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What goes through your mind during a performance?!


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#1 Indisguise


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Posted 17 May 2017 - 10:29

Basically, you've been waiting for a performance for weeks, there's been a long buildup and naturally, you're nervous and want to do well.

What goes through your mind during the performance itself? Does your mind ever drift off and you think about other things, or are you constantly thinking 'don't mess this up' and occasionally go through a panic moment? Sometimes I find that if you try too hard on something, it's almost counterproductive, as in the harder you try, the worse the performance becomes, so the big challenge is controlling your mind during these events. It can get to the stage where looking back it's almost like an outer body experience for some.

Apparently, even some concert pianists like Martha Argerich have these problems and hates performing but has found a way through it ...in a way, conquering these mental hurdles and the psychology aspect is almost as important as the skill of the musician itself which is interesting
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#2 BadStrad



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Posted 17 May 2017 - 10:42

I do what my teacher taught which is to hear the music in my head and to play along to it.  The idea is that you have to "play with intention," so you have to know what is coming next and how you want it to sound.  It is really hard work to do as it requires a lot of focus.  I feel nervous before hand (to the point of shaking) but once I'm creating the first notes in my head the nerves fade into the background.

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#3 Guest: betty boop_*

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Posted 17 May 2017 - 11:00

Very timely topic for me! I am about to sit my grade 8 cello exam in three weeks time. As an adult learner I don't have the opportunities the youngsters have of playing to others and consequently I get very nervous. My mind tries hard to focus but as soon as I play out of tune I beat myself up and imagine others are thinking " she's hopeless" I suspect in the exam I will do this and my mind will be saying " well you have failed now!" It is going to be very difficult to conquer my anxiety enough to control my thoughts and focus on the music.
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#4 Dharma


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Posted 17 May 2017 - 11:31



10 minutes a day of a simple practice can work wonders over time.


It allows you to remain in the moment, focused, and at the same time, allow errors to slide by into the past.

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#5 chris13


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Posted 17 May 2017 - 11:45

Mostly I am thinking 'don't mess this up' and as a result I mess up about one in every two performances. There are many things I could think about to make things better. Don't play too quickly, don't play too loudly, remember how to deal with the awkward chords and accidentals. Telling myself there is absolutely no reason why my hands should be shaking ! Hearing the music in your mind or even making sure you still count the rhythm is probably the best thing to do.


I played excerpts from the so called Moonlight sonata at a very small concert organised at my teacher's house about two weeks ago. Excerpt from first movement went well, played the second movement too quickly and got slightly lost in the trio but kept going and hands started to shake at the start of the third movement. By telling myself to stop shaking was able to play the excerpt from this movement at least to my satisfaction given it was in front of other people.


I actually prefer to be given the challenge of trying to play something at sight in front of other people. This is because I am not too bothered about making mistakes. When I make mistakes in pieces that I have put in a lot of effort to learn I start thinking that the audience takes the attitude that I haven't practiced enough. Maybe I haven't given that I am bound to be more nervous.

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#6 cestrian


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Posted 17 May 2017 - 11:46

aim for a 90% performance to prevent 'trying too hard'....oh, and, imagine audience naked

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#7 Tezes123


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Posted 17 May 2017 - 17:10

I find counting to the music helps me focus but I'm easily distracted !!

This book is highly recommended by teachers and performers alike:

'The inner Game of Music'

The summary says it helps you understand your performance anxiety and improve your approach to exams/performances. It explores the the psychology behind our perceptions of our own performance and the crazy thoughts we have as we actually perform.

I bought it, now just need to read it before my next exam !!!!!
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#8 JimD


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Posted 18 May 2017 - 07:50

My thoughts:


Piano - "why are my hands shaking so much??!!"

Violin - "why is my bow bouncing so much?!!!"

Flute - "wow, this sounds really nice!! Why can't I do it on the piano and violin?"


Only slightly joking.

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#9 Saxwarbler


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Posted 18 May 2017 - 22:16

I'm a drifter. My school of thought generally goes something like ... "oh no, this is that hard number with the fast triplets in the middle ... don't panic, D. will get them if you don't ... hang on, what's the boss doing? ... never seen him beat it like that before ... well I've never watched him before ... oh, flipping 'eck, here it comes ... ... ... well that went about as well as could be expected ... must remember to congratulate D. afterwards ... this is a lovely piece though ... my dad would have loved this ... wish we could do that other piece ... was it last year or the year before that we did it last? ... M. was here so it must have been the year before ... DS al coda ... where is that bl**dy sign ... I knew I should have marked it ... OK, just pretend you're playing it ... what ARE the trumpets doing back there! ... ha! they're lost as well ... nearly ... yep ... long notes ... wait for the basses ... aaand watch for the boss to cut off."

Concentration never was my strong point. :whistling:

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#10 Orchestra_JJ



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Posted 19 May 2017 - 11:52

I find it's good to try to get the nerves going as early as possible: nothing worse then thinking it's all fine and then you walk out on stage and you go into shock - maybe visit the venue or simply remind yourself and try to imagine the upcoming event. Most important thing is to know how the nerves affect you - I'm not talking about the result (playing out of tune or smudging notes) rather the cause - violin LH squeezing too much or playing too fast. Once you're aware of this it really helps. Then when you're about to start you simply try to gauge how nervous you are in order to know how much to compensate. Maybe just try to play with some friends sitting there listening - do a dry run. Final thing I find is to really try hard not to aim too high. Personally my nerves are the worst when I attempt to do everything perfectly, whereas when I'm just hoping to "survive" it's almost always fine!
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