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#2233064 - 02/17/14 10:33 AM Concert anxiety
ranunculus Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/30/13
Posts: 19
I know it's been discussed again and again but it troubles me. Anxiety in concerts, in examinations, in everything.

I have a concert in 5 days from now. I've learnt my piece well. Today it was the rehearsal and I was really trembling, I couldn't control it since I sat on the piano. I didn't perform well.

Noone tells me something really helpfull about this and I really need help.

Another thing: what really frightens me is the fast part of my piece. My teacher told me that since I've reached a decent tempo, I have to practice it slowly and play it in real tempo only once a day, so as not to destroy it. Opinions on that?

I have to mention that today I felt that the fast part is already destroyed, I felt unsure about it.


Edited by ranunculus (02/17/14 10:34 AM)
_________________________
Currently: Bach's Prelude and Fugue #XVI, Beethoven's Pathetique, Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C sharp minor, Chopin's etude op 25 no 2, Chzerny' etude 41, Brahms' Rhapsody op 79 no 2, Mozart's K.282 Sonata no4 (movement 3), Haydn's keynoard concerto in D major (movement 3)

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#2233104 - 02/17/14 11:30 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17668
Loc: Victoria, BC
One of our local piano teachers who is also a performer says :
Slow = fast; Fast = slow.

Meaning : If you want to master fast passages, practice them slowly - very slowly. If you always practice fast passages up to tempo, then your progress on mastering them will be very slow.

In my experience, your teacher is right; if you want to master the fast passages practice them slowly much more often than you practice them up to tempo. The closer you get to performance, the more important it is that you concentrate on slow practice. This helps all the aspects of performance, physical and mental, to make and solidify the right connections and movements.

Playing a passage slowly can sometimes benefit from different fingering than that used for playing fast passages. We must assume, of course, that you have the right fingerings for playing the fast passages up to tempo. If you do, then of course you must maintain that fingering even when you practice slowly.

Another practice tip is to play your fast passages very slowly, with a metronome, and after each three or four run-throughs at a slow temp, move the metronome up one "click" to the next tempo. Gradually increase the tempo until you can play at performance tempo with the metronome and with confidence.

This, however, doesn't happen in a day or two. At the moment, I would think that your best bet is to do as much slow practice on the fast passages as you can up to the day of the performance.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190 in satin ebony
Writing from Paris until 15 May, 2014

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#2233143 - 02/17/14 12:41 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 509
Loc: western MA, USA
If you really have learned the piece well, fast part and all, then what you need most is practice playing it for other people while remaining calm.

Play it for at least one other person every day between now and then.
Record it and post it on Facebook.
Invite a friend over to listen.
Go play it for your grandparents.
Find a piano "in the wild" at a music store or school or church and sit down and play it when there are people around.

You probably will always feel some sort of nerves/excitement when playing for others, but the more you do it the less scary it is.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Currently obsessed with Schubert/D. 845 and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2233169 - 02/17/14 01:35 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
phantomFive Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 613
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: ranunculus

Another thing: what really frightens me is the fast part of my piece. My teacher told me that since I've reached a decent tempo, I have to practice it slowly and play it in real tempo only once a day, so as not to destroy it. Opinions on that?

You aren't going to destroy it. In the worst case, your rhythms will become imprecise, meaning some notes will be held longer than they should, and other notes will be held shorter than they should.

I recently went to a recital featuring some competition winners, some of whom will be play concertos with orchestras this year. Some of them had quite a bit of trouble with the precision of their rhythms too. So it's something to work on. If that happens, slow it down a bit and keep your focus on making sure each note plays at its proper time, then speed it up again.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2233171 - 02/17/14 01:36 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: hreichgott]
phantomFive Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 613
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
If you really have learned the piece well, fast part and all, then what you need most is practice playing it for other people while remaining calm.


Good call
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2233194 - 02/17/14 02:12 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: phantomFive]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4669
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: phantomFive
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
If you really have learned the piece well, fast part and all, then what you need most is practice playing it for other people while remaining calm.


