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Does Rachmaninoff Touch Your Heart?
Today, with smartwatches and everyday electronics, it is increasingly common to measure training results, heart rate, calorie consumption, and overall health. But monitoring heart rate of pianists and audience can reveal interesting insights on several other aspects within the musical field. Read more >>

Topic: Tips for Nerves?!!  (Read 4063 times)

Offline mishamalchik

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Tips for Nerves?!!
on: March 07, 2017, 04:04:41 AM
So I've never been particularly comfortable performing however, I can usually play reasonably well, even if I'm not entirely satisfied with the performance. Well. Today has changed that.

It's the second time I've performed in a formal setting, and the first time I've performed such a technical monster under real pressure. I was to play opus 10 no 1 and it did not go well. I played it slower than I usually do, at around 2:45, and I still had to restart. I'm not sure why I was so nervous, it was a performance class, which is recorded and I'm fairly certain used to evaluate our grades, but there was still only a few students and is as informal as a formal setting can be.

How do you deal with nerves, particularly if you're about to play something that's incredibly technical? What are your techniques or ways of thinking that help you? Is it really all about getting more experience? It has occurred to me that my limited experience with public performance might be the main issue, but I also imagine that this can be a problem regardless.
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Offline j_tour

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #1 on: March 07, 2017, 10:20:28 PM
Preparation.  That is the only valid, non-medical advice I think that can be given.  Prepare.  Practice your set in your room/apartment/whatever under ALL stress-inducing stimuli.  Drink two pots of coffee, and then play your set.  Get naked and invite your neighbors/friends to watch you play your whole set.

Don't drink to "settle your nerves" -- I'm a big fan of booze, but it messes up your time too much.  I mean by that that booze has a deleterious effect on your perception of time, and your rhythm needs to be perfect.  Probably applies to weed as well, but since I'm not a 13-year old girl, I don't have an opinion on that.

I've heard people say various betablockers work.  I wouldn't know.  Maybe twice a year, like before taking a certification exam or going to an odious party, I'll take a Xanax, which is a different class of drugs.  I used to be so anxious I'd either drink or use a drug to calm myself down just to go play a rock and roll club with some people I hated.

But, really, it's practice.  Keep doing it, if you need pharmaceuticals, fine, that's what they're there fore, but the main thing is just go out and do it.  Repeatedly.  For years, it may take.  It's just raw nerves with a new experience -- wade it out, and it will be on old experience with jaded nerves, and you probably won't have anymore problems.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline mishamalchik

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #2 on: March 07, 2017, 11:40:13 PM
You're the third person to suggest pharmaceuticals to me. Is it really that common a thing to do? I'm only 19, so the drinking isn't an option lol.

I've been thinking more about why I get nervous. I was thinking that maybe it's because I'm playing for people, but I realize that when I think about, I don't play for them, I play for myself. I play piano because I love to play piano, and I think one of the biggest stressors are the high standards I set for myself.

The more I think about it the more sense it makes. Coming into an Ivy league school from the foster care system has me constantly thinking about what I need to do to catch up with my peers, both with piano and academics, and I allow myself little room for error. Maybe it's just a matter of getting truly comfortable performing with myself and my own judgments looming over.

