Overcoming Music Performance Anxiety: Expert Tips for Musicians

Piano Recital

Performance anxiety presents a common challenge for musicians – even for professional ones, especially before significant performances. You may experience a stomach full of butterflies, shaky hands, and apprehension about playing the piano in front of an audience, whether real or perceived, as individuals often feel performance anxiety when performing in front of a camera.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to reduce the impact of performance anxiety and help performers cope with their nerves. Performers need to understand that being nervous is actually a good thing, as it indicates that they care about the performance, which can ultimately help them deliver an even better one. Let’s learn how to channel that energy into an amazing performance!

Before the Performance

  • Be Prepared: The best way to reduce anxiety is to be well-prepared. Know your pieces inside out; this helps your muscle memory and makes you feel more confident.
  • Don’t Overpractice: Over-practicing pieces, especially in the last week before a performance, can introduce new errors and lead to overconfidence. When running through a piece too many times, performers might lose the sense of freshness. Practice smartly!
  • Warm-Up: Musicians should always warm up before performing. Play scales, arpeggios, and other exercises to get your hands in the groove. If time is limited, focus on warming up specific sections or playing the first few measures at home before leaving for the performance.
  • Look Good, Feel Good: Dress nicely and professionally to boost your confidence. Ensure your hair doesn’t cover your face (for female performers). Try on your performance outfit beforehand, including shoes for the recital if you use pedals.
  • Eat Right: Adrenaline can reduce appetite. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar as they can cause jitteriness. Opt for protein and fiber-rich foods to maintain steady energy levels. Consider options like bananas or dark chocolate, which provide quick energy, improve mood, enhance focus, and offer nutrients beneficial for sustained performance.
  • Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Rest is crucial for your performance. It sharpens your brain, mood, and overall well-being.
  • Try Out the Piano: If possible, test the performance piano before the show, especially if it differs from what you practice on. Experiment with scales and key pressing to familiarize yourself with the keyboard’s touch. Practice tricky parts from your repertoire, if time allows.”

Healthy Mental Strategies

  • Remember the Audience Isn’t Your Enemy: The audience is there to enjoy your music, not to nitpick mistakes. It’s important to keep in mind that the audience won’t focus on a single wrong note or small mistakes; it’s about the overall experience. They appreciate your effort and courage. Tip: For our younger students who are nervous about their performance, we encourage them to imagine the audience as their favorite vegetables, animals, or even princess/superhero characters to help calm their nerves.
  • Aim for Passion Over Perfection: Don’t solely focus on playing every note perfectly. As long as you’ve done your best and are continually improving, the performance is successful. Instead of striving for perfection in every note, try to convey the emotions of the music through phrasing and musical color. This approach can reduce pressure and enhance the enjoyment of the experience.
  • Think Positively and Visualize Success: Visualize yourself succeeding rather than dwelling on potential mistakes. Nervous energy can be a positive force if you believe in yourself. The day before the performance, stand in front of the mirror and affirm, “I can do it! I am ready for this! I won’t let a few mistakes undermine all the hard work I’ve put in.” This is the moment to share the magic of music with others!

On the Day of the Recital

  • Breathe and Stay Hydrated: Proper breathing and hydration are essential for performance. Stretch and take deep breaths.
  • Fake Confidence: Act confidently even if you feel nervous. Smiling and bowing after the performance can help boost your morale.
  • Focus on Playing, Not the Audience: Pretend the audience is like inanimate objects or stuffed animals. Keep your performance routine consistent.
  • Remember, It’s Not Your Last Performance: If you’re not satisfied with your performance, don’t worry. There will be more chances to improve. The experience gained is invaluable and something that can’t be bought. It’s time to celebrate!

Whether it is your first recital or not, performance anxiety is common, but with the right preparation and mindset, you can overcome it. Believe in yourself, stay positive, and keep performing. You’ve got this!