Tips for how to beat music performance anxiety, stage fright and nerves – part 2

Here’s the second part on how to  handle nervousness, stage fright and anxiety performing music in public     :

1. Single out one area of your playing that is the top priority among things to remember
Think about this not when you are performing, but before you go on stage. Some people, for instance, may wish to focus on posture. Some might need to play with less pressure, while others may need a reminder to play more boldly. The issues to consider will all be specific to the individual and they may change over time, depending on what is top priority at the moment. When highlighting areas to improve, be careful not to overload yourself with more work and thus mores pressure.

2. Enjoy performing
Yes, easier said than done I know for some, but don’t forget that your performance is the time when you can finally share with your listeners what you have worked so hard in the practice room to achieve. This is a time of celebrating yourself and not a time for correcting errors or other faults. It’s not unreasonable to suggest some musicians are too self-critical in performance. 
Well the practice room is the place for that. The concert hall however is the place for celebrating yourself and the music. Let your emotions for the music be present. Don’t allow minor details to obscure your feelings about the music. Let your excitement for the music be present. Let the adrenaline and your passion for the music come through. 

3. Video/Audio Tape
Now comes the RIGHT time to be critical but in a positive, constructive way.
Video- or audiotape practice sessions, reviewing the tape, critiquing the performance. This is  where, you want to be looking at everything, from mannerisms, how you smile and other body language, role-playing how to acknowledge the audience to imagining them there in front of you as you start playing your instrument while being recorded.      It is important to develop a strong vision of yourself already in the environment.
While viewing the videotape, you could also identify places in the music where tension is present. To help the feeling of being threatened by the critique, listen or view the tape as an outsider observing a colleague’s performance.
4. Learn from the experts
One of the best ways to solidify your performance is to watch famous musicians that you like/admire. See if there are any positive traits that you could model and incorporate into your own performance. Also, by reading about them, their biographies, the sacrifices they made and their approach to preparation for a performance and the actual performance itself, you can get an insight into their mindset and even adopt that as your own if you feel it best serves your purposes. There have been many great performers who were in the same position as you when they were starting out in their career, feeling like they were ready to throw up before their first major concert! Yet, the reason they have achieved greatness has been (amongst other things) because they did not let the fear overwhelm them. They recognised they had a duty to engage and entertain the audience and that if the audience were enjoying themselves it was because the performer was also enjoying his /herself too. 

5. Set goals but have realistic expectations
When setting a goal, make sure it is SMART. This stands for: Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic and Time-based. Be certain to set realistic expectations when choosing appropriate repertoire. The music selected should be well within your capability. You also need to consider the time frame when choosing the music, allowing ample time for you to learn and internalize the work.

6. Rehearse as much as possible
Participate in performance rehearsals during the weeks prior to a performance. If possible, hold a rehearsal in the actual venue. This would be especially helpful for pianists, allowing them to become familiar with the instrument as well as the venue acoustics. Get in as many rehearsals prior to a performance in order for you to feel more secure with the music, as well as identify any weak spots that you feel may need work.

7. Perform often
You’ll hear it said often, there’s no substitute for real-life experience. Of course, performing frequently may not always be possible. While there will always be varying degrees of anxiety when one is exposed to comfort-level pushing situations, such experiences also increase the musician’s confidence level, and the performer is able to gain self-awareness and knowledge within the performance venue. One primarily learns by immersion and it is only by immersing yourself in performing as much as possible that you become desensitized to the whole situation.

8. Attend to Non-Musical Matters in Advance
If you are responsible for the programs, be certain they are printed correctly, proofread and assembled and know who will distribute them. Think about what you will wear for your performance. For females, it always is a good idea to practice in the shoes you will wear for the concert, especially if the shoes are new and being worn for the first time. If you intend to make a speech or introduce the pieces, rehearse these especially in front of others. Focus on your tone of voice, speed, volume (so you can be heard throughout the venue) and your facial expressions. If a page-turner is needed, make the arrangements prior to the performance and rehearse the page turns also. Dealing with these matters will help reduce any last-minute panic on the day.

9. Focus on the Present
Absorb yourself in the now. Rid your mind of thoughts about things which annoyed/worried you earlier. Also, avoid self-sabotaging thoughts such as focusing on an upcoming difficult passage, a slip that just occurred, an impending disaster or any other irrelevant thought. Having a focused state of mind with total absorption in an activity is sometimes referred to as being in a state of “flow.”

10. Avoid Inner Dialogue
Avoid inner dialogue while performing. Such internal chatter      can only leave the you feeling distracted and flustered. If a performer becomes engaged in an inner dialogue during performance, this is the time to return his focus to the music. Asking yourself: “where is this going?/what am I doing?/where is this leading me?” etc brings your mind back to what’s important. Questions direct focus.

11. Master your state
Just as important as what to focus your mind on is mastering your state. It has sometimes been said that motion creates emotion. This is true to an extent. Although it may sound simplistic, the way you carry yourself from when and how you address the audience, your facial expressions and other body language to how you sit at/hold your instrument, can affect your mindset. Imagine if you were nervous or apprehensive? What would your body language be? Looking down at the floor? Shallow breathing? Serious expression. Walking slightly slouched, in a shuffling manner? The point is that you mind rationalizes that: “this is what my body does when I’m happy/sad/confident/nervous etc, therefore if I’m this state, then I must be that mood!” So change it for the better.
I hope these tips have been of use. Apply them, go out and have your best performance ever!

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