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Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

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Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby MusicLover_6995 » Tue Nov 26, 2019 5:21 pm

Could you please help me complete my dissertation for my music degree. I am aiming to collect information I can use for the final part of my dissertation where I have to investigate my chosen topic, in this case, Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright. I have put together a short questionnaire for anyone to fill out if they wish to help based on their experience of Performance anxiety and how it affects you.

The information provided will be used anonymously as supporting evidence in my dissertation. I aim to compose a solution or a series of exersises that helps to successfully relieve performance anxiety to a level that no longer hinders an individuals performance. If you wish to take part please message me directly to receive the questionnaire and my email address created for this purpose.

Thank you,
Yours sincerely,
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:04 pm

MusicLover_6995 wrote:If you wish to take part please message me directly to receive the questionnaire and my email address created for this purpose.

I'm afraid that won't work, as the messaging service is disabled for new members as part of our anti-spam system. ... and messages from new members are held in a moderation queue pending approval which is why your original message didn't appear instantly, and the other 6 you tried to post haven't appeared at all!

Most students looking for people to answer questionnaires just post a link to the survey monkey page etc, and I'd suggest doing that.

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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:06 pm

This is something that used to affect me very badly, and I still shy away from being a front man, though I now love performing. I would be interested to learn more.
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Nov 26, 2019 6:33 pm

Hi MusicLover_6995, and welcome to the SOS Forums! 8-)

As you've already noticed, stage fright can be a common occurrence among musicians, but with some it can escalate to frightening proportions.

If you've not heard of the extremely talented cellist Rachel Lander before, have a read of this article she wrote on the subject for The Guardian some years back:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/ ... s-symphony

It's a sobering read (pun intended!)


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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:50 pm

The Elf wrote:This is something that used to affect me very badly, and I still shy away from being a front man, though I now love performing. I would be interested to learn more.

Shudder... that takes me back to the first few times I played the piano with an orchestra in public. It felt like everyone was looking at me and I felt quite naked and exposed. I love playing but I hated that feeling. In some ways it was worse than playing solo.

For a long time I was only 'comfortable' playing in public if I was so well rehearsed that I could play the performance without even thinking about it. It takes a while to get to that point, but it did eliminate the stage fright in the main.

One thing I was told repeatedly as a youngster, which has always stuck with me, is that when performing in public you are never performing to a crowd. You are performing to 1 person. Granted, there may be a lot of 1 persons, but the relationship between you and them is still 1-1 when it comes down to it. You're playing, they're listening as individuals.

Also, if you make a minor mistake or smudge that to you is obvious, in many cases the chances are that 90%+ of the audience won't notice and of those who do, few will care.

Mind-games perhaps, but it helped me a lot at the time.

MusicLover_6995 wrote:I am aiming to collect information I can use for the final part of my dissertation where I have to investigate my chosen topic, in this case, Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright. I have put together a short questionnaire for anyone to fill out if they wish to help based on their experience of Performance anxiety and how it affects you.

I too would be interested to learn more. Can you put your questionnaire online in a form that we can access without having to use PMs or email & the like?
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Watchmaker » Tue Nov 26, 2019 8:28 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:One thing I was told repeatedly as a youngster, which has always stuck with me, is that when performing in public you are never performing to a crowd. You are performing to 1 person. Granted, there may be a lot of 1 persons, but the relationship between you and them is still 1-1 when it comes down to it. You're playing, they're listening as individuals.

I don't remeber ever having stage fright although I'm sure I must've. Then again I'm a shameless ham (hack) so I don't have much on the line to get nervous about really.

I had a very great mentor who said, "you know, once you realize that nearly everyone in the audience is rooting for you and wants you to succeed, then it's easy to ignore the ones who don't."
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Rich Hanson » Wed Nov 27, 2019 7:34 am

I get a kind of belated stage fright. Normally I'm fine prior to playing, but as soon as the final notes of the final song die away, I have to be out there pronto.
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Arpangel » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:34 am

When I was young I suffered from paralysing fear when performing, and always made terrible mistakes so I avoided performing in public, simple as that.
Then, after many years, and a band was formed, it's as if my fear had never existed, in fact, now, if asked to play in Wembley Stadium it wouldn't bother me.
Also, I cannot jam, or play, unless I know I'm being recorded, it's the exact opposite of red light syndrome. It's this feeling that unless I'm being recorded, there's no point in playing, none whatsoever.
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Bob Bickerton » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:34 am

I used to get petrified, but as time went on I became much more relaxed, largely because I realised I wasn’t perfect and only my ego was judging my state of perfection not the audience. That’s not to say I don’t strive to play well, it’s just that I no longer beat myself up if I drop a few notes.

