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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Not sure if I want to be promoting the drug option.
Put it this way: I know all about drugs, because it's a big part of my job, and I'm very, very, very old and therefore have a lot of experience of their effects on lots and lots and lots of people.

Which is why I'd never touch alcohol (I value my grey cells too much), nor smoke, let alone do weed or whatever people get up to these days.

But if I was going to do piano exams again, I'd take propranolol without a second thought. One 10mg tablet before the exam. Just like I might take an anti-inflammatory if my ancient knees creak & groan after a long ascent of Nanga Parbat.

BTW, I'm not on any medications, and have no health issues.


That may work for you, but not everyone will be pleased with the drug’s effect —


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by dmd
I am still waiting to hear what he (OP) did for grades 1-4.

I would say ..... Well, do that.

I suspect he didn't, and this is his first.

I don't think any exam boards offered the possibility of a 'video exam' until the pandemic (and I'm not talking about the 1918 or 1968 ones), and as a result, those students who would never have contemplated f2f piano exams before (playing on an unfamiliar piano - including sight-reading - under the intense scrutiny of a benign examiner you've never met before, not even in your wildest dreams.....) are now doing them for the first time.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Originally Posted by dogperson
That may work for you, but not everyone will be pleased with the drug’s effect —
That is why all doctors will tell patients wishing to use it for public speaking, performances, exams etc to try it out beforehand, so you know how it will affect you.

After all, you wouldn't want to drink your first beer until you've tried it out first, would you? whistle

Incidentally, as has already been pointed out, anyone taking propranolol for blood pressure control will be taking a dose 16 - 32x bigger (and every day - likely for the rest of his life) than someone taking a single 10mg tablet prior to his performance.

One more thing, those who think that performance anxiety can always be "cured" by reading books on 'mind-over-matter' (etc), doing touchy-feely stuff etc should go have a chat with someone whose career (and even relationship/marriage) has been completely derailed by his/her inability to get on top of it. Most of them have tried everything non-pharmaceutical under the market (and out of it) for years, and nothing worked. For instance, there was a famous British concert pianist whose performance anxiety became worse as he got older, and it's painful to listen to some of his later live performances (unfortunately, preserved on Youtube). I personally know of an ex-concert pianist who changed career to a much less fulfilling one, simply because he couldn't cope with performance anxiety, which started soon after he entered the conservatoire and began doing competitions. The strange thing is that soon after he changed career, he met his wife, who is a doctor (and from whom I got the story: he'd never have told me about it himself). If he'd met her a few years earlier, who knows what he'd be doing now? (He'd sold off his piano and stopped playing completely after his 'breakdown' in his last competition.)

That is just one of the reasons (apart from my own experiences, which is pretty mild compared to some others') why I have lots of sympathy for anyone who asks me for beta blockers to help them manage with whatever they need to do in their own jobs.

The vast majority of those who discovered that meditation, reading books etc cured their performance anxiety don't really have it: they just have (or had) what I'd term a more intense form of 'excitement'. Like being told you've won a place on the next trip into space......(though not to Mars, which is a one-way street).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Just some random thoughts...

Do you really want to take medical advice from anonymous posters on an internet forum?

Reports of "this drug helped me" or "so and so uses this drug and it helps him" are all just anecdotal evidence.

Back when I first started going bald, I was tempted to seek a "solution". But I took as my motto, "No rugs, no plugs, and no drugs". If I was going bald, then I needed to get used to the reality of who I am - a bald man.

For many doctors, the default option always seems to be to get out the prescription pad and start writing.

Look back at all the things you have done in your life. High pressure job? Military service? Childbirth? And you are stressing out about recording your piano performance? Get some perspective. Is this even in the top 10 of difficult things you have survived or accomplished?

I assume you are doing this for fun since this is a forum for non-professional pianists. Then have fun with it. If you can't find fun, or satisfaction, or enjoyment in taking exams or performing for others, then don't do it.

I'm coming up on my 50th quarterly recital. That's a lot of recordings, and I'm not counting the themed recitals. I used to get very nervous about it, with shaking hands and lots of mistakes. I used to do multiple takes in search of the perfect recording. But I got over it, or got used to it, or trained myself through practice not to be so anxious about recording. Will it take you 12 years to get comfortable with recording? I don't know, all I can offer is my experience. I think after about 30 recitals I started to relax a little...

Sam


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I can understand people taking medication for professional reasons where the stakes are high, and even there, other drug free options should be the primary options. But the hobby is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not lead you to a point where it becomes a daily stress.

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Originally Posted by Sam S
Just some random thoughts...

Do you really want to take medical advice from anonymous posters on an internet forum?

Reports of "this drug helped me" or "so and so uses this drug and it helps him" are all just anecdotal evidence.

Back when I first started going bald, I was tempted to seek a "solution". But I took as my motto, "No rugs, no plugs, and no drugs". If I was going bald, then I needed to get used to the reality of who I am - a bald man.
A few thoughts that come to mind: male-pattern baldness has no effective treatment. Not even hair transplant. It is genetic. You can blame your parents, and then, get on with life (and wear a wig if you really must).

But other, superficially similar afflictions, can be successfully treated - like acne. Would any doctor deny any teenager the treatments that could stop their skin scarring? How many teenagers - whether or not obsessed with their looks - would refuse treatment, if offered? Even if the treatment lasts for many months, even years? (BTW, the most effective treatment also has the greatest potential for the most risky side-effects).



Quote
For many doctors, the default option always seems to be to get out the prescription pad and start writing.
I've never worked in the US but where I am, doctors don't get paid for prescribing. In fact, they get 'shamed' for over-prescribing or prescribing unnecessarily, especially stuff like antibiotics for common colds and coughs, for which they are useless. Which is why we have the lowest rate of such prescribing among the developed countries.

