Performance anxiety is something that pretty much every performer deals with from time to time. Sometimes it can be debilitating for a performance. Once it starts, it can feel self perpetuating. It can become a habit… the nervous ritual.
There have been so many times I’ve paced the floors before a performance, started to play and immediately felt every muscle tightening. Instead of enjoying the music, I’m concentrating on every single note that I’m playing. I’ve even experienced anxiety during private lessons. After the performance, I walk away from the performance with a sinking feeling while thinking, “I could have played that so much better had I not been so nervous”. It can be very frustrating.
Do you experience performance anxiety? Even at a lesson? Here are some things that are helping me get over the anxiety:
Change the nervousness to excitement: I did not have these same nerves as a child. I couldn’t wait to get on the stage. I was excited about getting to play with a great piano player or maybe to try out some new tunes that I learned. I remember thinking about and getting excited for the next concert weeks ahead of time. I now try and tap into that energy. Even if the nervousness is making me dread the performance, I’ll force myself to be excited. Eventually, the excitement becomes real.
Practice: This may seem simple, but the more you know what you are playing, the more you can get into that ‘zen like’ state and not be thinking about every note you are playing. The fear of making a mistake is what usually triggers anxiety. So knowing that you can play the piece in your sleep can give you the confidence that you need.
Visualization: Visualize yourself in the moment of performing so much so that you can feel it. Visualize enjoying the performance and the audience having a good time. Practicing the feeling of this enjoyment has helped me capture it in the actual performance.
Don’t give into the ritual: When I was really nervous about a performance, the nerves usually would start pretty early in the day and upset my normal activities. I now try to preoccupy myself with normal activities instead of constantly thinking about the state of my nerves. Right before the performance I force myself to not pace the floors and just practice acting calm.
Here are some further links with tips on combatting performance anxiety: