One question I get from students all the time is how to overcome stage fright and the fear of playing in front of others. This is a valid problem – it’s amazing how even very good pianists can be reduced to a pile of nerves when put on the public stage! It’s especially frustrating when songs that were practiced thoroughly and rehearsed beautifully end up falling apart, with mistakes in the most simple of passages.
Before we can attempt to solve that problem though, we need to identify what is causing it in the first place. Stage fright isn’t just a problem with piano players, it is prevalent pretty much any time we as humans perform something publicly in front of a group. Remember the old poll of greatest fears? The number 1 fear was speaking in public – not death!
I believe the concept of stage fright can be traced right back to the very core of who we are as humans. One of our greatest needs is the need to feel accepted by others or to belong. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs illustrates this. Therefore the fear of the opposite – to be ostracized, made fun of or simply rejected in the public eye – makes a lot of sense. Basically put, we care a lot about what others think of us, whether we realize it or not!
Back to the piano…when we step out on the stage, our fear of the audience and what they will think is subconsciously what drives our fear! What happens then, is we are overly critical of our own playing as we play, worrying about how the audience perceives us rather than focusing on the music!
We always play piano better when by ourselves, right? That’s because we feel safe in our closed environment and are focusing completely on the task at hand – the music. This is why so many pianists will immediately play worse in front of their teacher as well. We’ve all heard the famous phrase, “I played it better at home!”
So how do we overcome this basic human need that becomes our greatest enemy? Well first of all – humans are creatures of habit…the more often we put ourselves in a certain environment the more comfortable we will get in it. So it is important to practice performing in front of others as often as we can. Try and arrange situations where you can play in front of others – simple performances for family, friends or a significant other. Pursue gigs playing the piano in restaurants. Go to the piano store on a busy day and sit down and play your piece. Ask your local area concert hall if they have informal performance opportunities – some of them will hold lunchtime recitals for students and such. If a concert pianist is in town to give a performance, see if there will be a masterclass (this is a long shot).
If you are taking online piano lessons, it is especially important that you try and pursue performance opportunities because you don’t have a private teacher that will hear you every week.
Another crucial thing we can do to overcome stage fright is to focus on the music as much as possible. If we stop trying to play audience, critic, and performer at the same time we will be able to focus our brains 100% on the task at hand (the music) and that will help our performances at least sound as good as they did when we were practicing. In the 10 Secrets of Successful Pianists program, we cover specifically how to focus on the music and tips and tricks for blocking everything else out. You can get a FREE CD of this program by visiting our Online Piano Lessons homepage, entering your name and email and following the steps to get your CD. It’s risk-free, why not try it out?
It’s time to take back the stage and put our fear in its proper place - far, far away!
Filed under: Articles
Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!