Offline indianajo

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #3 on: March 08, 2017, 03:34:38 AM
I went to an "elite" school for 4 years where people were so competitive!  I didn't learn much in my major. I finished my degree the fifth year repeating courses at "Cougar High" a commuter college where the lecturers all had real jobs and the students worked the problems out together in the dept. library.  Much more fun, and I actually learned things instead of having it demonstrated to me how stupid I was.  (I'm not)
Piano is not a competition, it is an art.  I listened to the Van Cliburn competition TV show, and I didn't like any of the repretoire, or the performances either.  let them win. It was all academic **** music except for Petrushka.  
The other thing is studying music in school seems to be about how much repretoire they can cram in the least amount of time. Glad all those pros can do that.  I don't learn that way & never will.  If I practice slowly and steadily, and keep myself from learning mistakes by repeating them, memory comes as naturally as walking does. I don't forget.  My sympathy if this method does not line up with the program.  
As far as pharmacuticals to alter your mood, I don't see it. I use over the counter stuff to stop me from sneezing or dripping snot on the keys, and in my sixties I need a NSAID some days to get over a rough spot in my thumb joint. The side effects of those are well known and pretty benign.   But I think mood alterers is a crutch if you're not actually bipolar, depressive, obsessive or one of the other demonstrated biochemical/mental disorders.  
Not caring so much what people think, and caring more about the beauty of what I am playing, is what motivates me.  of course I didn't have your bad start.  My Mother would smile at me no matter what I did, and meals would be on time and the bills would be paid so I would have a home to find after school.  Dad's parents used to move right before the sheriff would come to evict them for non-payment, and Dad would have trouble finding his way to the new place after school - so he made sure I had the same place to come home to for 16 years.  My profound thanks for that situation.  
Best of luck in staying calm.  Your co-students:  Usually competitors all, in "elite" schools.  Hard to find a friend in that crowd.  

Offline Bob

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #4 on: March 09, 2017, 11:48:58 PM
Betablockers need a prescription and can mess with your heart I think.

The most potent things I've used (and prepare, etc., all that)...
Your performance matches your practice.  That's how it's going to sound, feel, go, etc.  It doesn't magically get better (it can, but that's the 1% performance.  That's not going to happen.).  It can always go worse if you're not trying.  If you're maxing out attention or demanding more than 100%, that's not good.

No one cares.  The performance isn't that important.  The audience doesn't care that much.  Don't make them cringe though, but they don't really care that much.  Opinions are probably already made up or get made up quickly and don't change.  After a few seconds, there's nothing to worry about.  If it's good and decisions are made off that, you were good well before that performance.  If it's bad, it was already bad before that performance.  That one performance won't change anything and doesn't really matter.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline dogperson

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #5 on: March 10, 2017, 12:04:05 AM
For each piece, I make myself take my time to start, repeat a self-performance mantra composed of 'you can do this' and mentally review what I love about the music and want to convey.  If I am playing with the score (which is usual for me), I have a post-it note on the score for thoughts about the music:  feelings it evokes, or passages I especially enjoy.  I do not have a post-it note to reminder me about  the problem sections and thinking about them when I sit down is something I do not allow myself to do. 

That time, mantra, and lots of practice has really made a difference with the anxiety... and I had a really good dose of it due to a yucky performance. 

My teacher has pointed out that, if you watch the competition videos, you will often see what is probably the 'ritual of taking a few deep breaths and thinking' as handkerchiefs are brought out of pockets, placed on the piano, or the stool is adjusted.. ..... 'nerve adjustment time demonstrated'.

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #6 on: March 10, 2017, 12:28:03 AM
I have responded to the logic of this particular thread many times before, so I initially suggest to the OP that you print "louispodesta" in the upper right hand corner search engine and then take it from there.

Just yesterday, I was sharing my personal experience (with my new Concerto Repertoire Coach) about Inderal/Propranalol. She recognized my old school chum reference, and then added that one of her students, who is an MD, referred to this Beta Blocker professionally at "Vitamin I."

It is not a narcotic, it is very cheap.  And, as you will glean from my prior posts on this subject, if you do not get an Neurologist, or an Endocrinologist to examine, diagnose, and corresponding prescribe the Inderal for you (with the proper very low dosage), do not come crying to me.

Further, as stated in these posts, PhD Clinical Psychologists can utilize Neurofeedback training (which has been done very successfully in the UK) and also Emwave Cardiac training in order to effectuate a whole mind/body solution to this problem.

These two methodologies are not medicinally effectuated,and they can get you on the pathway to "no nerves" piano performance, in my opinion.

