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Performance Anxiety

Little Neophyte 30 Oct 99 - 11:33 AM
Little Neophyte 30 Oct 99 - 11:56 AM
Roger in Baltimore 30 Oct 99 - 11:56 AM
Little Neophyte 30 Oct 99 - 12:53 PM
Rick Fielding 30 Oct 99 - 12:57 PM
catspaw49 30 Oct 99 - 12:59 PM
Little Neophyte 30 Oct 99 - 01:11 PM
Rick Fielding 30 Oct 99 - 01:13 PM
catspaw49 30 Oct 99 - 01:25 PM
Rick Fielding 30 Oct 99 - 01:32 PM
Little Neophyte 30 Oct 99 - 01:33 PM
catspaw49 30 Oct 99 - 01:50 PM
Helen 30 Oct 99 - 02:47 PM
Little Neophyte 30 Oct 99 - 03:06 PM
kendall 30 Oct 99 - 03:14 PM
catspaw49 30 Oct 99 - 03:17 PM
Jeri 30 Oct 99 - 04:33 PM
Les B 30 Oct 99 - 07:04 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Oct 99 - 07:54 PM
Michael K. 30 Oct 99 - 09:02 PM
MMario 30 Oct 99 - 09:11 PM
kendall 30 Oct 99 - 09:38 PM
Helen 30 Oct 99 - 10:19 PM
catspaw49 30 Oct 99 - 10:36 PM
Margo 30 Oct 99 - 10:41 PM
Malcolm Douglas 31 Oct 99 - 12:41 AM
Davey 31 Oct 99 - 01:08 AM
Ana 31 Oct 99 - 01:13 AM
Jon Freeman 31 Oct 99 - 02:20 AM
Escamillo 31 Oct 99 - 02:29 AM
katlaughing 31 Oct 99 - 06:50 AM
Jeremiah McCaw 31 Oct 99 - 07:15 AM
Jeri 31 Oct 99 - 08:28 AM
Brakn 31 Oct 99 - 08:33 AM
Jeri 31 Oct 99 - 09:24 AM
BK 31 Oct 99 - 09:37 AM
Rick Fielding 31 Oct 99 - 12:07 PM
Margo 31 Oct 99 - 12:43 PM
Peter T. 31 Oct 99 - 12:45 PM
sophocleese 31 Oct 99 - 02:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Oct 99 - 06:08 PM
bseed(charleskratz) 31 Oct 99 - 07:01 PM
Allan C. 31 Oct 99 - 07:52 PM
katlaughing 31 Oct 99 - 11:14 PM
JedMarum 01 Nov 99 - 09:32 AM
MMario 01 Nov 99 - 09:44 AM
JedMarum 01 Nov 99 - 10:21 AM
Fortunato 01 Nov 99 - 11:41 AM
Joan 01 Nov 99 - 09:31 PM
Lonesome EJ 02 Nov 99 - 12:42 AM
Jack (Who is called Jack) 02 Nov 99 - 09:16 AM
lamarca 02 Nov 99 - 03:24 PM
BK 02 Nov 99 - 09:57 PM
seagoddess 23 Nov 99 - 11:16 AM
Little Neophyte 23 Nov 99 - 11:46 AM
Rick Fielding 23 Nov 99 - 12:36 PM
Alice 23 Nov 99 - 01:38 PM
Vixen 23 Nov 99 - 01:47 PM
Jeri 23 Nov 99 - 01:58 PM
Midchuck 23 Nov 99 - 02:32 PM
seagoddess 23 Nov 99 - 05:32 PM
Les B 23 Nov 99 - 05:55 PM
Little Neophyte 23 Nov 99 - 06:14 PM
poet 23 Nov 99 - 07:04 PM
Liz the Squeak 24 Nov 99 - 12:10 AM
Arnie 24 Nov 99 - 10:08 AM
seagoddess 24 Nov 99 - 11:35 AM
stupidbodhranplayerwhodoesn'tknowanybetter 24 Nov 99 - 12:17 PM
JedMarum 24 Nov 99 - 01:56 PM
Arnie 24 Nov 99 - 02:27 PM
24 Nov 99 - 02:48 PM
Little Neophyte 24 Nov 99 - 02:53 PM
Allan C. 24 Nov 99 - 05:12 PM
JedMarum 24 Nov 99 - 06:13 PM
Arnie 25 Nov 99 - 09:37 AM
Rick Fielding 25 Nov 99 - 11:29 AM
Arnie 25 Nov 99 - 12:01 PM
Bob Landry 25 Nov 99 - 12:32 PM
WyoWoman 25 Nov 99 - 01:05 PM
Little Neophyte 25 Nov 99 - 04:23 PM
Helen 25 Nov 99 - 05:32 PM
poet 25 Nov 99 - 07:31 PM
seagoddess 26 Nov 99 - 01:04 PM
WyoWoman 26 Nov 99 - 01:39 PM
Little Neophyte 26 Nov 99 - 02:08 PM
Helen 26 Nov 99 - 09:07 PM
Little Neophyte 27 Nov 99 - 12:13 AM
Helen 27 Nov 99 - 09:47 PM
Marion 30 Jul 01 - 12:34 AM
Helen 31 Jul 01 - 01:07 AM
Uncle_DaveO 31 Jul 01 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,Celtic Soul 31 Jul 01 - 01:50 PM
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Subject: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 11:33 AM

When I have a banjo lesson and I want my teacher to hear something new I've made up, I get sooooooooo scared that I can only play the song if he leaves the room and listens from a distance where I can't see him. I think I need Mudcat counseling. Do others get really scared? How am I ever going to play in Carnegie Hall.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 11:56 AM

Oh, one more thing, my performance in front of an audience is horrible compared to when I play alone.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 11:56 AM

Neo,

Here's a relevant thread. CLICK HERE.

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 12:53 PM

Thanks Roger


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 12:57 PM

Roger is right. There are some good things in that thread.
Little Neo, almost every musician goes through what you are dealing with now, but keep in mind, you've learned in a very few months, what usually takes (even a very gifted) musician at least a couple of years. There is automatically an imbalance created by the reality of the accomplishment and the nagging suspicion that you don't deserve to play that well after such a short time. I see this often with people who are lucky enough to have natural ability. (and that part IS luck, make no mistake) The hardest part for you, now, will be maintaining the discipline of the basics, ie: good hand position, memorizing the scale, remembering that simplicity RULES, not second-guessing yourself when your creativity takes a holiday (as it WILL) and finally, knowing that to really enjoy music, you must be able to play with other people on THEIR terms, as well as your own. There are some brilliant musicians who cannot interact with others, and I think they're missing out on (more than) half the fun.
Everyone plays BEST when they're alone, but if you can bring that level up to the point that you can play ADEQUATELY around others (even your teachers) you'll be fine. One of my favourite musicians, Gordon Lightfoot, has had life-long stage fright. Others: Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and about a third of everyone who plays in front of people.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: catspaw49
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 12:59 PM

Oh..............................

Sorry..........................

I thought this thread was about erectile dysfunction or something........

Never mind.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 01:11 PM

Dear Rick
Thank you, thank you
If my music teacher wasn't so gifted, I would hire you.

Hey Catspaw
You must seek greater challenges, I spoon fed this one to you.

Neo


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 01:13 PM

Catspaw, wash your mouth out with cinders! This minute!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: catspaw49
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 01:25 PM

Ya know, I was talking to El Swanno yesterday about this joint and humor. Dave is so wonderfully creative, but obviously a lot of what I do involves responding to comments....but this is getting to be tough. Evidently my reputation has sunk so far that almost everyone is putting in comments like "No Spaw, I DIDN'T mean such and such" leaving me only the crumbs. So 'Phyte, I sincerely want to thank you for this "spoon fed" line as they are getting fewer and farther between.

Now I gotta' go find some cinders............

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 01:32 PM

Your problem can be solved easily my dear Spaw. You must start "acting" rather than "re-acting".

50 dollars please.

Dr. Rickard Flunderblunken MBA, LSMFT.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 01:33 PM

Deep Rick, very deep


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: catspaw49
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 01:50 PM

Ohmigawd....I'm a reactionary.................

Send Prozac.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Helen
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 02:47 PM

Little Neo,

I don't know if anyone mentioned this in the thread RiB referred to, but the e-mail Harplist regularly has this discussion and the recommended solution is to eat a couple of bananas about half an hour before your performance. It has a calming effect on the nerves - someone said it was something related to beta-blockers. It's worth a try - most of the harplisters who have tried it are pretty happy with the results.

Helen

P.S. 'Spaw, does the topic of bananas leave you any leeway for your "re-actions"?


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 03:06 PM

Thanks Helen
It may have to do with the fact that banana's are very high in potassium. If your potassium is too low or too high, it can throw off the electrolytes in your blood. Electrolytes are associated with the heart's electrical system. So if someone is connecting bananas to beta-blockers that would make sense to me too.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: kendall
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 03:14 PM

I did my first public performance in 1951 at the age of 16, and, I was so nervous, my shoes wouldn't stay tied up.That went on for years, and, I would always ask myself, "Why are you doing this? You are as nervous as a Christian Scientist with a severed artery, quit doing this," Well, I didn't. One day about 15 years ago, I had a revelation from my higher power which told me that what I have is not mine. It is a gift which I am expected to share with anyone who appreciates it. I am nothing more than a vessel, a conductor, a messenger from God if you will. The day I stopped taking responsibility for what was not really mine, the nerves began to calm down. Now, I give thanks to the creator for that gift, and, I can, and have performed for large audiences, including The Today Show, and, On the Road, with Charles Kuralt.
One final thing, convince yourself that there are no enemies in that room, only friends, talk TO them not AT them.If there is one asshole in the room, you can bet the rest of the audience wishes it would leave too.
Actually, I've had a lot of fun with hecklers.. on those rare occassions when I did have one..as long as I have the mike, it's easy to make a fool out of one, most of them really dont need any help from me.
I didn't mean this to be a sermon, but, there are nearly 50 years of experiences here.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: catspaw49
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 03:17 PM

Potassium, interestingly enough, is depleted by many blood pressure and heart medications. And speaking of bananas, how's the new marriage Helen....haven't seen you around much lately my dear................

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Jeri
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 04:33 PM

I'm talking more from a public speaking standpoint than a public playing one. I'm still dealing with nervousness when it comes to playing or singing when others can hear me, but I got really...adequate at speaking in front of an audience. Some tips:

Caffeine is Not Good, nor is alcohol.

Realize nervousness is normal, and even really experienced people get nervous.

Prepare

I've heard people say not to look folks in the eye. Well, I do - what I see looking back at me is encouragement, and a sincere wish for me to do well.

You are human and will make mistakes. It isn't the end of the world. If you could play perfectly, you wouldn't be taking a class. Your teacher knows this.

Everybody sings better in the shower. Everybody plays better at home.

The only way to get over fear of ANYTHING is to face it down. If you're afraid of performing in front of others, make yourself do it. You may never get over the nerves, but you WILL learn how to deal with them. Nervousness is nothing more than energy available for your use.

Don't tell folks you're nervous (they may be able to tell, and if they can't - good) and don't say stuff beforehand like "I'm gonna mess this up, but..." because you're then committed to messing it up. It always happens that way for me, anyway.

Don't Ever Give Up!!!!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Les B
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 07:04 PM

Kendell -- care to share just what you say to hecklers ? I've never had any while singing or playing, but have had some when giving little introductory talks to some of the films we present (they're usually a bit drunk) - I usually just plow on ahead, but have often wished I had a quick comeback for some of the really obnoxious assholes !


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 07:54 PM

I flashed on this vision - upm on stage in a a folk festival, and youm doon't have a pint of beer in your hand, you have a bunch of bananas instead.

And that stops you getting nervous?

Well, as Sir Thomas Beecham said, you should try everything in life except Incest and Morris Dancing. (Except I'm not with him on the Morris Dancing).So bananas it is...

The "sing something you are sure you know" idea is ok - but it can be scary when you're singing something you know better than you know your own name, and then the next line just vanishes.

They always say that the best thing to do then is to go back to the last line or the last verse and keep going round until it sorts itself out. But when it happens it's hard to remember to do that. I tend to desperately improvise some line that fits in. Nine times in ten people will think it's just an interesting variant, if they notice it at all.

Always remember, faulty memory is how folk songs get better over a period of time. It's our friend.

And other thing noone seems to have mentioned is make sure you're singing the song in a comfortable key - which is probably about a semitone or two higher than it would be in private. (I find what is a comfortable key on the night sometimes by singing the song into a tuner, without any kind of musical instrument, maybe in the car, which is the best place to practice a song anyway.)

Kevin


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Michael K.
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 09:02 PM

Dear Neo, As many have mentioned we've all been there, and know exactly what you're talking about.

My suggestion, is whatever repertoire you plan to take on stage with you, learn every single tune (and all riffs, licks, scales, etc. within each tune) so well that you could literally play them blindfolded, or with your head cut off, every single time you play them.

Then, play them in front of your husband (boyfriend, significant other - whatever), and then have a few friends over and play them for your friends. Then, play them for your teacher. If you can get through all these phases (of playing for different people) then you're ready to go on stage.

But be on stage for yourself first and foremost - NOT for the audience, and don't expect recognition or approval from the audience. Many people (audiences) today are so desensitized to live music (thank you MTV and videos) that if something isn't a technically perfect as what they've heard or seen on TV/radio, they'll tune out, and when you look at the faces at the audience, it will seem like they are looking at you as if to say "Geez change the channel and see what else is on."

Anyone who has ever performed live knows exactly what I'm talking about and have witnessed that "look". Play for yourself for the sheer joy of being able to do so, not for applause or recognition which you may or may not get.

Once you stop giving a shit about what the audience thinks (and not allowing them to intimidate you) you will then be able to relax and enjoy yourself. Hip people and fellow musicians WILL catch what you're doing and THEY will appreciate it.

It's all a matter of self-confidence and total un-waivering belief in yourself and in your God-given talents and abilities. The audience is irrelevant....although it will take you time and experience to realize this. The audience is incidental to what you are doing on stage.

Don't get discouraged. Keep at it, and do it for the love of playing.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: MMario
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 09:11 PM

Having just managed to scr*w up three numbers today in a halloween concert, (wrong key on two numbers, and forgot the violin was suppossed to intro me on the third)let me just say.....the audience didn't care. They were VERY complimentary -- so it was myself and my cohorts who cared. I will of course work to be better - primarily for myself and my friends, but hopefully the audience will reap the benefits.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: kendall
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 09:38 PM

Les B. most of the cracks I make to distracters are off the top of my head, and easily forgotten, but, I'll give you one example. This would also have been forgotten if someone hadn't taped it and sent me a copy... I think I posted this before, but, it may be worth repeating..

I was doing my thing at an outdoor bluegrass concert, and the promoter asked me to sing a song about a dog. So, it being a bit out of my line, I started to introduce it to the audience. I had noticed a drunk in the front row, but, didn't pay him much attention, but, then he began to yell out stupid crap.When I said dog.. he yelled out DOG and spelled it out.. then he yelled cat and spelled that out loudly. Finally it dawned on him that I was watching him and not speaking, and when I caught his attention I said "Go right ahead, I cant wait for you to get to chrysanthemum." the audience roared, and the drunk left to cheers and jeers.
God also blessed/cursed me with a wit that can be caustic at times.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Helen
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 10:19 PM

Hi all,

Thanks for the more scientific explanations of why bananas work. My Mum has blood pressure and heart problems and the doc put her on beta-blockers but they made her feel so sick she was starting to say that life wasn't worth living. (She looked terrible at the wedding - I've never seen her look so awful and still be walking around, and she has had more than her fair share of health troubles - more than 3 people's fair share, really). So she finally convinced the doc that she wasn't going to stay on the beta blockers and she is getting some of her sparkle back.

She is also diabetic and there are sugars in bananas but I think it might be worth getting her to try it out and just adjust her insulin if it affects her diabetic sugar readings). Natural sources might be better for her than chemical sources.

'Spaw, I don't need bananas now that I am married, but tell me about how you use them. *BG* or actually, *BWG* (big wicked grin)

And life is pretty good, marriage-wise at the moment. I think I picked the right one.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: catspaw49
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 10:36 PM

HELEN: As one who knows.....There are other heart meds that may help your Mom, I don't know her story, but talk to the Doc. Beta blockers are very popular nowadays for the protection qualities they afford the heart, but like your Mom, I am REALLY ALLERGIC to them. In any normal dosages, I become very anxious and CANNOT catch my breath...feeling of drowning and I have to THINK about breathing...very scary. The problem that required the BB was repaired with a new laser ablation procedure which a DIFFERENT cardiologist performed. No shit, the one I had just blew off the reactions I had to the BB's. The ablation totally fixed the arrhythmia which was the problem I had after the quad by-pass.

I guess that I worry about folks who have Docs that are so negative that the patient feels its hopeless. Or where you begin to treat yourself....I had stopped the blockers as I was told by the first asshole that it was pretty much in my head and I'd have to live with it!!!!

Live my ass...I COULDN'T BREATHE!!! I diagnosed the problem myself through reading about the meds and watching when the attacks occured with relation to the meds. I think that pissed him off too.

Best of luck to your Mom and Much Love to You and Bruce too.....and his banana tree(obligatory catspaw crack)

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Margo
Date: 30 Oct 99 - 10:41 PM

You reminded me of some of the things I learned about performing. I have always been told that if I make a WRONG NOTE it will be forgotten fast as I continue on. Such things aren't readily remembered. The real secret is to learn HOW NOT TO REACT TO YOUR OWN ERRORS. Yes! you get to be an actress, and stay "in character" even if you blow it. Being well prepared is essential, practice practice practice! Then if you zone out, you will perform anyway, on auto pilot so to speak. That has happened to me. Maybe what you ought to do is practice the "staying in character" thing with your teacher. Play something for him when you know you'll be nervous, and practice looking happy and confident. Whaddaya think? I'd be curious to know if you try this and what the results are, if you're willing to try it and share.....

Margo


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 12:41 AM

Watch people playing in front of an audience. Sometimes you'll see them smile to themselves. It doesn't necessarily mean they're enjoying it; usually it means they've just played a bum note.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Davey
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 01:08 AM

A lot of excellent suggestions in among the thread creep. I like Margarita's comment about not reacting to your own errors. Just this past week I was listening to a tape of a group I played with in the early 90s, recorded live at a benefit performance at a retirement home, and on at least one cut I can distinctly hear the guitar player mutter "Oh shit", although I couldn't pick out what he did wrong.

Neo, I to have been in situations where my mouth was dry and my knees were knocking. If you enjoy playing and performing, however, you will persevere, and although you may never get rid of your butterflies it becomes easier. In addition, as Michael K said, practice practice practice. If you are comfortable with your material you'll do well.. Happy singing.

Davey... (:>)


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Ana
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 01:13 AM

I relate to most of Kevin's advice about singing too, especially in finding the right note to start on an' all. The difference for me is that the most comfortable place to start is a semi-tone or so LOWER - must just be a testicular thing! It seems to me that there are excellent performers who aren't very good musicians, and vica versa. The ones who are most engaging (for me) can be the averagely good musician who has found a way to warmly relate to the audience as a "friend". I think we can really limit ourselves in the sole pursuit of musical excellence - sure, it would be a wonderful thing to have but not if you feel so scared/depressed at not having attained it, that you are unable to enjoy and share your "sound".

I want some beta-blockers. I practice with a tuner too - I've looked about for a singer's pitch pipes (yeah yeah - should learn the whistle) but can't find something appropriate in my neck of the woods. Anyone got any suggestions?


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 02:20 AM

Jeri, I disagree with the alcohol bit (at least for me). I find a couple of pints very helpful and in fact find it just about impossible to play in front of others when completely sober.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Escamillo
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 02:29 AM

Once in a conversation with my teacher I told him "You have to understand that it is very embarrasing for me to sing just in front of you, the very same guy who was singing on the opera stage, and applauded by 3000 people", then he told me "When I was singing there, I imagined that I was the King. But I'm not on stage now, I'm listening to you, so you have to feel that YOU are the King, and sing as you feel".

(Since then I use to kick his dog, pour the tea that he serves to me, and lean on his piano)
But more seriously, may be that advice will not fit all of us. I prefer Kendall's advice to feel as the "messenger" of a superior power who gave us the gift of transmitting music. Some other ideas from my teacher are:
- No matter if you sing a Fortissimo or Pianissimo, always sing for the last row of the audience, not for the first (this is nothing related to volume, but to the REACH of voice) .
- Sing not only with your voice and soul, sing with YOUR WHOLE BODY, feel the contraction and relaxation of muscles from feet to head.
- Feel that you are physically caressing people with your voice.
- Once you leave the stage, you better come back to be the same gentle person as always you are, but when you appear ON stage, you are the best of the universe and surroundings.

He has had a brilliant career in Europe and South America. I would have had a brilliant career if I were good enough. ... but I still have to grow up !
Yours, Andrés Magré


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: katlaughing
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 06:50 AM

Andres, good points and will ya hurry up and grow up so I can see you on stage, here!?**BG**

LilNeo, I have a friend who has a lot of lawayer friends and family members; she also works for one. She was told by a couple of them (one of whom is a partner of Gerry Spense) that a good way to overcome the anxiety of getting up in front of everyone, esp. in front of the antagonistic *other side*, was to visualise them all naked! It was usually so hilarious that the fear went right out the window!

Spaw, I did the same thing with some of the ehart meds we tried, but my doctor was very supportive. IT seems I ma allergic to all of the heart meds we tried. Last March, I calle dhim and told him I was not taking any of it anymore. He told me to monitor the BP and we'd see. So far it's been okay. COurse I haven't checked it when I am po'd at a certain sibling, but so far, so good. I am amazed that modern medicine comes up with these things that are SO TOXIC and blithely tell us "Here take this. It will take care of the problem."! I itched and ached constantly for years until one doctor finally had the sense to take me of a BP med and put me on another. Then I'd do pretty well for a couple of months and then they'd want to put me on the even more dire and toxic prednisone to get rid of the full-blown, and VERY itchy rash that showed up! AARrrgghhh! Sorry, Neo, for the creep.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 07:15 AM

Slight creep here ... an anecdote about "carrying on as if you hadn't made a mistake" ...

I have a friend, Scott Smith, who is a seasoned performer, a fine musician as well as singer and songwriter. One piece of advice he's always given me is that if you make a mistake on stage, ignore it. Don't call attention to it 'cause most of the audience is unlikely to notice it, and those that do will respect your professionalism in carrying on.

So there I was, doing Stan Rogers' magnificent song "Lies" in public for the first time; an open stage folk club with Scott playing back-up for me. Now there's a line in the song where this woman's haggard appearance is explained that goes "Well after seven kids that's no surprise". Thing is, I'm prone to little mental short circuits on stage and sometimes I'll inadvertantly sing that line as "After twenty years that's no surprise". Fair enough, at least it doesn't significantly alter the meaning of the song.

Problem was, this time the mental blip happened in the middle of the line and I sung "After twenty-seven kids that's no surprise". And I started to carry on, thinking "oops" but not (visibly) reacting to my blunder. And then my friend Scott - Scott, the consummate professional - my FRIEND Scott; stops dead and says (into the mike), "Twenty-seven kids?! - that poor woman!". Naturally the place (including me) cracks up.

Once we all settled down, I finished off the song, but of course it just wasn't the same.

