I’ve been performing on tour with Circa Paleo for 20 weeks now, and have gotten waaay behind on answering emails and messages. I just got a Facebook message today with a juicy question that made me really miss interacting with all you fiddlers out there- it’s been so long that I’ve been on tour I can’t wait to get back to making videos!
Here’s the question from Michael Cannain that I can totally relate to:
“Hi Jenny. I have a question. What kind of advice do you have for those of us who play, but get nervous in front of crowds? Nervous up to and including shaking..sounds horrible on a violin…just wondering.”
And here’s what I said:
This is a great question!
I used to get nervous and shake as well. I know- it makes it completely impossible to play the dang thing.
There are a few personal tricks and warm ups that I could demonstrate better in a video. I will add this to my list of videos to make in the new year. But for now, I still wanted to share the three most basic helpful tips for managing nerves while playing in front of people:
1) Be Prepared.
It helps if you have practiced the tune a LOT on your own time. Try this confidence building exercise:
Give yourself a challenge to play the piece or sections of the piece 10 times in a row with no mistakes. If you make a mistake, play only that section 10 times in a row. Once you have the section down consistently, then go back to playing the whole piece. Once you’ve achieved the 10 times all the way through with no mistakes, celebrate and take a break.
2) Keep doing it!
Playing in front of people is a separate skill that has to be practiced. It’s sometimes difficult being a capable adult to accept that other people will watch us learn, or in other words… see us while we still suck at something.
Seek out every opportunity to play in front of people even though it’s scary. Start with one or two of your best most prepared tunes. Play for an individual friend, or small groups of family- just anyone you can get to listen. Tell them that playing in front of people makes you nervous, but that you are trying to overcome it. When you are ready you can step it up to playing for strangers. Many hospitals and nursing homes have programs for volunteer musicians, and you will find very appreciative small audiences.
Holding your breath is a common unconscious reaction to playing in front of people, and it makes things infinitely worse. If you can remember to breath, you might find that helps your body stay more relaxed. Thinking about breathing also gives you something to distract you from the fact that there are people watching you. Try practicing at home with designated spots to breathe in rhythm with the tune.
And stay tuned on youtube, because I will be very interested to answer this in more depth when I get back to making videos next year.
If anyone else has a tip for Michael, or experience with getting over nerves, please leave your ideas in the comments section below!