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Stage Fright


Gary75

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I guess this is a pretty personal topic to many people, I just wanted to share mine as Im sure the ones who have experienced it could offer good advice to not only me but others who are in the same boat.

 

Iv lost a good portion of eyesight the last few years, plus my hands are getting affected by nodules on the tendons, particularly on the left hand. This has all left me with very big confidence problems. I haven't gigged much at all the last couple of years. The last year or so, when I have gigged I have had bad anxiety problems which affects my playing, my breathing goes all to hell and it's actually more of an effort than an enjyoment now.

 

I do try relaxation, got a great little app for that on the Iphone, it works, but not in the constraints of a gig situation, and the fact that being sat there while people wonder what I'm doing is not really productive in reducing anxiety.

 

Has anybody got any hints or tips before and during the performance to help? I realise hypnosis and cognative approaches maybe of better long term benefit, but if I can get on the first rung of the ladder, maybe I can build on it myself.

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I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties.

 

I have heard that some people get an off-label prescription for beta-blockers as a means of combating performance anxiety. They work by stopping the physical symptoms of anxiety that make it feed upon itself. You won't have the shortness of breath, the sweating, the heart palpitations.

 

I don't have any personal experience with these drugs, and do not know of the side effects.

 

I hope you put this issue behind you soon, and get back to enjoying performing again.

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I've had occasional problems with stage fright, particularly before bigger festival gigs in front of larger audiences - I'm more comfortable in smaller bar/club venues. Last year I read an article mentioning that some level of stage fright/performance anxiety is a very common problem for many symphony musicians, and that a lot of them take a beta blocker prior to performing. I asked my doctor about this, and he gave me a trial prescription for Propanolol, a drug commonly prescribed for high blood pressure. It was discovered that this medication also blocks the bodies "fight-or-flight" reflex which leads to those anxious feelings that get in the way of a comfortable performance. Unlike Xanax or other sedative type medications prescribed for anxiety, there is no cognitive or energy impact - I don't notice any real effect from taking other than that it dramatically reduces my level of nervousness prior to and during a show. I took one Propanolol pill a few times before some bigger shows over the summer, and it helped sufficiently in reducing my anxiety association with those sorts of gigs that I no longer need to take it. Might be something work checking out - it sure helped me!

 

Short of that, I've had similar occasional stage fright issues in my day job where I need to make presentations to large groups or lead focus groups. I've found rigorous practice so I'm 100% familiar and comfortable with the material I'm presenting combined with meditation/relaxation techniques, positive visualization (where I mentally rehearse and imagine/visualize myself giving the presentation) really helps a great deal.

 

Good luck! For me, stage fright has been an intermittent annoyance, and definitely something I've found can be tamed/controlled so it doesn't negatively impact my performance.

 

Matt

Knabe baby grand, Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Wurlitzer 200A, Clavinet C, Minimoog Model D, Synthesizers.com modular, Sequential Prophet 6, GSI DMC-122 and Gemini module, Kurzweil PC3-X
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Sorry to hear about your health issues.

 

Everyone gets nervous and it affects everyone differently. When I'm nervous my hands get cold and it is more difficult to play well.

 

The only advice I can give is to be over prepared. If that means playing along with something you sequenced and playing it a hundred times so you can nail it in your sleep, do it.

 

Everyone gets nervous, being over prepared is the common sense approach.

 

 

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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For me, I'm not sure whether it's a manifestation of stage fright - or simply that I need a few songs to get "settled in". The first few minutes of any gig is always a little weird to me. There was scene in the movie "That Thing You Do" where the drummer pretty much summed it up when he explained that he "felt like a wind up monkey". Get a couple of songs under my belt, get a feel for how the room sounds and how we sound in it, etc - and I'm fine for the rest of the night.
The SpaceNorman :freak:
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The biggest thing to understand is that the audience starts out wanting to like you and thinking that you'll be entertaining. They've come out to have a good time. THEY don't have any of the doubts or fears running around in their heads.