I made a point of doing the song (correctly) the next night at a different open stage. One of the points I'd like to make is that you can always turn something to your advantage. When I do "Lies" now, I always tell that story (AFTER the song 'though; to do it before the song would detract from it). And I add, "I like to think of things like this as 'character-building experiences'". You wouldn't believe how solidly the audience is on your side after that.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Jeri
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 08:28 AM

Helen and Spaw - my Mom called me up one weekend and said she didn't see the point of living anymore. I freaked and called her cardiologist long distance. Her Dr wasn't on duty, and I got a co-worker who was a jerk. "You know you can't give someone the will to live, blah, blah, blah." My Mom saw her Dr on Monday. He adjusted her meds - she was over medicated - and she was fine. She was a diabetic as well, and worked a half a banana into her breakfast cereal. Potassium is important for people taking diuretics, which can deplete it.

Kat, a friend of mine who was on blood pressure meds started taking Hawthorn. She was, with her Dr's approval, able to stop the drugs.

Little Neo, sometimes I look at little kids doing things in front of others and marvel about how, when they make mistakes, they keep right on plugging. They don't get flustered, they don't get embarrassed. They have something they want others to share, and that thing is worth making a few mistakes. They haven't yet come to believe the world will end if they make fools of themselves in front of people. I want to be like that when I grow up. (Am I in the right thread?)


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Brakn
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 08:33 AM

If you make a mistake either ignore it or repeat it.

When travelling to gigs I used to get very nervous until a colleague gave me this advice. "The day after a gig you will wonder why you were so nervous the night before".


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Jeri
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 09:24 AM

Oh yeah, Jon, I over-generalized on the alcohol. A little may help relax, too much and you may forget what you're doing. Unless you're one of those people who can play better when thoroughly pissed - and I've known some.

I had a friend who had a career with a fairly successful rock band in the 70s, and couldn't remember most of it. Twenty-some years later, he picked up an accoustic guitar and played at a coffee house in '98 - sober for the first time and scared shitless. He explained why he was so nervous after the first song, got a huge round of applause, and went on to do two more songs - brilliantly. And he remembered doing them. He told me later it was the hardest thing he'd ever done. His choice, but nobody really gets off on the easy stuff.

The more conditions you place on your playing, the more difficult it is to play. "I can't play unless I've had a few pints," "I can't play if anyone appears to be listening," (this one's mine and possibly Little Neo's) "I can't play if there's too much background noise," "I can't play if/unless (insert somebody's name) is present,"...

What I want to be able to do, is quit saying "can't" and replace it with "I don't like to" or maybe even "can."


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: BK
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 09:37 AM

Lot's of great ideas here - speaking as one who will get up in front of festival crowds in a little over a month from now for a bunch of stage sets, 'n haven't been in front of a large crowd since last year's festival, 'n most of that material will be stuff I havn't done in a year... have to try the bannanas.. Will try to start practicing again this weekend... Gotta say that even when we were on stage a lot, we all got some stage fright (or just dumb-struck stupid at times!)'n screwed up, some nights several times.. The secret is certainly to ignore it.. unless it's too outrageous or funny (most are not, even if you feel they are).

Then you stop 'n usually mannage to say something silly about it, get a laugh or two, 'n re-start - or say we're going to do a different song. I also think ya gotta be ok w/the idea that ya might look foolish in front of a crowd. Sometime after we think we broke the Guinness Record for screwing up a stage set is when we get the largest group of folks coming up afterward expressing - very warmly - their appreciation, asking where we play regularly (we don't) & for tapes or CD's, etc.

I can be tired if I've practiced enough, maybe.. but I really think it helps to be as rested as practical.. Eat, but not too heavily or too soon before performing. If at all possible, particularly when you are new or perform only rarely, do the songs you both love best & feel good about in terms of skill level & have practiced; after a few songs, when you've loosened up a bit & feel (more nearly) relaxed, 'n the audience is responding well, try the tricker stuff. If at all possible, I try to start w/something easily strummed on guitar, or with simple flat-picking, rather than a finger-picking song or one I need to play Mandolin for.

About potassium & beta-blockers, etc... Most of the people I put on the usual spectrum of BP meds (including beta blockers) thank me for it.. Young dr's, particularly, are prone to take beta-blockers to calm themselves down before speaking in front of an audience of August Proffessors, (typical stage fright) as, for very many folks, they are extremely good for calming nerves & are sometimes excellent for people w/nervous disorders and some kinds of head aches, and yes they could be a problem for someone who needs an ablation procedure, but their overall benefit for folks who've had a heart attack is well shown by many many studies & that's why cardiologists are usually very assertive about reccomending at least a low dose of beta blocker for such patients.

Sometimes the dose is very critical.. Also for stage fright.. a dr friend at a meeting this week-end shared w/me abt a resident who took too much beta blocker accidently before a talk & kept falling down at the podium as though he was drunk. He's never lived it down & is still kidded abt it by friends, years later...

Gotta go practice for the festival - esp the mandolin & banjo - which I otherwise almost never play... (So why do I keep drooling over the many beautiful "F-style" mando's I see in musical instrument stores?? I already have several mandolins & play a perfectly nice soild-top Washburn.. Answer: I have the expanded version of "GAS" - guitar aquisition syndrome - to include Mandolins..)

Cheers, BK


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 12:07 PM

I'm used to improvising (not only the songs, but the order of the songs as well) and there are times when that just invites disaster. I think that when I write down a set list with keys, I probably play better. The "make it up on the spot" thing is a carry over from bar singing days, and is hard to break.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Margo
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 12:43 PM

Jeramiah, I did the same thing! Messed up the words royally in "the Maid of Amsterdam", a capstan shantey. I was singing in the shantey bellering contest, no mike. So indeed, I sang out as loud as I could. But in one of the last verses, the words are "she placed her hand upon my chest, we did the dance she does the best". Oh my heavens, I sang "I placed my hand upon her chest, we did the dance, she was the best". I still blush to think about it. The song being a sea shantey, no one thought a thing about it. But oh my, it embarasses me to think about it now!

Margarita


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Peter T.
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 12:45 PM

Little Neo, whenever I go and play for Rick, I am completely useless. I am pretty useless anyway, but I practice things for days beforehand, and when I arrive, for some mysterious reason I forget everything, and revert to mealy-mouthed fingerless nothing. I think there may be something in the Kingston Road neighbourhood that does it -- I keep looking for brain sucking satellite dishes or something. So you aren't alone. It is an international alien conspiracy.

Something I suffer from is audience anxiety. I sit in theatres or at other performances of things (even baseball games) and feel terrible anxiety that something is about to go wrong, or the actors will make fools of themselves. It comes from being an ex-actor (who occasionally made a fool of himself). But it reminds me that audiences for the most part, are really rooting for you to do well. They forgive a lot (unless there was a rockband booked that didn't show up, and they replaced it with a folkie at the last minute -- an R. Fielding copyright experience)
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: sophocleese
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 02:03 PM

I started going to our local song circle because I was getting frustrated wishing I could sing in public but never having either opportunity or nerves to do it. My confidence is growing, slowly, but I'm always and inevitably nervous in public, I'm just getting used to singing through it. I usually figure the first time I sing a song in public I'm likely to screw it up. The local song circle is very useful in this instance because if I have a gig I'll sing a new song there first and get that first time performance over with. Apart from that its practice, practice, practice. I tried using a drink to relax myself before a performance but although I was relaxed I also sang worse so I prefer not to drink until afterwards. I also spend a good length of time warming up before performing.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 06:08 PM

Margarita - I can't see your "mistake" on the Maid of Amsterdam is anything but a quite reasonable variant, which in fact means the same as the "original. except I reckon that placing hi hand on her chest rather than the other way round is more likely what he'd have sung.

You don't think shantymen stuck to the same set of words do you? They improvised and adapted like blues singers. Read what Stan Hugill had to say about the shantyman's craft.

And they'd sing different sets of words sometimes out at sea as they would in dock - notably on Whip Jamboree, where there were verses Stan sung on a recording session where I was in the chorus, in between takes, that he would never put in his book or on record

Talking about blues singers - I sometimes wonder if the classical blues form actually comes out of singers applying the rule "when you forget the next line, sing the last line again."


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 07:01 PM

Vocal pitch pipe? How about a harmonica--or better yet, one in each key you favor. It can give you not only the starting note but a sense of the harmony.

