Traditional Irish Music
Do any of your more seasoned players have any helpful anecdotes to help me with my stage fright and shyness?
I was invited to play fiddle today at a house concert in Indiana today (solo). There were about 30 people or so, several other musicians there demonstrating playing in various musical genres.
About halfway through my set, I started to blush, both arms began shaking. I apologized and walked away from the performance area. I'm not really sure whether I'll be able to overcome this problem.
If anyone can lend any helpful words, I would appreciate thoughts.
Connie - I have the same problem (exactly, actually, except for the blushing!). I've tried all the things (I think) that everyone here has mentioned and only one thing works for me (and it works very well). I heard about the little orange pill, Propranolol (or Inderal), from a musician buddy of mine and have never looked back. I take one about an hour before a performance (or Mass - I'm one of those Catholic players) and I can feel my body trying to do its thing but being stopped in its tracks. You have to get a prescription and you have to be very judicious in its use, but a beta-blocker such as this works marvels. Good luck in your search!
I know I've told you this story before, but I'll throw this out there for others that haven't heard it. Liz Knowles said that, in order to combat her stage fright, she used to run a few very fast laps in her back yard and then come in and try to play the fiddle. Her breathlessness, pounding heart, and shaking arms very closely resembled the sensations of nervousness. It didn't necessarily get her past her stage fright, but she learned how to play through it.
I was very fortunate to play in a band during my formative performing years, so the spotlight was rarely on me alone. Eventually, I did enough solo sets with the band next to me that I can now play with confidence on my own (a few All-Ireland competitions can really make you cope with nervous playing too . . . sheesh, talk about pressure!).
Ultimately you need to find that place where you aren't worried about how your playing reflects your abilities (or imagined lack thereof), but instead you consider how your abilities can reflect the beauty of your tunes. The more you can remove the "you" aspect of your performance, the more you remove yourself as a target of imagined cruelty and the easier it is to find the flow and hop a ride.
As my future fiddle teacher, of course I will be trying my best to take all of your advice! Yes, thank you for posting, because I am certain that this discussion can help other new or returning instrument players and singers who are not used to performing in front of an audience. You know it's bad nerves when I even feel awkward in front of my own instructors!
Unfortunately, I can't see myself running anywhere these days ;)! But I do agree that the pounding heart, etc., do closely resemble response to manufactured imaginary fears or excitement. I seriously think I might even faint... that happened at my friend's house a few months ago... we were all performing in front of other engineering people and musicians (so I was very intimidated). There's already been a slight improvement... the fear is much more controlled when playing with a larger group which preferably includes other fiddlers. I'd still rather avoid playing in public... unfortunately I will often do it if I've had a few Guinnesses, when is exactly not the time to be trying to play (at least for me)! I can be very high-strung... I remember last year I got so excited during our Christmas concert that I shredded some of my bow hairs - and that's just crazy!!!
Thanks so much for posting and I'm looking to hearing more of your good advice!
I love that first bit of advice there. If I'm soloing and all eyes are on me, I always tell the audience up front that I'm glad to be there and a bit nervous, so forgive me if I panic finger for a bit. Then I pick a tune I know I'm okay to play too fast. They think I'm showing off, but I'm really working off nerves for that tune. By the end of the tune, I'm good to go at a more reasonable pace. Fortunately for me as a piper, most of my solo work is in weddings and funerals, so I'm not the center of attention.
I'd like to add this to your list:
3.) If your supposed to be speaking between tunes, giving history lectures, telling about your instrument, or just introducing the next act, write out everything you want to say ahead of time. When I was leading my pipe band, they used to giggle about the 2 pages of notes I'd make for a 45 minute concert, but I never forgot anyone's name when I was introducing the band, I never forgot a tune name, and I never forgot to give my soloists credit. (And I generally had a note to myself to say, "We've got one set left before we turn you over to _______________, thank you all very much. It's been a pleasure playing for such an appreciative audience. Our last tunes are ....." Then fill in the blank with the next act's name when we got to the venue.)
Having spoken in public many times, and helped others to do so too, I might go into coaching mode and offer the following;
1. Know your set so well that even a firecracker won't put you off your stride.
2. Play in front of one person who knows you well, in an environment where you are at ease. Don't stop playing, even if you make a mistake. Recover from it and continue. Repeat.
3. As in 2 above, but in front of two or three people who know you well.
4. As in 3 above but now bring in one or two people who don't know you that well or who maybe have never heard you play.
5. As in 4 above but in an environment which is not so familiar to you.
I know this might take a bit of organising but the idea is to gradually ease yourself out of your comfort zone, not just jump out of it!!
Oh hi again Paul -
I was thinking "oh, I've already been trying this advice...", but then, your last sentence really struck a nerve with me: "...gradually ease yourself out of your comfort zone, not just jump out of it!!". One thing that gets motivated is for someone to insinutate that I'm in my "comfort zone" :)! Now you've really done it! ~Connie
Oooops!!! Carnegie Hall maybe??!!!
In a state of reincarnation at Carnegie Hall!
First off, congrats on taking the leap agreeing to go up and play in front of others. Thats a big step. As others have mentioned, I think its just a matter of time and experience. Going straight to playing in front of other musicians can be especially tough. Perhaps start with family, then a few friends, then maybe have them bring some guests you dont know, etc. It might work better to step up your comfort level gradually.
I am certainly no amazing performer but the more I do it the easier its gotten. I recently decided to stand up when playing solo guitar shows, even if I have to adjust my technique a little. Its more interesting for the audience and I think helps me project a more outward energy. Sitting down I tend to hunch over my guitar and look very introverted.
And as Steven said dont worry about any musical mistakes. Chances are no one noticed and if they did its gone in a second anyway.
Best of luck
I am no help at all, I've done heaps of gigs and still get so, so stage fright that I feel like I'm going to die. I have a feeling some I'm just not made for the stage:)
Thank you for posting Brid ~ I understand very well. I hope maybe you can find a little pearl of wisdom somewhere in all of these generous posts to help you overcome your own stage fright!
I don't think so mate, as I said before I'm pretty sure I'm not made for the stage- I still do it, I hate it though. But you know, Paddy Keenan is sooo stage fright - I mean probably even worse than me. And he is amazing! And he has been preforming for decades!