Jun 29 2005, 07:01 AM
I had my first student going through an exam last week, her grade 1 piano. She said it went okay, but that she got nervous to the extent her hands were shaking, and so hit a few wrong notes.
Any ideas how we can combat this next time? I've said the obvious things about deep breathing to combat nerves, but I wonder if there's anything else I can suggest, especially to stop the hand wobble.
Jun 29 2005, 11:18 AM
I give my candidates a mock exam a couple of weeks before their date. The really nervous ones I put through another one the week before. This feels cruel when I do it because I hate seeing them uncomfortable but it helps them practise dealing with the nerves. You cannot remove nerves but you can at least give training in coping with them.
The Chief Examiner wrote about this in Libretto recently. One of her suggestions was to get candidates to practise playing from any point on the page. In her opinion (and she ought to know) one of the chief causes of candidates' fear is the possibility of irretrievable breakdown. Being able to restart without hesitation at any point on the page removes this possibility and so this particular fear.
I also tell my lot that mistakes are inevitable but that they will not matter so long as they do not interrupt the flow of the music; it is what they do about them that matters, not that they are made in the first place.
Oh, and there are bananas as well, eaten before the exam. Go here
to read an increasingly hysterically funny thread about the effect of bananas on nerves. There is a scientific reason for the calming effect, although I cannot remember what it is.
Hope this helps
Jun 29 2005, 01:48 PM
Practice does help... I am a very nervous person - even if I am well prepared - but getting used to playing under pressure does help... ie mock exams, but also think about a mini recital to parents/friends. Some people find that being recorded also mimics the stress of being watched... other than that, help her *know* she is well prepared (it helps if you know that you are unlikely to trip up!) and like Steve said, bananas are supposed to be very good! Just make sure you have the requisite cutlery available...
Jun 29 2005, 02:54 PM
Mock exam - done it. I don't think she sees me as scary enough though! She's also played to parents / family; same problem. I only have a very few private pupils, otherwise I'd do a student's concert thing where they all play in front of each other. But I don't have enough to make it feasible.
Practising from anywhere - I think I make them do this anyway in the normal course of learning a piece.
So maybe bananas are the answer...
Jun 29 2005, 05:39 PM
How would she cope with other people coming into her lesson? Pretend they are the examiner - it will make the 'mock exam' scenario seem more realistic.
Also, maybe have access to other pianos as one of the biggest difficulties my students have is the diferent touch the exam piano has. and this feels strange to their fingers.
Jul 5 2005, 05:36 PM
My friend is taking grade 2 sax tomorrow (can't spell - not sure if thats right or not) and its her first exam. She has never played in front of anyone except her Mum and teacher, and is really nervous.
She's 14, and having done enough exams in my lifetime to know exaclty what she's going through, tried the "What's the worst thing that could happen" scenario.
Obviously, it owuld be to fail, but then what would she do? Continue or give up? She said she'd continue, so I pointed out that it didn't matter, and the only effect failing would have would be psychological.
If she had said give up, though, why? She could have just have had a bad day, or a mean examiner. (I had the same one today, and he seemed nice)
Don't know if this will work, and I'd only advise it on older / maturer pupils.
p.s. Good luck Jammy! (my friend)
p.p.s I took gr 4 piano this morning. and i think I passed. fingers crossed.
Jul 6 2005, 09:20 AM
I usually get a real bad case of nerves before I begin playing - it's the worst when I first sit down in front of a piano in front of an examiner or an audience.
What my piano teacher did was hold a 'mini-concert' where all the students taking exams would come and play a piece in front of each other.
Friendly examiners usually make me more nervous, actually.
Odd, isn't it?
Jul 6 2005, 09:43 AM
I had a large piano competition in June and my Mum invited 14 people over for a 'recital' evening. She deliberately selected people that I didn't know well. I must admit that I stamped and stomped a bit when she first suggested it, then as my piano teacher agreed with the concept I said OK. I didn't really 'enjoy' doing it but the next weekend surprise I felt so much more confident at the comps. and even picked up some first and second placings. So it was all good in the end and I'd do it again cos I think it helped me a lot.
Jul 6 2005, 09:50 AM
You will never get rid of nerves totally - actually a little by way of nerves is quite good for you! Gets the adrenalin flowing and makes you concentrate harder. Overcoming nerves which threaten to destroy your ability to perform is acquired by experience largely. So, plenty of playing to anyone who'll listen at the drop of a hat.
Confidence in what you're playing clearly helps, as do Mock Exams, but playing to strangers and in "pressure" situations (eg school/class/pupil concerts etc) gradually helps you build your confidence to the point at which you do believe you can play.
Interestingly, I have just returned to playing again (professional level) as an oboist after a lay-off due to prolonged illness. The first rehearsal and concert were a complete nightmare for me. Here I was with years of experience, hundreds of rehearsals (as player and director) under my belt and I went back into that orchestra almost shaking with nerves. Quickly passed but it only goes to further enhance my belief that you overcome nerves by working at it and, when you don't, even if you're a seasoned "pro", such things can still come up behind you and give you a nasty shock.
All the best for your pupil.
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