My problem with performing is often that I don't warm up sufficiently: my rhythm is off, my hands are stiff, etc., and coupled with another problem, i.e., that when I'm nervous I tend to start playing something a lot faster than normal, faster than I can play it, causes me to mess up, or at least to fail in satisfying myself. I have worked out a very nice clawhammer version of "Jimmy Brown the Newsboy" which I can play quite cleanly at a reasonable place, but taking an early solo at The Starry Plough I started it at least fifty percent too fast and really butchered the breaks. My vocal went okay, though, and the audience at the Plow is incredibly kind, so I survived and even got a few compliments, even on my playing.

Just remember (I keep telling myself) to take a few deep breaths before you start, find the correct tempo and pitch (I get it listening to whatever instrument I'm playing), and start.

Oh, and a bit of creep on the subject--but right on the title of this thread--a couple of years ago some friends and I were sitting in about the second row of the Freight and Salvage, listening to Laurie Lewis and Tom Rosum. As they were about to start a song, Laurie's guitar mike suddenly tilted down: it didn't drop, it just pivoted suddenly downward and she joked: "Oh, the disappointment..." and I couldn't restrain myself from asking, "Which is more disappointed, the mike or the guitar?" She looked at me strangely and said she wouldn't respond, there were children present. My friends pretended they didn't know me--hell, I pretended I didn't know myself. And this was long before I knew Catspaw, so I can't blame his influence...

--seed


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Allan C.
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 07:52 PM

Honest. I don't relate EVERYTHING to sex...but this thread, perhaps because of its intriguing title, does, indeed, make me think of it. I mean, yes, you can have a pretty good time by yourself and do some things "just right". But the best part of sex is when there is good feedback. When some subtle thing about your partner lets you know just the right thing to do. Of course, sometimes they just yell it out at you! And that's good too. And then some other subtle or not-so-subtle feedback lets you know that what you did was good.

I used to perform fairly often in front of audiences - some of them pretty damned big. (Shut UP, Spaw! You know very well what I meant!) and then drifted away for a long, long time. During that time away I lost, forgot or whatever the good memories of what it was like to be up in front of a bunch of people singing and playing my guitar. It seems like all the time I have been spending here on the Mudcat has been pointing me toward a new beginning. It has been stirring something deep inside me and making me think a lot more about getting in front of an audience (perhaps even a PAYING audience) again.

Nobody could possibly know how very nervous I was about going up to Annap's and singing in front of all of the people I knew would be there. I was both excited and almost petrified. That is, until I got there. Then it was like being at home with just a few close friends gathered around. Because of that, my anxiety prior to the Getaway was nowhere near the level it was before the trip to Annap's.

Singing with the Mudcatters at Annap's and at the Getaway have reminded me of how very wonderful it is to play for someone; rather than for my living room walls. Nobody ever came right out and told me what songs they wanted to hear, but the "feel" of the group dictated what and how I sang. And, the way I felt after screwing up my first song at the Getaway was surprising to me. I could almost feel a hand on my shoulder saying "That's okay, Allan. We all mess up. Go ahead and play a different song. It's really okay..." And so I did. And it went pretty well. Doing that in front of so many wonderfully supportive (and yes, sympathetic!) people was almost better than sex!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: katlaughing
Date: 31 Oct 99 - 11:14 PM

Jeri, I also did Hawthorn, fell away from it, but my doc was okay with it and I know I'd feel easier about things if I started it up again. You've motivated me, thanks!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: JedMarum
Date: 01 Nov 99 - 09:32 AM

many good comments here .. I just want to second some thoughts. I have performed for many years, to audiences, large and small. I still allow my nerves to affect my performance (unfortunately). I've just gotten better at pretending they don't! I also know that once I get rolling, the nerves go away. So I start with songs I love, and can play backwards in my sleep.

... and it also true for me that the size of the audience or the noteriety of the venue is not neccessarily a factor in my nerves ... it is the importance of the performance to me that makes it more or less nerve wracking. It can be harder for me to play a new song to a few friends in the living room than to a large audience at a concert hall!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: MMario
Date: 01 Nov 99 - 09:44 AM

liam - I know what you mean.....I sang a song once to a crowd of about 200 strangers...and didn't have a problem...but when i tried to sing the same thing to my sister...a few days later...I mucked it up something royal....


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: JedMarum
Date: 01 Nov 99 - 10:21 AM

... chuckle, MMario. it's funny how that works!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Fortunato
Date: 01 Nov 99 - 11:41 AM

Little Neophyte

Good Thread. I would add that mistakes made out of nervousness show me the weakness in my preparation. Where I screw up is where I need to focus my rehearsal. Now that said, there ain't no musicians who ain't screwed up something nearly every time they play out. Welcome to the club. Alson, no one ever died of performance anxiety, nor can you be prosecuted for blowing a chord change. Relax.

Fortunato


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Joan
Date: 01 Nov 99 - 09:31 PM

Singing for the song, instead of an audience, helps, and that revelation was a long time coming. Always wondered why some performance situations seemed more nervous-making than others did. Finally it dawned that a restless audience distracted me so I had trouble focusing on the song.

I've learned to "see the pictures." As I sing the words, I see the image of what they're telling about...like a little movie in my head. If you have to close your eyes to get those images at first, then do, but after a while the movie goes on automatically. Try it! If you're absorbed in your song, doesn't matter if some folks are sitting around looking and listening. You'll have them seeing the pictures, too.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 02 Nov 99 - 12:42 AM

When we play, we try to start with a song that we have flat-out mastered. Something without complicated changes, rhythm switches, intricate endings. The nervousness is still there, but I see it for what it is- an overload of energy with the potential to be negative or positive, that is there to be directed by me if I choose. With confidence in your talent and material, you gain the power to direct this nervous energy into positive flow, and a good performance. For this reason, I feel I ALWAYS give my best performances live.

LEJ


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Jack (Who is called Jack)
Date: 02 Nov 99 - 09:16 AM

I don't have much to add. Back when I when I had my first guitar lesson, my teacher gave me a little spiel. He said 'There are two kinds of musicians, the kind that play for others and the kind that play for themselves. The first kind wants to get in front of an audience and perform, the second prefers to play alone, privately. One of the things you'll have to learn is what kind you are.

I am definitely the latter.

Best Regards.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: lamarca
Date: 02 Nov 99 - 03:24 PM

One thing that has helped me and my husband get ready to perform pieces is to tape ourselves rehearsing, then sit back and REALLY listen to what it sounds like. It was agonizing to me to try to listen to myself at first - I was too squeaky, I was off pitch there, I flubbed the words on that line. But learning to listen helped me identify the parts of the song that were problems that needed rehearsing to solve AND what parts of the song sounded OK. After several years of white-knuckling it before every performance, I'm FINALLY feeling more relaxed about my singing, and a lot of it's due to listening to myself practice. (Of course, a lot of it's due to supportive friends and family, too!)

Once you can listen to yourself honestly (and that can mean either being able to recognize your mistakes OR learning not to be hypercritical of yourself, depending on which way you tend to err...), you become a lot more comfortable in your own musical skin. I'm not there, yet, but it's getting better!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: BK
Date: 02 Nov 99 - 09:57 PM

Again, a lot of great stuff (wisdom on the mudcat? well, yes, it often is.. part of what makes the mudcat special) in these comments. I particularly like Joan's comment about singing for the song & seeing the pictures. It happens for me that way when it's working best, 'n if you can make those pictures - hopefully - appear for the audience as well, you've shared something very special.. "Break A Leg."

Cheers, BK

ps.. Margarita: which "Maid Of Amsterdam," the show tune turned capstain shanty & also featured in the Cinerama Movie "Windjammer?" It was supposedly from a play called "The Rape of Lucrecia." evidently a comedy...


