For musicians, nothing is more frustrating than preparing diligently for a concert, and then only to find yourself being plagued and hampered by stage anxiety during the performance. Here are four tips to help keep these emotions in check.
Accept that nerves is a completely natural thing
It does not matter if you are a veteran or new to the concert stage: everyone gets nervous. Why? Getting anxious for something is a very real human emotion and we are all effected by it one way or another. Do not beat yourself up for it! Reportedly, one of the most iconic pianists of all time, Vladimir Horowitz, faced terrible stage fright.
The difference between a seasoned performer and a inexperienced one, however, is how one copes with his or her emotions, which is achieved through repetition and hard work in understanding ways to deal with stage fright. There are a few rare cases, where I have heard performers claim that they do not get nervous before performances, but I contend that these musicians are the few that have developed such innate coping mechanisms to mask these emotions.
Solutions to dealing with stage fright vary from person to person
Everyone has their own way of dealing with stage fright, so take suggestions from other musicians with a grain of salt. When it comes to pre-concert rituals, I have heard it all: some like to be by themselves before performances while others want to be surrounded with people, amount of practice before performance, physical exercises, dietary preferences, etc.
For me, I have developed a routine that has served me well. To briefly share what I do before a concert: I tend to want to be alone before performances so that I can focus on myself. Rather than spending a lot of time at the piano, I prefer to study the score so that I can remind myself of the musical details. Also, I like to do a lot of physical stretches to keep my body loose. But most importantly, I make it a priority to fill my mind with positive and optimistic thoughts––similarly to how athletes are taught to visualize success in sports.
Learn from each performance
Like any other skill, combating stage anxiety requires constant work. I suggest performing often in a wide variety of settings and record yourself so that you can evaluate and address any recurring issues. As I mentioned previously, stage fright manifests in a variety of ways and affects everyone differently: memory slips, tempo instability, inconsistent tone production, etc. Whatever it is, try to analyze why it happens. Part of the problem might be caused from how you practiced the piece––consider reworking some of the fundamental issues (i.e. slow practice, hands together, dissecting the work, etc.) to gain a stronger understanding of the work. Next week, I will talk about the benefits of slow practice, so stay tuned!
Be persistent and remain optimistic
One of the unique characteristics of studying music is that learning is never a straight path. Understandably, it can get frustrating when you are working hard and think that you are making significant strides, only to find that you might have taken a step back here and there. Constantly evaluate and try not to lose hope. "Without a struggle, there can be no progress." ––Frederick Douglass
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