Learning just where to panic

Posted by: tangleweeds

Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 04:59 AM

Sometimes it seems like what I'm accidentally doing is teaching myself to panic at certain ritualized places in the score. Not coincidentally, these are the more complicated or awkward places, the places where I make mistakes. But what they sprout into are ritualized places to panic: thinking "Ack, here's the place I always screw up!" leading to adrenaline and sudden mental blankness (no idea what comes next, the notes on the staff stop making sense -> abrupt stop or random note).

I believe that what I am witnessing here is the act of "learning my mistake."

Posted by: BazC

Re: Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 06:12 AM

Sounds more like Red dot phobia to me. You know that feeling where your playing ability and your panic threshold drops several notches whenever you try and record yourself?

I think it boils down to caring too much about your playing, as though world peace depended on it or something! If you can get your head into a place where you try your best but if you do play a bum note what the hell! Next time you might get it right but if you don't no one is going to contract an incurable disease right?

If you can think like that I think you'll enjoy your playing more and probably make fewer mistakes!
Posted by: DragonPianoPlayer

Re: Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 07:55 AM


You might want to find a copy of "The Inner Game Of Music." Another book that might be useful is "The Perfect Wrong Note." Both are books that I think every pianist needs to read.

Posted by: NancyM333

Re: Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 08:30 AM

Tangleweeds, a teacher once listened to me play and could tell right when I was tensing up, fearing the mistake that I consistently made. He had me stop and play the note that was often the mistake, then play the one before it. I went back and forth between these two until it was very comfortable. Then he had me back up a few notes; if I hesitated at the problem spot, we went back to the two note practice, then backed up again. Now I can recognize those spots myself--places where I begin to panic because "I never land on the right note in this jump" or other problem thoughts. Once I practiced in this specific way, I felt confident that it was going to be right, and I lost the panicky feeling.

Posted by: Opus45

Re: Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 10:01 AM

All good advice tangleweeds,

This helps me: I've learned to practice those very sections that give me problems independently of the rest of the piece. For example, if I find a section is particularly tricky or problematic for me, then I'll often practice only that very section (and perhaps part of the section preceeding it), instead of always practicing the piece by playing the entire composition. Then after I've done this a while (days, weeks, whatever) I'll put them together again and the speed bump usually resolves itself.
Posted by: Kymber

Re: Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 10:08 AM

Originally posted by DragonPianoPlayer:

You might want to find a copy of "The Inner Game Of Music." Rich [/b]
I second that recommendation.

Also, If there are particular places that give you trouble or you think might be difficult, tackle them first, play them until they are easy and then play the whole song and when you get to that part you will already know you can do it. \:\)
Posted by: rocket88

Re: Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 10:51 AM

I had a boogie=woogie piece that one particular section always caused fear.

So I super-practiced it, dissecting it to find all the trouble spots, did technique exercises to address the problem areas, etc, in short, did everything necessary to make it work.

The process took a few months, but what it did was turn that section of the music into one of the easiest parts to play, so much so that I looked forward to both playing the piece, and to playing that section.

But I still found myself tensing up....so the final step was to consciously change my emotional reaction to the piece, and to the section.

I did that by first starting with an affirmation that I love the piece and can play it well, and took a couple of deep breaths prior to starting.

Also, as I approached that former trouble spot, I consciously took another deep breath, and relaxed my shoulders.

This became so ingrained that now, when I play it, I automatically take a deep breath and relax as that part of the music approaches.

What I learned from that is that the anxiety response of playing something can be "practiced out", not only by practicing the piece, but by practicing a change in the emotion response
Posted by: foxyw

Re: Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 09:39 PM

Playing the piece "backwards" has helped me. My teacher recommends breaking the piece into sections and then work backwards through it. Play the last section of a piece until your comfortable with it. Then play the second last and the last in sequence, and so on through the piece until you are comfortable playing the whole piece. It gets you to play the last parts of the piece many times. I have been working on a piece called "Aragonaise" and the last page of the piece is very challenging for me. Backwards practice has helped me gain confidence in this section and to be able to, at this point, get through it although it still needs lots of work.
Posted by: Arabesque

Re: Learning just where to panic - 01/16/09 11:07 PM

I find that even after you have played a piece one thousand times these little bumps come up. Because, the information was not fully processed or is conflicting leading to insecurity. You then play through whole piece and when you come off you train your brain to repeat the mistake.

Based on my own experiences and studies with Chopin etudes, I'd first play through the trouble spot as suggested above and isolate each finger. It is important to feel comfortable on each digit. Then play the sequence of the passage at a tempo slow enough for you to feel comfortable. Playing these fragments at tempo is very important and avoid jarrs or breaks during a repetition. Practice that seven to ten times and each time think of your body response. Start with the feeling in your shoulders. Is it tense there? Sense your back, shoulders, arms and wrists and body whole. Repeat the passage and at the same time look in different places: at your hands, at the score, at the ceiling, closing your eyes. If you still feel tense go back to the beginning and start again.

Finally at the same metronome tempo play the two leading bars before the problem area and the two succeeding bars. Do this for another seven to ten times.

Play the whole passage through at the same tempo including the parts you play well. This will serve to integrate the adjustments you have practiced into the whole. And again play this for at least seven times. Then take a break and stretch or rest. You have just reprogrammed your brain with new data. Next day you start again where you left off and notch up the tempo carefully by degrees until you are "walking" the piece. You then work on that tempo for as long as it takes until you feel integrated and in control as well as relaxed.

This will take as long as it takes to overwrite the previous errant patterns you have learned. But if you experience a feeling of comfort and enjoyment during your "walking" phase you will accelerate the process. Following the positive mental programming approach with absolute certainty, you will be able to play solidly and error free and with total relaxation.