Just a bit of advice...

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Bonjour_Laura, Dec 10, 2013.

  1. Bonjour_Laura

    Bonjour_Laura Member

    Hi, I'm just looking for a bit of advice really, soloists, what do you do about nerves? Id love to be able to play solos in front of an audience, but I really struggle with nerves to the point where I'm that nervous I can't stop shaking, feel nauseous etc. I've had some fantastic tutors in the past who've done a lot of work with me over my nerves, but I still get ridiculously nervous. I know it's silly and band and performing should be something you really enjoy, which I do but I've recently started university studying music and it means I'm doing a lot of performing at the minute. Just wondering if anyone has any advice/tips. I'm probably the most confident person you'll meet, but as a player it's the complete opposite. Like I said if anyone had any advice or recommendations id really appreciate it.


    Laura :)
  2. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    I had the very same problem. When I was about 18 I was a very confident outgoing type, but a trembling wreck when it came to playing solos either out front or even sat in the band. I found that the more I did the easier it became. It is a terrifying process involving sleepless nights stressful thoughts all day, but eventually I came through it and was able to perform without the shakes etc. Everybody is a bit nervous of playing solos but having the shakes etc is much worse. Force yourself to do it and you'll be amazed how eventually the terrible stress eases considerably ~ I went on to be the front man of a showband for 30 odd years so it worked for me !

    ~ Mr Wilx
  3. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    This is a difficult one to answer, because everyone is different.
    Let's get the drugs thing out of the way first. I would never recommend anyone to take drugs to enhance their performance. If you have a medical condition, then that's one thing, but taking drugs specifically to overcome stress on stage? I would personally never do so and would not recommend it unless as an absolute last resort.
    Know the music. forwards, backwards, sideways, inside out and upside down. Learn the music until you wake up singing it. That way you can distract forget any worry about the performance.
    Do some breathing exercises. Nothing excessive or outrageous, just long, deep breaths, held for a second or two and let out slowly.
    A little nerves is actually a good thing. Develop a few distraction strategies to take your mind off the performance and try to remember that you are giving the audience something, so they owe you! :) Take your signature quote to heart as well - but don't drink the tequila until after you have played!
  4. DRW

    DRW New Member

    I was recommended a great and simple book particularly aimed at musicians in this situation. I'll post the name when I can remember the title - I think it was something like "Getting the Nerve" and was published by ABRSM. Perhaps someone else knows it and can post the title?

    Amongst other things, it explains the physiological reasons why the natural emotion of fear affects musicians probably more than any other activity. E.g. blood retracts from the surface of the body in self-preservation, which has the negative impact of making the fingers less nimble. Breathing becomes shorter and faster to prepare the body with more oxygen for a swift exit - this has the effect of making it difficult to support with the diaphragm and therefore uneven and difficult musical breath. Once you understand these things it puts you in a position to prepare for these such as the breathing exercises suggested by Mike. Another tip I have heard is to run up and down the stairs before practising. This simulates the breathlessness experienced with nerves and helps you to get used to it.
  5. DRW

    DRW New Member

  6. Breathing exercises are vital as Mike says. When practising I always found it useful to picture yourself on stage performing with everyone listening. The worst thing is to hope for the best and ignore the fact that you will be nervous. Preparation is key. Again, as Mike says, make sure that you can easily play what you have to; if there's a high bit that you are uncomfortable with, practise it a note or two higher. If it's very tiring, practise it through twice or three times. You don't ever want to be at the edge when performing. By pushing the boundaries you end up with a larger comfort zone.
  7. Bonjour_Laura

    Bonjour_Laura Member

    My MD at my band has told me he'd like me to a solo as he's very keen to get the younger members of the band
    into doing solos etc. and at uni we have 2 brass bands that rehearse twice a week so I have 4 2 hour rehearsals a week at uni and then my 2 2 hour rehearsals with my band on an evening. So I've been practicing my solo after band rehearsals so that my lip is more fatigued in the hope that when I come round to playing it I'll find it miles easier. Thanks everyone for your advice, I'll have a look at that book that sounds a good shout. If you've got any more suggestions id love to hear them but I'm gonna try the methods everyone's suggestions. Thank-you all so much :)
  8. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    'Mindfulness' exercises can be good for a quick fix. These are unlikely to get rid of nerves altogether but I use them in times of stress or anxiety with good results. Just a few seconds can take the edge off of the situation.

    I have tried to find a good source to point you to with this but a lot of them get spiritual or preachy. There is also no definitive technique for this.

    So practically, in any situation, this is my method:

    Fix your vision on an object (a light fitting maybe) or simple action (ie making a cup of tea) or even fix your hearing to something.

    Observe the object or sound carefully. Note its details silently in your head. Don't 'judge' it ie think that what you are looking at is good or bad etc. Just see or hear it.

    Ignore any distractions - let any thoughts or internal monologue pass through your head without stopping.

