I hope you learn to manage your nerves, whatever method helps you with this is right for you. Finally, remember that second players have solos to play too and while they may not have the perceived "pressure" a principal player does, they nonetheless have do deal with contest anxiety. A player should never chose to sit on second because they fear the end seat at contests but because they feel the part is right for them and it's the best way they can contribute to the overall performance of the band. Whatever seat you occupy, contest/concert nerves are something we all have to deal with, good luck in dealing with yours.
  16. hicks

    hicks Member

    Thanks for the comments. Just to expand on why I choose the 2nd trom part - I don't fear the 1st trom, I'm well capable of playing it, but you don't appreciate how crippling my nerves are. At worst it can potentially affect all aspects of my playing, and I just don't want to let the band down.
  17. barrytone

    barrytone Member

    I'm sure you're more than capable of playing the solo trom part, so sorry that your nerves affect you being able to do this. I can appreciate how bad they are, I've suffered with them when I was younger but fortunately, as I said, I don't now. I have seen players get in such a state before a contest because of nerves, I guess it's something that as performers we need to find a way to deal with.

    As for letting your band down, if your band is anything like mine, everyone will be behind you 100%, willing you to do your best and do yourself justice. Maybe some kind of mediatative therapy may help? Perhaps if you explained your problem to your GP, he or she maybe able to suggest different therapies you could try? I had a friend who suffered from anxiety and the best therapy for her was yoga, taught her how to relax her body, mind and use her breathing as a way of controlling the anxiety.

    Hope you find something that will help.
  18. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Just to emphasise that tMP policy is only to support the use of beta blockers when recommended and prescribed by a GP. The unauthorised use of drugs of any sort can be dangerous, and must not be encouraged.
  19. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    Yes apologies Mr Bale I should have reiterated that.
    No one should take them without a GP prescription and it does concern me that these tablets are readily passed around.
    I do wonder whether it could be a good thing to have more open discussion on this subject so that there is more information about the risks? and also if it is a form of cheating perhaps?
    I know this is a family forum so is this inappropriate here?
  20. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    We have had sensitive discussions on this topic several times over the years, but tMP is not particularly comfortable with a full debate being discussed by people who are not medically qualified to offer opinions to others.

    We will let the thread take its natural course from here, but we will be monitoring it very, very closely.


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