Performance anxiety - Even when playing for friends..

Discuss the joys and pratfalls of performance

Postby celia » Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:40 am

The issue for me is not so much any form of anxiety - although my hands do shake when I am nervous - more that I just seem to always make mistakes when playing for or in front of other people. This is even when I know the piece extremely well and can play it perfectly when I'm on my own!! Generally I get half way through and I'm completely "in the music" and enjoying it and then the dreaded "Wow, I haven't made a mistake yet" thought comes along and then I do. Even if I manage to cover up and continue without stopping the rest of my performance is generally a bit of a mess and nothing near as good as it should or could be. As I have recently started teaching piano, I feel it is time to put this terrible habit behind me. Has anyone else overcome a similar problem and How?? or got any advice, i would be eternally grateful. One skill which is not my "forte" (pardon the pun) is playing from memory without the sheet music as I was never taught this and passed all my exams with the music in front of me. I know that playing from memory would help my problem a bit but I also have trouble with this... So any advice on either of these issues would be very welcome...
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Postby jenscott90 » Sun Aug 24, 2008 11:04 am

Hi Celia!

I found the same problem, especially when I was young. I was a perfectionist (and my dad would tease me if I hit a clunker, which irritated me and made me not want to play in front of him ever!), so I felt like I should be able to play every time perfectly. I felt like I was letting myself and my family down if I didn't get it right. Of course, that was when I was young and now I know that's probably not really how they felt at all! :)

What changed things for me was when I started playing organ in church. Now, this was a very small church, and I played the organ like a piano...all on one keyboard (there were two) and I never used the foot pedals. But they needed an accompanist and at age 13 I started playing in front of people every week. My hands would sweat, I would have tummy problems not to be too specific, and generally worked myself up into a nervous wreck and I always made little mistakes here or there...one time I forgot to play part of the liturgy, I was so distracted by all the thoughts running through my head in panic mode!!! :)

After a few months, though, that got better, and I had such wonderful encouragement from all the people there that it became less about if I would mess things up and more about how beautiful I could make it sound. When I was able to focus on making it the best I could do at that moment, I really felt more relaxed and enjoyed it. I don't play for our church now...I did a few years ago and still got those butterflies for a while until it became routine...but I think I could do it again if I needed to. Now I hesitate because I know all those musicians at our much larger church are fantastic musicians and how could I ever play at the same standard as they are! Classical repertoire is one thing, and playing along, but Christian praise and worship/rock and doing improv as they sometimes do is not as easy as I wish it were for me. I've always been a sheet music girl. Learning to play from chord charts and "memory" of the song (especially the intro...they all tend to blend together in my memory!) has been a very big challenge in my adult playing. :)

SO, find a group of musicians you can meet with regularly, if you can, church or not, and play with them...you're basically playing in front of them! Then add family members to an audience or perform in front of a group of some kind. Make it stuffed animals at first, if you have to!!! Most of all, try to live in the moment as much as you can, leave the thinking for some other time and let it flow right out of your fingers. You know the song...it's in there...just let it come out. :)

Let us know how it goes!

Jen
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Postby Tranquillo » Mon Aug 25, 2008 12:48 am

Hi Cecilia, this has been spoken about before on the board
before ... I'd write more but I have to head off to my lesson
Preventing Performance Nerves

Hope this helps
Music is organised sound
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Postby celia » Sat Sep 13, 2008 11:24 pm

Hi Jen and Becibu and thanks again for your advice. Funny thing, what I neglected to mention is that up until I stopped having piano lessons 12 years ago (when i became an adult and work and housework took all my time and I had no money...usual story) I used to perform A LOT!! in addition to my exams... I majored in Performing Arts for my final 2 years in college (music, dance and drama), just goes to show how easily you can lose confidence...
Still it has helped to be woken up to this part of my history!!! Although I remember feeling nervous when performing then, I don't remember it ever completely destroying a performance (well maybe twice but still I guess it wasn't destroyed cos i was accompanying and had to keep going...)
I have recently found an advert in the newspaper for a piano group who meet for fun - I think the real issue now is that I'm worried about being judged as inadequate as I no longer have a teacher telling me what I should be aiming for (or is this just an excuse? Maybe I am just scared of judgement anyway...) I will ring them soon I promise...
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Postby jenscott90 » Tue Sep 16, 2008 9:09 am

It definitely doesn't take long to lose your finesse when you don't have time to practice or money to get feedback from someone who can help you! And it's inevitable that there are periods of time where your focus is naturally going to be in other places. That's as it should be, or else you have a very one-sided life. Music and piano should be a joy, no matter what level you play. Do what you can, enjoy it above all!! Never judge yourself too harshly...you have more people to think about than just yourself and many more responsibilities. Just play and have fun and go make those new friends!! :)
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Postby Tranquillo » Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:43 am

celia wrote:I have recently found an advert in the newspaper for a piano group who meet for fun - I think the real issue now is that I'm worried about being judged as inadequate as I no longer have a teacher telling me what I should be aiming for (or is this just an excuse? Maybe I am just scared of judgement anyway...) I will ring them soon I promise...

... I can see were you are coming from, I was in the same situation once. I couldn't stand judgment unless it came from my own teacher and even then, sometimes it annoyed he and made me think that I was not capable.

Now, I'm almost addicted(?) to feedback. Its strange really. But Celia, I think its the first step that is the really difficult one, after that it gets easier and easier I promise.
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Postby Tranquillo » Wed Oct 22, 2008 5:43 am

Celia, when you did your exams what did you do when you waited for the last 10 minutes?

What's happening with performing?
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