 

So what is the easiest way to calm yourself down? I guess that everybody has a different routine. But a part of it is to actually look at the people...not the audience.. the people. Pick out one or two who seem to be interested, and look at them occasionally during the first couple of songs. Smile at them, make eye contact Make the first song or two to be no-brainers... easy on the hands, easy on the voice, but a crowd pleaser. That way you ease into the routine, and as you get more comfortable, spread your vision around. Another thing.... when you talk to the audience, talk to them not at them. I really get turned off by bands that say all sorts of weird shit that they think is cute; or bands that try to be Seinfeld between songs. They WANT to like you. Doesn't take much to get them on your side. Just be a human, not a posing hole.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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First, I hope that you overcome the health issues in order to play for your own enjoyment.

 

Two great pieces of advice in this thread, preparation and personality.

 

Musos who seem to play effortlessly are still human. Aside from any performance enhancement and/or ego, they don't appear to be nervous because they are extremely comfortable with the music they are playing.

 

Regardless of whether it is a lead or support role, in your mind's eye, "make a friend or two" in the audience real fast.

 

The old trick of staring at the exit sign at the rear of the building might still work but it leaves the performer detached from the audience IMO.

 

Music is a conversation. It should be engaging. Not merely a technical exercise.

 

Preparation allows one to play like they mean business. Personality makes folks in the audience want to listen and dig it.

 

If all goes well, in addition to a great performance and pocket change, a muso might even make a love connection. :laugh::cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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I watched an

recently where one of the things he talked about was being nervous before a gig. He said if you weren't nervous before a gig, you weren't wired right.

 

Preparation is the best idea. But it's not 100%. Before my first "big" gig which was about 20 songs that I didn't know until I started playing with the band, I got the material covered and felt pretty confident a few days or a week before the gig. Unfortunately, that gave me a few days to get nervous again.

 

My biggest trick is telling myself "no one's gonna die no matter how badly I play." I prove that every time I gig. :laugh:

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Thanks for everyones input so far, maybe if I had you all in the audience I'd be more relaxed..... On the other hand :)

 

Maybe increasing my gigs would help, just dive in and try fight through it. Like I say, it's quite a vicous circle, I gig less because my self confidence is quite low, and when I do do one, I'm not comfortable at all. If I could control my adrenaline output it would help loads, instead it flows out and manifests itself as anxiety.

 

Beta-blockers are out, they disguise low blood sugar levels, which being diabetic, is obviously not good.

 

I guess it's all come to a head since I took up a music degree two months ago. I have an assesment next week as part of the performance we are doing for the public, so it's doubly anxious. I don't want it to beat me and make me quit, I'd love to get a degree as a musician, having no formal certificates. But it's very hard. I'm 34 and feel like I have lived many years more at times.

 

My main ambition is to perform jazz piano pieces solo to the public and to not let my anxiety stop me, which it had done. Just as I'm starting to sound ok since I stopped playing so much organ, I have to acheive this. What is the point of talent if shared with no one?

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My main ambition is to perform jazz piano pieces solo to the public and to not let my anxiety stop me, which it had done.

 

any chance you'd want to be in a band,or back up a singer?

I'm not all that nervous during the setup,since I want to make sure sound actually comes out when I start playing :eek:

but being in a band I'm able to convince myself that the audience is staring at the other guys,not me. :whistle:

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I sympathize with your eyesight and hand issues; I assume you are seeking whatever medical help you can on that front. As far as stage fright goes, as several have said, it is normal to have some, and knowing your material well really helps. But still that isn't everything. Performing more definitely helps, even if it is just for friends you've invited over or something. Finally, I think stage fright is a self confidence issue, and often self confidence doesn't mean being too focused on your task (that would be "purpose tremor"), it really means being too focused on others approval, and not enough focused on yourself and your task. In other words, really try and focus on the music, that is what you love (presumably more than the audience approval), right?
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I don't suffer much from stage fright. However I *do* get pretty anxious leading up to some gigs. Case in point: last weekend I played solo piano accompaniment to a series of silent films from the Vancouver City Archives from the period between 1920 and 1950. They specified a few songs from the period but left the rest of the music choices up to me. I have never been so anxious before a gig in my life! A lot of it was that, although I practice stride a lot, I wanted to be "historically stylistically correct" and the piano style of the 20s and 30s is pretty demanding and not my forte. I lost a lot of sleep that week! Getting sick and losing 3 days' practice time didn't help either. However the gig went really well. We had the largest crowd that theatre had ever seen and the event was a rousing success. So the lessons learned for me were:

 

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare!

