HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

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Mini_mo
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HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Mini_mo » 15 May 2009, 12:31

Hi, I have been learning the piano for about 9 months now, having never read music or played an instrument before. It is a challenge for me but something that I love and I practise really hard. I am 36 so it doesn't come easy.

After around 6 months of learning my piano teacher asked if I was interested in taking my grade 1 but I declined because I suffer from terrible nerves when playing in front of her (my hands shake when pressing the keys!). Unfortunately I can only afford 1 lesson a month which doesn't help and there are only so many friends I can get to listen to me.

I really want to start preparing for my grade 1 because it will mean a lot to me to have acheived it, but I just know I will blow the prepared pieces from nerves! However I am also thinking that if I don't get over it and confront my demons I will never get to do my grades, so wonder whether I should attempt to do it even if it means a fail (if I'm that bad of course).

Has anyone else suffered from this and how did they tackle it? It would be good to know I am not alone :-)

Mini_mo

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Moonlight » 15 May 2009, 15:12

Hi

I have been learning the piano for a year and 4 months, and I get nerves too when playing in front of my teacher, although I would say it’s a more excited, self conscious kind of nervous rather then afraid. Often when I can play a piece or scales etc fine at home it often goes all over the place in my lessons.

I don’t know how your lessons are or if you have them in your teacher’s house maybe she/he could arrange for you and a bunch other students to meet up and do a little ‘recital’ in front of each other at her/his home. I have heard of some teachers doing things like that to help their students overcome nerves. If my teacher did that I would jump at the chance!

Also another good way of overcoming nerves is to go into a music shop and play on the pianos in there. See if you can play a piece all the way through or ignore the mistakes you make and just carry on playing. Once you overcome playing in music shops you will want to try out all of them!

Other good ways to overcome nerves is to go on a piano course, evening classes, or summer school with other beginners although this is a more pricey way of dealing with nerves.

And the thing to think too is even really good pianists were at the stage we are at and they understand how hard learning the piano is. I mostly get embarrassed with my sight reading in front of my teacher coz I’m so bad at it, but my teacher said she was there once so they understand that.

Hope this helps.

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Gill the Piano » 15 May 2009, 15:14

To be honest, I reckon nearly everybody suffers or has suffered from nerves on performing. I do - horribly - and I've played for 44 years now! I still find myself whining at my teacher 'well i can play it at HOME all right,' in miserable defence of cock-ups! I prefer accompanying - where I'm not the focus of attention...:)
There are books - get the Inner Game of Music by Barry somebody - Green, I think but not sure(it's on Amazon 2nd hand) and there's one called A Soprano On Her Head which I saw somebody on here recommend, and subsequently bought. Both very good.
Don't worry about nerves. You're no different to anyone else, and eventually your nerves will calm down. Read some back threads on this forum for other peoples' points of view. Keep going!
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Mini_mo » 16 May 2009, 07:56

Thanks for your advice. It's good to know I am not the only one. Funnily enough I say the very same thing to my piano teacher, "I can play much better at home!"... she must hear this all the time! :-)

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by sparkley » 18 May 2009, 13:50

Moonlight has given some fantastic ideas above which I think might try out too!

I suffer from nerves too, which have got worse since I've gotten older. One thing I did notice from your post is that you're quite negative - that's a real 'pot calling the kettle black' coming from me as I'm exactly the same!!! But quite a lot does come down to your attitude. Its really hard to try and be positive, but sometimes the more you keep telling yourself that the pieces will go all wrong and you'll mess it up, the more likely it is to happen!! I completely understand though as I'm exactly the same and always imagine the worst thing that could happen!

Try doing some of Moonlight's ideas as that could really help. I don't know if you have a digital piano, but I find that as soon as I try to record myself on mine I fall apart the second I press that record button!! So trying to record yourself might be good practise. Your teacher should be used to nervous pupils so she may have some good advice. Just try not to let your nerves get in the way of what you want to do, otherwise they've won! You deserve to take that exam and get your certificate up on the wall as a testiment to all the hard work you've done. I think the ABRSM do a preparatory exam which you can take before your Grade 1 and is very useful for adult learners who are nervous about performing in front of other people. You don't pass or fail, but get an appraisal of your performance from an examiner. It may help give you the confidence you need to take that Grade 1.

Good luck, and remember, you can do it!

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by PianoFifty » 18 May 2009, 16:56

Hi!

You've had some good advice here. I used to suffer terribly from nerves when doing my graded exams, then in later life I got pursuaded to join a band as keyboard player and went through hell initially - knees trembling, cold sweats. It did take me a long time to gradually overcome the fear of playing in public, and it never fully goes away.

