Shaky hands

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by bavestry, Dec 8, 2013.

  1. bavestry

    bavestry New Friend

    Oct 5, 2013
    United States
    Any time I am required to play a solo or in a small group of people, my heart races and I lose control of my hands, screwing the entire thing up. This happens in front of anyone, whether it's an audience or just the rest of the band; however, it does not happen when playing in a larger ensemble. I've tried to relax and take deep breaths before playing, but it doesn't work. Any ideas on how to stop this?
  2. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    Just do more of it and it will get better. Avoid coffee and alcohol. Deep breathing is OK, but do it daily, and avoid hyperventilating.

    Remind yourself that it's only a few notes, that no one, except you, will remember the ones you fluffed.

    And practice a lot, as the more familiar you are with the part, the less it will cause you trouble when the spotlight is lit.
  3. barliman2001

    barliman2001 Fortissimo User

    Jul 5, 2010
    Vienna, Austria, Europe
    Just remember this: In that moment, no one is more familiar with the piece than you are. Everyone else has not done the same preparation; and no one else is going to hear any fluffs. Just be confident and tell them to "pog mo thoin" (that's Irish, and I think you can work it out).
  4. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
    Hi Bavestry,
    You ststed:
    "Any time I am required to play a solo or in a small group of people, my heart races and I lose control of my hands, screwing the entire thing up."
    Ask yourself, Do you practice regularly? If so, why is your confidence shaken?
    If you are prepared, then there shouldn't be any problems. No one can prepare for the future to a perfect degree. Anything can happen. The valve can stick, an audience member might vomit, a child may fart loudly during a rest, a bird could fly in, Godzilla could step on your school. Well, maybe not the last on but I think you get what I'm saying. People listen to you because they want you to do good. No one wants to hear something that sucks. It's normal and fine to be excited, but don't start thinking about "what might happen". I've had the power go out in front of a sold out house, I've had audience members to get into a fight, I've had the valve to stick during a sensitive passage, I've heard people in the back yell Freebird!!" Do you see what I mean? Lighten up, everyone's on your side and tyhey want to hear you play. Are you as good as Mendez or Phil Smith or Alison Balsom? No. But you are the best version of you in the world and that's what we want to hear. Do away with the negative thoughts and and "wht ifs" and you'll be fine.
    mgcoleman likes this.
  5. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    Great news! Your body is working properly. It is called the flight or fight response. When applied to performing, it is sometimes called stage fright (though you may not feel afraid of anything). Very common, even among pros. Being well prepared and confident is about the only steps you can take to be sure you are doing what you can to address the situation. Hopefully, the more you perform, the better you will get at not having the response. One way is to "build up" to such playing - look for such opportunities- play in front of 2 people. When it seems like nothing, try 4. The 8. Etc.

    I'll spare you numerous personal tales - other than to say a year ago my son had a similar experience at Allstate. Didn't make it that year.

    Folks will often say- don't worry, relax, etc. as advice. To some folks all that does is have the opposite effect. Again, the more experience you get, the more you will likely adjust.
  6. Pinstriper

    Pinstriper Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 26, 2013
    As with so many things in life, the key to top performance is being as prepared as you can, then let go of your attachment to the outcome.

    You can't hit a baseball if you're trying to think too much about what will happen if you miss. Same with a golf shot, tennis, giving a speech, or just about any endeavor with an element of performance. Do your prep, trust your prep, then let go of it and just do the performance without caring about the outcome.
  7. coolerdave

    coolerdave Utimate User

    Nov 7, 2009
    San Pedro
    My trumpet instructor had me read this in college
    The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance: W. Timothy Gallwey, Zach Kleiman, Pete Carroll: 9780679778318: Books

    that being said ...your playing trumpet.. solos just aren't the time to be tentative or humble ... it doesn't mean to get all full of yourself ... but for the solo get into character and sing it like you are Harry James ... imho .. unless I am playing a solo and then it isn't a humble opinion.
  8. mgcoleman

    mgcoleman Mezzo Forte User

    Jun 22, 2010
    That's a really cool way of putting it, Dr. Mark - well done!
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I'll echo and paraphrase what the others have said here:

    1.) be as prepared as you can be
    2.) make an effort to do more of it - the more experience with it you have the better off you'll be

    In my own experience, the effect my nerves have had on my playing has been an interesting thing. I have almost no issues when I'm playing in the party band, even if I have a solo, with the rare exception if I'm doing a brand new song vocally as one of the special songs for a wedding party - first dance, Father/Daughter dance, or Mother/Son dance. Even then it's just mild performance anxiety because of how exposed those songs are. Most of the time at a wedding the band is mostly ignored - no one is listening to us too closely, but those dances put a lot more focus on what the band is doing in relation to what's happening on the dance floor.

    Another time I get nervous is when I'm playing for people I know. I used to make it practice to always play at a certain church in my hometown whenever I'd go home on military leave, and I was always got really nervous because I knew the people I was playing for, and I felt they had a certain expectation from me musically, which in turn put put pressure on me to think I had to be at my very best. Of coures it was all self-imposed - you gotta figure that 95% of the people might not truly know a good performance from a mediocre one, but even looking at it like that I still got tremendously nervous.

    Most of the time no one is going to judge you if you biff something on a solo, and especially not other musicians - NONE of us is without fault, and everyone has their share of mistakes.
  10. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    What bavestry is describing is performance anxiety.

    If it is debilitating, that is, prevents one from performing routine tasks part of life, then it can be considered an illness.

    And, the best thing to do when you are ill...see a doctor. I wasted years of living with it for no good reason. Once I overcame
    it, with proper medical attention, I took my trumpet playing to a whole new level.

    As one who has been down this road, I can confidently say that no advice you will receive here is going to be a cure.
    I used to practice like crazy, and then totally choke when it counted. Don't assume it is something you can "fix" by your self,
    because you will be lucky if you do, not smart.

Share This Page