Stage fright ...
scary subject.. why should one want to talk or even think about it?
think there can be something that could help you
overcome stage fright or nerves, fear, performance anxiety, worry,
all the names this can take, when performing for any sort of audience?
would you like to be more in control of your playing and of yourself
during a performance? And since music
is communication, do you feel you could communicate with your listeners
(they may communicate to you as well!) and enjoy the experience?
you've come to the right place, I'll tell you my personal
experience, maybe it can help, I used to get really badly nervous when
playing, with all the negative
This is one of the, literally, most frightening problems that performing musicians have to face,
often without knowing what to do
about it. Not only musicians suffer from it but, as far as I
know, all performers and nearly everybody who ever had only to speak in
front of an audience has experienced it.
performers it is particularly serious because when you play
somebody else you can't just stop and start again or explain it better,
as a speaker could do.
there remedies for stage fright?
such a big problem, you can bet people have tried hard to find a
solution to it. Some try to find a medication for stage fright,
tranquillizers, some resort to beta blockers, for others a remedy could
be just a good glass of wine or whisky or similar. Others,
during a performance try to think "not
to be there" or that the audience is not there. This may
to get through the piece doing all or most of the notes correctly but,
since music is
communication, how or what can you communicate to a
listener if you are not
there, or your mind is not fully alert?
an experiment, try and do the same when you actually talk to someone and
see what happens, what reactions you get.
If you are
happy with these remedies, good for you! You can go
to another page
in this website, I hope you find something else useful to you, don't
waste time reading this page. Instead, if you are looking for a
different type of help about this, keep reading. I personally
never wanted to use any of these remedies, because I thought they
the cause of stage fright. Also it seems to me that our
society is getting more and more drug-oriented,
I mean, for all sort of problems (from stage fright to insomnia, study,
anxiety, sex, happiness or lack of it, etc. etc. and whatever
"disorder" someone may say you have), we are told that there
a pill to take to get rid of it. Quick and easy solution (and
lucrative for pills producers/promoters, but that's a different
I don't believe these things, I like
"natural remedies", they may take a bit longer but work better.
Indeed, it is
to overcome stage fright without
drugs and feel the emotion, the thrill of enjoying a
can be other factors
in somebody's life, which have no relation at all
with music, that can seriously undermine one's confidence and therefore
play a major part in building stage fright over time, although the
technical aspects of playing worry most players.
fright" is also the title of a book
that analyzes all aspects,
physical, mental and social, of
fright, and gives practical solutions
to the issue and I found
it very useful. It is written by Kató
violin and viola teacher who wrote also other books about
string) playing. She was a child prodigy on the violin and performed
extensively as a soloist, therefore she knew very well all the problems
involved with playing and performing as a soloist. Then she made her
own family and later developed what she called the New Approach to
violin/string playing, which enables players to play with ease and this
ease helps to overcome stage fright.
of all, it's important to understand what is the cause of stage fright.
similar to any other fright: if we know we are not able to control
something, we get fright. Just to give you an easy
example: you are happily driving your car, you
know how to do the various things, in a word, you can control your car.
But, suddenly, the road is icy, slippery, you want to turn left but the
steer doesn't work, your car goes straight. You start getting some
fright, so you want to stop it but because of the ice the brakes have
no effect; you get more and more fright because now you know you can't
control what's going on and eventually you and your car end up against
the rail of that curve (my experience, I told you).
same thing happens when playing an instrument, in our case, viola or
violin. The more you know you can't control the technical aspects of
you are doing, the more you are going to worry about it. In fact, we
tend to get more nervous about
difficult things like fast passages, double stops, shifts, because most
of times we are not sure we can control them.
is the first aspect addressed by Kató Havas in her books and her
books of Kató Havas
Nowadays, many give
advice about stage fright, but bear in mind that the book I'm
going to illustrate here was first published
when talking about this was not such a common thing as today.
This book followed two other very successful books, "A New Approach
to violin playing" and "The
twelve lesson course,
in a new approach to
violin playing", about the prevention of physical injuries in
playing. This also was something nobody talked about, back in 1961!
when the New
was published. Now everybody is well aware of performers' injuries and
there are even clinics specialized in the cure of them. I love Kató
Havas' books and her approach because they
don't cure the
symptoms, they go to the source and eliminate
the cause of the problems.
