Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves
Practice is essential and that’s something that all musicians would agree with. The times that I have been particularly nervous before a concert have mostly been when I haven’t had the music for long enough or I haven’t done as much practice as I have needed to.
Knowing the music is one of the most important aspects of preparation because without it, our nerves can play havoc. We need to know the music well in advance. Last minute cramming is nowhere near as successful and it means we are relying on our wits and winging it, rather than our knowledge and muscle memory.
Then start noticing how you practise. Do you really know the music when you’re about to perform? Is there a part of you saying, “it will be all right on the night” but without doing anything to prepare for that? If there is, there is a strong chance that you will start to panic when you walk on stage or when you come across the unlearnt section in the middle of the performance.
If you’re working with other musicians like a collaborative pianist / accompanist, they need the music well in advance too. It’s not wise to give a pianist the piano part hours or days before the performance and isn’t the optimum way to make music for anyone involved. Much better is to have time and space to rehearse so that each musician gets to know the music and the ensemble well.
Practice run-throughs make an enormous difference. Trying everything out in a safer space takes the pressure and the expectations off, so that you can just focus on the music and get the feel of performing. If you have the opportunity to play in the venue in advance, it’s also very helpful.
- Run through a piece that you are part way through learning and notice the bits that are shaky.
- Mark them on the music and make a commitment to making sure you know those sections so thoroughly that they can survive an adrenalin burst and an audience in front of you.
- Once you feel you have mastered the whole piece with the shaky bits sorted, now play it in a performance situation and see how it holds up. Playing it in front of one person will be enough.
Resources and further reading