Good call
So true. My teacher, a professional pianist, says the best way to get over performance anxiety is to perform again and again. Eventually you get used to it.

You say you know your piece really well. That's great. Do you have multiple starting places in the piece where you can pick it up smoothly if you stumble? If you can do this and play it slowly then you should be really solid.

Good luck!
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2233220 - 02/17/14 02:37 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
ranunculus Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/30/13
Posts: 19
Thank all of you so much!

My teacher said today that since I've learnt it in general and I feel insecure about the fast part, I'd better study it only slow tempo and not too many times per day. Let's say 6 times a day, not to overdo it now that the time is coming..

The truth is that I have many starting places in the piece. I'm talking about Rachmaninoff's prelude in c sharp by the way. I think it's easy to memorize, but when I speed up I'm so afraid that if I stumble -> it's the end!

At what concerns performing again and again, you're all right and I'm trying to do it now and then - I should try more but there are not lots of chances. But still... I only have 5 days. I've been in so many concerts, done well in most of them and still anxious. I have to relax in some way.
_________________________
Currently: Bach's Prelude and Fugue #XVI, Beethoven's Pathetique, Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C sharp minor, Chopin's etude op 25 no 2, Chzerny' etude 41, Brahms' Rhapsody op 79 no 2, Mozart's K.282 Sonata no4 (movement 3), Haydn's keynoard concerto in D major (movement 3)

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#2233223 - 02/17/14 02:41 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
noambenhamou Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/13
Posts: 513
Watch some figure ice skaters at the Olympics crash and burn. Now that's way more embarrassing than goofing up a few notes. Maybe that will ease your nerves knowing that there are other type of performers that have it way worst than pianists.

What's the worst that can happen? I need to remind myself this too smile

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#2233228 - 02/17/14 02:49 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19097
Loc: New York City
Instead of worrying about people judging your performance, think about the fact you are playing a terrific piece by a great composer that has been performed by countless great pianists in the last century.

If you are concerned about a memory slip, just play it with the music.


Edited by pianoloverus (02/17/14 02:52 PM)

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#2233265 - 02/17/14 03:53 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
bennevis Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4391
I find that if I can play a fast piece (or passage, or section) accurately while practising, faster than I'm intending to play it in the recital, I'll be OK during it. The knowledge that I have something in reserve means that I can go for it during the performance, and give it that extra edge that comes from the adrenaline surge of playing for an audience.

From your description, it sounds like you are right at the limit of your technique when you're playing the fast section, so you don't feel very secure when nerves kick in. You have no problems with the slower sections, which indicate that the problem isn't solely performance anxiety.

In which case, why not play the fast section slower in performance, so that you feel more in control? There's a huge variety of tempi adopted by pianists in this piece, in any case.

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#2233280 - 02/17/14 04:18 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
phantomFive Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 613
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: ranunculus
The truth is that I have many starting places in the piece. I'm talking about Rachmaninoff's prelude in c sharp by the way. I think it's easy to memorize, but when I speed up I'm so afraid that if I stumble -> it's the end!

I once saw a piano teacher mess up badly while performing this piece. Her students (and her students' parents) still thought she was amazing, so it all went well.

You might say the antidote for fear of messing up, is to actually mess up in performance a few times. After that, nothing will worry you. You can handle it.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2233285 - 02/17/14 04:24 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 802
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Playing for others a lot is good advice--as long as you don't obsess over every flaw in the practice runs.

I like to use deep breathing and relaxation exercises. Some people swear by bananas before the performance--can't hurt!
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R

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#2233292 - 02/17/14 04:30 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: pianoloverus]
Polyphonist Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 6392
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Instead of worrying about people judging your performance, think about the fact you are playing a terrific piece by a great composer that has been performed by countless great pianists in the last century.

If you are concerned about a memory slip, just play it with the music.