In more recent times I’ve felt more nervous, perhaps responsible is a better word, when mixing sound for others, because I feel responsible to deliver the best sound for them possible.

I remember many years ago asking a leading classical pianist if he ever made mistakes. The answer was that he made mistakes all the time, it was just that he was the only one who noticed them.

Oddly enough I find it more difficult to perform for smaller crowds, house concerts or whatever, rather than larger crowds. I find it easier to perform for a ‘generic’ audience person than actual individuals, if that makes any sense.

Happy to fill out the survey.

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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby ajmiller » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:04 am

Not good and I’ve suffered from it to the detriment of playing live now. Lots of factors involved. Suggest looking at this site - he does sell a course but the free articles and blog are well worth reading. https://bulletproofmusician.com/
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Sam Inglis » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:15 am

XTC haven't toured since the early ’80s because Andy Partridge's stage fright got too bad. Someone also told me that the original drummer in Genesis left because of stage fright, I don't know how true that is.
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby The Elf » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:42 am

Sam Inglis wrote:Someone also told me that the original drummer in Genesis left because of stage fright, I don't know how true that is.
It was Anthony Phillips - guitarist.

He speaks about it in this interview : https://youtu.be/2gcJU-DN_ZI
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby The Elf » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:53 am

When I played my first solo headline the crew had set me up a stage mic so that I could speak to the audience between numbers. From the moment I got on stage I was in a blind panic and just played one tune after another, desperate to just get to the end.

I never used the speech mic once. It became a huge thing for me, and it put me off performing live for many years. I regret it to this day, but I can now, at least, forgive myself - I was truly suffering.

I'm finally at peace with stage fright - it's still there, but I perform through it, and I actually think I need it; it's a friend that reminds me I'm only as good as the last part I played correctly!
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby CS70 » Wed Nov 27, 2019 12:24 pm

Yeah can be really bad. I remember the first time I played guitar in public, around 15, I was terrified and couldn't almost move a finger!

My way of overcoming is to assume a role.. when I'm on stage I'm kinda acting, so in a way I feel it's not for real and it's not me being there. Odd stuff, but it works. It's also what makes the stage so fascinating, you can be everything you want to be there. Also being very aware of body tension and learning to release it consciously helps a lot (it's something I've learned both as an imperative for playing guitar and in other life circumstances).. it's not so that the brain controls the body, but it's a feedback system where the mind also gets cues from the body on how it's supposed to feel.

In the later years is not been a big issue, and similarly to Bob I've learned to take it easier on myself... expecting to be perfect is a recipe for failure. Still myself is my main competition in anything that I do, and definitely I feel it more in small spaces as well. Give me a large stage anytime, but the first song at a pub need always be something that I can play in my sleep. :D
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Dave B » Wed Nov 27, 2019 1:52 pm

I’m actually quite interested in the dissertation for the simple reason that I’m not convinced that there is a single cause - and, therefore, a single solution - to this. I used to suffer terribly until a friend said just the right thing and I’ve loved it ever since. But our female vocalist in one band is taking the long way round (baby steps) as she has suffered from imposter syndrome most of her life. So while there may be some valid mitigation strategies, I’m not sure that there is a single quick fix ..
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby blinddrew » Wed Nov 27, 2019 1:54 pm

The first time I played in public was busking in Edinburgh. I found a decent spot, took my guitar out, tuned it, tuned it again. Played the opening chords... and played them again and... played them again... and was on the verge of packing it in and giving the whole thing up as a bad idea when I realised someone had stopped to listen. At which point obviously I HAD to sing.
So I did, and he listened, and dropped 50p in, and I never really looked back. Not sure how I would have afforded my university without him. :D

Since then I've always been nervous before going up but that generally dissipates a bit when I'm on stage. Strangely I think I'm more nervous playing with a band than when I used to do a lot of solo stuff. Maybe just because I'm not gigging as much.
Like CS70 though, a key thing for me was developing a bit of a stage personality. It wasn't really 'me' up there, it was this other guy who was good at that stuff. Interestingly this translated into work as well and I became much better at presenting and facilitating large meetings as well. At some point it stopped being a role and I realised that it was now who I was.
Which was nice.

