One of the most frequent questions I get in master classes, clinics, lessons, etc. is how to deal with the normal stress of playing in front of people. Therefore, I’ve decided to repost 10 common sense tips on dealing with performance anxiety.
10 Performance Anxiety Tips by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”
Successfully dealing with the concerns of playing or singing in stressful situations, such as recitals, contests, auditions, etc. is an important part of being a good musician. I have found the following tips useful with my students and in my own performing.
- Nervous is Normal. This is very important. The goal is not to eradicate nervousness. It is to perform well without letting nerves get in the way.
- Have a Routine. Most success is planned, so having a performing ritual will help.
- Prepare Music Well with Good Fundamentals. Music must be thoroughly practiced with sound basics of relaxation/body position, tone, rhythm, and technique. So, turn off that TV [and INTERNET!] and get to the practice room!
- Make Music. Understand that the point of performing is to make music. Careful reflection on this and related topics are an essential part of dealing with performance anxiety and good music-making in general.
- Breathe. Spend the first few minutes on stage thinking about your air use. Further, make sure the breath marks are well-conceived and clearly marked on your music.
- Eat Bananas. Chop up a few of them on your cereal on the morning of a big performance. They have natural ingredients that help deal with stress.
- Eat Right/Exercise/Sleep 8 Hours A Night. Eating burritos at 1 a.m. the night before an 8 a.m. audition is usually not a good idea. Also, “Every hour of sleep before midnight counts as two” is a good old rule to follow.
- Relax in your Body/Concentrate in your Mind. Usually we do the opposite.
- Check your Clothes Before You Walk on Stage. Make sure your performing clothes are not too tight and/or restrictive. (I think we all know why clothes we have not worn recently might be too tight, don’t we?)
- DO IT!! There is no magic formula for dealing with performance anxiety. Learning to perform well takes time. It is more like exercising than turning on a light switch. Try to make small improvements every time you perform. Always be looking for opportunities to perform.
EXTRA: ClarinetMike says, “Carefully Plan and Arrive Early! If possible, try to get in the audition room early and play some.”
[NOTE: The above information is based on the lecture presentation, “Perspectives on Performance Anxiety,” given by the author at the UMEA conference in February 1998]
The 10 tips above are from an article that originally appeared in and is © InterFACE (Journal of the Utah Music Educators Association) Fall 1998 (Volume 44, No. 1).