And this is not a piece which is particularly difficult to improvise back into in the case of a memory slip. There's one video of Artur Rubinstein totally screwing up the second movement of the Chopin Op35 sonata - he plays a bunch, forgets where he is in the music, skips back almost to the beginning, plays the whole thing again and repeats the mistake, then improvises past the problem area into the trio section. I'd wager an overwhelming majority of the audience didn't notice. laugh
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Polyphonist

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#2233321 - 02/17/14 05:38 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: bennevis]
ranunculus Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/30/13
Posts: 19
Originally Posted By: bennevis

From your description, it sounds like you are right at the limit of your technique when you're playing the fast section, so you don't feel very secure when nerves kick in. You have no problems with the slower sections, which indicate that the problem isn't solely performance anxiety.


Maybe what increasew my anxiety is the fact that I know or I fear that my technique is not as good as I want it to be. smirk

However you're right, I need to play it a little slower to be in control. That won't hurt! (I just wish I won't go crazy and start speeding up without control!!)
_________________________
Currently: Bach's Prelude and Fugue #XVI, Beethoven's Pathetique, Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C sharp minor, Chopin's etude op 25 no 2, Chzerny' etude 41, Brahms' Rhapsody op 79 no 2, Mozart's K.282 Sonata no4 (movement 3), Haydn's keynoard concerto in D major (movement 3)

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#2233332 - 02/17/14 05:57 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: pianoloverus]
pianorigami Online   sleepy
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/13
Posts: 238
Loc: United States
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
If you are concerned about a memory slip, just play it with the music.

Interesting... has anyone else done this for something that's not a concerto? I think I'll try it sometime!
_________________________
Currently working on:
1) Chopin Etudes Op. 10 nos. 1-4,11-12
2) Beethoven Sonata Op. 53, C Major
3) Beethoven 32 Variations WoO 80
4) Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 no. 3
5) Bach Prelude and Fugue in f# minor, WTC II
6) Grieg Concerto Op. 16, 1st Movement

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#2233334 - 02/17/14 05:59 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
pianorigami Online   sleepy
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/13
Posts: 238
Loc: United States
Originally Posted By: ranunculus
Originally Posted By: bennevis

From your description, it sounds like you are right at the limit of your technique when you're playing the fast section, so you don't feel very secure when nerves kick in. You have no problems with the slower sections, which indicate that the problem isn't solely performance anxiety.
Maybe what increasew my anxiety is the fact that I know or I fear that my technique is not as good as I want it to be. smirk

I have this fear, too. However, the biggest technical failure occurs in the brain; it happens when we tell ourselves: "Uh-oh. Measure __ is coming up-I mess up every time!"
When this voice enters during a performance, regardless of whether we can hit the notes, we probably will mess up.
_________________________
Currently working on:
1) Chopin Etudes Op. 10 nos. 1-4,11-12
2) Beethoven Sonata Op. 53, C Major
3) Beethoven 32 Variations WoO 80
4) Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 no. 3
5) Bach Prelude and Fugue in f# minor, WTC II
6) Grieg Concerto Op. 16, 1st Movement

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#2233410 - 02/17/14 08:55 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 509
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: ranunculus

At what concerns performing again and again, you're all right and I'm trying to do it now and then - I should try more but there are not lots of chances. But still... I only have 5 days. I've been in so many concerts, done well in most of them and still anxious. I have to relax in some way.

Having performed a lot is different from having performed THIS PIECE a lot.

Lots of performances get you used to playing in front of people.
Lots of performances of a certain piece get you used to playing that piece, with its particular issues, in front of people.

There is still time to play it informally at least a couple of times. Seriously, just for a friend, or whoever's in the music store that day. You will thank yourself for doing it.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Currently obsessed with Schubert/D. 845 and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2233435 - 02/17/14 09:52 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: bennevis]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4669
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: bennevis
I find that if I can play a fast piece (or passage, or section) accurately while practising, faster than I'm intending to play it in the recital, I'll be OK during it. The knowledge that I have something in reserve means that I can go for it during the performance, and give it that extra edge that comes from the adrenaline surge of playing for an audience.
This too is good advice.