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: seagoddess
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 11:16 AM

Who would have thought that after 22 years of successful public performances, sometimes for audiences of thousands including national network tv, I would encounter performance anxiety! Well, it's happened and I don't like it. I still have no problem performing before huge audiences; it's those small, intimate ones that get me shaking. Oh, I have all sorts of theories -- the impersonal, anonymous nature of large audiences vs. the acute attention paid by small audiences means I can't just disappear into my stage personna, the song visuals, etc. But all the theories in the world don't help when it's actually happening. The anxiety presents itself in the worst possible ways: can't tune my instruments (don't believe the electronic tuner -- it must be malfunctioning, like me!), can't match my vocal key to the one the instrument is playing, and can't find those elusive first lines! Give me a large audience and I am golden; small audience and I fall apart; audience of one -- not a chance! I now envy those near-sighted musicians who can take off their glasses and make the audience disappear...maybe if I wore glasses that gave me double or multiple vision, I could trick myself into thinking there were actually 3,00 people sitting in front of me, rather than the actual 30! Anyone else have this problem? Suggestions?


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 11:46 AM

Hi Seagoddess
Maybe it would help if you thought of those in the smaller audiences as people who have come to share with you. Think of them as friends who are not looking to judge you but rather they have come to your performance to support you and your work.

I like your exotic moniker
Banjo Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 12:36 PM

Hi Seagoddess
I've worked with a number of folks over the last 12 years who were trying to deal with the issues that you outline. By pure chance, just a couple of days ago I outlined some of my own experiences dealing with performance anxiety a number of years ago. You could check out the thread "A Hero of Mine Has Passed".
Just as I long ago realised that different people learn to play a musical instrument in different ways, I know that no one method works for everyone as far as feeling a comfort level in front of an audience.
It's pretty easy to find tons of anecdotal accounts of "stage fright" but much harder to discover the solutions.
If you think I might have a useful suggestion or two, drop me a personal note here at the mudcat (you must be a member to do that) or e-mail me. (I'm listed in Bbc's resources page, under the "quick-links")

Rick


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Alice
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 01:38 PM

So much here that I couldn't read it all, and many things about which we seem to agree as far as causes and cures for anxiety.

We are often our worst critics, hearing things no one else would notice, or at least 90% of the listeners don't hear what we hear as a weak spot or mistake. I am thinking right now of the tape on its way to Mudcat Radio where I know I sing a note a little off toward the end of a verse... but what to do - share only 'perfection'? I didn't have the time to keep recording it over. We would all be afraid to perform anything if it had to be perfect. I think that too many times people are comparing themselves to studio honed perfection that isn't even realistic for live person to person performance.

Preparation meeting opportunity is success. If you are always working on your art, consistently doing something as often as possible, when the opportunity to perform comes up, you are ready. Finding a song circle to sing or play with on a regular basis really helps in addition to practicing in private. Having the changing audience of a song circle helps you reach a comfort zone so that it makes it easier to face a different audience when it is time to perform.

I didn't read all the thread but here is one tip. If you get 'rattled' by the audience or a memory lapse, closing your eyes while you sing or play helps to focus until you get back in the groove.

Speaking of time, my Mudcat time is up today. Gotta get back to the 'drawing board'.

alice


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Vixen
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 01:47 PM

Seagoddess--

If you handle large audiences comfortably, you must have strategies (subconscious or otherwise) for dealing with performance anxiety. Try to define what they are, (might be tough to do, since they're probably unconscious habit by now) and see if you can apply them to what you're feeling now. I offer this because it's what worked for me--I could calmly ride a fractious horse at high speed over indestructible obstacles in front of all kinds of spectators, but I was wreck when I got on stage with a guitar. What I had to do was practice all the strategies I used habitually with the horses. I acknowledge the anxiety, the fear of failure, the fear of violent death or injury, and the adrenaline rush, remind myself that I do this for FUN!, then calmly prepare for forseeable disasters (know the course/know the songs!), control my breathing (slow and deep--effortless, but demanding mental focus to recognize the need for it) and turn the rest over to the deities and angels who take care of such things.

It's worked for me, but mileage may vary. You actually do know what will do it for you, but you may need to dig some to find it!

V


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Jeri
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 01:58 PM

Alice, that song I sent to Mudcat was recorded at least 7 times before I gave up trying to get it to sound good enough and just sent it. I'm never going to have a career singing, and I need to stop thinking I need to be that good in order to sing.

I've sung songs in our session and apologized for my voice shaking, for being off-pitch occasionally, for slight delays when I almost couldn't remember the next line. Almost always, the reply has been "Huh? Didn't notice."

There are some people I'm scared to sing around. I don't know why - they've always been kind and supportive. (And doesn't this sound remarkably like what started this thread?)


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Midchuck
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 02:32 PM

Is "performance anxiety" the right term when doing folk music? Wouldn't "Pre-minstrel tension" be more appropriate?


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: seagoddess
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 05:32 PM

Hi all you wonderful, supportive folks who responded to my posting. Of course, I realize that others have struggled with this 'stage fright' phenomenon, but recieving such support for my struggle was food for the spirit. It will take me a while to absorb all the fine and helpful information you have so kindly passed on to me. But, in the meantime, thank you all.

By the way, Banjo Bonnie, at a recent festival I played, the sound tech had trouble remembering my name (Cindy) and so he gave me the handle 'Bonnie Banjo' for the entire weekend. I was dubbed the 'seagoddess' by someone who introduced my band years ago and it has stuck; glad you like it.

seagoddess


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Les B
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 05:55 PM

Seagoddess, et al: You're right. When you're scared you're scared, and no amount of "visualization," bananas, or positive thoughts are going to cure you. But, I always tell myself, when I find myself just short of throwing up in front of a crowd of strangers, "I must have done something worthwhile to find myself in this predicament again!" Then, I just concentrate on getting through those first notes on the instrument, and the first words of the song. Knowing that it's rough, but knowing it's goint to get better. It may take three or four songs before the dry mouth and the fumble fingers go away. And, if you do a good job on the last half of the gig, you're probably the only one who remembers how shaky the opening was.

I learned this "just get on with it attitude" a few years ago at a Taj Mahal concert. He did his sound check in the afternoon, and then showed up for an 8:00 pm show at four minutes to eight - nearly giving the producer an ulcer. Taj walked on stage with no warm-up and proceeded to do a fairly complex fingerpicking number, and not too well. But, he kept on playing, getting better and better. By the end of the night he had given one of the best solo concerts I've ever seen. I'm not saying he had stage fright, just that he worked through the "fumbles" at the start of a show like they were a natural progression -- a part of the show. Hope this helps.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 06:14 PM

Midchuck, that's very funny

Seagoddess, I knew we were connected somehow.
Rick's advice is good stuff. He's my hero whose got many more years to go before he passes away.

Banjo Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: poet
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 07:04 PM

thread creep here. The great comedian Ted Ray had a drunken heckler one night and he said. I know your father he lives in Glasgow, the drunk replied "my father lives in London Ted Ray said "The man your mother married lives in London your father lives in Glasgow" I liked that Put down butI still threw drunken bum out.
Graham


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 12:10 AM

One of the best screw ups I ever heard was Nick Dow singing a song called 'Seven long years' - don't bother asking for the words, had my song book stolen a few years ago, never did replace all of them, but if anyone knows the song I mean, can they please post! - Now Nick is not a slim gentleman, and managed to paste two lines together, coming up with 'Seven long years since I saw my Willie-o'.

OK 'Spaw, do your worst with that one!!