2) Don't obsess over things you have no control over.

3) If you couldn't handle the performance situation you wouldn't be there.

4) Once the performance is about to start just let go and focus on the music, you'll be fine.

5) The audience *wants* you to succeed and will support you.

 

Another thing to get clear on are the differences between fear, anxiety, nervousness, and excitement. They are not the same but can manifest very similarly. I find that stage fright is often a mix of nervousness and excitement as opposed to actual terror. Think about it; if you were actually terrified you wouldn't have booked the gig! The way I differentiate them is this:

 

Excitement = I'm insane for going out there but here I go!

Nervousness = OK, I have to go out there. Am I ready? Are my charts in order? is that Herbie Hancock in the audience??

Anxiety = I don't know if I can I go out there! What if I blow this?

Fear = I can't/won't go out there!

 

The point being that those feelings form a continuum and knowing where you are in that spectrum can often help you calm down and give you the tools and awareness to move from fear toward excitement.

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
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B3B,

It's normal and a good thing to be a little nervous. I am sorry to hear about your physical challenges. Bar gigs I don't really get nervous anymore.

 

My wife is a dancer and occasionally I accompany her on one piece with solo piano/keyboard. It's an easy piece but man, last March she put together a show in a theater. About 300 people and the guy had me going through the house PA! My reaction was to become hyper-focused. A music teacher/pianist friend of mine said I played it beautifully so I was very pleased but for me it was quite intense even though it's an easy piece!

 

One time my band was doing a festival and my bass player confessed to being nervous (~ couple thousand people, big stage/sound truck etc.) I was a little nervous too, but I gave him what I think is great advice. I told him to concentrate on what he was doing and try not to f*** up! :thu: That's really all you can do, dude.

 

Good luck to you. I would stay away from drugs and booze because if for some reason something else kicks in your stage fright you will be less able to control it. I would recommend preparation, rest, exercise and smile! Smiling can do wonders for your mood.

 

Regards,

Joe

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The relationship between anxiety and performance is curvilinear (i.e., representing an upside-down U when graphed; X-Axis: Anxiety, Y-Axis: Performance). That is, performance is optimal under moderate levels of anxiety. To oversimplify, you dont want to be so laid back that you dont give a damn about the performance, and you dont want to be so keyed up that you cant see straight. The problem is that moderate levels of anxiety is an individual difference variable. But the goal is not the elimination of all anxiety.

 

As with most psychological disorders, be sure to consider (1.) biological/physiological, (2.) behavioral, and (3.) cognitive approaches. Some very good examples in this thread, BTW.

 

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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Sorry to hear about your health.

 

As far as beta-blockers are concerned, I would personally stay away from drugs. They may help in relieving some of the stress, but you don't want to add to your health problems by creating dependence on drugs. IMO, cocaine, heroine or pharmaceutical: drugs are drugs. I'm not completely against them, I just think all drugs should always be used with moderation and prudence.

 

I would much rather suggest meditation or some form before going on stage. Go into a quiet and private place before showtime, close your eyes, relax, breath deeply, and stretch out your legs and arms. Maybe a drink will help, but again be diligent. Don't go onstage tipsy, just loosened up and uninhibited.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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I would much rather suggest meditation or some form before going on stage. Go into a quiet and private place before showtime, close your eyes, relax, breath deeply, and stretch out your legs and arms. Maybe a drink will help, but again be diligent. Don't go onstage tipsy, just loosened up and uninhibited.

Excellent advice no matter what your level of anxiety!

