Your hands are cold and shaky, your heart is racing, and you find it hard to breath. Are you sick? Are you having a nightmare? No, you’re about to play your instrument in a recital, and the symptoms you are experiencing are due to performance anxiety — better known as stage fright.
Performance anxiety affects us all, to some degree or another. Here are some things you can try out to help deal with your performance anxiety:
- Practice performing. Play your pieces for other people whenever you can. It’s one thing to practice your pieces, but it’s another thing to practice performing. Ask other people to come in the room to make you nervous, and see how well you can handle running through you pieces.
- Envision yourself succeeding. Envisioning yourself performing your piece well is extremely helpful. Do it as your practicing, as you’re not practicing, and as you are performing. Doing so keeps your outlook positive and sets you up for success.
- Keep your focus on what’s important. As you perform, keep your focus on making the piece as musical and emotional as possible. Focusing only on getting the right notes will make it difficult for you to “get beyond the notes” and play musically, and will probably make you more nervous anyway. Besides, in the long run, most audience members would much rather hear a touching, musical performance than a note-perfect performance — so focus on what’s important!
- Breathe. This may seem obvious, but it’s very crucial! Take plenty of deep breaths before and during your pieces. When you are nervous, everything tightens up and it’s difficult to breathe. However, taking deep breaths of air will help calm yourself down and slow down that heart rate — plus, give your brain some extra oxygen to you can think clearly. Try paying attention to your breathing sometime when you play, and I’ll bet you’ll find that you aren’t breathing as much as you think you are. To help avoid this from happening during the performance, choose some specific places where you are going to taking breaths during your piece and mark them in your score.
- Try some pre-performance stretches. Just before performances, I like to do some stretches just to get my blood flowing and to work off some of the nervousness. It has made a huge difference for me. I also wear mittens on my hands to keep them warm. =)
- Mentally prepare yourself before you begin your piece. When you sit down to play, take some time before you begin your pieces. Make sure the bench is at the proper height and distance away from the piano, try out the pedals, take some deep breaths, and mentally imagine the first few bars of your piece so that you can get a proper tempo in mind. And when you’re ready, the magic begins.
Although it is difficult to completely eliminate all the symptoms of performance anxiety, you can lessen its effects! What works for you?