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I always fail when play to someone... #2748110 06/29/18 03:32 PM
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Pete Gorilla Offline OP
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Help me with advice! I play the guitar for 33 years, started in my highschool class, classmates around me, so I got used to be listened. Formed a band when I was 16, so I learned it while I performed in the class, small gigs, big gigs, and now we play all oround the world.
But piano is different... I started to learn it just 18 moths ago, practising a lot alone, 2-3 hours a day, now playing Bach inventions, and It goes well alone, but even with my teacher I always fail, - I assume because of some psychological, menthal reasons - even with parts I play fluently alone. But if I play for my wife, or relatives, friends, even stranger (salesman of a piano store) I fail instantly. I screw up right at the beginning... I think, it’s some version of stage fright, but there is no stage yet... How to solve it? What causes this? May be the good advice is thar I should “practise to play for others”, I read about it, but there are no others, or If there any, I fail. Please help with advice! Thank you!
(Sorry about my English, I am Hungarian from Budapest)

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Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748117 06/29/18 04:09 PM
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Hi Pete! Don’t worry, your English is perfectly understandable!

I think almost everyone has the same feelings - some more and some less.

Speaking from my own experience: I didn’t/ don’t feel consciously nervous before I begin but at the first little mistake, I have had problems of crashing completely!
It can really be discouraging.

One thing that helps, is to record yourself.
Making a recording is almost as stressful as playing for people in the same room.

( here in the forum we have the ABF(Adult Beginner Forum) Recitals- 4 times a year. In the first of February, May, August and November a new thread opens and you have two weeks during which you can upload your recording. On the 15th of the month everyone can listen to the recordings and make comments.
It’s one way to perform.

Another possibility is to do a Skype or Zoom meeting and play with friends.

If there is a Café near you with a piano you could look at the possibility of performing there, maybe with other students who have the same teacher ( I don’t know if you have a teacher).

In any event it takes more focus than you think is possible at first, but the more you do it, the better you get.
It’s really not easy. I have really suffered from not being able to play for friends and family- for making a mess of pieces I was sure I knew very well- it’s only very very recently that I am making some progress and feeling more confident and having some modest success.

Be brave and just understand that it really is different from your other experiences- and be patient with yourself!


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Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: casinitaly] #2748119 06/29/18 04:23 PM
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Pete Gorilla Offline OP
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Hello Casinitaly,
Thank you for the fast and detailed reply and all of the advices! Actually I already purchased a cheap little clip from ebay that adjustably can hold a smartphone on a microphone stand, to record myself, because I read about the certain similarity of recording and performing for people. This is a really good idea. Unfortunatly there is no place here there I could be able to play, but I cannot wait the time when I can upload some videos here! It’s a great challange!
Yes, I have a nice, senior teacher, very experienced! This situation is getting better with het, because I got used to her presence, and also my wife too.
So thank you for your reply again!
Peter

Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748123 06/29/18 04:45 PM
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You’re very welcome Peter!

I look forward to hearing a performance from you in the August recital!


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Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748134 06/29/18 06:07 PM
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Welcome Pete, I can’t give you any advice as I have the same issue. I’ll 2nd the Thank You to casinitaly for the input. I look forward to hearing of your progress.


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Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748145 06/29/18 06:56 PM
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I have the same issues playing in front of other people. My playing also falls apart when playing an unfamiliar piano in an unfamiliar place, even when I am by myself. Some of it is related to my quick glances not going to the same location at the music or toward the keys. Small differences in tuning can also throw me off as can different surfaces on the keys.

*shrug*
Like everything else, I just need more practice.


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Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748146 06/29/18 06:57 PM
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Another thing you might try is improvisation, not with a view to playing clever things or impressing anyone, but just creating sounds you enjoy. Although I cannot say I am ever at ease playing set pieces in front of people, I have noticed that the worry completely vanishes when I improvise, wherein I doubt it would matter if seven or seven thousand were listening. This might, of course, just be my personal trait, but it could be worth a try.


