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Tips for nerves #2812849 02/09/19 07:39 PM
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Alpacacino Offline OP
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Hi everyone!

I had a competition audition today where I played Liszt's Les Jeux Deaux A La Villa Este. I had prepared many hours beforehand and was quite confident in my ability to play it well. However, I'm terrible when it comes to nerves even when I know I've prepped as best as I can and unfortunately, it gets to me a lot during my audition too. It takes me almost halfway to get over the nervousness when I start playing. Long story short, I feel that I interpreted and played the piece well but I fumbled/lost control on the right hand around bars 126-129 and while I didn't stop and did move on, it was an obvious mistake. I'm disappointed that I messed up there because I had practiced that area a lot to make sure that didn't happen but it did. I noticed that my hands were basically shaking too. I think the rest went well but I'm really worried that it's going to have a hard negative impact on the results.
Do you guys had tips for getting over nerves before performances and auditions/how to not let it affect you in the future?

Thanks!

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Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2812860 02/09/19 07:56 PM
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"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2812874 02/09/19 08:46 PM
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I've done a lot of difficult and scary things in my life, but I truly cannot think of anything that makes me as nervous and lacking confidence as publicly performing on the instrument. It happens to a lot of people, so don't beat yourself up too bad. All we can do is practice more, and practice performing more - which means take whatever engagements you can so you just get used to being on stage.

Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2812875 02/09/19 08:50 PM
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Get ticked off.

Nerves have always plagued my performances. At one particular performance about 4 years ago, I was feeling more nervous than usualy beforehand, with my hands going cold, shaking, and I was about to go play. Then I got ticked off at myself, because I had put so much work into this performance, and the shaking hands/pedal feet was going to sabotage me again. I took a big breath, did a forceful exhale, and said 'grrr'. The nerves reduced considerably. Every time I found them coming back again I forced myself to feel really annoyed, and took a big breath. I found I couldn't be annoyed/angry and nervous at the same time - I think because nervous is part of the flight response, and angry is part of the fight response.

This was the main turning point for me. Other things that I employ to help with nerves are -
- stop thinking about the audience is thinking, and instead think about communicating something to them through the music
- make sure there aren't any spots in my pieces where I feel the least bit scared while practicing, otherwise that little bit of nerves in practice turns into a huge scary monster in performance
- tune in to my body periodically during performance to make sure I'm not tightening up
- on performance day play through my pieces slowly, and calmly beforehand with the music, trusting that playing faster will not be a problem later.


Professional pianist and piano teacher.
Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2813546 02/11/19 12:05 PM
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Nerves are ok during a performance but you need to make sure they don’t cause tension that will wreck your playing (as it sounds like is happening). I tend to tense up as soon as practice becomes a performance and I recently became aware that I was unconsciously holding my breath! I need to keep thinking about relaxing because I keep tensing up and I'm unaware of it when it happens until after it’s too late and I’ve messed it up. To help with this I set up a timer on my phone that pings every 20 seconds or so which reminds me to relax and breathe. It also reminds me to lick my lips because you can’t do that and clench your teeth at the same time.

Remember what conductor Ben Zander says - performance is all about sharing, not about making an impression.

Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Arghhh] #2814884 02/14/19 12:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
I found I couldn't be annoyed/angry and nervous at the same time - I think because nervous is part of the flight response, and angry is part of the fight response.

Sorry to be that guy but nervousness is both flight and fight. grin

Re: Tips for nerves [Re: JoelW] #2814903 02/14/19 01:15 AM
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Arghhh Offline
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Originally Posted by JoelW
Originally Posted by Arghhh
I found I couldn't be annoyed/angry and nervous at the same time - I think because nervous is part of the flight response, and angry is part of the fight response.

Sorry to be that guy but nervousness is both flight and fight. grin

OK, fine. There must be another reason, because in any case it works for me grin


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Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2815602 02/15/19 07:35 AM
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I am first and foremost an improvising musician, and I never ever feel nervous about that part of my musical work. I can perform very complicated music without any nervousness at all in front of large audiences, playing jazz or improv. However, I hardly EVER manage to play something which is written down without getting shaky hands, or messing up things that I thought I had practiced and rehearsed to death. I played a lot of classical music when I was a youngster in the 70s, and as a music student back in the 80s, and I really loved it, but as a performer of such music, I could never get to grips with that fear and anxiety. Nowadays, I practice a lot of Bach, and without exception, it sounds best when nobody hears it but me.

Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2815743 02/15/19 12:44 PM
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I can suggest something that relates to "messing up" a specific passage.

For reasons I cannot explain, the brain does not understand your own internal thought to "not" do something. It doesn't process the "not," but remembers whatever else you "say/think" to yourself. For example, if a golfer knows that there is a water hazard on the left and his/her last thought before swinging is "don't go left" then invariably the ball goes left. Therefore, if you approach a passage in actual performance and, even subconsciously, remember telling yourself "not" to mess up this passage, it could trigger a problem. You are better off totally abandoning negative thoughts and replacing them with only "here is what I want to do," never "I don't want to mess up here."

Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2815811 02/15/19 02:37 PM
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Did it have a negative impact on the results?

Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2815813 02/15/19 02:41 PM
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There is a Pianist out there named Krysitan Zimerman. On a masterclass video, he said that while you are practicing, always act like you are in front of an audience. Always. Even if you are just learning a piece, pretend that people got all dressed up, and came to see you play. Setting up a similar atmosphere of a stage constantly helped me tremendously when I perform. Hope this helps!

Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2815865 02/15/19 04:09 PM
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For me, to overcome the nerves, I just play as much as I can publicly. If it has been a while since I last played, I will just go to Best Buy or any populated music store (eg. in a mall) and play away. It gets easier the more that you do it. Just go play :o)


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Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2815873 02/15/19 04:22 PM
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Another thing to try is recording yourself -- it doesn't have to be a big deal, a cell phone works well enough. The red dot triggers a lot of the same emotions as a live audience.... Plus, you can play it back and see how you really did.


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Re: Tips for nerves [Re: vmishka] #2815920 02/15/19 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by vmishka
You are better off totally abandoning negative thoughts and replacing them with only "here is what I want to do," never "I don't want to mess up here."
That's interesting. I do something similar, but also a bit different. When a harder section is coming up, I try to think "Oh boy, I get to play this part, and I bet I can really pull it off! I can hardly wait!'. Well, depending on what is going on I may not form that complete a thought, but I do try for anticipation/happiness that this is about to happen, instead of dread/worry. It seems to help me a lot.


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Re: Tips for nerves [Re: RogerRL] #2815936 02/15/19 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by RogerRL
Originally Posted by vmishka
You are better off totally abandoning negative thoughts and replacing them with only "here is what I want to do," never "I don't want to mess up here."
That's interesting. I do something similar, but also a bit different. When a harder section is coming up, I try to think "Oh boy, I get to play this part, and I bet I can really pull it off! I can hardly wait!'. Well, depending on what is going on I may not form that complete a thought, but I do try for anticipation/happiness that this is about to happen, instead of dread/worry. It seems to help me a lot.


That is a really good idea. For me, too, it makes a huge difference to actually *want* to play. The nerves will try to undermine that desire and make you feel you don't even want to be there, so it's great to cultivate excitement and anticipation.

I don't say to myself that I can pull it off, though--for me that would introduce doubt again. Instead I try to think about how wonderful it feels to play it and how beautiful it is.


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Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2815965 02/15/19 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Alpacacino
Hi everyone!
Long story short, I feel that I interpreted and played the piece well but I fumbled/lost control on the right hand around bars 126-129 and while I didn't stop and did move on, it was an obvious mistake. I'm disappointed that I messed up there because I had practiced that area a lot to make sure that didn't happen but it did.

One more thought - the lead-up to passages like these is important. I put a star on my score a few measures or more ahead of the spot. That is my reminder to make sure I'm still relaxed, thinking ahead, and staying mentally calm and confident. I usually find I can improve one or more of those things at that time, and then playing the passage is much easier. This gets practiced in as well.


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Re: Tips for nerves [Re: RogerRL] #2815997 02/15/19 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by RogerRL
I do something similar, but also a bit different. When a harder section is coming up, I try to think "Oh boy, I get to play this part, and I bet I can really pull it off! I can hardly wait!'. Well, depending on what is going on I may not form that complete a thought, but I do try for anticipation/happiness that this is about to happen, instead of dread/worry. It seems to help me a lot.

I read something a while back (I forget where) that pointed out that the physical "symptoms" of nervousness are very similar to excitement, so when you feel nervous, just tell yourself that you are feeling excited instead, and it'll help you with the nervousness. That seems to fit with your strategy.


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Re: Tips for nerves [Re: TheophilusCarter] #2816112 02/16/19 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by TheophilusCarter

I read something a while back (I forget where) that pointed out that the physical "symptoms" of nervousness are very similar to excitement, so when you feel nervous, just tell yourself that you are feeling excited instead, and it'll help you with the nervousness. That seems to fit with your strategy.


I believe I'm excited when my legs shake uncontrollably during performance (as they did towards the end of my last recital a few days ago), not nervous or anxious wink .

Whatever, I just use it to perfect my flutter pedalling, of which I'm now a master (even if I say so myself, and I do...... thumb ).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Alpacacino] #2816114 02/16/19 10:46 AM
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If your hands are shaking too much you might have a doctor prescription for beta blockers.

Re: Tips for nerves [Re: Hakki] #2816121 02/16/19 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Hakki
If your hands are shaking too much you might have a doctor prescription for beta blockers.

I actually have easy access to beta blockers (in fact, I have a box or two somewhere at home.....) but have never taken them, because I'm not making a living from my playing, and I'm not playing in front of musicians, nor being judged by anyone.

But if I was playing the piano in an audition or competition or exam, I'd take propranolol without a second thought. Almost certainly, in all the piano exams I did as a kid, I'd have got better marks if I'd taken beta blockers - every one of them were marred by nerves to a greater or lesser extent. (I still remember a couple of false starts, though I wasn't marked down for them). But I didn't know about them then (and beta blockers probably weren't licensed for kids then either).

In a 1987 study by the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, it was shown that 27% of interviewed members admitted to using beta blockers such as propranolol for musical performances. For about 10–16% of performers, their degree of stage fright is considered pathological. Propranolol is used by musicians, actors, and public speakers for its ability to treat anxiety symptoms activated by the sympathetic nervous system.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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