Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tame those nerves! 9 Ways to Prepare for a Piano performance or exam

Virtuoso Horowitz, also suffered from nerves (pic: lastfm)
How can we prepare ourselves so that we won't be too nervous on the performance day? Performance is not only a mental game, it's a way of life. Therefore to succeed you need to be prepared mentally as well as physically (technically). Remember even the great pianists Glenn Gould and Horowitz got nervous too, and even shied away for years from performing four times according to the New York Times.
  1. Play for friends and family. Use every opportunity you can to play your pieces, see how you cope under pressure. You'll highlight any technical difficulties in your piece. If you can, record it and listen or watch back. Where did I hesitate? Were there any memory slips? What could make it sound better.
  2. Record yourself on Video or Youtube you'd want to get your recording perfect, so this is also another excellent preparation technique. You can also observe your performance - your body language and posture (observe also how tense are your shoulders, arms and hands?) You can also ask piano enthusiasts from the youtube audience, your previous and current teachers,  to evaluate your performance.
  3. On the day: Play through the pieces at least once, this will boost your confidence and reinforce the muscle memory.  
  4. Relax - have a bath the night before, listen to some soothing music and calm the mind, ensure you don't schedule any other stressful event or task during the day or days preceding  the performance.
  5. Practice, practice, practice intensively, but don't burn out. Knowing that you've done the 'donkey work' in advance will boost your confidence. You shouldn't then be too worried about making technical errors, because all the hard work has been done.
  6. Get a good night's sleep. A good night's sleep the night before isn't enough, make sure you have consistent good sleep 3 days before.
  7. Try out the piano and venue! If you are able to, get access to the venue beforehand, either before the performance starts to rehearse through your pieces. If it's a music festival and the competitors and ajudicators haven't arrived, why not try out the piano - as long as this is permitted just to see the touch response of the piano. This will enable you time to get used to the piano and feel more comfortable in the performing environment. 
  8. Visualise success, great athletes do it, so should you. First of all, recall try a successful previous performance that went well, remember how you felt and what made it such a great performance. Apply those memories and imagine you will be giving your next best performance. In your visualisation, implant positive thoughts,  that you're in total control, relaxed and focused.  
  9. When you perform, or are just about to - focus on the musical feeling and mood you wish to convey, just before you perform. Eliminate any doubts, focus on the positive, what you can do well and how you'll communicate with your audience.


  1. I think breathing, relaxation, being in the here and now all help. And yes, videotaping is a great way to work through anxiety.. monitoring back what you observe as far as far as tightening muscles, wrists.. You can pinpoint physical issues as you watch/listen back.

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