You know the feeling...your stomach is full of butterflies, your hands are shaking, and you're anxious about playing the piano in front of all these people! Fortunately, there are a multitude of ways to reduce the need for performance anxiety and to help you deal with nerves. Being nervous is actually a good thing, as it can help you play even better, so let's learn how to channel that energy into an amazing performance!
Before the Show
Be prepared. This is by far the most important way to reduce performance anxiety. If you know your pieces well, then muscle memory will help you play well even when you're nervous. It will take a few months of diligent practice before you can perform a piece confidently, so don't rush the process.
Don't overpractice. This might seem counterintuitive, but practicing your pieces too much especially within the last week before a performance can introduce new errors and can make you overconfident. Be prepared without overdoing it!
Look your best. Wear that nice button-up shirt or that new dress. Make sure your hair looks good, and that you wear clothes and shoes that you like and are comfortable. If you look polished and professional, you'll feel more confident!
Warm up. This is also another important point! It is difficult to play any piece--let alone advanced repertoire--with stiff, unresponsive hands and wrists. Be sure to do your regular warmup routine (scales, chords, arpeggios, finger exercises, etc.) in addition to running through your pieces a couple of times before a performance at home before you leave.
Try out the piano you'll be playing. This is especially helpful if you'll be playing on an instrument you've never played before, which is usually the case. When you try out a new-to-you instrument, play a few scales pressing as hard as you can to get a feel for the touch of the keyboard. You can also play tricky parts of your pieces.
Avoid having too much caffeine and sugar. While this might seem unnecessary, having too much caffeine or sugar can make you jittery and even more anxious. Especially for young children, sugar can give them too much energy and reduce their ability to focus.
Why are you performing? Is it simply to take an examination, impress your friends, or to please your piano teacher? Or, are you excited to share the gift of music with the audience? If you know why you're performing, then you can take steps to make yourself feel at ease.
Concentrate on the audience, not you. Think of your performance from their perspective: you're giving them a gift of wonderful music. Keep in mind that the audience will probably not notice your mistakes, and even if they do, will still appreciate your hard work and the courage it takes to perform.
Aim to play your best, not necessarily flawlessly or better than someone else. As long as you are doing the best you can and always improving, you're successful! Don't let a couple of small errors in your performance ruin your love of piano.
Speak and think positively. Don't say, "I'm going to mess this up," or "I'm going to be so embarrassed I'll never want to play the piano again!" That's setting yourself up to fail. Instead, speak and think positive words: "Yes, I'm prepared. I can do this," or "I'm not going to let a few mistakes kill my love for piano!"
Visualize your success. Picture yourself walking up the piano confidently, handling mistakes properly during your performance, and smiling and bowing to an excited, clapping audience.
At the Recital
Channel your nervous energy to help you play better. Being nervous is actually a good thing, as it makes you more alert, more focused, and even gives you extra strength you didn't know you had. Instead of seeing nerves as a bad thing, use that extra energy to help you play even better!
Don't hold your breath. Your muscles need oxygen to work properly, and you'll feel much more relaxed if you take a few deep breaths. Make sure to practice slow, deep breaths while you're waiting for your turn to play at a recital.
Fake it 'til you make it. Nervous? Don't let the audience know! Act as confident as you can, and you'll play and feel better. Smile and bow even if your hands are numb and shaky.
Don't glance at the audience while you play. Not only is this a distraction, but it also can cause you to lose track of your place and can increase anxiety. Pretend that the audience isn't even there, and play as you would at home.
Play as you would at home. Do you normally look at your hands or at the sheet music? Do you normally turn the page with your left hand or right hand? If you keep these little things the same when you perform, you'll feel more comfortable and won't freeze up as much.
Don't overthink it. Concentrate on your performance, but don't over-analyze each trouble spot in your mind as you play. If you hit a snag, just keep going. The audience won't mind that you made a mistake!
You can always perform another time. If you happen to have a poor performance, don't worry; you can always try again. There will be another opportunity for you to perform, and now that you've learned from this experience, you can nail it next time.
No matter how experienced you are at playing the piano, it's nerve wracking to perform, especially in front of a large audience or at a piano examination. Hopefully, these tips will help you be prepared for your next performance, and will help you play your best. Remember that you'll always be your harshest critic, so don't beat yourself up if you have a bad experience; learn from it and do even better next time.
Do you have any tips for performing confidently? How do you reduce stress and anxiety leading up to a recital or examination? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear your tips and suggestions!
Other Piano Articles to Help You Become a Better Pianist
- How to Prepare Yourself for a Piano Performance
- 15 Ways to Motivate Teens to Practice the Piano
- Top 5 Beginner Piano Exercises
- What to Look for in a Good Piano Teacher
- How to Stay Motivated to Practice the Piano
- How to Help Your Child Learn Piano
- How to Play the Piano Faster
- Why Are Scales Important?
- How to Practice the Piano Effectively
- 10 Tips for Correct Piano Posture