Some of the best advice I've heard is from Westney's book, "The Perfect Wrong Note." These pictures from the book sum it up.

The first picture (What are they thinking of me??") shows how a nervous, self conscious attitude, can constrict your music, invite errors and limit your communication with your audience.



This second picture shows how sharing your love of the music includes your audience in the energy and creates a much more positive result.

Try to remember, your audience is there to have a good time. They don't want you to stumble. They want to enjoy themselves and they want you to enjoy yourself!

_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2233453 - 02/17/14 10:43 PM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 807
Ha, I just had a conversation with my teacher about performance anxiety today, whether in front of strangers or often simply in front of her.

And the piece is question is the same one you're talking about.

To me, there are two kinds of things that can derail you and I'm not sure which one you're having trouble with, or if it's a little of both. These are: trouble spots that require more attention than a change of environment can leave you with, and anxiety that overpowers you, even if you are so locked down with your piece that you need almost no attention to play.

The first one is sometimes hard to notice. After all, at home, you probably know your piece well enough to stay ahead of yourself--you have parts that require varying degrees of attention, but in a stable, consistent and familiar environment, everything's just fine. While there's nothing else hijacking your attention you have it to give where you need it. If all the variables stay exactly the same, you can perform this piece reliably and comfortably and it might not even occur to you you're having to concentrate harder in certain places due to not rigorously ironing out trouble spots. But if you introduce a new variable, say, an audience, or anything else that intrudes into your attention, even slightly, and any of your piece requires 100% attention, you might stumble.

My most recently "mastered" things are the first things that are at risk for dropping back down to stumbles when you add an attention-stealing variable. And all it takes for me is my teacher to enter the room! I'm so unused to anybody listening to me that my teacher is like a walking x ray machine--her presence reveals any remaining internal structural issues instantly!

Which means that if you add an audience/change the piano, etc, and you can knock me back down a good two pegs in the overall mastery department.

I went to go play this prelude on a new piano, and even though I was totally by myself, something about the keyboard was distracting me. The spaces between the white keys were bigger and every time I glanced at my hands on the keyboard I was struck by it. I froze several times and just COULD NOT remember what came next. That really freaked me out and sent me right back to certain fundamentals. It showed me how tenuous my acquisition of this piece was.

So my goal has been to know something so well that I can check out entirely and still basically perform. If I want to (have to) stare at the spaces between the keys every now and again, it won't be catastrophic; my conscious self will redirect my attention before something major happens. It's a whole new level of "learned" for me that I never really considered was necessary, but it is if you ever care to perform something.

My hope is that you're there. You know this so well that you could go on autopilot and still play it.

If not, you still have time to get there, and slow, deliberate practice is what works for me. It's actually surprising how quickly it works so it's irritating to me that I still have to tell myself to do it at times. I'm still learning how to apply this effectively, but whenever I move something from provisionally learned to "locked in", it always seems to come from slow play while I consciously think about what I'm doing as I do it. After a while I don't have to think at all. It's as if my conscious brain drops out as the middleman after some time, and I'm free. At this point, all I have to worry about is the overall message I'm trying to convey. Because that part is commonly termed "making music", it's not exactly unpleasant or something to avoid having to think about. For me, it's the emotional communication part of it--it's kind of the whole point, and needless to say I'm glad to be freed up from everything other than that.

The second problem shares some features with the first, but isn't actually the same. It's anxiety. Anxiety in general is an attention-stealer. But it has other effects, such as shaking and fear and adrenaline that can derail you even if you manage to stay focused. It impairs your judgment and makes you react in ways differently than you usually do. And, of course, it can interfere with your emotional connection with the music.

Fixing the second problem appears to require you to seek out audiences and slowly building up your tolerance for more and more stressful situations until you don't register them anymore. Well, you register them because of course an audience is something you WANT to feel connected to, but you want to get to the point where you can choose to take only the positive elements of their presence.

