In the fourth episode, we discuss performance nerves and anxiety- and talk about some of the most powerful and effective strategies for performing the piano and other instruments easily and confidently.

Show Notes

  • Talking about Andy’s experience with nerves performing at a competition earlier this year (2018) [1:25]
  • How the common goal of striving for as many correct notes as possible and avoiding wrong notes is not a helpful one while performing. [3:20]
  • The feeling of a ‘critical’ audience- how this is projected by the performer and how to deal with it. [9:30]
  • Continuing the topic of practising with the two hats of ‘flow’ and ‘deliberate practice’ from episode 3, and how important this is for dealing with performance nerves. [14:50]
  • The interplay between preparation and the skill of being able to deal with performance nerves. Dealing with nerves means less preparation is needed, and vice versa! Efficient use of practice time therefore must include regular practice dealing with nerves. [20:45]
  • Fast heart rates while performing. This is completely normal!
    Beta blockers- for and against. [26:00]
  • Examining the motivation for performing. Unhelpful reasons cause nerves.
    When the #1 goal is communicating love of the music, the nerves are diminished. This needs to be rehearsed in every practice session. [30:40]
  • The two psychological traps of ‘inherently flawed’ and ‘not good enough’- dealing with the latter is particularly important. [36:30]
  • Continuing the topic of narrow & wide focus (and related physical posture) from episode two- and how addressing this fixes nerves and physical shaking. [47:55]
  • The link between ‘not good enough’ and narrow focus. [56:00]
  • All practice and performance needs to be permeated with a practised & deliberate sense of ‘good enough’. [1:00:10]
  • A very brief introduction to using meditation & mindfulness to deal with performance nerves- we need to be able to choose where we put our attention.
    Common misconception of meditation is that you have to empty your mind of thoughts- this is totally wrong, it’s about controlling your attention so you can keep choosing to rest your attention on something other than your thoughts- this is really useful when performing.
    Cultivating a sense of curiosity, rather than an attitude of ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’. [1:02:00]

A few extra notes:

  • At [4:20]- this podcast is specifically about performance nerves- any other time I would quickly have questioned the use of moving the shoulders to create more power at the piano- I absolutely teach using arm weight and not the shoulders, so will be having a chat with Andy about this!!
  • At [47:10], I should have spent more time talking specifically about the differences in dealing with nerves for exams vs public performances, or even friends & family. Let us know if you’d like us to talk about this in a future podcast!
  • Some photos taken before and after the competition we talked about at the beginning of this episode that we took part in back earlier this year:
  • Some photos taken from our excursion into the woods to make this podcast!
  • I’ll put up as soon as I can a video showing how a common performance posture actually causes shaking!


The Inner Game of Music:-

Heart rate in professional musicians:-

An article with some statistics on use of beta blockers in musicians:-