mark indigo -> RE: Beta blockers and other performance enhancing drugs (Nov. 10 2017 16:28:11)
This time in my brain I'm thinking "Uh oh, falseta coming and my hands are still shaking, what am I gunna do?"
If 3-4 drinks or beta-blockers will actually stop you having these thoughts, then fine (well, not really IMO), but I have to suggest it's these thoughts you need to work on.
Much better to be able to perform without any chemical help.
I know it's harder when you are only playing in public occasionally, but that does at least mean you have plenty of time to get it sorted before the next gig!
All the stuff people have been saying about preparation and practise etc. is crucial but addressing nerves is worth doing, even if you only gig occasionally.
I was told that the shaking is due to lack of oxygen, and that this is related to one of the instinctive responses to fear.
As well as fight or flight there is, apparently, a third option, which is to freeze (and hope the sabre-toothed tiger walks right past not noticing you hiding behind the tree, I guess....[:D]).
In the freeze response we hold our breath and/or breath really shallow.
I don't know if all this is true with good science to back it up, but the guy that told me about it said he would run round the block before a recital to combat nerves!
I find just slow, deep, calm breathing helps, both before and during playing works pretty well.
You can combat the negative thoughts with deliberate positive ones - you can say to yourself "easy" or something like that to blot out the crap thought.
I found out by accident a way to "practise" performing in preparation for a gig when I started to get nervous a few days before a performance in a theatre.
I was practising at home and found myself thinking about what it was going to be like with all those people sitting in rows quietly listening
(instead of round tables in a restaurant eating and drinking).
The kind of negative thoughts you describe started to crowd my mind and I started making loads of mistakes.
I thought to myself "hang on, I can do this, this is easy" and carried on practising. Playing improved.
Then I started to drift back to thinking about the big stage I would be on and the rows of seats.... playing got worse.
So I tried to bring my focus back to breathing naturally and just playing the music.... playing got better.
The theatre gig went ok. I won't say I wasn't nervous on the night, or that I played perfectly, but it went ok, no disasters.
It's something I have been playing around with and working on ever since, it's a work in progress.
Now I intentionally imagine the scenario with the audience etc. before a gig, and combat the nerves before I even arrive at the venue.
On the night I keep my focus on breathing easy and just playing the music. Hear it in my head and let my hands follow.
If negative thoughts drift in (eg. "WTF am I doing here in front of all these people trying to pull off this falseta I can't really play") I can switch right back.
Sometimes I might think "easy, easy" to break the bad thought and put my focus back where I want it. It seems to work for me.