Recording yourself is a great way of setting up a situation that puts you under some gentle pressure to produce a good performance. But I think the real (and only) cure for nerves is to reach a stage of proficiency where you are fully confidant at what you are doing and not over-stretching yourself. In my experience, the effect of nerves comes from fear of failure. Work very hard at practising your pieces and try to reach a stage where you can play them confidantly without fear of making mistakes. Easier said then done, I'm afraid.......
All the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order......

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by markymark » 10 Jun 2009, 18:21

I don't think that nerves ever really do go away but who gets the better of who really depends on you. There are still some times where I can allow nerves to come to the surface but I let it turn into an excitement or thrill. I soon put them in their place. :wink:

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Mini_mo » 18 Jun 2009, 10:37

Thanks for your help everyone. Its good to know its not just me. Yes i agree its the fear of failure that causes the problem with me and I can be quite harsh and negative on myself. I don't like failing (none of us do I guess).

I have been recording myself but wont put on you tube, not my kind of thing and yes it does put you under pressure to get it perfect!

I am doing my grade 1 in September (privately I think) as I have missed the deadline for the July exams.

Wish me luck!!!! I have lots of time to practise and get them perfect. I think I would rather go into each grade later than earlier as it will again give me more confidence. I just wish I could play in front of people without my fingers shaking!!!! :roll:

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Gill the Piano » 18 Jun 2009, 18:10

You'll be fine; play your pieces to a friend, after a glass of vino. Mistakes never seem as dreadful after a drop of what you fancy. Then try it stone cold sober (with the wine as a reward afterwards). Then a couple of friends...and so on.
Recording yourself is a good idea; it means you can look at your performance from the outside!
Good luck! :D
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by markymark » 18 Jun 2009, 23:26

Speaking of recording, Gill, when are we going to have the pleasure of hearing YOUR recording on the Piano Showcase forum?

BTW, Mini_mo that may be a good idea for you too - or else post your link on youtube if you want the rest of us to listen to it?

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Gill the Piano » 20 Jun 2009, 17:01

My playing is rubbish, Marky; I never practise. I play the same ole bits when I've finished the tunings - customers are impressed, but as you know it doesn't take much to impress someone who doesn't play... I practise bits I have to - accompaniments, usually - but otherwise just footle. Think Les Dawson...:D
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by bluedianthus » 25 Jun 2009, 09:59

I remembered when i play piano for the friday nite service for hymal practice session, the hyms cunductor was really frustrated when i played according to my own tempa, without looking at the conductor and terribly, without follow the choir's pace, i was really nervous as if i want to end the hymnal session very fast. So, a church member told me, if i want to overcome my nerves, i should enjoy playing the piano, and keep in mind that i play for church members to praise God. Hope you'll do you best in your exam Mini_mo.
~ God bless, warnnie

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Mini_mo » 02 Jul 2009, 11:30

Hello all, I may post my grade pieces on this site if I am brave enough. Mind you I have just decided that I am now not going to do my Grade 1. At the end of the day all the exam is going to do is say yes you can play at Grade 1 level. If I do it I am going to destroy my confidence and wreck the pieces. Even my piano teacher agrees. What I can play at home with the odd mistake turns into a complete mess at a lesson (and I am not even playing in front of an examiner!)

I was reading in one of the forums about the importance/non importance of grades and when I think about it I have the motivation and desire to learn every aspect of piano playing properly, from my Theory work, scale, arpeggios, broken Chords, Playing from memory, sight reading, practising my grade peices to perfection (my perfection that is) and even playing by ear which I think is a really valuable skill.

So really why do I need to do an exam that I may fail due to my nerves!

Maybe in a few years......

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Jim63 » 12 Jul 2009, 13:28

Thank heavens I'm not alone with nerves.

I returned to playing after a break of 30 years, now I realise what a waste that time lost has been.
At Christmas I replaced my old piano with a Yamaha U3 and have been enjoying playing so much that I thought lessons would give me reason to continue.
First lesson was this week. I was HOPELESS, my hands were shaking so much I must have seemed a fraud to the teacher, there was me with a Chopin Waltz that I'm playing fairly well at home, it was as if the Piano and it's music was something I'd never seen, it was that bad. The more angry with myself I became the worst I played.
Sadly the end of the hour couldn't come fast enough, he was so nice and obviously a good teacher.
Here's me at 63 acting like a very young child, I was mortified.

Another problem I posted before seeing this thread, is that my fingers get slightly sweaty and stick to the keys in hot weather, at my lesson my fingers were so sticky that I found it impossible to play and with the nerves it was a total disaster. I was very surprised that the teacher had never heard of anyone who's fingers stick to the keys, which made me feel even more useless.

Sorry this sounds a real moan for a first timer to this forum :oops:
David.