LTS


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Arnie
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 10:08 AM

Performance anxiety is part of the deal of being a folky musician- something that I live with. For me playing a festival workshop, or bigger gig event, or pub is usually o.k., but the smaller concerts where everyone is totally silent and focused on you, sometimes does me in. The fingers usually work pretty well, until this situation shows up and all of a sudden I can't pick the real good -important licks onstage. I shrug it off afterwards to another one of those experiences, but I'm always ticked off at myself. Sometimes I think I know a song really well that I have sung a thousand times before, and I can pull it off on autopilot - but then I start concentrating a little too much and run right into a mental block which results in entire versus being lost or put in poor order or worse- ending the ditty as fast as I can in order not to prolong the embarrasement. After that freakout onstage, I am a little bit frazzled for the next number too! This is similar to the baseball pitcher who walks the bases loaded with no outs and needs calming down cause the darn manager won't take him out of the game. I'm lucky enough to perform with someone who shares some of these problems at times, and we get to deal with them together on stage (lots of good fun) and try to cover for each other, which helps tremendously.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: seagoddess
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 11:35 AM

Arnie -- yes! yes! yes! It's those small,intimate audiences that send me into the land of no lyrics and smudged licks. In an ensemble setting, I can usually laugh this off, clown around, goof, pace, until those pesky, ellusive lyrics find their way to my lips. But solo...well, I haven't figured out a comfort zone for this experience. My feeling is to keep playing, never drop the rhythm, and hope the lyrics- search my brain is doing will be successful...sometime soon! And, like yourself, these can be songs I've sung thousands of times. I'm playing out tomorrow night for a small audience and have been including, in my practice sessions, some of the coping techniques I've learned from this thread. I'll report back?

Banjo Bonnie - 5 string? Old timey? I don't run into many women banjo players these days. That, in itself, is a sisterhood...we all have very strong neck muscles!

seagoddess


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: stupidbodhranplayerwhodoesn'tknowanybetter
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 12:17 PM

I'd be more afraid if I wasn't afraid. Those nerves are your energy. Without that you get sloppy, or worse yet, dull and lifeless.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: JedMarum
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 01:56 PM

hmmm, good thoughts here - and to think I thought this thread was about sex!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Arnie
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 02:27 PM

Banjo Bonnie- I'm curious -What kind of tunes do you make up on the banjo? I do this this kind of thing myself, in fact I'm getting ready to record some soon.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From:
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 02:48 PM

Have you tried Viagra?


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 02:53 PM

So glad you ask Arnie, I have no clue.
They sound kind of classical. Sometimes I think it's Medieval, other times 'New Age'(I had that word), I'd rather think of them as melodic.
Maybe Rick will read this and give his professional opinion.
When I play my tunes for others, and ask what they think, I don't get a clear definition either?
I'd love to hear what you are doing Arnie


Sister Seagoddess, I took the resonator off my 5 string to make it sound more like an open back and changed the clear plastic head to fibre skin which made a significant difference in the tone. I love my Frankenstein!
(how'd I do there Rick?)
As for muscles, it's not just my neck that's strong.

Banjo Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Allan C.
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 05:12 PM

There is a practice in psychology known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming, (NLP) which I swear can be done for one's self. (I am not aware of any clinical studies to support this idea but would be happy to hear of it if any one knows about one.) The basic idea is to TAG a certain positive feeling in such a way as to be able to call it up whenever it is needed to use toward compensating for a negative one. For instance, let us say that you feel totally in control and perhaps even powerful whenever you are giving a guitar lesson. But you have a real problem with riding in elevators. NLP could be used to link the feeling of control with the problem with elevators to help to overcome that problem.

NLP works on the premise that we all process information by way of one of three basic methods: seeing, hearing or touching. You probably have some idea which of these is the one which works best for you. For instance, you may recognize that someone can tell about a new capo they bought or even draw a picture for you to look at and it does no good. But once you actually hold it in your hands, you finally understand exactly how it works better than another one you know about. This may indicate that you learn from touching.

Now, here's the idea. The next time you are giving a guitar lesson and you are feeling especially good about how it is going, give yourself a touching signal - oh, I don't know - give your left ear lobe a sharp tug or something. Then, the next time you are confronted with the task of riding in an elevator, give your left ear lobe a tug. In some marvelous way, your body will help your mind to connect the two events so that some of the power from the first event will be transferred to the second one.

Does this sound crazy? Well, maybe it does. But I know for certain that it has been used successfully in clinical situations by trained, licensed practitioners. I also know that there is no license required to try it for yourself. I have used it, myself, with some degree of success.

It might be worth a try to see if it could work to help overcome stage fright or perhaps even something other.

I hate this, but I suppose I must offer the usual disclaimers about the fact that I am not a licensed practitioner and that if you should decide to try this at home, you should check with one beforehand.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: JedMarum
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 06:13 PM

Viagra? Nope. I tried the home remedies; a dozen oysters. I was disappointed though - a couple of them didn't work.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Arnie
Date: 25 Nov 99 - 09:37 AM

Banjo Bonnie -The tunes I make up are mostly simple melodic clawhammer pieces - (based on my gut experience of playing traditional Appalachian fiddle tunes). I enjoy playing around with different qualities that various tunings may have, or little banjo tricks that make a phrase of music stand out. My playing philosophy is play it simple, but tasteful - which seems to work best for my style and ability. I hope to hear some of your tunes some day. No more talk of anxiety today!


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 25 Nov 99 - 11:29 AM

Arnie. When Banjo Bonnie first came to me with a (bluegrass) banjo, and said "I wanna play!!" Yours was one of the very first albums I lent her. Has she bought one yet?
I've now done approximately 20 conversions (bluegrass to Old time) on folks' banjos. I'm gettin so quick at it I can't believe it. You've probably seen at least 5 of them.
I think that within a year or two, Bonnie will be a force to be reckoned with in the banjo sorority/fraternity. (if she's able to start playing with other people on a regular basis...cause you GOTTA INTERRACT!)
Rick


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Arnie
Date: 25 Nov 99 - 12:01 PM

Rick - A force to be reckoned with within 2 years! - Jeepers Rick, you must be teaching her some great stuff! Jeff Davis converted a Gibson Mastertone into an open back- and it's a great instrument. I don't know who you are or where you are Banjo Bonnie, or if you have our banjo recording yet - you may be interested in it. You can contact me at ragged@interlog.com We are due to make some new tracks in January.


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Bob Landry
Date: 25 Nov 99 - 12:32 PM

For years, I suffered from chronic stage fright and stuttered anytime I had to speak in public. Then I took the Dale Carnegie course which stresses that you should talk about things that you already know and break your speech into 5-minute segments. Things started to turn around when I began teaching courses on how to prepare financial projections. Dry stuff, but as my experience grew and I became more relaxed, I received a compliment when another coach told me that mine was the only accounting class she'd seen where the students were actually laughing. That's because I have fun and use a lot of humourous anacdotes in class. Although I always experience a bit of apprehension when I first meet a new group, I learned to start with the easy stuff and then relax as things get more complex. They're not there to criticize; they're there to learn. And I, the so-called expert, am there to help by relating some of my experiences, so why not make it fun.

On the musical side, I started to play guitar by picking up a buddy's spare guitar, learning a few chords and strumming along at jams. My idea there was to learn and have fun. Even though I was terrible, my skill and confidence grew as time went on. More recently, I adopted the practice of playing with musicians who are better than I am so that I continue to learn. In the last year, I've taken my music public. A local bar singer (with guitar and electric Ringo) lets me and a blues harp player sit in once every few weeks. Everybody benefits when that happens. The harp player and I learn more about what it takes to play for an audience. The paid musician gets to improvise, play blues lead and riffs while I carry on with the rhythm. The barflies get a fuller sound and tunes that are not in his regular sets. It does interesting when he starts a tune that I've never played before but if I catch the rhythm and chord progressions, I do a credible job. We played an incredibly tight rhythm & blues set last Friday night. As far as stage fright is concerned, my teaching experience helped me to get to the point where I'm simply enjoying myself and trust that the audience enjoys what we are doing. I just concentrate on making the best music I can and having fun.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: WyoWoman
Date: 25 Nov 99 - 01:05 PM

A couple of thoughts to add to this thread:

I can sing up a storm by myself or with one more musician I know well. But when it comes time to jam, I get very, very shy. This is probably why I've never gone farther with my music. It seems to me that musicians (guys, for the most part) are either born knowing what they're doing, or stay in their rooms working up their chops until they're "there." But as a singer, you can only go so far sitting in your room and working up your music. It's taken years for me to be able to just say, "I do this one in D and the rhythm is like this..."

