Discussion in 'Technique' started by Anonymous, Apr 20, 2007.
can you tell me how can i not be frightened on stage in a performance but be relax?
Oh boy. This is a huge topic for me and hardly know where to begin. I think I may be quite a bit older than you and dealt with stage fright better when I was young. But of course everybody is different. Mine has gotten worse lately - so much so that I'm getting ready to try something for the very first time- prescription medicine (just got the prescription filled yesterday) Hopefully you don't need to go to that extreme. One way to really help, though, is to be very confident that your music is so well learned that you don't worry about it.
See the glass as half empty!
Say to yourself, "You know what!? You suck! You will mess up!" When you lower your expectations and humble yourself, your nervousness will go down. But do not over-do the negativity because it will actually come true...you will mess up.
Or do what Rubinstein did, pick a lady in the audience and concentrate solely on her. Eliminate the crowd except for her. Play the piano like you are playing it for the lady. This is like the cliche of "picturing people in their underwear".
I too get stage-freight. It's not that I don't want to be on stage, rather, I become "warm" because of executing the piece. So I have a tendency to lift my left leg so it hits the underside of the piano, and I really do not concentrate on the music that I am playing, I am concentrating more on what note comes next! Something that every pianist should not do! ...I know this because I fouled up once during Chopin's prelude #15 (i forgot how to play the first page!!!!!)
In short: humble your expectations, believe that nobody cares, find that woman in the audience, and relax.
I know this won't help much,
Nervousness is caused by the fight/flight hormone called "epinephrine" that is excreted from the adrenal glands. Here's the great thing, if what I learned is really true and research has not yet disproved it. The adrenal glands only have so much epinephrine stored for shooting out, until they are temporarily depleted. So the advice to not be nervous and to take your mind off of your performance until you actually hit the stage, can be very bad for those of us prone to nervousness. You may end up successfully staying calm all day, but then all of that stored adrenaline is more likely to hit you all at once on stage and your performance could go seriously whacky from it.
So unless you are one of the few who can mentally train yourself to stay calm not only up to, but during the actual performance, or take a mild anti-anxiety pill, I've learned you have two ways to deplete this adrenaline prior to the performance. They are through physical strenuous exercise earlier that day and/or through mentally working yourself into as much of a nervous wreck as is humanly possilble starting AT LEAST 2 hours prior to the performance. Deplete the adrenaline from the adrenals, and then there will not be enough of that nasty performance-hindering adrenaline left by showtime to make your body physically react (i.e. blurred vision, shaky fingers, heart racing, even mild nausea) to the worried thoughts on stage, at least not to the extent that they could really blow a well-prepared performance.
-Nicole in Canada
but can you detail how can i deplete the adreneline?
and if i do that tiring exercise before the recital i think i go very tired in the recital which i think will annoy me
Hi again, Stephen
Good point regarding the possibility of getting too tired by the time the performance begins! I guess it depends on the degree of stage fright that you experience, as to whether you'd want to try the adrenaline depletion idea I read about. But if you do try it, from what I understand it is either by temporarily physically exerting yourself to expel some adrenaline earlier that day, by running around to get your heart beat up pretty high for about 30 minutes a few hours before the performance (not weight-lifting to tire your muscles, and not a marathon of running for hours and hours), or by getting really nervous for hours on end before you actually have to play, so that by the time you get to performance, there is very little of that nervousness hormone left.
I'm just looking on the internet about what can happen to an individual's body when adrenaline suddenly shoots out from adrenals during extreme nervousness. Let's hope every item on the list below doesn't happen all at once, or there's no way a person could play even a note!!! But I can see how these unexpected and unwelcome adrenaline-induced phenomenae could really make a piano performance go awry:
-heart pounding sounds in ears
-heart rate increases dramatically
-time is sensed as being in slow-motion
-sweaty and/or trembling hands
-rapid shallow breathing
-inability to judge distance
Gee, listing this stuff makes me hope that PianoLady lets us know if that prescription ends up working. The above looks pretty unpleasant when you see it in print.
Stand on the railroad tracks of a fast-train (ICE or Bullet Train) and wait until the very last moment to jump out of the way! That'd depleat your adreniline very quickly.
thank you nicole
some more efficient methods on depletion of adreneline?
Hi Nicole, It may be awhile before I have anything to report regarding this medicine because I'm kind of afraid to actually take it. It's such a tiny little pill, but who knows what it will do to me. Maybe make me fall asleep on the piano? Although that would be a good show, right? Anyway, your ideas are good. I just started reading a book about this subject so if I learn anything new, (and when I try the medicine) I'll let you know.
