Performance Anxiety: The Inquisition

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One of the most unsettling, but valuable, discoveries you will make on stage is that you will suddenly start asking yourself questions that you never asked, much less answered, during your study-practice sessions.

For example: Which finger plays Eb in my right hand in the middle of the second phrase of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints”?

If you are unclear about the answer, you are suddenly filled with panic as the Left, analytical side of your brain tries to seize control of the situation. But, once the Left, talking side of your brain gets activated, it’s not typically going to help. It is only going to distract your precious attention away from where the music should be coming from: your musical mind on the RIGHT side of your brain.

The antidote, of course, is to use our study-practice time to ask and answer the questions we will be tempted to ask on stage. While we have already discussed such matters in the series How to Study-Practice, two study-practice methods are particularly relevant to silencing the left brain inquisitor:

  • Slow Playing. Study-practice slowly enough to give you enough to consciously think about everything you are doing before you do it. (Reference: How to Study-Practice: Slow Playing)
  • Visualization. Study-practice by quizzing yourself in your mind’s eye and ear away from the piano… testing your retrieval of the music so deeply that you can put the music into words. (Reference: How to Study-Practice: Visualization).

How do you know you are study-practicing the right way? Answer: It will make your brain super tired. That is how you know you are learning deeply. But while this is exhausting work, the payoff is priceless. Studying in this very intentional, conscious way automatically encodes the music in your subconscious… so deeply that you will not just know the music. You will know that you know the music… creating the conditions where the performance is not about making the music happen, but about allowing it to happen. Our music is not longer a calculation, but becomes the deep expression of who we really are.

LEARN MORE… Super-Fast Relaxation Techniques


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