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Coping with Performance Anxiety


KCKeys

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I've been a long time Keyboard subscriber (20+ years) and I am looking to all of you for advice on a difficult topic.

 

I have always struggled with performance anxiety. It is illogical and extremely annoying. I started using beta blockers (Propranolol) over the last year, and these definitely help, but I still struggle with it.

 

I know that many pros and amateurs have to deal with this disorder too. So what do you do that works well?

 

Thanks,

 

KCKeys

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I was trained as a classical organist. My clams were obvious. My mother counted my mistakes and enumerated them to me after a church service. Because I didn't want to disappoint my mother I made damn sure that I practiced until I didn't have to think about it. When I'm not confident I'll have an issue with my legs--one of them will begin to shake uncontrollably. I can't just stop so I just nut through it. Deep breaths, picture the score in your mind and read it.

 

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

 

k.

9 Moog things, 3 Roland things, 2 Hammond things and a computer with stuff on it

 

 

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Hi,

 

I know what your going through, I'm the same, and I discussed this a month or so ago under the topic of 'stage fright' if you look back some pages or use the search facility. Your term performance anxiety is more appropriate actually.

 

I was given beta-blockers but have never taken them as I didn't want it to slow my reflexes down. Someone in the thread I started (and I thank him) recommended a herbal tea extract called theanine. Have a look on Wiki, it has no side effects, like I say, it's just an extract from green tea. I have been taking 200mg in tablet form the last few weeks and it is helping somewhat.

 

I'm hoping as my personal confidence builds up again I will stop feeling so anxious during playing as I was not always like this, but it's only because iv taken a few knocks last year with medical conditions that it has stripped my confidence.

 

Happy New and hopefully less anxious year to you!

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All the usual stuff that everybody says is true...breathing, learning to relax, etc. And I find that it helps to remember that these people start out wanting to like you, they came out to have a good time, and they figure that you'll be good, that is why you are there. I've also found that a drink can help. A drink. And not obsessing, and getting lost in your head. Turn the prep into a process and give that your attention.

"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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I've found that in addition to everything else that's been offered and suggested (all very good stuff, especially about being prepared and rehearsed) is to work hard to 1) put to bed that mindset that's all about "my performance" and "my ability" and "my excellence" and instead focus on 2) it's more about my offering something to connect with those people in the audience. That tonight, I'm the person uniquely prepared and suited to give them something nobody else is going to give them - and it's very much like a valuable gift that I get to deliver to them throughout my two (or three) sets.

 

Imperfectly articulated, and maybe a bit more sentimental and ephemeral than what you were looking for, but it's a perspective I was given that has broken down some walls for me lately.

..
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:thu: Tim's suggestion to remember that you and every player has something unique to offer listeners.

 

For getting ready to play, Bill's suggestion to "turn the prep into a process and give that your attention."

 

I don't know what kind of music you play, but here's some ideas on focusing on the musical. I don't know if they'll help, but musical priorities might help you to relax.

 

1. Practice stuff you like.

 

2. If you have fun playing at home, take that joy to the stage. Focus on the positives, forget all the negatives. Anxiety is a common disorder, it's not the real you.

 

3. Don't try to make the music sound "too good." Musicality isn't about making impressions.

 

4. Every minute, every second, you spend on music makes you a better musician. That includes listening.

 

5. Nothing is more important than the music - not what the people may think of it, or even how well or poorly you 'think' you did. But when you play openly and sincerely, it'll work in your favor every time.

 

6. Don't worry about playing perfectly on stage. That's what practice is for.

 

7. In solos, if you can articulate the moment, you can do no wrong.

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There's probably a voice in your head that says "You are a klutz, you are no good as a musician and you are too stupid to even be able to tell that you are no good". And as your mother used to say something similar, its no wonder you tend to worry its right.

 

Well, it isn't. You have worked really hard and are a fine musician. Tell yourself that and tell that voice to sod off.

 

This does not mean you stop making aesthetic judgements and thereby become what you fear - a bad musician. That's just a double think that the voice may present you with.

 

It does mean, once you have banished that voice, that those judgements are based entirely on the needs of the music not the fears of the performer.