I think the book I read might have been called "The Inner Game of Music" by Barry Green, which talked about how to try to get nervousness out before the performance begins. But if that doesn't work, here is some information from googling "Beta Blockers". I have never tried one, but have taken one ibuprofen (Advil) painkiller an hour before singing an opera exam a few years ago when I felt panic setting in, which seemed to "take the nervous edge off":
Beta blockers - which are cardiac medications, not tranquilizers or sedatives - were first marketed in 1967 in the United States for disorders like angina and abnormal heart rhythms. One of the commonest is propranolol, made here by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and sold under the brand name Inderal. By blocking the action of adrenaline and other substances, these drugs mute the sympathetic nervous system, which produces fear in response to any perceived danger, be it a sabre-toothed tiger or a Lincoln Center audience.
Even the most skillful and experienced musicians can experience this fear. Legendary artists like the pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Glenn Gould curtailed their careers because of anxiety, and the cellist Pablo Casals endured a thumping heart, shortness of breath and shakiness even as he performed into his 90's. Before the advent of beta blockers, artists found other, often more eccentric means of calming themselves. In 1942, a New York pianist charged his peers 75 cents to attend the Society for Timid Souls, a salon in which participants distracted one another during mock performances. Others resorted to superstitious ritual, drink or tranquilizers. The pianist Samuel Sanders told an interviewer in 1980 that taking Valium before a performance would bring him down from wild panic to mild hysteria.
"Before propranolol, I saw a lot of musicians using alcohol or Valium," said Mitchell Kahn, director of the Miller Health Care Institute for the Performing Arts, describing 25 years of work with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra and other groups. "I believe beta blockers are far more beneficial than deleterious and have no qualms about prescribing them."
The little secret in the classical music world - dirty or not - is that the drugs have become nearly ubiquitous. Indeed, the effect of the drugs does seem magical. Beta blockers don't merely calm musicians; they actually seem to improve their performances on a technical level. In the late 1970's, Charles Brantigan, a vascular surgeon in Denver, began researching classical musicians' use of Inderal. By replicating performance conditions in studies at the Juilliard School and the Eastman School in Rochester, he showed that the drug not only lowered heart rates and blood pressure but also led to performances that musical judges deemed superior to those fueled with a placebo.
I've heard of Beta Blockers, but the drug I have is called Xanax. I think it's a kind of tranquilizer. It's also addicting which is why I'm a little scared, but a friend of mine who has the same problem I have has taken this drug at the lowest doseage (the same I have ) and says that it works wonders. So...I'm eager and scared at the same time. You are lucky that a single ibuprofen works for you. I take these two at a time every day for tendonitis but they don't do anything for my nerves.
Thanks a lot for all the information. In a strange way, it's nice to know that so many others have the same problem.
My experiences with stage fright are similar to Monicas experience, in the way that it seesm to me that I could handle that better as a teenager instead 30 years later.
But that can have different reasons. As teenager I was used to play here and there in public because I accompaigned the school choir on piano.
I think the best way to overcome is to get used to play for others. That can be in small steps. For instance I remember my first lesson I got after a gap of 25 years. I had stage fright! With every lesson it got less. What about playing for your family, followed by playing for your friends? In my case it seems to help. You cannot imagine what a stage fright I had in my first church service on organ. The second time went better, and let's see, hopefully it will get better and better next times.
I believe suppressing stage fright is the wrong approach. Better is to try to recognize the effects the stage fright has without fighting against. And always trying to concentrate on the music while playing. The book "The inner game of music" - what I consider as a very good book - deals alot with those problems, as Nicole already stated. Written from someone who knows about what he writes.
I don't have experiences with drugs beside smoking weed and alcohol, but I know that weed worsens the concentration (the danger to loose the thread while playing without score is too large for me). Maybe a glass of red wine is not too bad, especially if one plays before friends and manages that they drink more than itself :wink:
You are right about that. The book I just got done reading said basically the same thing. It said not only should you acknowledge your nervous symptoms, but try to intensify them. They will, instead, vanish. Can’t wait to try that one.
I only smoked pot twice when I was young. The first time – I couldn’t stop laughing for hours. The second time – I couldn’t stop eating. Both times made my stomach hurt afterwards and I decided that was the end of my drug experimentation. Besides, my friends and I were pretty goofy and took plenty of 'walks on the wild side' without drugs. Boy…do I have the stories – never mind.
