At times I’ve felt like the BEST player in an orchestra or group, and at other times I’ve felt like the WORST player.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not good to be EITHER. Do you know why? Because in order to feel like the best or the worst, you have to compare yourself to others…and that is poison.
Trust me: I used to compare myself to other players, and I would measure my improvement by “passing up” other violinists, and surpassing their level of playing. This is a TERRIBLE form of motivation, and I have paid dearly for my transgressions.
Instead of comparing or ranking yourself, try these 9 tips to build your confidence in musical settings:
- You have to realize that we ALL come from different backgrounds and different opportunities. You must learn to respect your OWN journey, your OWN background. You must NEVER compare yourself to others…..instead, compare yourself with YOURSELF 1 year ago! In other words, try to measure your improvement by how much you have improved over a year.
- Are you doing your best? If yes, then you are fine. If you need to increase your effort, then increase it. Simple as that. Don’t beat yourself up if you are making your best effort! See #1!
- Know that EVERYONE makes mistakes EVERY DAY. (even when they seem perfect…trust me, they are making mistakes too) It’s all in the art of hiding your mistakes, and learning quick recovery.
- Perform in public as OFTEN as you POSSIBLY can. It will be painful at first. But even if you have to play the SAME TUNE 10 different times, PERFORM ANYWAY. I’m talking about SOLO performing, or small ensemble. Nerves are just like playing an instrument. It takes PRACTICE to learn how to deal with them……and most of us don’t perform enough. We need to give a public performance NO LESS than 1x per month to ever get a handle on those nerves. By the way, playing for family and friends DOES COUNT! Playing for a CAMERA also counts……because it forces you to play from beginning to end without stopping while you are being STARED at. As you get better at dealing with nerves, you will be in control and you will have that confident stage presence you long for!
- Instead of being intimidated by better players, study them! Observe them. Ask them questions. Let them know that you admire them. Chances are, they have their own insecurities, and they would appreciate the compliment. Try to ask them a specific question, because that will inrease the likelihood that you will get into an actual conversation with them. If you eimply give them a compliment, they might just say, “Gee, thanks!”
- Practice being confident ALL DAY, in every situation. Being confident does NOT mean that you act like nothing is wrong. Being confident means you are in control of the situation, no matter what’s gone wrong. Take control, and don’t panic. This is something you can practice under LOTS of different circumstances.
- There are drugs that help with stage fright, but I strongly feel that you should try the other suggestions first. The drug is called “Inderol”, and it is a beta blocker, slows down your heart, makes you less sweaty, etcetera. But it is a prescription drug, and it won’t help your confidence. It will only mask the symptoms of stage fright. A good tool in a pinch, but you really need to do #4! Have I used Inderol? Yes, a couple times….and honestly, it removed me from the situation to the point where I wasn’t even really “there”. I played ok, and my sense of panic was mostly gone…but I felt separated from the whole experience somehow. If you choose to take it….take it in rehearsal too! You don’t want to take it just for the performance without any experience with how it will make you feel.
- Shakiness: Like I said, drugs help with this, but so does OXYGEN!!! When we get nervous, our hearts beat faster, and our body uses up more oxygen, and yet what do we do….in our panic, we breathe SHALLOWLY. I have found that breathing SLOWLY and DEEPLY not only helps eliminate my shakes, it also WARMS UP my clammy hands.
- Along the lines of breathing, if you learn some Yoga techniques, including breathing, but also body awareness and control, you can summon relaxation even under stressful conditions.
- Use gravity to your advantage, don’t fight against it. Often, when my bow is shaking, it’s because I’m lifting upwards on it, out of fear of making a mistake. Hey, a mistake will happen whether or not I’m lifting up on my bow. So I have learned to let gravity “settle me” and I don’t fight gravity. My feet are firmly planted to the ground, like roots of a tree. My whole body is the trunk of the tree, and my arms are limbs of the tree, with gravity gently keeping me rooted.
Part of confidence or insecurity involves performance anxiety, so the next suggestions will be along the lines of stage fright:
I hope these suggestions help you!
Thanks for visiting the site, and I hope to see you back again sometime!
im recording myself only been at it a week but am playing three songs all the way through playing for my wife real slowly
That’s awesome, Hobart! I’m glad you can share with your wife. Tell her without an audience, there is no performance….only practice!
Thanks for the tips, Lora. I’ve had a couple of times at a session when I started a tune and suddenly I was so shakey that my bow was barely keeping to the strings. It’s gotten better since I have kept playing in ‘public’, but it’s a relief to read because I had no idea this was something other people had experienced as well! I find your approach so refreshingly positive and practical.
Thanks for the tips. I’ve had performance anxiety for as long as I can remember. For me, the more familiar I am with the thing I’m performing the easier. The anxiety always seems to be there but knowing my stuff & the confidence that comes with it seems to counteract the nerves. Also, mistakes are not a game changer, deep breath and press on.
Amen, Rik, deep breath and press on!
And yes, familiarity, confidence, and preparation makes a HUGE difference.