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Performance Anxiety- How Do Musicians Get Past This Obstacle?
Part 2- Practice and Performance

By Julia Hansen

Article Level: Beginner to Advanced Violin
Beginner to Advanced Viola

This Article is broken up into two sections.

  • Section 1- How to practice for a performance

  • Section 2- Hot to use performing as a tool to gain confidence on stage

Section 1-Practicing

Practicing our pieces properly is one of the most important factors in easing our mind while we are on stage. Consult the articles on this site about practicing for more information on certain types of practice techniques.

Naturally, we begin by practicing our pieces slowly. This is an important step in mastering our music and it should never be skipped or rushed. Gradually building tempo will help us insure that we remain in control of all of the notes and techniques.

However, once the music is fully mastered and has reached “performance tempo” (the speed in which the piece is to be performed) it can be helpful for more advanced players to begin playing the piece at a faster tempo than it is written. If you practice the piece faster than you need to perform it, then you will feel more relaxed and in control during your performance.

When we practice, we usually focus a lot of time on small sections of our repertoire (always practicing and repeating the passages that give us the most difficulty). But as you begin preparing for a performance, you should begin “playing” the piece all the way through-without pauses or stopping to fix a small mistake here and there.

Your mind and body must get used to playing the piece, so make sure you devote a fraction of your practice time to performing the piece and not practicing it. Remember this should only be done after you have mastered the piece you are working on. Once you’re ready, this will help you build the necessary strength and endurance that you will need during a performance.

Section 2-Performing

Though this might seem strange, the best way to overcome performance anxiety and feel comfortable performing a piece is to perform it! One of my greatest teachers insisted that we needed to perform our pieces at least 3 times in public before we could consider it mastered and a part of our repertoire.

This is because performing a piece in front of an audience is entirely different than playing it in a practice room. Our heart rate is increased and we are under more stress when we are on stage. Each piece needs to be mastered under these new and challenging conditions before we will feel entirely comfortable with it.

If possible, it is advisable to play for family and friends at first. These will not count toward your performances, but they will act as a stepping stone between practice room to stage! Actual performances can be given at retirement communities, churches, schools, and studio recitals.

It is important to remember to keep an open mind during your first few performances. Consider them learning experiences and pay close attention to your mistakes. You will gradually work them out with each successive performance, until you feel a higher level of mastery.

If you follow these steps, you will begin to build the confidence needed to overcome your performance anxiety and give a performance you are proud of!

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