Overcoming Performance Nerves

Feeling a nervous before your exam or recital is fine – it means you care. But you don’t want it to eat at you and take the joy out of music. To push through pre-exam nerves, laughter and fun are the best medicine.  It’s important to be well prepared – that builds confidence. But if you’re still feeling anxious after you’ve done the hard work, set yourself some crazy and fun challenges.  Here are some ideas:

Play a piece, scale or exercise in the following ways:

  • blindfolded
  • balancing on 1 leg (engage your abs and the glut on your standing leg)
  • whilst eating a banana held by someone else
  • with something balanced on your head (good for posture)
  • whilst answering questions (full name, address, date of birth are a good start)
  • playing outside to someone inside through a closed window.  Can you be heard?
  • whilst doing a breathing pattern (eg, *Box Breathing – breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4, out for 4, hold out for 4, repeat) – this is a good thing to do if you’re feeling nervous too!
  • with your bow upside down (hold it at the tip end) (great for bow control)
  • with YOU upside down – find a way to hang, lie over the arm of a sofa or training ball – Great for bow control and posture

The best way to overcome performance anxiety is to practice performing. Attend a group class and play a solo, arrange a “concert” with your family or friends listening, or perform to someone over a video call. When warming up, do some physical exercises too. When I’m backstage, I do yoga, cardio along with my scales 🙂

At the end of the day, keep perspective. What’s the worst thing that could happen in the exam room or on stage? It’s probably not that bad…. and you’ll probably feel great afterwards! …And you may even find you enjoy performing! I sure do! Having supportive teachers and opportunities to perform along the way are what made me a good performer.

The process of preparing for your performance is a wonderful opportunity to get your playing – and your performance craft – to another level. Try and see this as the gift it is!

Happy Practicing! Mare 🙂