"We shall always love the music of the masters, but they are all dead and now it's our turn." - Llewelyn Jones, my piano teacher
Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748151 06/29/18 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Pete Gorilla
Help me with advice! I play the guitar for 33 years, started in my highschool class, classmates around me, so I got used to be listened. Formed a band when I was 16, so I learned it while I performed in the class, small gigs, big gigs, and now we play all oround the world.
But piano is different... I started to learn it just 18 moths ago, practising a lot alone, 2-3 hours a day, now playing Bach inventions, and It goes well alone, but even with my teacher I always fail, - I assume because of some psychological, menthal reasons - even with parts I play fluently alone. But if I play for my wife, or relatives, friends, even stranger (salesman of a piano store) I fail instantly. I screw up right at the beginning... I think, it’s some version of stage fright, but there is no stage yet... How to solve it? What causes this? May be the good advice is thar I should “practise to play for others”, I read about it, but there are no others, or If there any, I fail. Please help with advice! Thank you!
(Sorry about my English, I am Hungarian from Budapest)

I've started reading a particular book to help me with my performance anxiety as I realize that I can't understand anything or even see the score when it strikes (!!!!), so I might have more insight into my condition after I am done. I do have a theory about why you have no fears with guitar but freeze up on piano, and that is one word: "confidence". I suppose you are confident in your guitar playing and know you can handle and recover from any condition -- missed chord, missed beat, broken string, loose peg, etc. I expect you've encountered issues, recovered, had a great performance to good audience response, adding to your self confidence with guitar playing. But you're a beginner at piano and make mistakes. And when you make mistakes, you're less adept at recovery. And this only feeds the anxiety. You worry about a mistake and soon you can't even play a note without a mistake. OK, I'm projecting a lot on you -- but actually I am really talking about myself who I've found can neither play in front of the teacher, nor my wife! crazy But as also suggested above, I have been taking "baby steps" by making recordings for my wife, but this doesn't seem to be helping the main performance anxiety though...

Last edited by Tyrone Slothrop; 06/29/18 07:19 PM.

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Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748153 06/29/18 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Pete Gorilla
Help me with advice! I play the guitar for 33 years, started in my highschool class, classmates around me, so I got used to be listened. Formed a band when I was 16, so I learned it while I performed in the class, small gigs, big gigs, and now we play all oround the world.
But piano is different... I started to learn it just 18 moths ago, practising a lot alone, 2-3 hours a day, now playing Bach inventions, and It goes well alone, but even with my teacher I always fail, - I assume because of some psychological, menthal reasons - even with parts I play fluently alone. But if I play for my wife, or relatives, friends, even stranger (salesman of a piano store) I fail instantly. I screw up right at the beginning... I think, it’s some version of stage fright, but there is no stage yet... How to solve it? What causes this? May be the good advice is thar I should “practise to play for others”, I read about it, but there are no others, or If there any, I fail. Please help with advice! Thank you!
(Sorry about my English, I am Hungarian from Budapest)


I do not have any words of wisdom for you. However, WELCOME to the forum!


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Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748155 06/29/18 07:24 PM
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Might it just be simple distraction rather than stage fright? I've had that problem for years when playing fiddle music, and the only help seems to be playing more with others. And getting better over time, of course.

I was recently talking with my teacher about this sort of thing. She said that most advanced beginners have this falling-apart problem at some point. What seems to happen is that we just start feeling like things are clicking, but they aren't clicking well enough to handle extra distractions. Playing on a different instrument, in front of different people, at a different location etc are all enough to make the proverbial monkey wrench appear.

Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748158 06/29/18 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Pete Gorilla
I screw up right at the beginning... I think, it’s some version of stage fright, but there is no stage yet... How to solve it? What causes this? May be the good advice is thar I should “practise to play for others”, I read about it, but there are no others, or If there any, I fail. Please help with advice! Thank you!
(Sorry about my English, I am Hungarian from Budapest)

You are right in that playing to others must be practiced, too. For me it helps a lot to focus on the score instead of trying to play from memory.

I also find that recording is an entirely different beast. Recordings are much more serious than just playing to an audience, as the entire performance is stored forever, while nobody remembers your little mistakes unless he or she is specially trained for that (like your teacher).


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Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748217 06/30/18 04:55 AM
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I feel the same way, Pete. I played drums for years throughout high school and college and performed at shows all the time. Now that I'm new to piano, I keep telling my teacher "I played this so well when I was practicing: now I sound terrible!" I agree with what Tyrone said about confidence: I definitely don't have a lot of it at this stage, and I think that's the majority of the problem. Recording myself also makes me tense up quite a bit, so trying that more often will probably help.

I didn't know about the recitals: I'll have to try something for August perhaps!

Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748220 06/30/18 05:40 AM
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Pete Gorilla Offline OP
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Thank you friends for all the great comments here! Yes, the different pianos are also a big problem.. I play 4 pianos. I have a Yamaha U2 1963 and I have a Roland F140 digital, with PHA4 action at home. I have a StudioLogic 880 hammer action midi keyboard at me workstation in my office (I write music for the TV station I fork for), and my teacher has a very old, bad condition Vienna action piano, least 120 years old and the keys are very loose. (Even moving a bit right left, when I touch them. So when I can, I practice on my Yamaha upright, but of course, - because I have family - it's a rare opportunity, so I mostly use the Roland. If I learn something on the Roland, hard to play on the Upright, because of the heavier (normal...) action. If I play something well on both, I cannot play it at the teacher, because of her totally different grand piano. The feel, the look, her small downtown apartment, even the different atmosphere of her home. And I go there from my work, 1 hour traffic jam, finding parking spot, running to not get late, and I arrive in the last minute, my brain still in the traffic, my hands still feel the steering wheel, I hear the horns, the cars in my head, and then "Open your book, and start with this or that", I barely know where I am... So I already start with a complete failure and she thinks that I did't practise enough, so we stuck with the same piece again and again. However, with normal circumstances (alone) I play it fluently. This is a catch 22... I should have an hour of playing before meet the teacher.
And the environment is really a serious thing... I just came back from the US, we had two shows in California with my rock band, one in LA and one in Santa Ana. You probably know "living pianos.com" and the guy Robert Estrin, he has tons of videos on Youtube. His store in Santa Ana, so I decided, to visit him. I did... I wasn't able to play a single note on all of those descent pianos. OK, I know, my brain wasn't completely in that mode, but I realised a serious fact: If you are able to do something in Central-Europe, it doesn't" mean that you can do the same thing in California. I play Bach inventions (in my newbie level...) in the winter Budapest or in the smoggy summer downtown in my hometown, but I cannot do the same thing on the other side the earth under the palm trees with the salty smell of the ocean. Such a paradox...
And yes, the guitar should be the matter of confidence. I can play the same thing from LA to Moscow, because I know every details, I know, how to manage mistakes, and I know that the audience bought tickets to see my band and that boosts me, and we doing it with this rockabilly band for 23 years. Same songs, same members.
PS: I cannot wait the August recital!!!

Last edited by Pete Gorilla; 06/30/18 05:45 AM.
Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748226 06/30/18 06:19 AM
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Oh, good discussion, this.

Actually I can say ME TOO to every posting here above. Everyone. I remember the horrible recitals when I was a child, or rather a teen. How I was sitting at the piano, thinking "what is this?" because the keys seemed strange. I could not see the notes. I started to play and I got shocked at what I heard because it sounded so miserable. And then first mistake, cold sweat breaking out, hands freezing, then total stop, seconds that felt like years while I tried to recover, start somewhere ... and then tumbling off the stage. There was applause, I suppose. I just couldn't hear it. It was like realizing I just had escaped from an accident that could have killed me.

Fast forward 30 years and then, just a few years ago, my teacher arranged a little recital. Small audience. And my first performance in decades ... and me so much wiser.

First, I have learned that you must be well prepared. Of course. "It seemed to work this morning" isn't good preparation. You must find every little place in the piece where you are not totally sure what you are doing, and make sure you DO know what to do. You must be able to stop everywhere and start playing everywhere. You must have challenged yourself by playing it in different tempi. Ideally you also have played your piece on different pianos, or at least you have been given plenty of time to rehearse on the performance piano.

Second, stage fright isn't going on for hours. It is the first moment that is dreadful. In one of the recitals I described above, I played two movements of a Clementi sonatina. The first one was AWFUL in every aspect, I could have died there. Then I took some deep breaths and played the second movement - no problems at all. I have done the same when I studied ballet. First entrance on stage was like facing an execution squad. Second entrance was just fun.
In the recent recital I had, I knew all these things. We sat on stage all the time. We started with an improvisation session - my teaching laying a bass accompaniment, we (three adults students) shifting seats and doing improvisations to this accompaniment. Of course we had practiced this routine earlier, but it was really an improvisation. Great fun! We could have done that for hours.
Then we had different performances. I played 4-hands with my teacher, it went well. I even had to replace the singer of the evening, as she had got a cold. I cannot sing, I hate to sing, but I was forced to do. A duet with my teacher, I suppose it was not that bad after all. And so, when it finally was my turn for my solo piece, I only was nervous enough to be focused. Not in panic!

Third, I had prepared myself mentally. I have been a big fan of self-hynosis during my adult life, and it has helped me so much in so many situations. For this, I had imagined myself standing on stage, receiving cheers and even flowers after a nice performance. Then I went back, felt myself playing the final chord, then standing up and receiving cheers and flowers ... Then I went back further, to the middle of a piece when I really did well, and so on until I was at the situation when I entered the stage, ready to make success. (Of course I was a world class performer with a huuuuge audience in my imagination, not a little amateur student playing for 20 friends in the local city hall ...)
At first, it was hard even during hypnosis. I got stage fright even there. But later on, when I did it for real, all went exactly as I had tried to imagine. In the middle of the piece I felt myself smiling in triumph, because I could hear that I did well! Yup, I made one or two mistakes as well, but I ignored them and I don't think anyone noticed. I ended with a good final chord, raised from my chair and heard the applause, it was the longest that evening, and I felt that I finally had defeated a life-long curse! (I even got flowers, to my big surprise!)