    Just 10-20 seconds of this can lower stress levels (for me!) from 9/10 to about 6/10. It takes some practice and is harder to do the more bothered you are - it is worth practicing a few times with low stress levels etc while you get the hang of it.
  9. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    I find just stopping doing everything for a few seconds, totally relax my shoulders, let them drop right down and mentally say to yourself "I'm happy, I'm happy" several times and I can feel my stress levels dropping dramatically. I don't know why, but it works for me.

    ~ Mr Wilx
  10. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    What helped me in the end was changing instrument from cornet to Euph. I know thats not an option for everyone however
    Nerves are a good thing, as long as you can harness them. The main thing I can remember about technique is imagine everyone in the audience is naked - or sitting on the loo - or doing something other than sitting watching you. Fix on a person or an area either in the audience or the back of the hall. Practice playing in front of a mirror or record yourself playing. Once you master that playing in front of an audience is not so bad
    Final thing - remember that when youre playing a solo your band colleagues and everyone in the hall will want you to do well, theyre not going to be critical (unless of course youre playing in a contest!!) so just try and enjoy!

    Good luck and good on you for wanting to have a go
  11. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Sometimes there are people watching that take joy in seeing people make mistakes, so if you do have a slip - you will have pleased them too :)
  12. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Maybe.....the more correct comment of course is the Majority want you to do well.....
  13. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Naturally :)
  14. Phil Green

    Phil Green Supporting Member

  15. GordonH

    GordonH Active Member

    The two general pieces of advice go something like this:

    James Galway - paraphrasing - everyone has paid to see you play so wants you to play well.
    General advice on music performance anxiety - and the worst I have ever seen - "nobody is sitting in the audience marking you out of ten for your performance". That may be true for people who play in professional orchestras but not for the likes of us.

    I suffer from anxiety when playing and I don't think i will ever overcome it, but a few years ago it got bizzarely bad. I could stand up and play a solo but I couldn't play sitting in the band. I just couldn't play side on to the audience - not a note would come out. I think this started due to one incident in a contest which un-nerved me. I have gradually got over this and part of the cure for me was playing in more social settings and learning to play in a a very relaxed manner. I did a bit of jazz playing and that helped me feel more relaxed about playing in public again.

    I do hope you find a solution.
  16. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    Already mentioned, be absolutely confident in the part you are playing, even though the sheet is there in front of you on the stand, try to learn it well enough so you can play it from memory if possible, just use the sheet of music as reference.
    Then give yourself the mental attitude of "Cop for this, it is good and I am too." Just don't get too over confident so you make a hash of it and you will be fine.

    In the bad old days of folk music long before I got into brass, I played guitar, wrote a few songs of my own, and told funny quips. No band behind me to back me up, right up there on stage all on my own with thirty or forty in an average small audience. I didn't get stuff thrown at me so I must have been at least OK at it, and it was the confident attitude that got me past that stage fright. "I can do it and know I can" is what kept me going then.
  17. wilky

    wilky Member

    Hi Laura

    I presume you have spoken to Brian about this as Im sure he would be able to help?
  18. iffytboner

    iffytboner Member

    My wife had the same problem. Absolutely fine in ensemble playing but a dribbling wreck that completely fell apart at the mention of a solo. She saw her doctor and had to be talked into accepting a prescription for mild beta blockers. They are not performance enhancing, all they do is suppress the anxiety and level the "playing field" - they don't make you any more musical or speed up your fingers or coordination, the only thing that makes you play better is practice!!
  19. Bass Bone

    Bass Bone New Member

    Hi Laura,

    I would be surprised if there were many here that have not gone through some of what you experience.

    It's a whole different ball game out there when you are in the middle of the stage and an audience in front of you.

    As someone has already said, the more you do it the easer it gets. That said however there are other bits of advice that may be helpful.

    The first is selection. Choose a piece that you are comfortable with. One where you have sorted out all the awkward bits so you are not in the position of going on stage and worrying about that difficult twiddly bit, that awkward interval etc. Find the weak spots, work on them and turn them into a strength.

    The second is preparation. Once you have chosen a solo you need to work on it. See above: Who was it that said don't practise till you get it right, practice till you can't get it wrong?

    The third is, if it's accompanied, play it through as often as possible with the accompanist or band before playing out.

    The fourth is, engage your audience. Before playing, talk to them, introduce yourself and introduce the piece you are playing. That way you will find them less intimidating and they'll feel they are part of your performance. When I was given this last piece of advice I found it really helpful.

    Best Wishes

    Best Wishes
  20. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    To follow on from Bass bones last paragraph.....
    I would not want to talk to them, if I had to introduce myself I'd be even more nervous than playing!!
    But I would agree to engage the audience. I do this by just smiling and making eye contact. Look confident, if you appear nervous the audience will be nervous for/with you. If you 'appear' confident the audience will relax.

    Preparation, preparation, preparation is the key though to getting you in that confident state of mind. Then enjoy it.