My teacher suggested this today, and I'll see what I can do to try to build my tolerance. The good thing is that as you build up, you're reducing your anxiety AS WELL AS taking out a potential distractor. Not only are you learning how not to think about who's out there, what they might be thinking, how you're doing, what they think of how you're doing, you're also learning how not to be anxious about it or scared.

My guess is most people can build enough tolerance to get in front of an audience, even a large one, without feeling more than some moderate fear or anxiety that usually softens into manageable excitement. Yes, there are people with severe stage fright that persists no matter how often they are exposed, but these people are fairly unusual.

Time will tell whether or not I'm somehow in the small subset of people who just can't get above the anxiety, because I've been surprised with how scared I get, even in some pretty laughably mild situations. Like my little recital. Seven "performers", none--other than me--above 12 or a late beginner level. I still played remarkably badly. No blank outs or restarts or complete abandonment, but it was full of stupid mistakes and the sound was several notches below my best.

On the other hand, that was the first time in 25 years more than two people have heard me play, and more than...zero have been people I didn't already know well, so maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself.

My guess is, the more and more I'm exposed to audiences of people I don't know, I will naturally figure out how to deal with it. Either by striking on the right thing to say to myself or do when the thoughts come, or simply by not having the anxiety register in the first place.

Of course, I don't envision many big audiences in my future, but I'd like to be able to join a large recital at some point, perform for a group of friends in a somewhat formal setting, or some such thing, and not have stage fright be a primary consideration.

Good luck in your performance! My guess is you'll do great. Don't rush out of control on that middle section--it sounds pretty good even on the slower side if the expression is there, so be pragmatic as you get going and think melody, melody, melody--not speed. Use every reset of the opening theme to check that your tempo increases are intentional and not climbing out of blind momentum. If you can hold it together and build your speed with great control, you can let the reins out on the descending triplets where, god forbid you start to lose integrity, you can pedal the crap out of it (if you have to--I'm not suggesting you should) while you regain your composure and pivot to the last section, haha. smile


Edited by TwoSnowflakes (02/17/14 10:53 PM)
_________________________
Currently:
Shostakovich, Trio e Minor, Op. 67
Schumann, Album für die Jugend, Op. 68
Grieg, Four Norwegian Dances, Op. 35

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#2233510 - 02/18/14 02:45 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
Roland The Beagle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/12
Posts: 161
Loc: California
Fantastic advice! That about sums it up.

Your piece needs to be more than learned to perform it comfortably - you need a level of practice that makes it impossible to make a mistake. Different environments really do knock you down a few pegs! That's why you need to have a kinesthetic, aural, topographical, theoretical, and score memory. You have to be able to write the piece out and play it 25 times in a row in practice without feeling any discomfort.

And for anxiety, ever wonder why jazz and rock musicians are comfortable on stage? It's because they are on stage hundreds and hundreds of times. Classical musicians, especially solo musicians, are unfortunate in that they have rare moments on stage with long periods of buildup and stress in-between, demanding perfection at the output. So they are more likely to fall into this trap. Perform at every opportunity. If I had my way as a teacher, I would have my class of musicians perform every day in front of the class, even just a small piece.

As students and learners, we don't yet have complete hold of the above two things. The pieces we are learning are too challenging to completely master, and we don't have a lot of time on stage to become comfortable. Therefore, we have to be honest about the reality that mistakes are going to happen and just focus on making the best music we can. Preferably, don't even perform the pieces that you are learning to improve - pick a simple, beautiful piece that is well within your comfortable zone and focus on an expressive performance. That way you can actually focus on performance and music making, which is its own thing.


Edited by Roland The Beagle (02/18/14 02:49 AM)
_________________________
Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach

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#2233541 - 02/18/14 05:15 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: Roland The Beagle]
bennevis Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4391
Originally Posted By: Roland The Beagle


And for anxiety, ever wonder why jazz and rock musicians are comfortable on stage? It's because they are on stage hundreds and hundreds of times.