So, you can
be sure that a lot of people have read these books and got
at least some inspiration. After all these years, they still sell well,
and in several languages. Read what Yehudi Menuhin said
about the book "Stage
fright" in a congratulation letter, you can find it on the
book back cover.
note that although
the book titles refer to our little brother, the violin, their
principles and practice apply
to the viola as well and also to all string
instruments, somebody wrote a book about cello playing. Indeed,
in the book "Stage
fright" there is a specific reference
to the viola,
since any problem
one could have with the violin becomes only bigger on the viola,
of its very size. These
principles have to do with how
to use our body (and not only the fingers!), particularly
all the upper
part (shoulders, arms, back) in a natural way, to prevent or eliminate
various physical and emotional problems caused by an incorrect use of
the body in playing. This, at the same time, facilitates
and makes it more enjoyable for the performer. Well, who plays knows
what the problems are, right?
That's the meaning
approach". The violin is always referred to
a violinist and started with the violin, but there are other people and
who apply this approach to other instruments. In developing this
approach based on the physical side of playing, the release of physical tension,
it appeared that this release was helpful also in the release of mental tension,
so "Stage fright"
is a sort of summary of both approaches.
Its causes and
1996 I was asked to translate this book into Italian
in view of a forthcoming workshop withKató Havas.
So, I read the
book and accepted to translate it (the picture here is the Italian
frontispiece). While dong the translation, in order to understand
and be able to explain it in another language, I tried the exercises
suggested, to see if it made sense and... it did make sense,
they made several technical things easier (that's actually the way you
this book, not just read it).
struck me when I read this book, was that it was really concrete, not
just good theory: indeed, in each chapter, for each problem you'll see
that causes and
cures are indicated,
together with practical
Here you will
find a description of the book and of the topics analyzed in it and,
most important, the solution
to the problem.
The following are the book
chapter titles, which cover all aspects of playing. Click
on each link to read a description of it.
SYMPTOMS OF STAGE FRIGHT a. What is
if it's only you, in
this chapter you can read how nearly everybody suffers from this fear,
maybe without admitting it, feeling ashamed of it. What happens when
struck by stage fright (you may know it from personal
but it's useful to read about others as well), how the relationship
between performer and listener is related to stage fright and what to
do about it.
HUNGARIAN GYPSY VIOLINIST
Here is a description of
violinist, his complete ease and physical well-being at playing, his
only focus on giving pleasure to the listener. Kató
Havas is Hungarian and in her childhood she met these extraordinary
players and was fascinated by them. Indeed, many were fascinated by
their artistry, including Liszt. Kató Havas always
them and was inspired by them in developing her New Approach.
PHYSICAL ASPECTS OF STAGE FRIGHT
FEAR OF DROPPING THE VIOLIN
FEAR OF THE TREMBLING
BOWING ARM a. The stokes
FEAR OF BEING OUT OF TUNE a. The fourth
FEAR OF HIGH POSITIONS AND
SHIFTS a. High positions b. Shifts
of all, it's necessary to solve the problems concerned with the
physical side of playing. So here, for each of these universal fears,
there are causes and
cures explained, together with practical exercises.
to use the natural body balances and movements to get to
the high positions and shifts, have a flowing
bow arm and
control, how to prevent
stiffness in the weakest finger and all
But don't just read
it, do it!
MENTAL ASPECTS OF STAGE FRIGHT
1.THE FEAR OF NOT BEING LOUD
ENOUGH a. Hearing b. Listening
FEAR OF NOT BEING FAST
FEAR OF MEMORY LAPSE
POWER OF WORDS
POWER OF IMAGINATION
and cures: tips
to practice fast passages, how to learn a piece to play by heart, which words create a mental
state of tension, while others help to create
ease and flexibility, so
you know which ones to use when talking,
thinking about playing.
