Contest nerves

cornyandy

Member
If I ate Bananas before going on stage there would be something funny coming through the bell even the smell makes me sick, I think the chips are a good idea combined with haddock for preference
 

subtlevib

Member
I have a motto - nicked from somewhere, obviously - "Don't practise till you get it right, practise till you can't get it wrong", the idea being that whatever the performance throws at you, you'll still pull it out of the bag, even on your worst day.
 

RossAB

Member
I have a motto - nicked from somewhere, obviously - "Don't practise till you get it right, practise till you can't get it wrong", the idea being that whatever the performance throws at you, you'll still pull it out of the bag, even on your worst day.
I was in a rehearsal on Tuesday evening where our guest conductor said something similar, in that he tells his students to play something right 10 times in a row. So even if you get to the 9th time and then mess it up, you start again until you get it consistently right. That way when it comes round to performing it, it seems simple, and you know you've played it right that many times before, so this is just one more time.
 

MoominDave

Well-Known Member
I was in a rehearsal on Tuesday evening where our guest conductor said something similar, in that he tells his students to play something right 10 times in a row. So even if you get to the 9th time and then mess it up, you start again until you get it consistently right. That way when it comes round to performing it, it seems simple, and you know you've played it right that many times before, so this is just one more time.
I've known people who used to insist on doing that. What used to happen was that they would psych themselves out on the next to last occasion or so, mess up, and then have to start over again after nearly getting to the end several times in a row. Net result: huge stress. Being around it, I used to think: "I'm sure learning a passage doesn't need to be this hard...".
 
We've been encouraged to eat bananas if we think we're likely to suffer from nerves. The thinking behind it is that the potassium in them is linked to slightly lowering heart rate, plus you get the slower release sugar as well. Dates and potatoes are also high in potassium, so if there is any truth in it, chips should also do the trick...

our Flugel Palyer tried Bananas a couple of years ago on the conductors advise, but found it totally dried her mouth out and she really struggled.
 

Accidental

Supporting Member
Our MD encouraged the whole band to try bananas a few years ago, and a lot of us do it at every contest now - I have no idea whether there's something to the potassium theory or he's just created a mass placebo effect, but it definitely works for me and I'm not the only one!
 

Bayerd

Active Member
Our MD encouraged the whole band to try bananas a few years ago, and a lot of us do it at every contest now - I have no idea whether there's something to the potassium theory or he's just created a mass placebo effect, but it definitely works for me and I'm not the only one!
Yep, that's what we found also. Jury's still out as to whether it's a placebo or not, but it certainly seems to work.
 

4thmandown

Member
I used to suffer terribly from nerves about 15 years ago, and had an absolute disaster when sat on the end chair. Not long after I told myself "b********" to this, there's far worse things that could be happening" and through sheer ******-mindedness got over it.

Going through 3 Ofsted inspections probably cauterised any nerves that I had left though!

Whatever works, use it, but I would advise not going down the medicine route.
 

LynneW

Member
One of my previous conductors used to tell all the band to lick their fingers and then wet their ears. We probably used to look really stupid but almost 10 years after I left that band I still find myself going through the ritual on stage, and his current band are probably now doing the same
 

cockaigne

Member
Band nerves on contest stage = instant vibrato :)

As a player, I never suffered from stage fright until I went through an utterly humiliating experience at audition for NYO (I'd got bronchitis on top of 'flu and had been told not to play; was dosed up on all available legal drugs and naturally made a complete **** of myself) - it took five or six years (including four at college) to get over that.

Contest nerves are different - players may not feel nervous themselves, but can pick up on it if other people are on edge, creating a kind of empathatic domino effect. As a player I like to know that I can play the part, know exactly what is required of me, and can reproduce that under any circumstances (including playing one page of 'Carnaval Romain' from memory last year after a page-turn went wrong).

As a conductor, I aim for the same thing - I ask players not to anything extra (heroics can be an unknown quantity) but simply to reproduce what we've worked on in rehearsals; to play with confidence as we know we can - and to enjoy the performance. If we can enjoy ourselves on the contest stage, that undoubtedly helps us to feel comfortable, and that surely comes across in the performance - I've had testimony from players of 60 years' experience to back this up.
 

t-horn77

New Member
As it's been said before there are lots of ways to manage nerves and different things work for different people.
Nerves used to really effect my contest performances - it was horrible I felt as if I was watching myself and had no control over my playing, my mind was blank and I just had to hope that the practice I had done was enough to get me through it.
I tried lots of ways of trying to stop the nerves, spoke to lots of folks , and the best bit advice I recieved was dont try and fight the nerves just learn how to manage them and use them to your advantage (i.e. ease of the vib and let the wobbles take care of it!)
So I still get nervous, but before we go on stage I make sure none of the other players see my nerves and keep myself to myself.
I dont agree with 'eyeballing' the audience - I keep my head down just look at my music, take some good long deep breaths and focus on playing for myself firstly , then the band.
Prior to this at rehearsal's , when we do any run through I mentally run through the same process of going through registration, waiting and then walking out on the stage - so basically I focus on not just practicing the performance but also the build up too.
As for any solo/ exposed passages - when practicing these at home I go through the same process of picturing being on stage - again practice the day, so when the nerves start to build up you have mentally gone through this and know how it will effect you i.e. which note you will more than likley split etc..
I will also practice playing my part with just the mouthpeice as this seems to help with embouchure and muscle memory.

So accept the fact you will get nervous, practice how this will effect you and on the day.

