Violin Teacher Tricks - How To Calm Before-Concert Nerves
Everyone has felt it at one point in their lives. The jittery, nervous, ‘I-don’t-think-I-can-do-it’ fear that threatens to freeze faculties before an on stage performance. And it can be especially difficult for children. The pressure to play well during a concert recital can be really stressful. However, violin teachers can help their students relax and find their Zen before concerts by using a few, time-honored ways to help alleviate stage fright.
Being anxious before a performance is very natural, but these tips can help you mentally prepare your students and calm their nerves before it’s time to step on stage.
- Practice, practice, practice—the best way to avoid pre-concert jitters is to know the piece well enough to play it in your sleep. Individuals who practice their music with repetition can easily skip over a slip up and recover smoothly. At least one week before the concert, encourage your students to run through each piece twice or three times each evening.
- Arrive Early—Another way to eliminate stage fright is to make sure that your students arrive early enough to prepare their violins. Trying to rush through the tuning process and other preparations will aggravate your student’s already frazzled nerves, heightening concert jitters.
- Warm up—Your students don’t need to perform the entire concert back stage, but a few warm up drills can help ease performance anxiety. Have them run through particularly difficult pieces, or point out the bars where a strong performance will have a great impact on the audience, even if these areas aren’t the most difficult ones.
- Visualization techniques—Practicing, warm ups and arriving early are all good strategies, but not everyone can tame their nerves by simply being ready. Visualization techniques have been proven to help in a variety of ways and it is a method used by professional performers in many different spotlights, from sports to public speaking. It basically involves some meditation. Instruct your students to sit very still with their eyes closed. Have each student “see” in their mind’s eye, his or her perfect performance. The more detail the better. For example, have them visualize their fingers moving, hear the notes being played, and feel the sensations created by the music. This is a great technique to practice for 5-10 minutes before every class. Constant visualization (really, it’s mental rehearsal) can actually improve performances over time because your brain doesn’t make a distinction between the real and the imaginary, and the muscle-memory that is created works during the performance.
- Breathing—Controlled breathing is a wonderful, natural way to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, and there are some very simple techniques that you can teach your violin students. Start by having students sit in a comfortable position. Instruct them to close their eyes and, very slowing with their chin pointed down, as close as possible to their chest, inhale to a count of five. Then, with eyes still closed, exhale for a count of five. The next breath should be extended to a count of 10, but have students slowly raise their chins as they inhale, and point it back down during the exhale. (Imagine a super slow-motion nod.) The next breath should be extended to a count of 15, and as the student inhales, instruct him or her to gradually lift the corners of the mouth into a smile. After 5-7 minutes of complete controlled breathing—increasing the inhale/exhale count each time—the student will be much calmer and more ready for the performance. It also helps to combine a pleasant thought with the breathing, such as seeing the audience on their feet in rousing applause or imagining a peaceful waterfall.
- Additional Help—Although some musicians swear by beta-blockers or eating certain foods before a performance as a form of physical control of pre-concert anxiety, it can be dangerous to rely on a chemical enhancement. If your student’s level of anxiety is strong enough to warrant that sort of intervention, the best thing you can do is instruct him or her to visit a physician. The risks of possible side-effects from over-the-counter remedies can be dangerous and not recommended.
With just a bit of judicious instruction, your violin students can effectively overcome their stage fright. Plus, you’ll be teaching additional life skills that will benefit them their entire lives. Conscientious preparation, mental rehearsals, and controlled breathing techniques are all healthy ways to deal with stressful situations, and by knowing them, your students will be able to make a great performance in all sorts of circumstances.