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Posted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:57 pm
by Laertes
I'm going to be auditioning for College soon. I'll be playing the following:

Bach - Prelude and Fugue in C Major from 'The Well-Tempered Klavier: Book I"
Mozart - Piano Sonata No. 16 in C Major, K. 545
Chopin - Waltz in C-sharp Minor, Op. 64 No. 2
Debussy - La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin from 'Preludes: Book I"

Aside from that; can anyone provide some helpful tips that have worked for them for reducing performance anxiety? I can't help but get nervous in front of people and it get's embarrassing when I have to stop and say "Oh haha, oh well I forgot the rest." Usually my right leg begins to tense up unwillingly, and then from there I end up hitting a bunch of wrong notes. I've looked into the problem online but I think it'd be better if you guys would tell me personally what has worked for you.

Thanks in advance.

Re: Auditions

Posted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:04 pm
by rob
Take a beta blocker! Works for me...

Re: Auditions

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 3:26 am
by passthesalt
Laertes - I agree with Rob. I've tried everything for performance anxiety and the quickest, surest fix is a beta blocker. Test one a week or so before you have to perform to see how it affects you. I found that half of a 10mg propanolol takes the edge off without causing brain fog. You may need more or less depending on how bad the anxiety is and what your biochemistry is up to on a particular day. Another piece of advice: take the beta blocker after you've eaten. On an empty stomach, beta blockers can make you feel too zoned out.

A neurologist friend of mine suggested that I adjust the dose according to my pulse, but I don't endorse that. On one performance day, my pulse had escape velocity for Mars even after 30mg of propanolol. I didn't feel nervous, but when I listened to the performance on tape later, it sounded like I was playing with an emergency brake on.

A final note: even with a beta blocker, you'll probably still feel nervous. But you won't have shaking hands (or legs) or the feeling that your brain is full of screaming mice who won't let you concentrate on the music.

Here's a link to an article that discusses using beta blockers for performance anxiety in musicians:

Re: Auditions

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 7:21 am
by Laertes
Hmm, it seems like an idea worth trying, but after reading "...can cause serious medical problems, even death, when taking this medication." I'm now a little reluctant...

Re: Auditions

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 8:52 am
by rob
Laertes wrote:Hmm, it seems like an idea worth trying, but after reading "...can cause serious medical problems, even death, when taking this medication." I'm now a little reluctant...
It's worth talking to your doctor first. In fact beta-blockers may only be available on prescription anyway. Their normal medical use is to lower high blood pressure, so unless you have an unusual medical condition or are taking other medications (or substances) that lower blood pressure you should be fine. It's fairly common for athletes to take them (or used to be anyway), and I've known a few musicians to do so. I took a beta-blocker for my last audition (I'm a singer) which went fine - just a quick whizz through Richard Strauss's Zueignung.

Postscript: I see you are still very young Laertes. I think under such circumstances your doctor would dissuade you from taking beta-blockers.

Re: Auditions

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:54 pm
by Laertes
You're probably right. I suppose I'll ask about it and see then. Thanks for the advice.

Re: Auditions

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 6:29 pm
by HullandHellandHalifax
Laertes wrote:You're probably right. I suppose I'll ask about it and see then. Thanks for the advice.
Maybe a silly question Laertes, but I understand from your post that you are playing the music for the audition from memory. Is that part of the requirements for entry that you have to play from memory, because one thing that won't help you is if you have to play from memory when you know that that will only make you more nervous.
If you are allowed to play from the score I would be inclined, as it is an audition, not a competition, to do so if that makes the problem of nerves less of a problem.

I understand what is happening to you as I have also suffered terribly from nerves when I was younger. There are no easy solutions other than total confidence in yourself that you know what you are playing backwards, thats the first, secondly you have to be aware of the fact that the judges/arbiters are all hoping to hear a great performance, they are not there to dismember you in public for their own pleasure, so give them a good time, enjoy yourself armed with the knowlege that they WANT you to play well.

If all fails take up the tuba or the double bass. :D :D
best wishes

Re: Auditions

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 10:02 pm
by fredbucket
rob wrote:Take a beta blocker! Works for me...
Handel wrote "Messiah" in six weeks during an intensely manic period. Nowadays, these sorts of things can be controlled by drugs.


Re: Auditions

Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 10:22 pm
by Arjuna
I had a terrible time the first time I played in public. My leg was shaking so bad that that I couldn't hold the pedal down for more than half a second. The only thing I can suggest is to practise playing in front of people you don't know as often as possible. Ask your teacher to organise practise recitals for you, or do it yourself. This worked pretty well for me. I think you'll always be nervous, but the more you practise playing for people the easier it will be to control your nerves.
Also, I agree with HullandHellandHalifax. The judges aren't out to get you and most of the time they will be able to tell nerves from a bad performance.

Re: Auditions

Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 5:59 pm
by Laertes
@ HullandHellandHalifax: Yeah, it's a requirement to play from memory, but actually, I play mostly everything from memory. I'm not an extremely fast hands together sight reader yet. Thank you for those words of encouragement though. I'll be sure to keep all that in mind come audition day :]

@ Arjuna: Well actually, at the library I work at there is a piano in the back room that they let me play any time I want. Sometimes people overhear me and come in to listen although after they come in and say "That was beautiful! Play something else!" I'm always at a loss of what to play next.
Last year I was invited to come into the music history teachers class in my school and play Fur Elise and Rondo alla Turca, I only played the first half of the latter because I was too nervous that I'd keep messing up.
Also sometimes during holidays or family gatherings I play for my family in my living room.
I've gotten a little better than the first time I played in public but I definitely need to get the leg shaking under control -__-
I'll keep working on that..