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
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I would much rather suggest meditation or some form before going on stage. Go into a quiet and private place before showtime, close your eyes, relax, breath deeply, and stretch out your legs and arms. Maybe a drink will help, but again be diligent. Don't go onstage tipsy, just loosened up and uninhibited.
Don't ever use chemicals to loosen up - I don't care if it's only one, you're giving up your self and your creativity to it, admitting that you don't have it in you otherwise.
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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Do smaller gigs at first, over prepare, and have a beer to calm the nerves.

 

I tried this. It ended up really, really, really, really, really bad. :laugh:

 

Practice, eat a banana, exercise. Picture the hot chicks in the audience naked, I do this if I'm nervous or not.

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Picture the hot chicks in the audience naked, I do this if I'm nervous or not.
I do this 24/7, even if I'm not the one on stage. Even if I'm nowhere near a stage. This would not help me one bit. You may have missed this thread about how distracting in fact this kind of thing could be. ;)

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Hey B3boy,

 

Sorry to hear you're struggling with this. As many have already said, it's quite common to be nervous or experience anxiety to some degree.

 

I agree that you must be prepared. Know your stuff, do what is comfortable to you. HOWEVER, I think over-preparing, and being over self-focused helps cause anxiety. You go up there thinking it's all about you and having to be perfect.

 

I have always struggled with being a perfectionist. You (I) always fall short. I was never trained on piano, only organ, so I am not a great pianist, make that piano player. Probably barely adequate at best.

 

So this has helped me; 1) I have accepted my inadequacy as a piano player (but have decent other 'keyboard' skills), 2) I know and accept there are many other players better than me, maybe in the audience - if they want to come up fine, but at that moment, I'm playing, and 3) have fun. If I have fun much less than 50% of the time, maybe I shouldn't bother doing it any longer.

 

Also, maybe consult with your doctor, or get a referral to a psychiatrist (no, you're not crazy), to get an appropriate medication at least at first to get you 'over the hump', so to speak. I'm sure you'll be able to work through it all. Best wishes to you.

 

And thanks for being willing to bring your struggle to the forum. It takes a bit of courage to do this, and I applaud you for this.

Yamaha C2, Yamaha MODX7, Hammond SK1, Hammond XK-5 Heritage Pro System, Korg Kronos 2 61, Yamaha CP4, Kurzweil PC4-7, Nord Stage 3 73, Nord Wave 2, QSC 8.2, Motion Sound KP 210S,  Key Largo, etc…yeah I have too much…

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Excellent advice. I'll add my personal experience:

 

I used to have intermittent stage fright when playing solo classical music. In almost all other situations, the interplay and the need to think about ensemble playing kept me from becoming nervous. And in *jazz* solo piano, I was busy enough from finding the right notes, that I had not any time for being worried! :)

 

A number of years ago, I did a solo classical performance, and the circumstances of that concert were so taxing, that after having done it, stage fright is gone - I hope forever! I discovered that for me, the key is not giving myself the *chance* to think about nervousness.

What happened? Well, a number of things. Four days before the concert, my back went bad with discal hernia and prevented me from both playing and sleeping. I couldn't practice; I could barely walk. And the night before the event, my uncle died, so I was forced to stay up all night *and* the following morning (back pain and all) to deal with the praticalities of that awful situation. To say that at the time of the concert I was knackered is an euphemism. My phisiotherapist couldn't meet me to try helping with some manipulation or massage.

But I went to the venue, and I played. I found another phisio, a woman friend who understood the situation and joined me at the venue to give me a short manipulation session, and that, literally, made the difference; I *did* feel bad pain during the whole concert, but without that help, I probably couldn't even start playing.

The program was long, but I played every single fucking piece on it, and while it sounds strange, i don't care whether I played well or not... I was able to play it all in extremely difficult conditions, and *I didn't have any time for brain interferences or nervousness*. I was there fighting for life. :)

 

So the key for me has been to experiment at my expenses that really, music doesn't have time for anything else than 100% concentration on the music itself. If I feel nervous, I try to *distract* myself from that.

