Controlling adrenaline in a recital...

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by mattonstad, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    Seriously though, there are medications that will make you completely free of nerves, that is,
    performance anxiety.

    However, those medications are strong, and should only be for people who have anxiety or depression that is
    debilitating, to the point where they can't carry out normal daily activities.

    I don't think those drugs, (SSRI's such as Zoloft or depressants like Valium) should be used
    for "trivial" reasons like mild performance anxiety.

    Unfortunately, I think those drugs are prescribed too often and then the user relies on them
    too much. Not to mention, SSRI's are very expensive, are hard to find the "right one" and
    proper dose and they take a couple weeks to work. IOW, you can't take an SSRI only when you
    "need" it. Your body takes a long time to adjust to taking an SSRI and even longer when you
    go off the drug.

    However, if you are found to be suffering from long term anxiety disorders or depression, the newer
    classes or SSRI's can be a God-send. They can transform a person who is unable to function due
    to crippling depression or anxiety into someone who "has a life" again. But you need a very good,
    attentive physician overseeing your use of these powerful drugs.

    That's my experience, for what it's worth.
  2. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    I literally became a "vegetable" on a combination of 20 mg Valium and 100 mg Darvon combined prescribed to me by USPHS. Darvon has since been pulled off the market by FDA, but I remain hypersensitive to Valium, and yet I've seen many others rely on them like a candy fix. It zonks me out of realization like an automaton and now isn't for me.
  3. Churchman

    Churchman Mezzo Piano User

    Apr 26, 2012
    Playing in church I get no nerves - whereas in concert I can hardly stand up for the nerves...
    Go figure.

    (God involved)
  4. Glennx

    Glennx Pianissimo User

    Aug 16, 2009
    I used to get nervous/adrenaline-pumped before performances. These three steps work for me and finally put that to rest to allow me to play my best:

    "Amateurs practice until they can play it right; professionals practice until they can't play it wrong", so (1) aim for mastery of whatever you're playing.

    Once you've mastered the material, (2) make yourself understand that you can play the recital or show because you've already played it a hundred times and you know you can do it. There's really no uncertainty left, just a quiet confidence...and therefore no reason to be nervous or adrenaline-pumped.

    Finally: the audience or jur) is expecting you to be able to play the horn, and play it reasonably well. If you've practiced enough and can play your stuff, then you really are a trumpet player - so (3) step up to the plate and show what you can do. If you've mastered your material, you'll welcome the opportunity to show them. After all, we're trumpet players, right?

    If you can't get your head to this point, then you need to practice more until you reach mastery (or close enough). It's also smart to perform in front of an audience as much as you can in order to make an unfamiliar setting or venue more familiar.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2013
  5. keehun

    keehun Piano User

    Feb 4, 2010
    Michael Colgrass taught me this method of practicing. He calls it the triangle or the pyramid method. It involves imagining an out-of-body experience. With practice (and memorizing the music), it becomes REALLY effective:

    When you are at a level where you can play through a piece, musically, play it three times each and every day at least:
    1. Imagining that you are yourself. You are in your body. You are on stage, and you can see the conductor/pianist and the audience. Vividly put yourself in the recital/concert hall and imagine the activities around you. As you're playing through the piece, consciously and actively look around with them in sight.
    2. Now walk over to the seats in your mind and then imagine that you're sitting down with the audience watching YOURSELF play. Play through the piece but remember you aren't in your body. You're in the seats watching yourself play. How are you presenting yourself? Do you look at ease? Do you look secure and confident?
    3. Now walk back on stage but now imagine that you're the pianist-accompanist/conductor. Imagine that you're accompanying yourself. Are you easy to follow? Do you look like you're having a good time?

    If you do this for a while, you won't get nerves. What will give you nerves is a new environment, but if you look at some pictures and imagine yourself in your environment and practice this before an upcoming performance, I've found that I feel at ease, already when at a new place. I have a bad case of nerves and will rock it at the rehearsal and goof it at the performance (of say, Messiah) when I hadn't practiced this method. However, when I do, I'll nail the performance.
  6. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005
    My guess is that you're misinterpreting the cause of your symptoms. Performance anxiety, like ALL anxiety, is about fear (realize that a lot of this is subconscious fear).
    Fear arises out of insecurity and inexperience. You don't play recitals that often for an audience, right? Adrenaline is a chemical
    response the body has to this fear, and it's at least partially triggered by other physical symptoms, mainly tension and stress.

    So to avoid these problems there are a few things you can do (I've used most of these advantageously):

    - play in front of people as much as possible -- the more you play for an audience the more experienced you become and the less it will become something to fear
    - on the day of a performance try to make sure you're well rested and fed
    - warm up carefully before the performance
    - learn to meditate and meditate before you play. Learning to meditate has been shown to lower blood pressure and relieve stress and stress-related problems
    - drill into your head that the world will not stop spinning on its axis if you make a mistake, nobody in the audience is going to shoot you, try to develop a better sense of perspective about what's at stake

    Hope this helps,

  7. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Sometimes we even fear success.
  8. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    Or are successful in fearing... Anxiety does play out as a positive force in some situations, were hyper vigilance is a virtue.
  9. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Depends on which zone we are in. I've played concerts where I felt horrible afterwards--some notes out of tune, attacks not clean, etc., but the recording sounded great, thanks to hypervigilance. On other occasions,as a student, that hypervigilance caused me to panic and suck. The ability to play through perceived mistakes seems to require more experience than practice.

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