Performance nerves, and a strategy to deal with them

We all suffer to a greater or lesser extent with anxiety about performance. Here is some tried and tested advice:

Think about dealing with performance nerves as an ongoing strategy. It’s no good procrastinating and hoping that it will be ‘all right on the night’.  You must practice performing regularly as well as practicing the piano. However this is not as tricky as it sounds.

When preparing a piece for performance in public or preparing for an exam, practice it to a level where you can play it comfortably. Then arrange to play it to members of the family or to friends. Do this a few times before the live performance will take place.

Another good strategy if friends/family are unavailable is to video yourself playing the piece.

When playing to your audience, adopt some or all of these ideas:

1. You do not care about making mistakes in performance.

2. In the mood of not caring about making mistakes, why not relax and even take a few risks?

3. You and the piano are in a bubble. You cannot see/hear outside the bubble.

4. If you make a mistake, instead of thinking ‘oh dear’ (or some more inflammatory phrase!) as quickly as possible focus on the positive act you were trying to accomplish, e.g. you may have been shaping a phrase, playing a rhythm, staying on the beat. Making a mistake is a ‘negative’ so get back to the ‘positive’ fast.  Implement this idea when practicing, and refocus quickly onto a positive idea whenever you make a mistake.  Concentrate on the here and now.

5. Listen more to the piano. Listen to the actual sound.

6. Play every note as if you mean it. Play from the heart.

Thoughts on motivation – It’s not for now, it’s for life!

Sometimes you ask yourself, why am I practicing, why am I doing this? The answer is that no matter how you feel right now you still like the piano and like music – that feeling will stay with you for a lifetime. However, today you find it an uphill struggle to learn a new piece or just to sit and play.

The answer could be to put the new piece aside for a while and play some old favourites. They don’t need the same effort and you like them. Perhaps you’ve got your own private list of 3 or 4 that you can always turn to and enjoy. Taking part in this activity stills the mind and removes the stress of learning something new. And hey, you’re enjoying your music again!

Don’t give up. Just play something you like. The need to learn and practice a new piece will return soon.


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