Actually, I'd have thought that the reason jazz & rock & pop performers are always comfortable on stage (apart from the use of auto-tune, if they are singing wink ) is that they only play what they are comfortable with. If a jazz pianist isn't good at fast runs, he doesn't play them. Period. If he can't play fast alternating chords (as in the Rach Prelude), why would he incorporate them? Unlike us classical pianists, who have to play what the composer has written - unless, of course, we are the composers....


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#2233563 - 02/18/14 06:57 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 802
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Actually, jazz and rock musicians get stage fright too--or Kenny Werner wouldn't have had to write his book Effortless Mastery. This book has some very helpful ideas, though it takes longer than a few days to absorb them.
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R

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#2233564 - 02/18/14 06:57 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: Roland The Beagle]
bennevis Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4391
Originally Posted By: Roland The Beagle
If I had my way as a teacher, I would have my class of musicians perform every day in front of the class, even just a small piece.


If you were a teacher, I wouldn't go anywhere near you.

People don't study music or learn an instrument just because they want to perform - many do so just for the love of music. Like me. If I was told that a condition for me learning to play the piano was to play in front of the class, I'd have gone off to learn ballet, or tango dancing instead, and forget about ever learning to play piano.

I only started playing and performing in public as an adult, and only for the fun of it. Not because somebody told me that as a pianist, it's obligatory for me to do so.

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#2233565 - 02/18/14 07:15 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7424
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
Yes, there are people with severe stage fright that persists no matter how often they are exposed, but these people are fairly unusual.


Actually, I don't think we have any idea of whether these people are unusual or not. Is there any concrete evidence that anybody here knows about? Even if there is, who knows how many people, who may be otherwise talented, instinctively chose not to pursue an activity that will put them in the kind of situation that will cause stage fright?

I'm a person who acquired severe stage fright after not having it for some years of playing in front of people, which is the exact opposite of what that "just keep doing it and you'll get over it" theory suggests (that hoary advice, BTW, can be pretty annoying to people like me for whom it doesn't work).

Anyway, if the OP happens to be one of the people who don't get over it by doing it, it's useful to know that it's not some weird thing that has only happened to them. And no, loving music and playing piano doesn't automatically mean a person is going to love performing live for others.

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#2233585 - 02/18/14 07:58 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: wr]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 807
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
Yes, there are people with severe stage fright that persists no matter how often they are exposed, but these people are fairly unusual.


Actually, I don't think we have any idea of whether these people are unusual or not. Is there any concrete evidence that anybody here knows about? Even if there is, who knows how many people, who may be otherwise talented, instinctively chose not to pursue an activity that will put them in the kind of situation that will cause stage fright?

I'm a person who acquired severe stage fright after not having it for some years of playing in front of people, which is the exact opposite of what that "just keep doing it and you'll get over it" theory suggests (that hoary advice, BTW, can be pretty annoying to people like me for whom it doesn't work).

Anyway, if the OP happens to be one of the people who don't get over it by doing it, it's useful to know that it's not some weird thing that has only happened to them. And no, loving music and playing piano doesn't automatically mean a person is going to love performing live for others.



Well, by unusual, I mean it's unusual that people ultimately are ruled by stage fright severe enough to stop them entirely. Most manage to figure out how to deal with it. It's atypical to find a musician who is so crippled by it they just cannot do it. And if they are destined to tamp their fear down enough to get out there, exposure surely must be a part of it.

But that doesn't mean stage fright itself is unusual and I would say it's the unusual performer who can ignore it altogether.

I think, also, that age plays a role and I certainly see stage fright being connected. As a kid, I loved to sit down and play for anybody who would listen. Recitals were exciting and fun. Then I grew up and learned how to have a more profound appreciation for consequences and how I am viewed by others.

I went from loving roller coaster to extreme fear of them. I loved to go all the way up to the top of the world trade centers and now, even if I could, I would NEVER.

