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Overcoming Stage Fright at the Piano

Last Updated: December 26, 2010 / by Michael Kinney

So you have your first piano recital coming up and you are scared to death. You start asking yourself questions over and over that only increase your anxiety. What if I forget the song? What if I'm the worst player there? What if people laugh at me? Your palms sweat and your fingers shake. These are all common feelings especially if you don't have any experience playing in front of people. The good thing is that they are all things that can be overcome if you know how to do it.

Focus on Breathing

Breathing is an extremely important skill to work on and one that will work wonders when it comes to calming your nerves. Before you go up to play, take long deep breaths and focus on breathing smoothly and calmly. Try to focus all of your attention on breathing so that you can take attention away from the fact that you are about to go up and play your song.

Practice In Front of Family and Friends

Your family and friends will be your easiest audience. If you forget a few notes they will still love you. They will also support you knowing that you are learning to play and working hard at it. Since you have access to this easy audience, take advantage of it! Play your songs for them. Make mistakes in front of them. Laugh it off when you do so and get used to not playing things perfectly. This will help to ease your mind for if you do make a mistake at your recital. Better yet, if you don't care about making mistakes in the first place you likely won't be as nervous and in the end you'll avoid making mistakes.

Listen to Others

If you are playing in a group, the best way to stop worrying about how you are playing is to listen to someone else. Really focus in on what the drummer is doing. By doing this, you'll forget about yourself and as a result you will tear down any road blocks your mind is setting up. By listening to others in your group you'll also find yourself playing more cohesively together. The very best musical groups play well together because they listen to each other and react to what each musician is saying. Imagine having a meeting with four people and ignoring everyone except for yourself. Doing this will make communication impossible and will result in a completely wasted group meeting. The same is true for a group of musicians. Listen to others before listening to yourself and you'll be better off.

Know your Song!

The old saying practice makes perfect couldn't be more true when it comes to playing in front of an audience. You really need to make sure you know your song forwards and backwards. One important thing to work on is to trying starting your song from the middle. Then try playing only the last 4 measures. Then 5 random measures toward the beginning. If you can start and stop anywhere within the song you will not have to worry about losing your place. One less thing to worry about is one less thing that will contribute to your anxiety about playing.

About the Author: Michael Kinney

I have played piano since I was 5 years old. I started in classical and then quickly moved to blues and jazz. I studied at the collegiate level and have played professionally since I was 16. My favorite piano players (if I had to pick 3) include Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock). I own several keyboards but always prefer to play on a Steinway if one is available! I live to perform as much as I like to teach.

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