It's so odd. I'm a very confident woman who's been working in a "man's profession" for years, but put me in front of a bunch of musicians and I turn idiot. AND ... I can harmonize on auto pilot when I'm with one of my sisters or my close friends. But put me in front of a group of musicians (e.g. a *band*!!!) and I go completely tone-deaf.

Once I have got a piece of music well-rehearsed, I can sing in front of crowds large and small, but it really helps to close my eyes and feel the song. I get distracted by the audience looking at me.

I always pray before I go on, not to God the Father or whatever, but to the music itself. (I know this sounds woo-woo, but it's true.) I just say to it, "I pray to do you justice tonight, and to give the audience a joyful experience..." or something like that. And at some point, the music simply takes over. For me, the wrestling match is just getting my ego out of the way, taking the focus off Little Me and giving my instrument, my voice, to the music. Then, it quickly all turns to magic. And there is abolutely nothing in the world like that experience of finishing a song and feeling that complete hush in the room that tells me they all, *we* all, got it at once.

Mmmmm.

WW


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 25 Nov 99 - 04:23 PM

Thanks Arnie. I would love to get your recording and I'm definately going to contact you.
As for learning great stuff, you need a great teacher of which I think I have the best.

I appreciate your replys, they are very encouraging.
Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Helen
Date: 25 Nov 99 - 05:32 PM

Hi all,

I haven't had time to read all of this thread until now - it just kept getting too long to read in one go.

I'll apologise for the thread creep about beta blockers but I hope you'll forgive me for that, since it was about my mother. Thanks 'Spaw, kat, Jeri & BK for your thoughts on that.

Now, back to the regular programme: when I did a conflict resolution course about 10 years ago the trainers taught a method called getting or being "centred" ("centered" for you guys across the other side of the world). It's a bit complicated to explain here but you focus mentally on the area of your body immediately below your navel, and you can place your hand there if you need to (refrain yourself from any of those comments, 'Spaw) and after a few seconds or a bit longer you feel very focused and calm. It's almost like a super-fast meditation. The trainers used the exercise of asking us to stand still, without being centred and having someone else try to push us so that we stopped standing straight, i.e. not push over, but just push at an angle. After being centred it was a lot harder to be moved by the other person.

It becomes an attitude when you use it regularly. As long as I remember to do it I find my whole attitude being very calm, with a sense of being in control. And that attitude seems to convey to other people, too, somehow. I actually envisage a white light radiating from that part of my body - but that is just my way of doing it).

It works in all kinds of situations, including confrontations/explosive situations with your boss.

If I am being unclear and you want to know more you can send me a personal message if you like.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: poet
Date: 25 Nov 99 - 07:31 PM

A word straight from the pen of The Kipper Family. and not in any way sexist it covers any musician here.
This nervous reaction is called Pre Minstral Tension.
As I am one who throws up minutes before an important gig "I do know what i'm Talking about"

Graham(Guernsey)


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: seagoddess
Date: 26 Nov 99 - 01:04 PM

Helen - "centering" is an excellent suggestion, thank you. As a bodyworker/massage therapist it is something I use on a regular basis, but have never thought of doing before a performance. DUH! It is an excellent grounding method and brings all of your energy into "focus" I like to say. It's got to work for performance, as well as it does for so many other situations.

Wyo Woman - you've mentioned, a very important, often overlooked aspect of singing and performance, the spiritual. I feel strongly that music should delight one's spirit, not set it to worry and trembling...like performance anxiety. Your prayer reminds me of what Helen said of the practice of "centering" and I see them as connected. Music doesn't belong to us, we are merely the conduit or the messenger.

This is such good stuff! I am so glad I decided to get "Muddy!"

Cindy


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: WyoWoman
Date: 26 Nov 99 - 01:39 PM

Absolutely. I really do see myself as the instrument, not the player. At least I do when I'm doing it "best," and letting it flow. As soon as I start having it be about me, it becomes less-than.

I heard this beautiful poem the other day on the radio (didn't write down name or poet, damme) that talked about how, when we die, we become whatever we always thought we became upon death. Those who believed in hellfire and damnation experience that, those who believed in heaven and harps experience that, those who believe death is oblivion, disappear. I just imagine this skin bag that has always encased us disappearing and us just dissipating into pure music. Phoooooof, just like that, becoming music at last without the tangible layer between us and it.

In the meantime, however, making music gets us pretty close.

WW


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 26 Nov 99 - 02:08 PM

Helen your suggestion is very helpful. I think the centering you are talking about can also be referred to as grounding.
Sometimes I visualize myself being rooted into the earth. This helps me to feel centered and clear and as WyoWoman so beautifully expressed, allows one to be an empty vessel receiving the pure music from above.

Thanks Helen, this is an important point.
To be an empty vessel you need to calm the nerves. To calm the nerves it helps to center yourself.

Banjo Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Helen
Date: 26 Nov 99 - 09:07 PM

I use the centering process before any public speaking or any presentations or training sessions if I am not feeling confident. It is *almost* an automatic thing but if I am really in a scary situation like a confrontation with the boss then I have to consciously remember to get out of my stress feelings and get back into a centred feeling.

Not long after I learned how to do it I was in a work meeting which had the potential of being pretty bad and I used the technique. I could feel my sense of control over the situation growing, and I felt really confident & capable. I really surprised myself when I told the boss, (who was formidable, and who had the majority of the staff trained to quake in their boots - or pee in them - as soon as they saw him) that he was unapproachable - which sounds pretty tame, but believe me, it was a pretty brave or foolhardy act on my part.

I survived, he nearly choked, and after we both recovered from the shock we started getting on a whole lot better.

I always will remember that feeling of calm confidence I had after using the centering technique - it was like a power inside me, like gentle strength.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 27 Nov 99 - 12:13 AM

Helen, can I hire you to speak up for me?


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Helen
Date: 27 Nov 99 - 09:47 PM

Sure Banjo Bonnie, and because you are a 'Catter I'll waive my usual speaking-up fees. *BG*


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Marion
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 12:34 AM

I played a gig yesterday and tried the "couple of bananas half an hour before playing" idea - and you know, I think it helped. I didn't have anywhere near the usual mix of nausea and dread that I usually have just before performing.

Give it a try! It may be a placebo effect, but I'll settle for placebos if they work.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Helen
Date: 31 Jul 01 - 01:07 AM

Marion,

I don't have the scientific facts to back it up, but I think it really has some sort of chemical effect, relating to beta-blockers which are medically prescribed for high blood pressure or something similar.

Glad it worked for you.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 31 Jul 01 - 12:56 PM

Helen is onto something. A beta-blocker called propanolol is extremely helpful. It's marketed as a blood pressure drug, but many a doctor will prescribe it for this use, which is well supported by the research literature.

I learned of it from a very helpful book called Stagefright, which my classical pianist wife learned of in a class on handling stagefright she had when she was doing her master's. I have used it a few times.

One takes a propanolol pill about an hour before performance time. There is no change in sensation or perception. It doesn't make you any better (or any worse) than your practice has made you be. It is not habit forming. What it does is suppress or maybe the word is eliminate the unfortunate physical side-effects of stagefright, like trembling, shaking, whatever. You still have whatever worries about being "good enough", so there's still the "edge" that some people actually want when they perform. The difference is that you can control your hands, you don't fall down on stage from fright, and so on.

Having made it through the stress situation, the next time in that venue or that stress situation is easier. For that sort of situation, soon you don't need the help of propanolol. If you then are faced with a different type of situation that is a new stress challenge, then you may want to use propanolol for that new, greater challenge. But you're not hooked forever on it.

I can recommend it. It's been a long time now since I last felt any need for it, but faced say with a new location or maybe a much bigger audience than I'd performed for previously, I might very well.

DAve Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Performance Anxiety
From: GUEST,Celtic Soul
Date: 31 Jul 01 - 01:50 PM

Jitters are natural. What I did was to put myself out there more and more and took the risks. With each time I screwed up and lived, the fear lessened. :D

I still choke a little when the venue is big enough, or if we are recording live for the purpose of using it for a CD, but all in all, the butterflies are a lot less often, and a lot less severe.

Hope that helps.


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