How to use your imagination for help with this and to create your
SOCIAL ASPECTS OF STAGE FRIGHT
FEAR OF NOT BEING GOOD
think that this is the most difficult fear to overcome, because even
when you have got rid of the technical problems that made you insecure,
still there is the fear
of other people's judgement.
to many aspects of life, but it's especially true of playing an
instrument, it's the
identification of one's personal worth with the "goodness" of
think that another way to help reduce
stage fright is to try to
eliminate this attitude
criticism, so prevalent especially among music students
. The more you
criticize, the more you are bound to be nervous when your turn
especially in front of "friends" or people you know, because you
are aware of what they would think of your performance and,
worst, of you as a person. So, why not try and stop criticizing
other players for every tiny mistake or other things? I adopted this
attitude, "OK, that's the way he/she plays, it's their choice, it's not
my job to judge other people's playing, it doesn't make me a
better player so what's the point of criticizing?" By the
way, I've found it useful not only for music, but for other
situations, it makes me more tolerant of other people's faults
and less worried about their judgement.
ART OF PRACTISING
AUDITIONS, COMPETITIONS, PERFORMANCES
SALIENT POINTS IN PRACTISING
reading the whole book, you'll have seen that playing
and practicing is more a matter of mental
attitude, not a mechanical
thing, it's about what we mean to do with it. Here is some
general advice about how to practice (see why practicing itself can be
a major cause of stage fright), prepare for performances. So change
your attitude and you change the results. Read quotes from the famous
violin player Fritz
who was famed for not practicing much, see what he says about relying
on muscular exercise only and about practicing before a
you can do
I was working on this, I did all sorts of musical thing, quite unusual
for a classical player, which could, in one way or another, be helpful
in improving my playing: I started playing with folk players, in
pub sessions, processions, learned to play by ear (and more..., you'll
see later on), just to regain that
genuine feeling of doing
it for pleasure, without worries.
get used to think that if we make a
mistake it's a tremendous
crime, so we focus our attention only on not
making any error, forgetting the musical communication. Of course, it's
nice not to make mistakes, but if that becomes your only concern, oh,
what a boring drudgery!
learns from mistakes, so,
something else you could do to overcome stage fright, is find
where you are allowed
to make mistakes because people are not there to judge
you but they are only willing to receive and enjoy your music. When
speaking with my students or other players who say they get nervous, I
advise them to go and play at their church during a function,
or play at an elderly people's home or play
children, easy things to make them enjoy it, have fun, tell them a
story. Even if you make some mistakes, so, what's going to happen?
They'd never notice it but they would
love you for
the gift of music that you can give them, they'd ask you for more music
this will help you to build confidence in yourself, in your ability to
play and to communicate and you'll be able to play more and more
Then you can go home and practice the
passages that need improvement. And if you
can play by heart, without reading the music, much better, so you can
look at people
right in their eyes, "talk"
to them with music, smile. Start with something simple and enjoy it.
you still need some practice in performing your piece in front of an
audience before a big event, the final touch, for many the
scariest thing you can do, is some busking.
Yes, go and play in the streets, there you have an audience, the
situation is challenging, it may be noisy, people coming and going, a
lot of distractions, you
may have to cope with the idea of "what will they think of me?" (but
who cares what they think?), but if you can cope with this, then
performing in any other situation will seem easier.
conclude, you can do
something about stage fright, without drugs, improve
playing and enjoy
yourself when you play, feel the emotion
of making and giving music to your listeners, cause emotions in your
Start giving your music
everyone, see the nice comments you might receive...
and people dancing to
and you'll feel much more
books I mentioned very useful
and if you have
any doubts about how to solve some problems and so far you haven't
found answers, I warmly recommend them to you!
Buy the book "Stage
fright", read it and apply
it, day by
day. Then, if you want some more help and tips, get
in touch, I do teach viola and violin. This is the way I
teach and I see that my pupils have a nice
tone from the very beginning, enjoy themselves much more, learn more
quickly. Playing is not just doing all the right notes, as Kató Havas says:
"It is important to realize that our
responsibility as musicians
lies just in this - in the lifting up emotionally and aesthetically of
all our listeners, regardless of whether they are examiners,
auditioners, or members of an audience. If all our energies were
channelled into giving people, through the medium of music, a deeper
understanding of their own potential as part of the wonderful mysteries
that the universe contains, we would not only do justice to ourselves
as musicians, but stage fright would be banished from the face of this