Responsibility, risk avoidance, whatever. I think maturity naturally makes us fearful or skeptical of things we used to be ok with.

But even if stage fright is a thing that can build in intensity as time goes on, your own best management of it, whatever level you happen to be at, certainly has to be achieved by building tolerance. I made myself go on a roller coaster once, to show my daughter it was ok. I had such a cold sweat in line it felt like I was going to die. The anticipation was downright horrible. I screamed so loud I thought the universe would register it. By the end, I was shaken, but alive. I went through a few more times and guess what? I still utterly hate roller coasters. They suck. I get scared. I don't like feeling that way and find it so weird that this is something you'd put in an AMUSEMENT park. It's like a joke to me. If you had to construct something that would be the last thing to amuse me, it would be a roller coaster. But I could get the job done. I know that now.

I got over flight anxiety the same way. Just exposure was making it worse, but when I struck on the way to reduce my anxiety, the exposure is what let me put that into practice enough times to overcome it, entirely.

And that was some profound anxiety, too. Built and maximized as a adult.

Like I said, I don't know if I can overcome this. Maybe I will be atypical and unable to get it down to manageable levels, but to the extent I want to perform, even as an accompanist, or in any situation where there are listeners, exposure is going to have to be part of it.

I can't even play when the piano tuner is around. I get self-conscious at a PIANO STORE for goodness sake.
_________________________
Currently:
Shostakovich, Trio e Minor, Op. 67
Schumann, Album für die Jugend, Op. 68
Grieg, Four Norwegian Dances, Op. 35

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#2233600 - 02/18/14 08:26 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
bennevis Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4391
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes

Well, by unusual, I mean it's unusual that people ultimately are ruled by stage fright severe enough to stop them entirely. Most manage to figure out how to deal with it. It's atypical to find a musician who is so crippled by it they just cannot do it.

I'd guess that there are many teachers, and people who switched to other professions, who discovered that despite their immense musical gifts for performing and communicating, their performance anxiety could not be overcome, and they eventually ruled themselves out of a performing career. And there are others whose 'stage fright' got worse as they performed more. One well-known example is the great Sir Clifford Curzon, whose later performances were often badly marred by it.

http://youtu.be/0-9nVPAB-Yo & http://youtu.be/ZYdDSl3oHPs

With something like performance anxiety, repeated 'exposure' can actually reinforce the anxiety, because you remember how badly you played, and you can end up playing worse with each subsequent performance. It's a fallacy that it can always be overcome with psychological help (CBT etc), hypnotherapy or meditation or whatever.

Whereas with flying anxiety, you get the opposite effect, because the plane didn't crash, you had a smooth flight and a smooth landing, and there was no hijacker on board....

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#2233606 - 02/18/14 08:52 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7424
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
Yes, there are people with severe stage fright that persists no matter how often they are exposed, but these people are fairly unusual.


Actually, I don't think we have any idea of whether these people are unusual or not. Is there any concrete evidence that anybody here knows about? Even if there is, who knows how many people, who may be otherwise talented, instinctively chose not to pursue an activity that will put them in the kind of situation that will cause stage fright?

I'm a person who acquired severe stage fright after not having it for some years of playing in front of people, which is the exact opposite of what that "just keep doing it and you'll get over it" theory suggests (that hoary advice, BTW, can be pretty annoying to people like me for whom it doesn't work).

Anyway, if the OP happens to be one of the people who don't get over it by doing it, it's useful to know that it's not some weird thing that has only happened to them. And no, loving music and playing piano doesn't automatically mean a person is going to love performing live for others.



Well, by unusual, I mean it's unusual that people ultimately are ruled by stage fright severe enough to stop them entirely. Most manage to figure out how to deal with it. It's atypical to find a musician who is so crippled by it they just cannot do it. And if they are destined to tamp their fear down enough to get out there, exposure surely must be a part of it.


