Pre-Performance Nerves

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by funBox, Oct 17, 2010.

  1. funBox

    funBox New Friend

    Sep 13, 2010
    Statesboro, GA
    Hey guys,

    So I've got a solo performance today at 3. (Playing an arrangement of Bist Du Bei Mier for Solo trumpet and Piano), and I was curious, how do you guys cope with pre-performance nerves?

    Obviously I won't be able to read any of this before the show, but I figured it would be a nice discussion either way :D

    (I'll let you guys know how it went as soon as I get back tonight! :cool:)

  2. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    You indicated preperformance, so I am assuming you mean BEFORE the concert. Others will likely have some good suggestions, however, I usually try to get myself emmersed into a good warm up. If this isn't possible, try engaging a co-musician in a conversation. Just sitting and thinking about the performance is about the worse thing you can do. Stay occupied.

    Just so you know, your reaction -nerves -is very common, even among professionals. Frank Sinatra had the problem his entire life. I was in charge of the National Teacher of the Year once when she was speaking to a group of about 5000. While a professional speaker that traveled the globe, she would have a serious attach of nerves before speaking. She would literally sweat completely through the outfit she was wearing (hence always wore dark clothes). Yet, when she got to the podium, she was fantastic.

    If you think about it, such nerves (an actual adrenaline rush) is natures way of getting us ready -the "fight or flight syndrome" described in most intro psychology books.

    Don't see it as negative, unless it is actually affecting your performance.

    Best of luck with your gig.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2010
  3. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    Steve's last comment about not worrying about it unless it affects your playing is a very important point to consider. Many people discuss using those nerves to your advantage, use them to add power to your performance. George Harrison once remarked that he always got nervous, and whether he meditated or smoked pot in order to feel calm, the moment he took that first step towards the stage, the nerves came right back. John Lennon supposedly would throw up several times before going on stage to perform. Yet they (and Sinatra) were superstars who gave fantastic performances, so somehow they channeled that energy into their performance.

    Stage fright can be debilitating if we don't think about it in the proper way -- I find that I don't get very nervous in a debilitating way if I am in control of the situation. I conduct a community band and I know that the show won't start until I give the downbeat, so I'm rarely nervous and even when I am somewhat nervous it never intrudes into my conducting nor into the emceeing I do as part of my conducting job.

    When I play trumpet, for years I had a very hard time playing when the organ was at the front of the church but I could play up a storm in a relaxed manner when the organ was in a loft at the back of the church. I haven't had a call to perform in the front of a church for a while (I butchered some performances pretty badly due to nerves and it doesn't take much for an organist to stop calling you), but last Spring my wife and I were the prelude music and I played solo trumpet for the processional and the recessional of a very small college (6 graduating seniors) near here and because of all the reading I'd been doing on the subject and the hard work I've been doing putting myself into the best trumpet playing shape I've ever been in, I did just fine with a rock solid tone and no mistakes.

    I find that the more confident I am in my ability to play the music, the less nervous I become, so one suggestion to help battle nerves is to be in the best trumpet playing shape you can be and to keep reminding yourself "I'm a damned good trumpet player."

    And also keep in mind that the audience isn't there hoping that you fail -- they want to be entertained, they want you to succeed. They're on your side, which is something it took me years to realize.
  4. funBox

    funBox New Friend

    Sep 13, 2010
    Statesboro, GA
    Hey guys,

    Just got back. It went great! I'll upload an .mp3 (or .wav, don't know which they're using) as soon as it is posted by the tech department.

    Thanks a ton for your input guys! I myself bring my iPod to listen to to help keep my mind from thinking about the impending performance, as well as to wake my ear up so to speak so that my tuning note isn't quite so off when I first go onstage :p

    I'd love to hear about what everyone else does to help with their nerves before a performance :D

  5. zappamusic2010

    zappamusic2010 Pianissimo User

    Oct 4, 2010
    I think one of the most important points is how to control the nerves. I think Vizzutti says something like 'let them run through your body and experience the sensation.'

    When I was playing at the top level in UK brass bands i would ... (There are some Vizzutti hints in here. Not all worked for me, but some certainly did) Just before I start - this was sometimes mega pressure, 25 musicians not wanting to let each other down, months of hard work on a 10-15 minute piece of music with just one final performance and some people in the audience wanting you to fail (as they want to win)!!

    1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail ... I was always 100% in practice and had worked hard/practiced. I'd covered all of the bases. Always breathing in the same place weeks/months in advance of the performance(s) (even marked it on my part). Obviously lots of other things like those tricky passages were nailed BUT breathing SO IMPORTANT. Also with this point, if any part of the piece/work is under practiced and shakey, it will create worry and nerves. Any mis-count i'd done in rehearsal or silly mistake was marked clearly on my part!
    2. Warm up hours in advance so your lip is supple and responsive (a Vizzutti one this but worked for me)
    3. Always focused! Anyone during their performance nailed the technical tricky thing or the hard solo, then almost messed up the easy bit? It can easily happen. Constant focus.
    4. Another Vizzutti one, don't let a tricky passage ruin a full performance. I also 'dep' quite a lot for various groups/bands. Sometimes I might only do one rehearsal or sometimes just have to turn up on the night and do the job. When this happens rely on the basics - breathing, quality of sound and 100% confidence in your ability and reading - sometimes don't questions yourself, be confident and if you're sure, play it!
    5. Before contests/competitions you have to wait in a holding room. I used to sometimes lightly hit my thighs, arms, chest ... get the blood pumping (my little version of the New Zealand Rugby Haka - pysching myself up). Also licked my finger and tapped the back of my ear with it ... Wierd but took my mind off any worry. Don't do many of these any more ... And made sure they didn't distract others.
    6. One thing is never force your nerves upon anyone. Some people in bands that i've played for get quite silly or talkative, where-as I go very withdrawn and quiet. The last thing I want is somebody yapping in my ear when i'm about to perform. If this is your way, find a person that is similar to you and by all means do talk or chat
    7. Visualize your music. Put the instrument down (you've already warmed up and the lip is feeling good), don't have your fingers moving, just look through your part - taking in all of those key moments. This is one ex LSO Trumpeter Howard Snell suggests in a book and i found it fantastic
    8. Always turn up in good time before a performance knowing that you wont have to rush around before you play

    FINALLY, I think everyone gets their own routine and there is no right or wrong. Whatever works for you is right. Take peoples opinions and develop your own routine and possible quirks. I never purposefully developed a routine, it was just something that gradually developed.

    Good luck and i'm glad the performance went well - By the way use that experience. If everything went well, you must already be doing something right - learn from it. :thumbsup: :play:

  6. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    I am a comebacker after 7 yrs off. I have only had a few performances at my church. But being in front of 100+ people is still disconcerting. So far - I have been able to make a few jokes beforehand, and close my eyes which helps immensely -- And of course, since it is in church, closing the eyes doesn't look that odd.

    I have been asked to do only SOLOS -- which is worse, cause there isn't any others to cover a mistake. So I have (so far) only done solos that were rather easy - and haven't gone above a high C ---trying to build confidence.
    I have a fundraiser for a radio program on Jan. 29 -- I hope to have the nerves under wraps to cork out some Double High C's, and do "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in all 3 octaves.
    ----- and ---wow----- what's the problem? I tell myself, "I am the best I have ever been", which is true -- but nobody has ever heard me live at that level--- only on a CD. (((I think expectations are high for myself - and from some others I shared my music with))) ----- so I practice, practice, practice ---- after all I have 105 days left to get my MIND under control. who knows -- maybe I will draw the first spot of ten and don't have time to think about it!!!

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