pre-recital nerves? your pre-performance ritual?

Posted by: Rollin shoulders

pre-recital nerves? your pre-performance ritual? - 04/22/12 07:15 PM


Figured this might be a good conversation post -

I had a recital earlier today, and couldn't help but feeling nervous. This is usually how it is when I play in front of people, and when the performance is over I feel like I overcame an obstacle.

Prior to playing, I was moving my hands and fingers furiously- partially to get them warmed up to moving and partially because I was really nervous ha.

Question is, what do YOU do before a performance to shake off nervousness? Or any type of unique "ritual" before a performance that has helped you over come nervousness?

(stories are interesting!.. just saying ha)
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: pre-recital nerves? your pre-performance ritual? - 04/23/12 02:29 PM

It might be good to re-post this on "Pianist Corner". That's where people usually post things like this, and in fact, for whatever reason this section of the site isn't viewed that much at all.


The main things that I do:

-- Make sure I'm as well-prepared as possible (of course by the time of the recital it's too late for that) ha

-- Make sure to have had "tryouts" in front of people in advance (oops, too late for that too) grin

-- When the time of the performance comes, main thing I do is remind myself that this is something I love doing and that I want to do, and to appreciate and enjoy it. smile
Posted by: HorseMom

Re: pre-recital nerves? your pre-performance ritual? - 08/04/12 10:34 AM

My pre-recital ritual begins about a month in advance. I start inviting neighbors over, dragging in people off the street, also hosting small little cocktail parties, and make people listen to a few of my recital pieces. I lighten it up by telling them "the more you drink, the better I sound." This way, after I've played something for someone other than just my teacher, a few dozen times, I don't have too many performance worries at concert time. No longer being at the university and no longer playing in regular master classes, I need this exposure and help. I also have a really good friend (my horse trainer actually) whose grandma loves to host parties and she has a spectacular Steinway at the ranch house. This gives me additional opportunities to play to an audience. She invites so many friends that by the time concert day comes around, the turnout in the performance hall seems rather unimpressive in comparison - ok, whatever, no problem.

My main worries then are if the piano I have to play on has 'features' I haven't fully explored. But I try to be a thorn in the side of the auditorium management in terms of getting access at LEAST once for a couple of hours so I can test out the instrument and drag some knowledgable person along with me to give me feedback on the acoustics of the hall - have them walk around and listen to different pieces from different places. Maybe the Bach has to be a little slower because the room is too live and everything is mudded together even though your feet are tied to the bench and nowhere near the pedals. Maybe I need more pedal on something, or cleaner articulation on something else. Another pair of ears is really helpful, especially given that it's a strange piano. And every room is different.

Oh - and when you bring someone in your home and play to them - do it when you have NOT warmed up and haven't been at your piano for several hours. Like, as you're walking in the door when you get home from work. If you can get through your piece that way, you can certainly do it on recital day when you've been doing scales and have played the piece a couple of times already. Everyone I've used as a victim has been really understanding about mistakes and if you tell them in advance that you're trying to find the places where you have problems under pressure (for me it's memory, seldom anything to do with technique), you won't stress about errors and will know that every problem you encounter is actually helping to perfect your piece for 'next time' (tomorrow - next victim, LOL!). Pre-recital ritual and planning starts long before recital day!

Stories. Hmmm. Well when I was in college I played the Chopin op 66 on a studio recital and I was SO nervous that I don't remember ANYTHING after walking onto the stage until I was safely backstage again. My professor said he was standing in the wings across from me, trying to get my attention, mouthing "SLOW DOWN!!!!" over and over again, because I was playing it so fast he was sure I was going to crash and burn. I didn't. It was perfectly clean and terrifyingly fast on the recording. I can't believe I actually played that. Clearly I was on auto-pilot and it was all coming from the careful memorization building and technical practice. It was a little bit dry - not the kind of passion/nuance that you'd like to hear in Chopin, other than what we built in as part of the memorization process - but I survived and so did Chopin. Other story - a 9' Steinway I played on for a concert last January, beautiful piano, suddenly a few minutes before the performance just as I was getting ready to quit warmup before the audience started to trickle in, the pedals suddenly came loose. Apparently there was a crack in the wood at the top of the attachment. My technician was there and I told him, "look, this is fine for the Bach but I can't work this way for Chopin and Granados!" He found some books backstage and crammed a stack of them under the lyre to hold it still. Worked fine (albeit a little unsightly), we just had to remember to remove them before pushing the piano back into its corner afterward!
Posted by: Sand Tiger

Re: pre-recital nerves? your pre-performance ritual? - 08/04/12 01:29 PM

I have a pre-performance routine. Obviously, practice helps. I like to memorize several ways: play normally, play from memory, play with eyes closed, play with the sound off, do earworming so I can mentally play the set in my head.

Mental walk throughs away from the instrument are part of my lead up. If I am going to do any talking, I rehearse that as well. For many pieces, I will also practice starting in the middle at set points, just in case there are interruptions or I falter.

Proper exercise and diet, are all important parts of the puzzle. A packing list, a set list, arriving early are part of the routine. The set list has the key of each piece and the first few bars. Nerves can make my mind go blank.

Just before playing, The Musicians Way blog and book has four steps: center, connect, contact, play. Center with a deep breath, connect with the piece in your mind, contact with other musicians or the audience, then go. The lead sheet is there if nerves feel overwhelming and I can't even remember the first sequence or the name of the piece. The book also talks about having performance circle groups, so that performing happens more often and becomes near routine instead of a big deal if a person only does it a few times a year.

For impromptu performances, it is good to have a few easy and well known pieces that a person can nearly play in their sleep. These might include some of the early tunes a person learned. I will often close practice with some of these, so can do them when tired.
Posted by: ruvido

Re: pre-recital nerves? your pre-performance ritual? - 08/16/12 06:52 AM

One thing I do in the weeks leading to a performance is to emulate as much as possible, the performance atmosphere. Hence, every time I begin a practice session, I sit down, turn on a recording(puts me on edge), and perform the first piece of the program.

I rarely ever warm up my fingers before practice due to the fact that I most likely wont have that luxury when performing. If anything, I stretch and loosen up my fingers, hands, arm, elbows, and shoulders.

Right before going on stage I try to avoid looking at the score or heavily overthinking things. Hence, I tend to do some math problems, do word searches, or play a game or two on my phone. Then once it's time to go, I take a deep breath or two, and go out there.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: pre-recital nerves? your pre-performance ritual? - 08/27/12 12:33 AM

I won't cover all the prepping for performance night, since I don't think that's what you're asking, but a lot goes into that--more so than the actual performance night.

On performance night, I do a few things every time:

1. Picture a warm, receptive, attentive audience.
2. Picture myself entertaining that audience to perfection, ie picturing the "best performance I've ever given."
3. Try to laugh at least once.. about anything.

This gets my mind in the right place to go onstage.

4. I go to the bathroom and do three things:
4a. Go to the bathroom
4b. Run my hands under warm/hot water
4c. Shake out my hands, move my fingers, tap on the counter a bit, then repeat 4b

If I have access to a piano offstage, I'll certainly warm up a bit, but if not, this gets my body/hands ready to perform.

5. Take a deep breath and take the stage..
Posted by: MylesB

Re: pre-recital nerves? your pre-performance ritual? - 08/28/12 02:02 PM

Cool topic. Never seen this side of piano. I'm sure it's the same for many sports but interesting what we can try. I find that when i don't block everything out i have problems. I'm all smiles w this topic.