Here are some of the little physical and psychological tricks which have worked for me (other than, of course, being as prepared as possible):

 

- Physical relaxation. I gave one of my best performances after a few Yoga breathing exercises. But even a minute of simple, gentle arm relaxation motions should help.

- Distracting yourself from the event. For example, pretend that you're there by mere chance. "Oh look, a piano. Nobody is playing... maybe I could go onstage and make some music." Silly, but helpful sometimes.

- Taking the time to really mean every note you play. Don't worry about showing your chops; put all your energy into phrasing and the right touch. Your audience will recognize and appreciate that.

- Thinking something like, "I'm prepared enough, so I own the piece. In a sense, I *contain* the piece, physically. Nothing and nobody can pull that away from me."

 

And finally - just enjoy the music. If you do it, your listeners will as well. :)

 

 

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All good advice here, so pardon a bit more. You said you're 34, so I assume you've been playing for a while. Do you enjoy playing music alone, even just sometimes? I'd assume you do. You can learn to transfer that love of playing to live performance, and moving in the direction of improvisation can totally free you.

 

Aside from your physical concerns which a doctor could best advise on, my suggestion is to try to lose yourself in the music. Ultimately, the music itself is going to be the answer.

 

The only times I've felt true "stage fright" was when I had to perform memorized classical pieces. I did it, but reapplying myself to something I had already played note for note wasn't natural to me. That's not a knock at the music, as I love to immerse myself in it at times.

 

But when playing interpretations of songs ("jazz" or any improvised playing), as Carlo also mentioned, the main focus should be what you can bring to the music in that moment. Much like in a tennis match or some sporting event, the players don't allow themselves to be distracted by the crowd - they're too invested in the game. They're playing off their own strengths and against their own weaknesses, and the audience hardly factors.

 

So once you realize that the the biggest obstacle to the music is yourself, then suddenly an audience will not seem nearly as intimidating. :) And once you realize that only you can make the music you make, from your own talent and perspective, then you stop being your own worst enemy and the music will become your best musical friend.

 

I also recommend Kenny Werner's book "Effortless Mastery" because music can become like breathing and relatively effortless, as you become compelled to play. And I believe you will succeed here, in your own way - simply because... you want to. If you didn't really want to, you would never have cared to ask the question.

 

 

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All good advice here, so pardon a bit more. You said you're 34, so I assume you've been playing for a while. Do you enjoy playing music alone, even just sometimes? I'd assume you do. You can learn to transfer that love of playing to live performance, and moving in the direction of improvisation can totally free you.

 

Aside from your physical concerns which a doctor could best advise on, my suggestion is to try to lose yourself in the music. Ultimately, the music itself is going to be the answer.

 

The only times I've felt true "stage fright" was when I had to perform memorized classical pieces. I did it, but reapplying myself to something I had already played note for note wasn't natural to me. That's not a knock at the music, as I love to immerse myself in it at times.

 

But when playing interpretations of songs ("jazz" or any improvised playing), as Carlo also mentioned, the main focus should be what you can bring to the music in that moment. Much like in a tennis match or some sporting event, the players don't allow themselves to be distracted by the crowd - they're too invested in the game. They're playing off their own strengths and against their own weaknesses, and the audience hardly factors.

 

So once you realize that the the biggest obstacle to the music is yourself, then suddenly an audience will not seem nearly as intimidating. :) And once you realize that only you can make the music you make, from your own talent and perspective, then you stop being your own worst enemy and the music will become your best musical friend.

 

I also recommend Kenny Werner's book "Effortless Mastery" because music can become like breathing and relatively effortless, as you become compelled to play. And I believe you will succeed here, in your own way - simply because... you want to. If you didn't really want to, you would never have cared to ask the question.

 

Wow, that was fantastic SK. Publishable material! Only someone of your ilk could have put that together. Thanks for sharing!

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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Wow, a lot of detailed and personal responses from people, it makes of fascinating reading and I thank you for that. I was unsure if people would want to openly discuss the topic, as it's not something that's easy to admit to.