Basically it all comes back to the same thing practice, practice, practice

It seems to work for me anyway
 

Thirteen Ball

Active Member
As Nethers will no doubt confirm, I used to suffer horribly from nerves in my early contesting days at co-op. In fact some of my best performances came of the back of situations where I already had too much on my mind to think about being nervous - be it jet lag, personal crises etc. Thankfully I had three bulletproof players above me and I could also take confidence from their ability.

One thing that I found changed my perspective completely is a belief in the conductor. I've been across a lot of contest stages in my time, and having that confidence in the MD that they know exactly what's going on, and that everything will happen exactly as it did in rehearsal is a massive calming influence. Never was this truer than when working under Mike Fowles. I found that I simply couldn't get nervous with a commanding presence like his in the middle of the band. You knew if you lost count in a group of bars rest, you just had to look up at him and he'd bring you in. And that there was no way on earth he would possibly miss you. In short, he was so cool and collected in every situation that it felt like you were back in the practice room - so what was left to worry about?

In other circumstances, one of the things that did my nerves a lot of good was getting thoroughly sick of it all and walking away from banding for a while. Or at least trying to. During my 'retirement' I walked across four contest stages with various bands, not really because I necessarily wanted to be out there contesting, but as favours to friends.

It's a liberating experience to enter a contest not caring if you win or lose, because then you're only up against yourself. When I want to play well for my mates in the band and for myself, but don't actually care where I finish, I find it far easier to play without inhibitions and constantly thinking "ooh that's cost us a point there" and I've actually found that that with a healthy neglect for the whole process of contesting, I play better because I'm not fretting over every note. And If I do split one, a small mental mutter of discontent and a resolution not to split the next one is all that happens, rather than a 'rabbit-in-the-headlights' moment as has happened previously when I've knocked over something obvious.

At one such contest, with a bass section comprising players of a similar mentality, the band actually finished stone dead last because of some very untidy work in other sections, but won the best basses prize because we kept our heads and kept right on doing what we were supposed to be doing when nerves were fraying all around us.

Which is another point in itself as I very rarely worry about the inevitable clips and splits from other players now, because the only thing I'm concerned about is playing my part to the best of my abilities. So when a soloist knocks over a note or fluffs an entry these days, obviously I hear it - but I still just come in and played as normal. If everyone does that, the ship steadies, and those who are feeling nervous find confidence in those around them - so it can stop the 'Domino effect' that one nervous performer can cause.

It's something I've carried forward into performances since being back in banding full-time, and I think it's stood me in good stead. Once you realise the only thing you can control is your own performance of your own part, you can stop worrying about potential mistakes elsewhere. Following on from that, if you can then come offstage at a contest knowing that the performance you personally produced was the best it could have been, then that's all there is to worry about - and that the result will take care of itself.

Once you reach that point, it's far easier to just walk out there and play.
 

towse1972

Active Member
I suffer from terrible performance anxiety. It's something that has only come on over the last 5 years. It results in me becoming light headed and i am very easily distracted.

I have played top man for years for my band but as I'm getting older it's something i just dont enjoy anymore. So, i have stepped down and i take beta-blockers now........Fantastic combination!
 

michellegarbutt

Supporting Member
I've given up playing baritone in a contest situation due to nerves. I was terrible for shaking and fluffing entrances. I now play percussion instead. Although I'm a better baritone player than percussionist and on percussion I don't have anyone to cover any of my parts if I get it wrong I just don't suffer from the same level of nerves and can relax and enjoy contest day much more.
I always was contrary
 

kierendinno

Member
They're not a problem at all in band contests. My argument is that given the amount of hot air spouted about other forms of cheating, it ought to be. The use of beta blockers is, to borrow a phrase, banding's dirty little secret, and nobody seems to want to address it.
Realise this is a little bit dated now but was reading with interest your views on the subject.

I'd really question whether or not the use of beta-blockers can be characterised as cheating; they aren't really the primary medication used to deal with anxiety and are used for a variety of medical conditions that indeed may be prevalent in the banding world given the demographics represented in bands. For that reason, I don't think you can ever really attempt to tackle the use of beta-blockers in banding. Most GPs would be very cautious about prescribing them because of the long-term effects the drug can have, so simply turning up to your GP and asking for a prescription because you're worried about your performance probably wouldn't work (in my experience). However, in an amateur movement I think it's unworkable to try and limit the use of them; if someone has been prescribed them by a clinical/medical professional then it isn't really for anyone else to pass judgement on them.

For that reason alone the moral question about whether or not they should be used to tackle performance anxiety is a moot one; there isn't really any way to police it, unless we want to exclude all people on beta-blockers, regardless of the reason they are on them.

It is an interesting question though; in so many ways brass banding can be likened to a sport, so it is valid to question whether some people have the advantage by taking such medications.
 

diddlydoc

New Member
I've found this whole subject very interesting. I have only recently got involved in contesting, have grown up playing solely in the SA. Contest nerves have plagued me from the start (about 6 years) and something that I just assumed I couldn't do anything about. I did get advice from people / internet as to how I could deal with them but nothing worked. However, about two years ago, I was put on beta - blockers due to a genetic heart condition and instantly my contest nerves eased. I don't know if it was actually the beta - blockers or it was the confidence being on them gave me, but I still do everything I did previously in the lead up to a contest performance but on the stage, I am pretty much in control of my nerves. Hopefully drug testing won't be brought into brass banding as I am on my medication for life. I know I haven't added anything new in my post but I thought someone might be interested in my experience.
 
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