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Dealing with performance nerves!


sudeep

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hey all..ive been playing keys and guitar for quite some time now and have played lots and lots of gigs. I have never had a problem with nerves...in fact normally im ITCHING to get on stage and have to be dragged off. However, last night i accompanied a singer/songwriter on the piano for an accoustic songwriters showcase. It was like a coffeehouse sort of feel, very chilled and atmospheric...but heck I got really nervous!!! Suddently i wasnt in a band situation and every SINGLE person (about 80-100) was absolutely quiet and listening intently. It felt a bit like walking a tightrope without a net (not that ive done that!!). Ive never had to deal with that feeling before so i didnt really know how to counter it! Unfortunately i played WELL within myself, i think my playing was a bit stiff, but then again the focus was on the singer and her songs, so that was maybe all that was required.

 

still it was a little dissappointing. Anyone have any tips for dealing with the nerves?

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Quote Stoo

Sounds like you did fine, sudeep

 

I think the best therapy for nerves is just experience. The more often you play this kind of gig, the more comfortable you'll get. Just wait till you're playing solo to a silent, attentive audience

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

I agree with Stoo, it sounds like you did fine. I play solo and with a chic singer, and I have found the more you do it the better it feels. I play in three bands as well and it is nice knowing if you forget a bridge there is someone there to cover it.

 

I always start with the stuff I know I will nail right off the bat and save the tough songs for later in the night. I find once an audience gets a taste of your best songs then you own them and they don't hear the mistakes you might make later. They make a decision in the first 10 minutes whether you are good and if you can impress them then your home free.

Jimmy

 

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others. Groucho

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I'm a psychotherapist and a performer. I know a thing or two about this area...

 

1. Research tells us that anxiety either increases performance or decreases it. The key is how confident you are. And the key to confident is rehearsal. The more times you've engaged in a task, the more you feel confident over it. Nothing else I can tell you will take away from this fact, and this fact is proven in research... This is why people have just said that experience is key. They're right, but if you have little experience with certain situations, then you need to make up for it with extra rehearsal...

 

2. Anxiety is also known as the "fight-or-flight" response. This means that when you feel confident, you'll fight. When you don't, you'll flee. If you've rehearsed and you STILL don't feel confident, then it's time to try and kick the anxiety down a few pegs. As someone else suggested, a drink or two helps. But two many drinks can hurt... Another thing that can help is to learn deep breathing. If you take slow breaths (four seconds in, four seconds out), filling your lungs completely with each breath, that is the antidote to anxiety. The key is remembering to do this when you're anxious. But it really does work!

 

3. Guided imagery is helpful. To go along with point number one, don't just rehearse your performance, but also mentally rehearse the situation. Close your eyes and place yourself in the room where you're going to be. Place as many objects as you can (the keyboard, your fellow musicians, the crowd, the bar, etc.). Imagine all the scenarios that could go wrong (i.e. people are not into it at all, people are booing, you make a mistake, etc). Imagine yourself handling these situations... Like the breathing, this may seem a bit crunchy/cheesy, but it actually works...

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Originally posted by DanS:

...and it helps you levitate your Alesis with your mind..... ;)

:rolleyes: ...and all this time I've resorted to pictures in the National Geographic to levitate my Alesis. :eek::P
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Originally posted by Is There Gas in the Car?:

Originally posted by DanS:

...and it helps you levitate your Alesis with your mind..... ;)

:rolleyes: ...and all this time I've resorted to pictures in the National Geographic to levitate my Alesis. :eek::P
Tom, remind me to buy you a subscription to another magazine next x-mas.
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Stroehmann Showman said exactly what I would have said.

 

The only thing I'll add echoes what I think someone above already mentioned. Your body reacts to your mind, not the other way around. Even if you're feeling nervous and unconfident, make yourself believe that you everything is in control. Force yourself to appear cool and composed, walk on-stage with a purpose (don't slink out sheepishly), make eye contact with the audience, and generally act like you've done this thousands of times. Make your body language convey the message that you are the balls and you know it. Over time, you'll find yourself feeling more confident, and you'll have to "act" less and less.

 

You can manage your anxiety, but don't expect it to ever go away. I'm almost always at least a little nervous before any type of performance. Naturally, even more so the more the focus is on me. I gave a classical recital last year, and minutes before, I seriously considered faking some sort of illness so that I wouldn't have to go on-stage. When the time came, I pushed all thoughts out of my mind and simply made my feet walk me out onto the stage without thinking about it. Once that first note is played, everything usually melts away.

 

I feel like it gives me an edge. The times when I'm not nervous seem to be the times when more things go wrong, because I'm probably not focusing as much. There is a great baseball pitcher, a closer (I think it was Trevor Hoffman, but I'm not sure), who said in an interview once that he's scared as hell and feels like he want to vomit everytime he gets the call to come in, but he puts on his game face and goes out there and gets the job done. One quote I remember was, "the day I'm not nervous going into a game is the day I know it's time to hang it up (in other words, retire)." Best of luck.

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Some very good points. Might I also suggest not only to feel confident with your material, but take imagining the situation to the next level. Set up some type of recording device, just a simple tape machine if that's what's handy, and pretend you've got an audience. Don't stop the tape and rewind as soon as you make a mistake, but bumble on through and practice how you would recover and cover it up if something does go wrong. You may also want to check out this thread.

 

http://balancedpianist.com/forum/index.php?topic=40.0

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I get a feeling that is not really nervous, it's like chomping at the bit, ready to go, can't wait kind of thing. The first time I noticed it was last year or so I was playing piano and singing a funeral, of all things, with our lead female band singer and a guitarist. I did "I'll Fly Away" solo with piano to a whole church full of people and a casket and I just could not wait to get into it (the song, not the casket - that's a little too unstable even for me). So I don't really get a fear thing anymore, but my nervous tension ratchets up a little. I guess there's always pot or alcohol to calm you down, but all that ever did for me was make it hard to execute the music, so I don't medicate anymore. I find that good preparation and confidence that results solves a lot of problems.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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Originally posted by daviel:

I guess there's always pot or alcohol to calm you down, but all that ever did for me was make it hard to execute the music,

Wouldn't look too professional to spark up a doob at a funeral home though, although the dead guy wouldn't mind.

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

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