 

I have never been a confident person anyway. In fact the reason I got into playing stems from the same problem Im having revisit me now. From the age of 16-23 I had agrophobia which meant I couldn't leave the house with getting panic attacks. As there had always been an organ in the house since I was 8, my parents decided to buy me a keyboard to help with my anxiety (Korg M1!) So while I should have been out socialising and everything else you do at that age, I spent mine learning to play. As much as it was a burden, something good came out of it.

 

So I managed to overcome the agrophobia at 23, because I wanted to play in a band, once again music helping to overcome distressing times. In short, my anxiety levels are always going to be there, I'm just that type of person, but it never manifested itself so bad up until I started having continous eye problems with haemorraging in the eyes, and my tendons stiffening. Well, a guy can only take so much, thankfully Ive never drunk alchohol ever otherwise I may have sort comfort in it before gigs.

 

The trouble is, although I have never considered myself a pro, or even a good player, people think that, and with it they see somebody who shouldn't be nervous, and when I mean people, I mean bandmembers. They have assumed I must have done loads of gigs. How do I tell them that for the hour before showtime I'm generally to be found in my girlfriends car listening to relaxation?

 

It all boils down to me having a few knocks and it's sent my anxiety levels close to what they were in my early 20's.

 

I'd love to have cognative therapy, but there's a huge waiting list, and private is too costly. My doctor recommended a great book which Im Reading, but I need to gig more to put it into practice.

 

I guess not being able to drive the last year has been a confidence hit, but I'm due over Christmas to have a cataract in my left eye removed, which should be a big step forward in seeing as I have double vision with it.

 

I'll keep on fighting, got some funds available at Xmas, going to treat myself to a new board!

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I'm due over Christmas to have a cataract in my left eye removed, which should be a big step forward in seeing as I have double vision with it.

As someone who's had cataracts removed in both eyes I can tell you it's a wonderful thing and will go a long way toward improving your confidence.

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
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First, just take a deep breath and relax. Very little in life is as important as we think it is. We all tend to be critical and concerned about things our audiences never even notice. Have fun playing and your audience will have fun listening.

 

Second, Google "L-Theanine". Though the "Protectors of Western Medicine" are sure to jump all over me for this, I believe you'll find this ingredient of green tea is highly regarded as safe and effective for anxiety, without any drowsiness (or undesirable side effects at all). Read up on it and decide for yourself. Then choose a reputable supplement manufacturer (there are many).

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Sorry to hear about you're physical problems,

 

There is a method by Kenny Werner called effortless mastery-that might be something for you.

 

Stage fright happens to everyone, my personal experience is when I play out of my normal context.

 

Normally I play jazz, soul funk disco at different venues.....no probs.

 

At some points I've played piano at weddings accompaning some singer during the wedding ceremony. For some reason at some of these occasions I've had terrible stagefright, I actually stopped doing such gigs because of that.

 

This has also happened to me playing classical solo piano....

 

I think a lot of it comes down to what you are used to play and that you are rehearsed. Playing solopiano is also very naked, you know that a misstake would be heard........

 

Anyhow, check out that Kenny Werner stuff

 

/Fred

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Firstly, judging by the evidence on your YouTube channel, you're certainly not short of talent.

 

You might find a CD called "Self-Hypnosis for Musicians" by Sam Brown useful - web site here. I've seen some improvement with it.

 

My phobia is different in that I find it difficult to record - ridiculous when you think that you always get another go (especially in your own studio) and you can do so much to clean up stuff these days, but there it is - I tend to play much more conservatively, stiffen up and worry about mistakes. Which then lead to mistakes, of course!

 

+ many on not using any drugs, legal or otherwise, to solve this problem. Personally, I don't generally have even one drink on a gig, as I find it takes the edge off my focus.

Studio: Yamaha P515 | Yamaha Tyros 5 | Yamaha HX1 | Moog Sub 37

Road: Yamaha YC88 | Nord Electro 5D

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