Offline pianoamatuer

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #7 on: March 10, 2017, 03:00:03 AM
My advice is to simply get the book : The Power of Positive Thinking
It teaches a philosophy of positive thinking, believing in yourself, not worrying/fretting, not getting nervous. In fact, when I first got the book I called it garbage for sounding so ridiculous. But it really helped me out and I learned various things that can integrally correlate to performing.

Also, the bulletproofmusician.com was a great website to helping me overcome my performance anxiety. In fact, the whole website is DEDICATED to teaching you how to overcome performance anxiety. I've been using it for a year or two, and I think the results are finally appearing. I'm not as nervous when I perform now.
I really recommend signing up for its daily email. They send you a email every week about performance. Also, after you're signed up for a week or two, they'll send you a 6-day guide on  performance anxiety, performing better,  and how to actually use it to your advantage. The website is very insightful, and is done by a guy who has been performing on the violin ever since he was 4. He now has a PHD in psychology and is very reliable for performance. In fact, I would go as far to say he's went a bit too extreme to dive so deeply into performance and the science of it. He mentions how beta-blockers and other things like nutrients aren't very useful(placebo effect, he says), etc. The author says that instead of actually trying to get rid of the performance anxiety is to again, use it.
I highly recommend this if you're not willing to get a book. It wouldn't hurt, anyway.
I'm just a amateur taking a unconventional approach on the graceful, amazing piano.

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #8 on: March 11, 2017, 11:35:07 PM
Per the OP:

When a surgeon performs surgery on a patient, or a pianist plays the piano in performance, either one is in control or they are not.  Further, no one says: Oh, if I had it together (mentally), I would not have my migraine headaches.

Propranolol, which I take daily for my low level Parkinson's Disease, is a very cheap and a (once again) non-narcotic method of slowing your heart rate down and its corresponding Adrenal Gland activity.

Go ahead and beat your head against the wall with all of your self-help books.  It won't do you any good, in my most experienced opinion.  Further, per my prior post (after propranolol), Neurofeedback and Emwave provide a non-evasive long-term solution.

If it wasn't for my Parkinson's Disease, that is what I would be doing.  Please do not shame yourself into not finding an easy solution to your problem.

Once again, get yourself to the right Doctor, get the proper medication (most often, very low dosage Inderal), and then once again enjoy the true joy of piano performance.

Additionally, I proffer the following postscript that your Doctor won't tell you:

When you take the Inderal before performance or a lesson, please lie down and rest for 20 minutes and then do not touch a piano.  This allows the medication to take hold.  Otherwise, your heart will take a full hour and a half for it to kick in.

This business of practicing like mad before you walk on stage is very counterproductive, in my opinion.



Offline j_tour

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #9 on: March 12, 2017, 01:31:55 AM
After a few seconds, there's nothing to worry about.  If it's good and decisions are made off that, you were good well before that performance.  If it's bad, it was already bad before that performance.

Very nicely said.  The worst part for me was always the tedious-but-pressured setting up equipment -- getting out on the stage in front of "everybody," whoever or how many that might be.  After a while of habituating myself to that part of the process, I became like a Frankenstein monster, efficiently and perfectly taking care of all the necessary-but-boring stuff like making sure the equipment is OK, making sure the fly is zipped.

By far, once the fingers get on the keys, you already know what to do, because you've done it tens of thousands of times before -- so you can be an artist and play how you feel like interpreting one little nuance at that moment or so.

That's corny, and partly a rip-off of George Patton's "when you reach over and put your hand in a pile of goo that once was your best friend's face, you'll know what to do," but that's the way I feel about it.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #10 on: March 14, 2017, 12:52:25 AM
If it was that straightforward, and I did say "eas

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Tips for Nerves?!!
Reply #11 on: March 14, 2017, 12:58:12 AM
If it was that straightforward, and I did say "eas
My apologies for hitting the wrong key (I did not, and it has happened before).

Therefore, as stated:  if it was easy, then everyone, including the OP, would not be continually posting this question about "nerves."

Please consider my prior post, and if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by PM.

All the best.
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