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Joined: Feb 2012
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
BTW: Are you related to the tennis player?

Being South-African as well, yes and no. Since the first European settlers only landed here (to stay - some others passed through earlier) in 1652 and many still came up to the 18 Century, many surnames here can be traced to one original person.
But no, I probably would have to go back four or five generations to find a common ancestor.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by SouthPark
True. If you have a portable piano that you can roll around to different rooms, or different locations - and if you really can play that performance consistently and reliably and accurately in all those locations, then it will be a mindset thing only if the issue keeps surfacing in the 'stage' arena - or when there's lots of people, and lots of strangers, and/or the feeling of 'pressure' situation (crunch time). One method is to really do ones best to completely ignore everybody. Or if that doesn't work, then think along the lines of ----- I sure am going to demonstrate what I can do, so that all of you can really enjoy what you're going to get from me. Or think of ----- I love piano so much, that I'm just going to play it to convey what I want them to hear from me. And just play the piano in the way you practised - regardless of what happens. Just keep going.


Thinking ‘I’m going to show you how well I play’ doesn’t work for me: it puts the focus on not making mistakes and centers the performance on ME. What works for me is not making the performance sbiut me at all, but only the music: wanting the audience to hear why I find it special, concentrating on the sound, how go I phrase the music so that the audience really hears the lovely phrase; what is the composer saying— how can I emphasize that?

+1 Yes, if you have performance anxiety, you have to get the focus off yourself. I think only people who don't suffer from this angst can thrive by thinking about showing what they can do.

It isn't an either/or issue between psychology and the practice issues that Mark C has been talking about. When nerves come into play they are going to expose the weak links in the playing. IMO it's most valuable to address both physical and mental aspects to have the best chance of overcoming the problem.

I've found Kenny Werner's book Effortless Mastery useful for performance anxiety, as well as cognitive therapy (good for a lot of things, and you don't need to be sick to benefit from learning its coping skills).


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Jdw
Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve added it to my ‘books to buy’ cart. Another one I can suggest is ‘A Soprano On Her Head’.


"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 jdw
It isn't an either/or issue between psychology and the practice issues..... When nerves come into play they are going to expose the weak links in the playing. IMO it's most valuable to address both physical and mental aspects to have the best chance of overcoming the problem.

Yes -- absolutely.
I said which thing I think is more likely to be the main thing, but sure.
"Nerves" are a big part of why those possible physical conflicts rear their head more prominently in performances than when just practicing.

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*I’d caution people not to attempt to diagnose someone via the internet, even slightly. Only a licensed, trained, & certified professional can & should make mental health/psychological diagnoses.*

That said, I’ll attempt to comment from a solely pianistic/technical point of view.

Reading your description, I wonder if it’s possible to practice too much; to become so analytical, that you brain doesn’t have one single way to perform the piece set in stone & to rely on. So that when you perform, you have so many unsettled/unofficial/un-secure ways of playing the piece, that you don’t have that one way wherein that near-subconscious, muscle memory means of performing takes over. You say you practice “additive, backwards, transposing to new keys, blocking, hands separately, slow-fast alterations…”; well, have you ever just tried practicing one way….play it slowly, find a fingering that works, stick with it, get it up to tempo…and there’s that. As both a performer & occasional mentor/teacher, I’ve never been a fan of the “play it forwards, play it backwards, transpose it, block it, separate hands, choreograph arm motion like a dancer” etc. means of practicing. It’s so over-analytical that it doesn’t allow for the “settling in” of a piece that needs to happen. This over-analysis method has always seemed odd to me for this very reason: it causes the pianist to be obsessive about the method of practice, and that becomes a block to performance beyond practice, which is perhaps why you don’t have this issue when you practice, but only when you perform. Performing requires that you have a way of playing a piece that has become near-subconscious, where you don’t have to think about the technique. And that only happens when you find how you’re going to play a piece, stick to that, perfect it, and do it the same way each time, technically. That way, all you have to think about is the music. I think it might be helpful to change your practice style.

I also think some people have made some great points about practicing in a way that you wouldn’t perform, or becoming too much of an observer of your own playing. Over time, your brain becomes automatic in how it processes what it’s doing. When you start trying to actively involve yourself in that near-subconscious process, it’s possible to throw yourself off. Sometimes, when I show a person how to play a piece, if I try to play it slowly, I have a memory lapse, I forget what is coming next, I’m unable to play it slowly. However, if I play it up to tempo the way I would perform it, it comes right back. Too much analysis & observation can ruin things.

