Advice on getting the better of nerves

Questions on learning to play the piano, and piano music.

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Berni
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Advice on getting the better of nerves

Post by Berni » 12 Dec 2012, 00:58

I h ave just taken my grade three exam and I am an older learner in my fifties but what has taken me by surprise is the awful crash and burn nerves that completely wrecked my entire exam performance ...I just could not get the better of my nerves and had the full on panic attack of pounding heart inability to focus and all my fingers turning into great clumsy sausages.I really love playing the piano and would like some markers of progress
which taking something like the ABSRM exams would give me but I am wondering after my awful crash and burn
performance experience in this grade 3 exam lately if performing in an exam is something I am able to do at all.Has anyone else been through this kind of experience?Any one any advice on how to overcome this?Is it a case of just re enter for the exam again and push on in the hope of eventuallyaclimatizing or is it that music exams do not suit everyone and that there are other ways to assess progress.Any ideas anyone?

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Advice on getting the better of nerves

Post by Colin Nicholson » 12 Dec 2012, 15:24

I'm sorry to hear about your nerves problem. Everyone is affected by nerves during exams, and affected differently. Adults seem to suffer the most because they have not been brought up during childhood playing the piano in public or to an examiner. Even my pupil's parents are nervous "on behalf" of their child actually doing a piano exam!.... when they are sitting in the waiting room

This might not cure your nerves completely, but I myself actually teach methods of controlling nerves as part of the lessons - I feel this is just as important as teaching rhythm, note accuracy, theory, and adding expression to music. ABRSM piano exams are quite stressful to some, but here are a few tips:-

1. Regularly record your piano playing onto either a tape recorder/ iPod / phone etc.... (or a video) - and be prepared to be nervous and make mistakes. This is perfectly normal, but you need to actually set some time aside to do this. The more practise you get, the better. You should then LISTEN carefully to your playing. Also try playing your pieces from memory. At these early stages, the more mistakes & nerves the merrier (sounds crude, but its true!).... ask your teacher to help. Avoid just playing the piano mostly on your own. Keep practising your recordings, and pretend that you are about to perform in the Royal Albert Hall.... and always announce your pieces before you play - its part of the process to reduce nerves.

2. Play your pieces, scales etc.... in front of friends & family, or ask your piano teacher (if you have one?) to arrange a short recital. For example, about 10 mins before the end of your lesson, ask the next pupils to arrive 10 mins early, and "exchange" playing your music.

3. Small local concerts/ church recitals/ accompaniment are good aswell.

Don't forget, not everyone is "kitted out" to cope with exams, and good progress CAN still be made without an ABRSM piano exam on your CV. If they are just for fun.... then maybe book a bungee jump!! .... that would make exams much easier.

4. Piano competitions/ festivals .... your local festival will have Open classes for adults. This involves playing the piano to an audience, and to an adjudicator.... and once you crack that, the experience of a one-to-one ABRSM piano exam will be a piece of cake. (Maybe the odd crumb will collapse!!)

Finally.... for any adult that wants the "exam taste" - and simply to know their progress and grade, I myself arrange several mock exams for my pupils & adults. Some adults dont do the real exams, but I then examine them in my home as though they were doing a real exam - then offer their marks after the mock test..... and possibly a "Photoshop" style certificate for them, and a remarks form..... but all just for fun!

If you are TOO nervous - then dont do it!

Hope that helps

Colin
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Gill the Piano
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Re: Advice on getting the better of nerves

Post by Gill the Piano » 12 Dec 2012, 16:56

...and there are some very good books on performance anxiety and how to beat it - The Inner Game Of Music is very good. I think it's by Barry Greene, but you'd better check! Another one is The Soprano Who Stood On Her Head!
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

Berni
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Re: Advice on getting the better of nerves

Post by Berni » 26 Dec 2012, 01:46

Hi
thanks for the very useful advice.
I have already taken up some of the suggestions - namely performing in a public recital recently for the first time in my life and although nervous
got through it without crashing and burning so was very pleased that I COULD cope with nerves..I shall look for opportunities to perform to family and friends too (conscripts) as I think the real problem is that I do play on my own so I am not at all used to others being around when I play....so I am taking your suggestions on board and have acted on some of them already.... :) :) hope to take the exam again around Easter and see if by then I have developed a bit better control over how my body reacts.. Shall also look up the books recommended by Gill too.

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Re: Advice on getting the better of nerves

Post by Gill the Piano » 26 Dec 2012, 17:28

You'll walk it! :D
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: Advice on getting the better of nerves

Post by Colin Nicholson » 31 Dec 2012, 20:46

There is also available through the ABRSM a 'Performance Assessment' test. This is not a pass or fail, just a recital of piano music you choose lasting around 15 minutes. Also no scales, sight reading or aural tests (supportive tests). The Examiner can provide a written report about your playing - and it helps to take away the stress of exam conditions.

http://gb.abrsm.org/resources/theseMusicExams0607.pdf

The above link explains more (scroll to page 22).
You will need to be able to access PDF format to read it, or contact them for a leaflet.
OR: go to the ABRSM exam part, and click on "These Music Exams"

Hope that helps....

Colin
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Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
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Berni
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Re: Advice on getting the better of nerves

Post by Berni » 22 Jan 2013, 16:51

Hello again
I have got the result of my grade three piano exam and inspite of making the most awful mistakes throughout I have passed.This is entirely unexpected as I had geared myself up for the retake.But I think what it goes to show for anyone similarly afflicted with nerves that if the work has been done and you do know your pieces well and as in my case you know it is all going to pot before your very eyes with your nerves in the exam but you grit your teeth and carry on to the end doing your best to focus and get a grip
that maybe just some of all that hard work you have put in will show and be enough to get you through.
I hope this will encourage older nervous adult learners like myself to have a go.


all the best Berni

Gill the Piano
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Re: Advice on getting the better of nerves

Post by Gill the Piano » 23 Jan 2013, 15:36

Well done, Berni - fantastic news! It goes to show the examiner DOES know the difference between 'I'm terrified' mistakes and 'I've done no practice' mistakes... And for your next trick, grade four!
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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