Calming Your Nerves By Finding Your Balance

As a musician, playing music is one of the most natural, enjoyable activities I can possibly take part in.  However, when it comes to playing in front of family and friends, teachers, or peers, it can be quite stressful.  I am someone who has always had a major problem with stage fright.  The problem only worsened when I got to college and had to perform my music for a grade.  I remember playing a four-mallet marimba solo in front of my University of Miami faculty and I would get so nervous, my hands would sweat and the mallets would slip and hit wrong notes, which only made matters worse!
How can we, as musicians, practice not only our pieces to perform, but our ability to perform without nerves getting in the way?  One way is to simply practice performing in front of people whenever we can.  We can slowly become more comfortable sharing our music this way.  However, I discovered something that can be done right before a nerve-racking performance to calm the nerves.
When we are playing music well, we go to a place in our minds where we can think about what we are playing, but also not think too much and dwell on what is happening.  We rely on muscle memory to guide us through the individual movements, and if we focus too much on these movements, they suddenly become foreign to us (much like the way that if we stare at one word on a page for too long, it starts to look wrong).  Therefore, we rely on instinct and should not challenge this instinct with our mind.
Similarly, when we try to balance our body in an unusual position, we also enter this peaceful state of focusing on our movement, but not challenging our basic instincts.  Practicing a few balancing exercises before a stressful performance is a great way to “warm up” our mind, and get us in the right state of mind for a performance.  You may try balancing on one leg and then the other.  There are some great yoga balancing poses that can help you relax the mind.  Any balancing you do, always remember to breathe, focus on your breath, and in doing so, calm the mind.  This calmness of the mind will surely prepare you for the fabulous performance you know you are capable of!

2 thoughts on “Calming Your Nerves By Finding Your Balance

  1. I always try to remember to do things right from the very beginning. I won’t rush through just to finish and then go back. I take one step at a time. Once you have practiced something incorrectly, it is very difficult to correct it later on.They say a stimulus enters long-term memory (that is, it is “learned”) after it has been attentively observed 7 times. But if an “incorrect” stimulus is first learned, it then takes an average of 35 repetitions to learn the “corrected” stimulus. So in other words if you are practicing a piece and you are playing an A key instead of B key, it will take you 35 more times to re-learn it with the correct key. Why waste all that time when you can just start off with slow, attentive practice right from the beginning?

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