 

Do you find listening to recordings of yourself painful because you listen for the mistakes? Instead train yourself to first listen to the good stuff about the performance and to enjoy it. You can come back to the "mistakes" later. Even then, your interest should be focused at a higher level than any individual wrong notes.

 

 

 

 

 

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I really feel for you that have performance anxiety. I had it when I was younger, but then I suffered from anxiety about most everything back then. What always worked for me is practice and more practice. Being over-prepared always worked for me. I grew up thinking (a goofy way to start out) that everybody I played for knew more about the music than me, and cared about the music as much as I do. That is never true - well maybe in an academic situation it might be - but in the other kinds of situations I was in it was never true. If you convince yourself that you are the one that cares about the music the most and is the last word on what your performance is- you're the expert- that attitude always helped me. When I got around to having that point of view. All the remedies sound good. You might also consider seeing a professional, a psychiatrist, to explore whether another remedy might settle you down, like a serotonin uptake inhibitor, might help. I'd stay away from the first tier of anti-anxiety Rx like xanax, etc. because they can be addictive and will slow your world down to about quarter-note=25 beats/measure.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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Here's the thread that B3Boy mentioned. Many of the replies were very insightful.

 

I'm 43 years old, and I really only started playing in front of audiences a few years ago (not counting high school). When I started I had anxiety. What helped me overcome it is the realization that the audience is there to have a good time, not to critique you.

 

What really helped is learning to take complements at face value. When someone in the crowd tells you "hey...I really like your solo in X", try and resist the temptation to respond with "Nah!!!...I really flubbed that run at the end!"

Resist the temptation to even think it. Someone is nice enough to tell you that they enjoyed your performance. Accept it. Internalize it. Use it to realize that the audience perspective is different than the performer's perspective. If you can accept it at face value, it's a building block for confidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Didn't we have this same topic a week or two ago?

 

Just some practical advice - over practice whatever it is you're going to perform. It also helps to have a good warm up routine as well as a good practice schedule.

 

When I would regularly give concerts I would always have very exposed parts that had to be nailed perfectly. Of course I was nervous, but I would sometimes practice the part in question hundreds of times in succession so that even if I were extremely nervous at the performance I would still get the job done.

 

When you practice, even when no one is listening, develop what I call the studio musician approach to performing - don't make a mistake, period. Leave out a note, leave out one hand but keeping moving forward and don't stop.

 

Everyone makes mistakes and everyone gets nervous, over practicing your part so you can nail it in your sleep will give you confidence and you'll stop thinking about being nervous and just concentrate on the job at hand.

 

It's a vicious cycle thinking about being nervous. You know what you have to work on to make your part perfect, practice only what you need to work on and don't bother with the stuff you can already nail.

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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Great advice throughout the thread. There's one point I want to address.

 

6. Don't worry about playing perfectly on stage. That's what practice is for.

I think there is a common myth about the need for a "perfect" performance on stage. Yes, there are band leaders or other situations where someone is judging you and expects you to play everything perfectly right. However, in most situations, this is not the case. In fact, you can get away with screwing up more often than you might think. I know, I've done it! :D Within the band, the other members are usually too focused on their own performances to notice every note that you play. The audience members usually don't know enough to spot mistakes, and like it has been said, they are there wanting to like you. If you do screw up badly, it can be brushed off. I've seen stars such as Peter Gabriel do this.

 

Remember, no one is going to get hurt or die due to your performance or mistakes (unless the mob is somehow involved ;) ). It's not like your job is shooting apples off of people's heads or something. You're playing music.

"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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I've seen stars such as Peter Gabriel do this.

 

I was at a Gabriel concert and he was playing

. During an instrumental passage, he threw down some wrong chords. Then, he says to the audience "In this business, that's what we call a F--K Up"

 

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I start each gig with 3 tunes that I can play with my eyes closed. Since I play best getting totally lost in the music, with my eyes quite literally closed, this works pretty well for me.

 

The audience response is typically good, and I find myself relaxed enough to not worry about it, but also edgy enough to play well. I don't want to be too relaxed. These tunes are jazz standards that everybody knows, which the other guys in the band can play with their eyes closed too!