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by StuartAU » 13 Jul 2009, 00:01

nerves? what are they? OH those big massive things stopping my heart beating, making me sweet, making me lock up like a robot, heavy breathing, anxiety panic arrghhhhhhh

I have to be close to the worlds worse for this..

I think persoanlly, like most Fears, repetitive confrontation seems to reduce it...

My only option to overcome it is at gradings which isnt any good, i need to find other ways of playing to a crowd or under recording or being "judged"... fake exams infront of an unknown person might help and my teacher gave me a leaflet where you can pay to be assessed nothing important but just to give you experience of exams... i need to do this like that big pile of ironing, it never gets done ;)

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Mini_mo » 13 Jul 2009, 17:18

I feel like a real cop out now. Moonlight and Stuart have had the guts to go through their grades and overcome their fear whilst I am coping out! I do feel much better now I am not going to do them for now however.

I have taken some positive steps now though. I am reading the inner game as recommended by Gill and tomorrow I am booking 2 intensive weekend courses for sight reading and keyboard launch or something similar. I have decided if I dont get over the nerves after a whole weekend of playing in front of people I never will! The only draw back is that its not until next May :( so I have to wait for almost a year!

These courses are in Hitchin at the Benslow trust something or other in Herts. Has anyone been on any group courses and what did they think? The ones I am about to book sound really good.

Marisa

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by StuartAU » 13 Jul 2009, 19:38

Mini_mo wrote:
These courses are in Hitchin at the Benslow trust something or other in Herts. Has anyone been on any group courses and what did they think? The ones I am about to book sound really good.

Marisa
Anyone got any info on this please?
I'd be more than happy to attend, Hitchin is only 30 mins drive from me, i live just north of London in Herts and i really do need to do something like this.
My teacher says my reading is what is really holding me back. I can play grade 3 pieces but only by ear and not that great dynamics wise.
I'l be lucky if i scored 15 on my grade 2 reading test and was really reliant on my pieces and oral.

Finding the time to play now is a joke, start work at 5 home at 3 pick kid up from school my missus goes to work at 4, baby and a 5 year old to content with most nights.
Id fancy a day of reading and help with reading.

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Mini_mo » 14 Jul 2009, 21:37

Dave, Actually my sight reading is coming on nicely. I try to do about 10 mins per day 4-5 times a week but in the last week or so I have noticed a great improvement.

To be honest the reason I am going on the courses are to force myself to be in a situation where I play in front of other people and the dreaded highly regarded musician that will be teaching us!! If I cant get over the fear after that I give up!

I do Paul Harris and another book called Right at Sight which I prefer to Paul Harris (sorry Paul!)

The 2 courses I am going to do are not advertised at the Benslow Trust yet (well not on their website anyway).

Web site is: www.benslow.org/

Courses: Boldly Into The Unknown: Piano Sight-Reading Made Fun
30 April - 2 May
Christopher Roberts takes the terror out of sight reading in this relaxed course,
which develops the basic skills vital for reading music fluently. He caters for all
different abilities, and you’ll be participating actively throughout, on your own, in
duos and trios, and even with a soloist.
Fees- Resident: £190 (full board) Non-Resident: £155 (includes lunch and dinner)

Keyboard Lift Off
25 - 27June
The follow-on course for those who have experienced Kate’s Keyboard Launch
Pad (19 - 21 March) and have since perhaps done a little more work.
You do not need to have attended Keyboard Launch pad to attend this course.
You’ll need to be of Associated Board Grades 1 to 3 standard and to prepare three
pieces of your own choice before you come. We’ll also work on sight reading
and simple ensemble pieces. If you have any duets or trios that you think might
be suitable please let us know at least two months before the course.
Fees:- Resident: £190 (full board) Non-Resident: £155 (includes lunch and dinner)

I know they are not cheap but I think its a great way to get over the fear of playing in front of people and hopefully I'll learn something too!

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Mini_mo » 14 Jul 2009, 21:41

By the way Dave I am still not going to do my grade 1 even though I have worked on all the pieces! I am still going to upload them warts an all when I can find the adaptor to fix my camera onto my tripod (what a good excuse for now!).

I will start my grades eventually but when I feel I am ready :oops:

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by StuartAU » 14 Jul 2009, 21:49

Mini, i checked that benslow site but the dates you gave have all passed..
I cant see anything for future "reading", looks full on with boarding to boot..
I need to do something like that soon!

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Re: HELP! - piano nerves - Does anyone else suffer?

Post by Mini_mo » 15 Jul 2009, 10:50

Sorry Stuart, those dates are for next year! Yes I have to wait that long.

They did have something called Keyboard lift off for up to grade 5 in October this year. Seeing as you have played by ear for many years that might be better suited to you than a more beginner course. I don't know whether they have sold out or not though. Give them a call to see or call them anyway, they are very helpful and may have a course coming up in the next few months that you could do.

Marisa

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