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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
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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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