But the most important factor may be that I am much older now, I am not as shy as I used to be. I don't think we should force little kids to perform if they don't really want to. At least I don't think we should force them to play solo too early. It looks so cute with these little progidies in their fine dresses and big bows, but for every successful progidy you have 50 children who have a nightmare experience and eventually quit piano playing.


Now, after this long story, which I hope gave you some useful tips in the middle of my rantings, I also want to point at the mechanisms behind stage fright. When we sit at home, practicing, we know it is just practice. We allow ourselves to make mistakes. If something goes wrong, we calmly take care of it, start all over, experiment a little ... But as soon we know someone is listening, Practice turns into Performance. Actually I HATE when people listen at my practice, because then I feel forced to "perform" - to just play through the pieces, not play them more than once, to skip over the mistakes instead of investigating them, or to learn something new. My first attempts with a new piece are awful to listen at.
So our mind shifts from Practice Mode to Performance Mode, and in the latter you automatically add performance anxiety and all the other unpleasant things, as it is a trained reaction. The situation is not fun anymore, you want to escape. You even sincerely start to doubt if piano playing is something for you at all, as you find the situation so horrible. You also feel judged: you know it sounds awful and you think they think "how bad she is". This hurts, as you know you can do better.

I have developed a habit to visit piano shops whenever I can, with a package of notes in my bag (because I suck at memorizing). I ask "can I try some pianos out?" and they always let you, once they realize that you are not just going to do a limping horror version of "Heart and Souls". You see, when you play reasonably good, you are doing the shop a favour. You give demos for free to every new customer that enters, that creates a nice atmosphere. And they don't even notice when you mess up a bit. (But play your best pieces, not Hanon ... or your very first attempt with the Ocean Etude ...)
Then you can round it up with a nice chit-chat with the salesperson about piano models. I love pianos, not just piano music, and I have plans to buy myself a new instrument later on, so I have plenty to discuss. Some salesmen are more than happy to talk, as they also love pianos (and really want to sell me one, hahaha).
You WILL eventually find it easier to play in venues that are not your home, and with strangers moving behind your back, and one day you will feel that "so what if I mess up".

A last tip is already mentioned: improvise. Play on only the black keys, then it will never sound false and you will appear incredibly skilled! smile

Last edited by ghosthand; 06/30/18 06:20 AM.
Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748275 06/30/18 09:32 AM
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There is the old saying, that I'm paraphrasing here;

When you are performing, your usually at 80-85% of your practice level.

So, IMO, make sure your first song, or riffs if improvising, are second nature. Probably still won't be 100%, but your confidence will be better and can build from there.

Another thing I noticed, as I play and perform other instruments; Guitar, Mandolin, Is that, on Piano, You don't really look at the
audience almost at all. Of course, if its a recital or performance, the piano may be turned sideways. But, you don't have to
look at them. This in itself, with calming breathing, should alleviate some of your nervousness, vs your guitar playing.

Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748294 06/30/18 10:43 AM
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Hi Pete,

This is very normal reaction especially if you learn to play the piano lately. It is psychological and you could study and prepare for it, but I think the most important and effective way to solve this kind of issue is to perform THE SAME PIECE over and over regularly, hopefully weekly. After performing 3 or 4 times, you can start to feel different about performing.

Good luck!


"Men can do all things if they will" ...Kenji...
Re: I always fail when play to someone... [Re: Pete Gorilla] #2748296 06/30/18 10:44 AM
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A lot of times depends on your confidence in the pieces you are performing. Don't like to generalize for everybody. I started playing violin in high school before I picked up piano later. Used to memorize the pieces I was playing. Tend to feel that if I have to rely on sight-reading (reading off the pages), I get nervous and play a lot of wrong notes. Also memorize many of my piano pieces.

Before you play for a teacher or a real audience, I find that it is helpful to get a few people in the family or friends to sit around as the audience. To keep yourself less nervous, never start playing a piece right away once you sit down. Relax for half a minute or a minute, take a deep breath before playing.

During the Christmas break I was at a party. There was a electronic keyboard in the room. Sat down and played a movement out of the Beethoven Sonata I was working on. The few wrong notes didn't seem to matter. Had an appreciative audience. Next invited 2 friends over. Played several church hymns I worked on the week before. It was in a relaxed family setting. Gave my friends copies of the words to sing along. Once you get used to playing for a small audience, gets easier to go on stage.


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