I still get nervous, but at the point that that stops, it will be because I no longer care. At which point I shouldn't be doing the gig.

Watchmaker's point above is really interesting though, I've never thought about it before, but no-one wants to see a bad gig. Everyone there wants it to be amazing, you just have to let it happen. :)
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Rich Hanson » Wed Nov 27, 2019 2:28 pm

CS70 wrote:My way of overcoming is to assume a role.. when I'm on stage I'm kinda acting, so in a way I feel it's not for real and it's not me being there. Odd stuff, but it works. It's also what makes the stage so fascinating, you can be everything you want to be there. Also being very aware of body tension and learning to release it consciously helps a lot (it's something I've learned both as an imperative for playing guitar and in other life circumstances).. it's not so that the brain controls the body, but it's a feedback system where the mind also gets cues from the body on how it's supposed to feel.

That's pretty much how I approach it. I tell people that the person they see on stage is not the person they are talking to. And that's why I'm off the stage as son as the last song has ended, as that is the moment the stage persona is shed.
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Watchmaker » Wed Nov 27, 2019 3:17 pm

I think the idea of ego is central, though how is bound to be dynamic. And I don't mean ego in the usual negative way, I mean it in more as Karl Jung viewed it, that is, consciousness has a structure analogous to the physical body, id, ego, conscious and unconscious, personal and communal contents, etc. can be likened to a skeleton, neurological, muscular, alimentary systems, etc.

Assuming validity of the idea that the ego is part of a structure of mind and its role is to act as a mediator of personi, part of the trick is to get the right persona operating for the particular circumstance. It's an interesting feature of the ego that, being the locus of awareness, it often confuses itself for being the whole of the self: the "I" that exists.

Music and the arts in general can be modeled as an admixture of hard technical skills and the vulnerable aspects of our personality - the unconscious parts which the ego doesn't have access to, and it's this tension that causes anxiety. We also risk exposing our relationship between our personal content and the collective unconscious. I never get nervous using a table saw for example because it's a very mechanical act and I don't put my inner self on the line. Drumming is also a technical act, as is producing a clean note on a violin and in these examples, we definitely invoke our relationships to ourselves, art, the world at large, so it feels like more is at stake.

I think in youth the desire to be validated, whether conscious or not, is very strong which may partly explain why experience and age tend to lessen the anxiety of that exposure.

I also know there are vastly greater numbers of variables in play, just thinking out loud really.
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby CS70 » Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:35 pm

Watchmaker wrote:I think the idea of ego is central

Yeah good points. I think how much of one's identity is invested in a certain activity matters a lot... the reason for which I don't care much of bystanders when manning a saw is because I don't really see myself as a carpenter, so I have no investment in that role.

When I was a kid playing the guitar was one of the things I was kinda proud of, for which I felt "special".. and of course putting that to the test was a huge survival risk to my self-identity.. scary! Not to mention the pretty blonde girl in the corner... there was a lot to lose! :D

In later years, we often become more emotionally mature... which include the ability of not getting too much upset about anyone's judgement - or at least much more critical on which judgements we accept. That for me has become a life rule - I listen to everybody, but cannot take seriously anyone whose judgement is not well expressed, motivated and clearly understandable. They're just not worth the effort.

There's people, however, whose anxiety (including stage anxiety) is due to either psychological or physical impairments, and I think it's important to give what support we can..
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Re: Dissertation on Music Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright.

Postby Darren Lynch » Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:47 pm

To the OP - This forum gets a lot of requests for help with dissertations. Your topic actually appears a useful line of enquiry - it's certainly got a lot of forum regulars opening up about their own experiences. Best of luck.
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