Alcohol is a different story. I’ve never drank anything before playing in public (except when I was in college and was in a band). I’m sure it wouldn’t work, though, as it makes my playing go downhill. I have to play in another recital in a couple weeks, so I’ll let you know if any of these other ‘techniques’ work.
I just learned of another 'technique' to try. One of my friends suggested hypnosis. Anyone ever try that? I certainly have not. She says it can help and is safer than taking drugs. I'm just afraid that if i do it, I could be sitting at the piano, someone in the audience sneezes and I start barking. Or singing like Ethel Merman , you know the song, "there's no business like show business"
( :lol: cracking myself up)
I forgot all about this topic. Alice M - good tip about deciding in advance what you will do.
And if any one wants to know - I tried that prescription medicine at my last recital. It didn't do a thing. :x My heart was pounding just as hard, my hands shook, and I made a couple mistakes in places I never did before. And I was using music! It was the very lowest doseage, though, so I guess I need something stronger. Not sure I will go that next step, or just try dealing with it naturally. I have about five months to decide.
I've been asked to play some Medtner at the Rachmaninoff Society's annual conference. I'm pretty nervous about the whole thing, as I haven't performed in 10 years (at least) and never enjoyed it then either. I think I have to accept that there will be cold hands and shaky arms and missed notes and do it anyway. But boy, just thinking about it makes me nervous.
On the bright side, I'm told Ashkenazy won't be arriving until the following day, so he for sure won't be in the audience. Whew!
Wow, that is a great honor indeed ! How did you get to be singled out for that ?
A nerve racking prospect for sure... but exciting
Probably not well known on this forum is that I am the head of an Elite Committee of Golf where I have a lot contact with the players as well (I have a golf career which I ended 15 years ago). As I both play the piano (and have performed live many many times) and golf, I believe that the same method
can be applied in both areas and I have a few simple but helpful tips. But from preparing well, I would give the following advices.
Before the performance
Do not eat or drink anything with much sugar in as chocolate, Coca-Cola, etc. For sure, you do not need this sugar push this day. Instead, try to be stay low all way through your performance. Do not drink too much coffee for the very same reason. Do not eat anything too close to your performance. Your brain need the blood, not your stomach. I would say not closer than 2 hours. Long before your performance, hide away somewhere and prepare. Don't let anything or anyone interrupt your mind. Keep your concentration on what you are about to do. Do not prepare at the piano with the pieces you are about to play. If you still practice this day, you are way after your schedule. Actually, do not play the pieces at all the very same day as the first performance of the day of a piece you know well is often the best.
One week before the performance, try to be as good as you are able to play the pieces you are about to play 3 times in a row without a single mistake. If you succeed, this will make you very comfortable on stage. If you fail on the last key the 3rd time, restart the session.
When you are tensed and nervous, you begin to breath faster and worse, with the upper part of your lounges. When doing is, you push your shoulders a bit upwards which at least in golf has a major impact on the technique of the swing but also on your technique on the piano. In extreme fast breathing, hyper ventilation, you can even faint. But there is a simple method to very much reduce this symptom and that is to breath with your stomach. Not really with your stomach of course but it should feel like you do that. Doing slow breathing with your stomach will within 10 seconds reduce your pulse and your shoulders will lower to a normal position. The difficulty is to remember doing this process when you are nervous so I use to tell my players that this is the ONLY thing they need to remember when they get nervous. 10 seconds of this method and you can go back to normal and avoid a mistake. Once you begin to play, you cannot apply this so it must be done before. Any audience can wait 10 seconds before a pianist begins to play.
Just my few cents on the topic and Schmonz, I wish you my best for the performance and would also like to know how you were able to get this incredible chance! Go for it!
Robert, thanks for the advice! I accepted the invitation and I now have a month and a half to prepare. I need to figure out what to do in order to feel ready; your suggestions are an excellent tee shot.
How did this opportunity come along? It took me by surprise. Earlier in the year, I heard the Rachmaninoff Society was putting on a private performance that included Medtner's G minor sonata. I told the event's organizer why I was joining. Y'all thought I was a big Medtner fan? Her license plate says MEDTNER and the car is a Sonata. We exchanged a few emails about our shared obsession, and that was that.
Well, now the annual conference is coming up, and it's in New York this year, and there's always a recital partly featuring participation from members, and she emailed to say that the program was all Rachmaninov and would I be interested to round it out with some Medtner? I said something to the effect of "That's very nice of you, but how about you hear what I sound like first?", and pointed her here. (Thank you, as always, Piano Society!)
So the short answer is, I inadvertently had the right offhanded conversation with the right Medtner enthusiast several months ago.
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