Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves
There are many elements to the whole area of preparation, both beforehand and on the day, that give you the best possible chance of having a healthy dose of adrenalin to support your performance. Let’s say you have a performance planned. You feel comfortable with the amount of practice you have done and you are ready to get up on that stage. So what kinds of things do you need to think about on the day of the performance itself?
To perform well you need energy, and part of that energy comes from being well rested. Having a good night’s sleep the night before is always good, but it’s important to think about how you manage your energy on the day of the performance itself. Make sure you have enough time to have some peace and quiet to focus on the performance you’re about to give. Five minutes may be all you have but nevertheless, find five minutes of quiet before you walk on just to bring your attention towards the performance. It’s not worth letting yourself struggle unnecessarily.
Breathing helps so much. The performance is the time to get the value out of the breathing techniques that you have practised in your own practice room. If your heart is pounding as you are about to go on stage, take 3-10 long, slow breaths, and most importantly, notice how you feel as a result.
Stretching and freeing yourself physically can be very helpful. Stretching can come in the form of organised practices such as Yoga, or it can simply be a series of exercises you make up. This kind of physical activity, is not only important for obvious physiological reasons, like getting more oxygen to where is needed, but it helps you counteract the tension that can happen when you’re anxious. By doing some stretches and releasing tension, not only do you encourage your body into more physical freedom, but you can start to feel safer on an emotional level.
We’ve now come to the end of this 5-day taster course on Managing your Performance Nerves and I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and have got some ideas that you can start putting into practice. We’ve only started scratching the surface of how you can best manage your nerves as a musician, so if you feel you’d like to explore it more you might be interested in my Inspired Performance course (of which the first two modules will be coming to the Online Academy shortly). This is much more in depth and is gives you lots of powerful tools and strategies to move you through out-of-control nerves and into Inspired Performance.
Stand with your feet flat on the ground and your arms at your side and experiment with the following exercises:
- Stretch your arms up to the ceiling.
- Roll your shoulders, forwards and then backwards.
- Slowly and carefully lean your neck to the right and then the left giving a gentle stretch to each side of the neck in turn (Be very careful you don’t do this too fast, otherwise you could do yourself damage).
- Check in to where you feel tight. Is it your shoulders? Your back? Your arms? If you need more than what I have suggested so far, make the exercises up. Do anything that feels good to you and that helps you to free up.
Build these exercises and any others you like into your practice as something you do on a daily basis to support yourself. This is the first step towards greater body awareness.
Resources and further reading
This series features video demonstrations of a selection of pieces from Trinity College London’s 2018 - 2020 piano examination syllabus, with examples from each grade from Initial to 8. You will find plenty of tips for practice, as well as suggestions for piano teachers, and guidance on matters relating to... Read >>
An introductory Pattern Play series that introduces the materials of music (scales, intervals, and chords) in creative and musical ways.... Read >>
This series features the first two weeks of Inspired Performance which is an online video and audio course which aims to help you move through your performance blocks towards a free, joyful and inspired performing life. It provides an overview of performance anxiety, how we experience nerves and how we... Read >>
This series contains resources and further links to other resources featuring the ABRSM syllabus and is designed for elementary level players, young musicians and their teachers. Articles in this series provide step-by-step (or phrase-by-phrase) approaches to learning a pieces thoroughly and securely, offer practice exercises to help solve technical problems... Read >>
Spread (or rolled, ripped, broken or arpeggiated) chords are simply chords where we play one note after the other, rather than playing all the notes simultaneously. Although this sounds relatively straightforward, there are questions and problems associated with spreading chords which this series of articles will seek to address.... Read >>
Dedicated to helping everyone play the music they love and long to play, Lucinda Mackworth-Young introduces her step-by-step system for learning to play by ear and improvise, so that even classically trained piano players can play spontaneously, anywhere, anytime - and say “Yes!” when asked to play Happy Birthday!... Read >>