It also sounds to me like you’re freaking yourself out. Sounds like things aren’t “magically” or unexplainably getting worse over time, especially if you don’t have the issue when you practice. It seems like you make a mistake on a difficult part when you’re performing, then you start to obsess over that mistake & over the “difficult part” so much that, every time you have to perform it (not practice it), you’re obsessed with the previous mistakes, and obsessed with getting it right, getting it perfect, & not making a mistake. That fear & obsession is freaking you out. And I think you need to sit with that & find out why. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Even the greatest of the greats do it. You listen to old recordings of the masters play, and even their studio recording had mistakes. This “hyper perfect” performance world will live in is powered by recording processes where people splice their recordings together (sometimes hundreds) and do take after take until it’s right, or by live performers who are like robots mastering every technical issue but lacking any music. I don’t think you want to be either. You’re only human, and from that humanity, comes what inspires music.

May I also say: some have suggested stage fright (a form of Anxiety) or Anxiety as a disorder. I will not attempt to diagnose you, but I will say that, as a person who A.) actually has Generalized Anxiety Disorder & takes medication for it, and B.) is a regular performer who deals with it’s manifestation as stage fright every time I have to perform…what you described doesn’t sound like that. Panic attacks, hyper-ventilation, racing heart to near tachycardia, nausea, gastric disturbances, fainting, vomiting, depersonalization, a feeling of a loss of physical/mental control, retreating, uncontrollable anger or sadness…those are symptoms of Anxiety as a disorder (of which stage fright/performance anxiety is a type). Horowitz being white as a sheet, nearly mute, unmoving, & having to literally be pushed on stage because he was freaking out before a show is a sign. Argerich pacing backstage, hyperventilating, complaining of fever, crying, and canceling shows last minute is a sign. Having a “mental freak out about a particular part of a piece”, getting scared and skipping a difficult part or messing up, but still being physically fine, mentally fine, able to walk on stage without fear & being able to finish the concert without any other disturbances except worrying about a difficult part of a piece doesn’t sound like Anxiety, Performance Anxiety, or Stage Fright to the point of disorder, i.e. not something that requires psychological/psychiatric assistance. And if this isn’t manifesting in any other area of your life, then I don’t think this is some sort of psychological disorder, and I’d caution you to take those suggestions as just that: suggestions.

That said, if you have these kind of “freak outs” in other elements of your life, panic attacks, feelings of illogical fear & fight/flight, real physical symptoms before you go out to perform, or if this is impacting your ability to live a healthy life, then perhaps you should see a therapist. And if you feel you’d like to see one just to rule some things out, I think that’s a good idea, too. Consultations can always help.
smile

Good luck & happy playing!

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Originally Posted by jdw
Yes, if you have performance anxiety, you have to get the focus off yourself. I think only people who don't suffer from this angst can thrive by thinking about showing what they can do.

+10. If somebody is able to cart their portable around to pretty much anywhere, and play consistently accurately by themselves - (either no mistakes, or very rarely making a mistake, but can shrug off in split seconds etc), and with natural noise or even radio noise blaring etc (with no problem) ---------- and then the wheels come off as soon as strangers or large audience of unknown faces is encountered, then that will definitely be a nervousness effect. Totally agree --- the ones that are immune to that, or able to build up some immunity will have the best chance of performing at their full potential --- on a consistent basis.

One extreme example could be --- two 800 metre tall towers (or buildings), with a relatively narrow plank fastened that connects the two buildings ---- the only connection 800 metres high, which somebody is asked to stay balanced, and walk across it from one tower to another. The walk will be 10 metres only. And the plank is 30 cm wide. And assume the weather is perfect, no wind at all, and the plank is solid. The ones that can stay very calm and take their time - will make it. But there will always be some that will freeze permanently. Although, some may slowly go through with it and succeed.

Now - that kind of thing is extreme. But we can imagine if the plank is only say 10 cm from the ground. Then pretty much everybody has no problem getting across. If it were possible to shut out the nerves or fright feeling at the 800 metre level, then it should be ok for everybody too ----- this is assuming nobody just accidentally stumbles or makes an unforced error unrelated to nerves.

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Originally Posted by Taushi
*I’d caution people not to attempt to diagnose someone via the internet, even slightly. Only a licensed, trained, & certified professional can & should make mental health/psychological diagnoses.*

That said, I’ll attempt to comment from a solely pianistic/technical point of view.

