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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Playing in public

Three steps to performing without nerves


Is there anybody out there who hasn’t felt nervous about playing in public? Let’s see whether this sounds familiar as the moment itself approaches: dry throat, sweaty palms, heart racing, and other symptoms. In extreme cases, some people, including experienced performers, feel physically sick. These reactions are enough to make people give up any idea of further public performances, the whole experience is so terrifying and entirely negative.

Inside us there are two voices competing for supremacy. The negative voice is saying:
“…difficult passage coming up, I think I may be going to make a mistake. …that person in the audience who is coughing is putting me off, I can’t concentrate…..what am I going to do if I forget the next phrase?…” and so on.

The negative voice is undermining. Worse, the negative voice is self-fulfilling. The negative voice is primeval as it whispers:
“…so many pairs of eyes staring at me. I feel so vulnerable.”

You want to flee at that moment, and hope a large hole on the stage could appear under your feet through which you would so.


But there is a positive voice trying to make itself heard. That is the one to encourage. The positive voice has various messages and they are all to do with positive thinking. They create the basis for playing calmly and well. They include three positive steps for being able to perform in public:


They are not separate elements, for they interact and help each other.
That is why you could place them in a different sequence, for example:

1. Self-belief
2. Preparation

Let us consider each in turn.

1. Preparation

Your preparation should be thorough so that the moment you walk on to play you should be able to say to yourself:
“I have prepared myself completely for this moment. I have done everything I could possibly do to play at my very best.”
The preparation should include:
a). practise until perfect
b). secure memorisation
c). certainty about interpretation

I have already written a whole blog each about a). and b). You can find these blogs scrolling down below this one. Regarding c). make sure that you know how you wish to interpret the music, avoid vagueness and uncertainty.

2. Self-belief
Have confidence in your own judgement, and that your performance can be excellent. Your decisions about technique and interpretation are based on your ideas, your research and your own emotional reactions to the music. Project them well and your personality will shine through. John Lennon said about the Beatles:
“First we had to persuade ourselves we could be the best in the world. After that it was easy.”

3. Communication

Your listeners have come to enjoy a musical experience. This may include excitement, lyricism, stillness, simplicity, spirituality, virtuosity and lots more besides. The vast majority of your listeners have not come as judges and examiners to be shocked when you make a mistake or to be critical of your interpretations. They are there hoping to be transported to a special and magical place: musical heaven! Together with your audience you can reach it. The positive vibrations between you move in both directions and create a special, even unique, mood. You can imagine the vibrations moving back and forth between you in waves. You the performer are the medium. The musical atmosphere and shared experience you have created with the audience have a life and momentum of their own, bigger than its component parts.

- encourage positive thoughts, deny negative thoughts
- thorough preparation
- secure memory
- decide interpretation with confidence
- self-belief you can do it
- communication

This has been my rough guide to avoiding nerves in performance.

Read more:

My blog: Memory’s Mysterious Moods 2
April 2011

My blog: How to learn a piece of music
March 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=505 .
© 2019.

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