 

I don't think it's a good idea to drug down (drink to excess) to cope with anxiety. I used to do this at times in days past, and while it helped with performance anxiety, it didn't help with performance. I think that playing without drinking at all improves confidence, which then helps to curb anxiety as well.

 

Cheers and Happy New Year!

 

Bill

 

 

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And I find that it helps to remember that these people start out wanting to like you, they came out to have a good time, and they figure that you'll be good, that is why you are there.

 

I like that... I never think like that. Great comment.

-Greg

Motif XS8, MOXF8, Hammond XK1c, Vent

Rhodes Mark II 88 suitcase, Yamaha P255

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...1) put to bed that mindset that's all about "my performance" and "my ability" and "my excellence" and instead focus on 2) it's more about my offering something to connect with those people in the audience. ....

 

Yes indeed. replace "ME ME ME!" with the idea that you're going to do what you know how to do, to entertain someone else. And the idea of connecting with someone in the audience... pick a couple of people and look at them, smile, let them know that you're a likable guy. By the first chorus you should be golden.

"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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+1 - Very good insight - most people do not have any experience with producing and making live music. Imagine that you are really educating them; passing on valuable cultural lessons - for their benefit - showing them how it's done.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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One thing that I found helpful (and it may seem strange at first): think of the worst possible thing that could happen. The absolute worst. Your gear doesn't work, you flub every chord, sing terribly, and then simultaneously throw up, crap your pants, and pass out in front of the audience. And then you catch on fire and die.

 

:D

 

Now, it's pretty unlikely that all of those things would happen. But other than the death part, even if all those things DID happen, it really wouldn't be the end of the world. Now consider the fact that you are very well prepared, that your gear is tested and ready to go, and that you're aware that you WANT TO play well and be a good entertainer/performer. Chances are, at the very worst, your show is going to be okay and you will live through it.

 

I usually battle a case of nerves before a big show (I consider this a healthy thing, because I'm excited to play), but after having done well over a thousand live shows in my life, I just remind myself: this is what I do. I've done it before, I've done it well, and there's every reason to expect I'll do it well again. And 99% of the time, I do. And when I don't, the world does NOT end. :)

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If you perform in Second Life do you get virtual anxiety?

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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Thanks for all of the great advice and ideas. I really appreciate all of them. I too have several health problems that complicate the matter, but as we all do, I do my best to cope with them everyday.
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If you perform in Second Life do you get virtual anxiety?

 

I don't find any more or less anticipatory nervousness in a virtual show than I do in a live show. They're all live audiences listening in real time, so it makes no difference.

 

You seem pretty interested in SL shows, Dave. Thinking of giving it a shot? I played for 50+ people at a New Year's show last night, and it was better than the grand majority of the shows I've done on NYE, in both pay and fun. I think you should think about it. :)

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Would I receive virtual money along with virtual headaches? :)

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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I made several thousand dollars in 2009 playing virtual shows. Not a LOT of money, and much less per gig than my real life shows, but considering I didn't have to leave my home or lug gear around, the trade-off was worthwhile, I say.

 

And, back on topic, playing several times per week in front of live audiences is a great way to overcome stage fright. You get so used to being in front of people that it becomes second nature. Practice makes perfect. :)

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I've seen stars such as Peter Gabriel do this.

 

I was at a Gabriel concert and he was playing

. During an instrumental passage, he threw down some wrong chords. Then, he says to the audience "In this business, that's what we call a F--K Up"

Were you in Houston at the Summit on July 30 1993??? What you describe was *exactly* what I was referring to.

"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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I've seen stars such as Peter Gabriel do this.

 

I was at a Gabriel concert and he was playing

. During an instrumental passage, he threw down some wrong chords. Then, he says to the audience "In this business, that's what we call a F--K Up"

Were you in Houston at the Summit on July 30 1993??? What you describe was *exactly* what I was referring to.

 

No. It must be a line he holds in his pocket to get a laugh if he screws up.

 

I believe the show I saw was at Madison Square Garden in 1987. I may have the year wrong, but I know the show pre-dated the US album.

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Okay, I wondered that. I don't recall the tune, but I believe it was the first song of the encore. It was right at the beginning, maybe a few chords in on keys when he stopped, said that, and started over.

"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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