Reading your description, I wonder if it’s possible to practice too much; to become so analytical, that you brain doesn’t have one single way to perform the piece set in stone & to rely on. So that when you perform, you have so many unsettled/unofficial/un-secure ways of playing the piece, that you don’t have that one way wherein that near-subconscious, muscle memory means of performing takes over. You say you practice “additive, backwards, transposing to new keys, blocking, hands separately, slow-fast alterations…”; well, have you ever just tried practicing one way….play it slowly, find a fingering that works, stick with it, get it up to tempo…and there’s that. As both a performer & occasional mentor/teacher, I’ve never been a fan of the “play it forwards, play it backwards, transpose it, block it, separate hands, choreograph arm motion like a dancer” etc. means of practicing. It’s so over-analytical that it doesn’t allow for the “settling in” of a piece that needs to happen. This over-analysis method has always seemed odd to me for this very reason: it causes the pianist to be obsessive about the method of practice, and that becomes a block to performance beyond practice, which is perhaps why you don’t have this issue when you practice, but only when you perform. Performing requires that you have a way of playing a piece that has become near-subconscious, where you don’t have to think about the technique. And that only happens when you find how you’re going to play a piece, stick to that, perfect it, and do it the same way each time, technically. That way, all you have to think about is the music. I think it might be helpful to change your practice style.

I also think some people have made some great points about practicing in a way that you wouldn’t perform, or becoming too much of an observer of your own playing. Over time, your brain becomes automatic in how it processes what it’s doing. When you start trying to actively involve yourself in that near-subconscious process, it’s possible to throw yourself off. Sometimes, when I show a person how to play a piece, if I try to play it slowly, I have a memory lapse, I forget what is coming next, I’m unable to play it slowly. However, if I play it up to tempo the way I would perform it, it comes right back. Too much analysis & observation can ruin things.

It also sounds to me like you’re freaking yourself out. Sounds like things aren’t “magically” or unexplainably getting worse over time, especially if you don’t have the issue when you practice. It seems like you make a mistake on a difficult part when you’re performing, then you start to obsess over that mistake & over the “difficult part” so much that, every time you have to perform it (not practice it), you’re obsessed with the previous mistakes, and obsessed with getting it right, getting it perfect, & not making a mistake. That fear & obsession is freaking you out. And I think you need to sit with that & find out why. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Even the greatest of the greats do it. You listen to old recordings of the masters play, and even their studio recording had mistakes. This “hyper perfect” performance world will live in is powered by recording processes where people splice their recordings together (sometimes hundreds) and do take after take until it’s right, or by live performers who are like robots mastering every technical issue but lacking any music. I don’t think you want to be either. You’re only human, and from that humanity, comes what inspires music.

May I also say: some have suggested stage fright (a form of Anxiety) or Anxiety as a disorder. I will not attempt to diagnose you, but I will say that, as a person who A.) actually has Generalized Anxiety Disorder & takes medication for it, and B.) is a regular performer who deals with it’s manifestation as stage fright every time I have to perform…what you described doesn’t sound like that. Panic attacks, hyper-ventilation, racing heart to near tachycardia, nausea, gastric disturbances, fainting, vomiting, depersonalization, a feeling of a loss of physical/mental control, retreating, uncontrollable anger or sadness…those are symptoms of Anxiety as a disorder (of which stage fright/performance anxiety is a type). Horowitz being white as a sheet, nearly mute, unmoving, & having to literally be pushed on stage because he was freaking out before a show is a sign. Argerich pacing backstage, hyperventilating, complaining of fever, crying, and canceling shows last minute is a sign. Having a “mental freak out about a particular part of a piece”, getting scared and skipping a difficult part or messing up, but still being physically fine, mentally fine, able to walk on stage without fear & being able to finish the concert without any other disturbances except worrying about a difficult part of a piece doesn’t sound like Anxiety, Performance Anxiety, or Stage Fright to the point of disorder, i.e. not something that requires psychological/psychiatric assistance. And if this isn’t manifesting in any other area of your life, then I don’t think this is some sort of psychological disorder, and I’d caution you to take those suggestions as just that: suggestions.

That said, if you have these kind of “freak outs” in other elements of your life, panic attacks, feelings of illogical fear & fight/flight, real physical symptoms before you go out to perform, or if this is impacting your ability to live a healthy life, then perhaps you should see a therapist. And if you feel you’d like to see one just to rule some things out, I think that’s a good idea, too. Consultations can always help.
smile

Good luck & happy playing!


Taushi, thanks for this truly thoughtful post. A lot of what you have mentioned -- particularly regarding the ways in which I'm trying to practice in too many different ways and therefore not really building a true foundation on anything -- is something I had actually already been considering as a culprit of this issue for a while now, and it gives me confidence to hear another person has the same reaction and theory towards this type of work.

I'll respond to some other posts in this thread as well -- it's been a busy week and a busy school year. A jury that went OK, but not what I would have hoped for the amount of work I put into is behind me now, and now since the summer started I've been home taking it easy and re-evaluating my practice methods.

Thank you all again, PW!! I kinda like this old-fashioned internet as opposed to the social media that everybody is caught up with these days instead wink

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