Of course it is atypical to find a musician so crippled by stage fright they just can't do it. It's not the kind of thing people typically announce to one and all. And if they can't do it, what's the point of telling anyone they are (or once were) a musician at all?

But my point isn't that it is "typical", but that it may be common enough so that the prescription of "just keep doing it and you'll get over it" needs to carry the caveat of "may not work for everybody".

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#2233633 - 02/18/14 09:45 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 802
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Yes, I'd say the practice performing often is probably in the "necessary but not sufficient" category for dealing with stage fright (except maybe for the few lucky individuals who aren't bothered by it).
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R

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#2233637 - 02/18/14 09:52 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: ranunculus]
anrpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/04
Posts: 173
Loc: Chicago
You have had some very good advice so far. I would like add a few numbers for your consideration.

80% This number represents a sweet spot between slow and fast. At this percentage of your "fastest, largely successful" tempo you are going slow enough pay attention to the details of the music and yet fast enough you have time to get in many repetitions. (repetition is the mother of all learning after all).

50% At half speed motor memory is pretty much non-existent. You just have to "know" the next note. This is a great speed to work on memorization.

10% Above, there was mention about having a level of spare capacity. You will be much more relaxed if you have at least a 10% buffer between what you can do and what you will do. More of course is great but get at least 10% and you will be much more comfortable. Since time is limited you may not be able to add much to your overall speed at this point, so it may be the better idea to just take things down a notch or two. You are probably the only person who might think you are a bit slow. Everybody else may marvel at how well played such an obviously difficult passage.

Good luck, though luck has nothing to do with it... keep working hard and you will be more successful.
_________________________
Andrew Remillard
http://www.ANRPiano.com
http://www.AndrewRemillard.com
Downers Grove, IL 60515

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#2233644 - 02/18/14 10:13 AM Re: Concert anxiety [Re: bennevis]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 807
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes

Well, by unusual, I mean it's unusual that people ultimately are ruled by stage fright severe enough to stop them entirely. Most manage to figure out how to deal with it. It's atypical to find a musician who is so crippled by it they just cannot do it.

I'd guess that there are many teachers, and people who switched to other professions, who discovered that despite their immense musical gifts for performing and communicating, their performance anxiety could not be overcome, and they eventually ruled themselves out of a performing career. And there are others whose 'stage fright' got worse as they performed more. One well-known example is the great Sir Clifford Curzon, whose later performances were often badly marred by it.

http://youtu.be/0-9nVPAB-Yo & http://youtu.be/ZYdDSl3oHPs

With something like performance anxiety, repeated 'exposure' can actually reinforce the anxiety, because you remember how badly you played, and you can end up playing worse with each subsequent performance. It's a fallacy that it can always be overcome with psychological help (CBT etc), hypnotherapy or meditation or whatever.

Whereas with flying anxiety, you get the opposite effect, because the plane didn't crash, you had a smooth flight and a smooth landing, and there was no hijacker on board....


Fair point. There are bad flights, though, and now I tend to deal with those better. Usually that would send me into paroxyms of panic, sweating, racing heart... Now, I can tamp the reaction down.

It's probably not usual for anybody to have the constitution to weather being the only focus among hundreds of people while you do something without some kind of reaction.

I would agree that continuing to shove somebody out on a huge stage over and over again with the idea that they'll one day get used to it isn't going to work.

By building tolerance, I don't mean that. I can see that no matter what you do, if someone has worsening anxiety, it won't matter what pep talk you give and the anxiety is going to be reinforced.

I meant that tolerance, if it's to come, is certainly going to come from working your way up from controlled TOLERABLE exposure. Say, small recitals with largely known audiences. Larger audiences with easier pieces. Build back up from easier pieces in informal settings, etc.

There is a point at which someone is willing to play with their anxiety under control.

And this is coming from someone who has trouble doing well in almost any situation.
_________________________
Currently:
Shostakovich, Trio e Minor, Op. 67
Schumann, Album für die Jugend, Op. 68
Grieg, Four Norwegian Dances, Op. 35

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