Take what I said in my previous post in this light, not based on your own experiences with doctors in the US.

Personally, I don't recommend that any amateur musician does anything musical which stresses them - including 'student recitals', which is such a feature of piano teaching in the US (but not here) - unless they gain so much from it that the pluses greatly outweighs the minuses. I've said frequently in the past that if any of my teachers insisted on me doing them when I was a student, I'd have changed my teacher without a second thought - or stop piano if I had no choice. That also applies to me if I was an adult student. Exams, however, are something every child does if he/she attends school. Adults do them for their own reasons, and I don't question their motives for doing so. How important are piano exams to them, if they cause stress? Only they know the answer.

I don't do the judgemental thing in this regard, unlike some people. Everyone has their own reasons. But I've already talked about how I 'cope' with my sudden, unpredictable episodes of performance anxiety during my public recitals in many previous posts. I've also talked at length in the past about why I do them even though they cause me anxiety. But I'd never do any 'online recitals', because the reason for my performing isn't there.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Ever hear of exposure therapy?

As others have said, record yourself playing every day. It's just a good habit to get into anyway. Eventually you will be less frightened.

How many times have you played in front of others? After a while, it becomes nothing. You might have some jitters at first, but you'll find you quickly settle in. I've played to hundreds of people playing bass and singing... Very nerve racking. After the first song you just go and play, and when you make a mistake you keep on going and can't dwell on it, but when the part comes up again you fix what you did wrong the first time. Playing through mistakes is important.


My youtube channel where I discuss theory, performance, cover some tunes, etc.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCruDLJseRHB_04Zwz0NXVGg
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Many thanks for all the fascinating suggestions. Personally I'd totally do the beta-blocker thing and I don't think the 'performance enhancing drugs' comparison is fair. However I'm not quite ready to go to my doctor asking for meds to get me through a little piano exam - it's not like I'm on stage at the albert hall is it! I should be grateful really that it's not my job on the line as it would be for some people.

Reading other replies, there does seem to be a distinction between 'normal' performance nerves which everybody gets and tend to reduce as you get into your playing and the more uncontrollable symptoms which (in my case at least) get worse as I go on. I also get the point that this is supposed to be for fun so why do it if it's not? But a lot of things in life are more about challenge and feeling a sense of achievement rather than pure fun. I do a lot of running and trying to keep your legs going while brain and lungs are screaming at you to stop isn't fun either! But it feels worth it afterwards (sometimes anyway!)

Anyhow, I've just discovered that I missed the booking deadline so I can't submit this until November so plenty of time to practice in front of the evil eye. As one person guessed I haven't done any exams before, I had some lessons as a child but and some more as a younger adult but was previously resistant to doing grades. I don't think the standard I'm starting at is the problem I really can play these pieces. I think sometimes people assume 'oh you just need to learn the pieces better', but really it's not that. It seems completely bizarre that an inanimate object should turn hands into jelly and music into hieroglyphics but it's obviously just the way it is for some of us. FWIW I don't struggle with things like public speaking (I used to be a teacher) or written exams. It seems to be just those fine motor-skills that desert me...

Thanks all again,
Martin

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You are really not alone. However, I discovered that the more you do it, the better you become.
It takes a little courage and patience. Of course everyone is different.

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You may enjoy listening to this podcast on “Stage Fright” and the work and discoveries of the cognitive scientists that study it.

There’s not too much in the way of practical advice, but still pretty interesting if you like to eavesdrop on brain scientists and psychologists on what they are learning as they poke around and study behavior.

It was broadcast this summer (~July 2021):

https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/stage-fright/

Glad to hear that the pressure is off for a time, and that you have until November to explore this fascinating and curious phenomenon and, maybe, explore ways to make it a good friend and partner as you challenge yourself to try hard things.

P.S. You made me laugh when I read your excellent description of ‘jelly’ and ‘hieroglyphics’— that captures it! well done!


Mary

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…take a few deep breaths after you finish a piece to reset your mind. A pause is recommended and one examiner commended it in one exam feed back. It sounds like you are sitting the ABRSM, they do offer additional bookings in between official booking period. I am allowing my pieces to mature and will book one of these open windows once I have a recording. I decided not to work towards a deadline..take the stress off the table as I am sitting the exams to get me to face the uncomfortable pieces! Good Luck! Exam results come out 3 days after your booked submission date - let us know how well you do.


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Originally Posted by elczkc
As one person guessed I haven't done any exams before, I had some lessons as a child but and some more as a younger adult but was previously resistant to doing grades. I don't think the standard I'm starting at is the problem I really can play these pieces.

I am taking this as the answer to my question .... "What did you do for grades 1-4?"

So .....

I would suggest that you need to be successful at some level so that you do not "fear" these exams.

Why not go back to level 4 .... or 3 ... and learn pieces "well" from that grade and try recording those.

You may be successful due to the "ease" at which you can perform those.

If that happens .... you should now know why you are struggling with "stage fright" during level 5 material.

Good Luck


Don

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Originally Posted by mtb
You may enjoy listening to this podcast on “Stage Fright” and the work and discoveries of the cognitive scientists that study it.

There’s not too much in the way of practical advice, but still pretty interesting if you like to eavesdrop on brain scientists and psychologists on what they are learning as they poke around and study behavior.

It was broadcast this summer (~July 2021):

https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/stage-fright/

This was very interesting, thank you!


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Keep trying to record yourself! Video recordings honestly aren't that bad, because technically you can always go again. After doing it for a few hundred times, it'll feel quite natural.

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