10 Oct 2011

The best weapon against performance anxiety is to totally immerse yourself in the music. Most musicians can remember their most fantastic concert: how effortlessly they played, enjoying every note and feeling the music in every fibre of their being. Psychologists call this flow. How can you increase the chances of experiencing this flow?

Traditionally, musicians have always concentrated on improving their performance by studying hard. However you can also benefit greatly from focusing on preventing underperformance. This is exactly where the Alexander Technique can help you. It involves learning to stop thinking thoughts that make you nervous or block your coordination. Some examples:

‘Oh no, it’s out of tune, yet again’, or ‘I should have studied harder’, or ‘I have to show them that I can play well’, or ‘Here comes that terribly difficult passage’.

If you already feel stressed and nervous while practising, this also reduces the chances of your performing well on stage. So it is important that you play with good coordination, taking pleasure in the music, during all those hours that you spend practising at home. The Alexander Technique can help you very much with this. You can read more about this in my blog study tips»

If you walk on stage convinced that it ‘has to be perfect’, that you ‘want to make as few mistakes as possible’ and that you ‘are really going to do your best’, chances are that you will perform with less freedom and enjoyment. Those who suffer less from nerves tend to think thoughts such as: ‘In this piece I want to create this atmosphere’, or ‘I am going to move the audience’, or ‘This piece is so wonderful that I can’t wait to perform it’ or ‘Here comes that high note: got it!’

There is a fantastic book on the subject of flow: The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green, which I highly recommend. Read the book and get started. And start having Alexander Technique lessons! Consciously activating your thoughts in a positive way can really help you to enjoy performing on stage.

Good luck!