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A research on performance anxiety in musicians and the possible ways to treat it

What Is Performance Anxiety, Really? By Noa Kageyama, Ph. My favorite violinist growing up was Itzhak Perlman, so when I recently observed a Perlman master class, you can bet that I soaked up every bit of advice he had to offer.

Sounds like great advice to me. What Is Performance Anxiety?

Performance Anxiety Symptoms

There are a lot of words out there that are used interchangeably with performance anxiety. The truth is, some of these terms technically do mean different things. Here is a definition: Somatic anxiety is your physical response to a situation.

Music performance anxiety in classical musicians – what we know about what works

Heart pounding in your chest, blood pressure goes up, you start breathing more rapidly and shallowly, muscles get tight, cold, clammy hands, and so on. Cognitive anxiety is your mental response to a situation. An increase in self-doubt, worries, thoughts and images of failing, loss of focus, blanking, etc. Affective anxiety is your emotional response to a situation. You may feel a sense of fear, panic, and apprehension about the situation, for instance. Understanding this three-part model of anxiety is important because it means that there are three separate targets that each affect our ability to play well under pressure.

The Two Types of Anxiety To further complicate matters, there are two types of anxiety — state anxiety and trait anxiety. You could also think of this as situational anxiety vs.

  1. Orchestral players might well find inadequate preparation a general and persistent stressor, since they tour and perform extensively with too little time to rehearse and digest the repertoire, often relying on their ability to sight-read. Laugh when you can, it can help you relax.
  2. Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, nobody expects you to be perfect, and it is OK to make mistakes. Goren 2014 conducted a meta-analysis of 29 studies and concluded that four therapies behavioural, complementary and alternative, cognitive, and combined were moderately effective, with a mean effect size of 0.
  3. Although there are correlations between MPA and certain aspects of SAD, such as fear of negative evaluations and the perceived exaggerated consequences of such evaluations, particularly in solo performance, their interactions remain unclear Goren, 2014.
  4. The truth is, some of these terms technically do mean different things. However, it is difficult to assess performance quality other than subjectively.

In other words, state anxiety is how stressful you perceive a situation to be, while trait anxiety is how stressed out you tend to be about everything. For example, being nervous about an important audition would be state anxiety. Such musicians tend to doubt themselves and lack confidence, focus a great deal on how others perceive them, and have a difficult time believing in themselves. I knew a talented young string player who was somewhat shy socially, hesitated to go up to new people, and was rather quiet in larger social settings.

It was important for this individual to learn how to build his courage, to be able to exaggerate, and to go almost too far with his musical gestures, in order to balance out his natural tendency to retreat into a shell on-stage. Getting the student to be more adventurous in the rest of his life was also tremendously helpful, as the bigger his comfort zone became by trying new foods, going to new places, and meeting new people, for instancehis confidence and courage to try new things musically expanded as well.

For instance, what can you do to better handle the physical effects of anxiety? Learn how to relax your key muscles under pressure, figure out the most reliable fingerings that are most likely to remain consistent even when you are nervous, get used to playing even with cold hands, and get better at playing well even under adverse conditions. Overcome the emotional effects by learning how to go for it in spite of the fear and by embracing adrenaline instead of fearing it.

A Three-Pronged Strategy Given that performance anxiety will affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally, utilizing a comprehensive three-pronged attack will allow you to be better prepared for the full range of effects that you will experience under pressure. Many make the mistake of putting too much emphasis on trying not to be nervous. Focus instead on developing a more effective response to the inevitable nerves.

Spend more time practicing performing, rather than practicing practicing.

Stage Fright (Performance Anxiety)

What do I mean? Go for a quick run around the block. With your heart pumping, and slightly out of breath, can you still nail the opening? Turn the TV or radio on in the background — can you still focus on your piece? Get dressed up and turn on a video recorder so you can post your performance on YouTube. Allowing yourself only one shot at this — can you play everything perfectly the very first time? Which muscles get tight under pressure? What happens to your pitch or intonation — do you tend to go flat or sharp?

What happens to your sense of timing — do you rush or drag? Where do you tend to have memory slips?