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View Full Version : Keeping your concentration & performance anxiety



Mxyzptik
09-16-2013, 05:34 PM
I am going to step out and play publicly for the first time. I am not a super player or singer but I've had good feedback from the few friends and neighbours that have heard me. My audience will be friends and some strangers likely 50/50 and will total 35 people in a small cafe.

I am a confident man and do a lot of public speaking and giving presentations at work. I never prep for these, they are always off the cuff. I always figure you either know it or you don't. My style is very casual.

I have noticed a couple of issues when I play that occur that I would love to hear ideas to help me deal with.

The first one is losing concentration. I have played the Uke for only 2 years but have played the piano for a long time. Often I will find my mind wander 2/3's of the way through a song and either get a little mixed up or break tempo. I am able to memorize my songs but the loss of concentration makes me stumble. So how to you stay keenly engaged from start to finish is my first question.

The second concern is about some performance anxiety. I recently played in front of a couple of good friends. They are music enthusiasts and both are trying to learn instruments. Both are kind and well mannered, in short the perfect audience. I still experienced a little anxiety, enough to make my fretting hand sweat. I forgot the words to a verse I have song over and over again without error and I blew the instrumental I have played without mistake a hundred times ? How can I address this ? Perhaps the answer lies in the solution to my first question ?

Your thoughts please .

Ukejenny
09-16-2013, 06:21 PM
I haven't performed in front of people on ukulele, but I have on another instrument. I'm just wondering, can you detect what your mind goes to when it wanders? Is it a specific thing, like asking yourself how it is going, or thinking that you are almost to the end?

Nervousness is different for each person, but it strikes me as something to do with being able to relax the nerves enough to play without freaking out, but not so much that you lose your performing edge. There needs to be excitement and joy, just not the fear.

Forgot to add, I like cleansing breaths. Controlled and slow. A little prayer, meditation or visualization. The breathing seems to help me get centered and calm.

Newportlocal
09-16-2013, 06:43 PM
I can public speak in front of large groups without any issue. Playing ukulele and singing is very different for me as well. The first time I did it in front of a large group I felt very anxious. People complimented me after, but I felt very anxious. I am sure the coffee and a Rockstar drink didn't help. I cut out caffeine and played a song I knew really well and had practiced a lot the next time. It was a much better experience. The more you practice both your songs and playing for others the easier it will get. Good luck! Be fearless! And have fun!

sugengshi
09-16-2013, 07:05 PM
I think the key is to just keep performing in the public. Just like public speaking. The first few times, you feel nervous. After sometime, public speaking becomes natural. I am a Toastmaster and that was my experience. I also experienced nervousness performing the first few times in public. After a while, I just got over it. Of course, there are times I still get nervous especially if I want to impress someone (or some people) in the audience. 8-)

Mxyzptik
09-16-2013, 11:09 PM
I haven't performed in front of people on ukulele, but I have on another instrument. I'm just wondering, can you detect what your mind goes to when it wanders? Is it a specific thing, like asking yourself how it is going, or thinking that you are almost to the end?

Nervousness is different for each person, but it strikes me as something to do with being able to relax the nerves enough to play without freaking out, but not so much that you lose your performing edge. There needs to be excitement and joy, just not the fear.

Forgot to add, I like cleansing breaths. Controlled and slow. A little prayer, meditation or visualization. The breathing seems to help me get centered and calm.

Excellent advice everyone. I had not thought much about where my mind went when it wanders off, it's almost like I got bored with the song part way thru and start thinking about the next song. Like in a conversation if you start thinking about what you're going to say next instead of truly listening to the other person. I will try and be aware of it if it happens again and pinpoint just what caused the distraction.

I wish I now more about meditation, I think it is something that could help me a great deal. I work in a high stress corporate environment and I think meditation could help me a great deal.

I certainly agree that the more you practice the easier it is to shake off nerves. I have played my song list over and over and over and know them inside and out and I will admit that the more I practice the chords and fingering just come without thinking, almost too easily sometimes. I'll be playing along letting it come naturally and then if that moment of loss of concentration comes then I forget where I am because I haven' t been thinking about where I am if you know what I mean.

It's like staying in the moment. I certainly agree with the comments about caffeine. I have taught myself a Keith Jarrett arrangements on the piano, I only took two years of piano lessons and they where more than 40 years ago. I certainly wish I'd have paid more attention to the music theory back then. I have marked up the score with a yellow highlighter at places where I need to remind myself of something but the most important note I made was in bright red and bold letters across the top at the beginning and it is simply " IT'S NOT A RACE " .

PhilUSAFRet
09-16-2013, 11:57 PM
I've only done a few open mics at my uke club (very supportive audience) and I teach a senior's class, but fact is, we sometimes "mess up." I have seen many "pro's" who mess up and they usually just joke about it. I attended a Ralph Shaw workshop and being a better performer is one of his training subjects. He has written books and made DVD's on the subject. As has been said "practice makes perfect." Not really, we all mess up from time to time. Not getting crazy about it is the trick. Messing up is nature's way of telling you that you need to practice. Lots of performers here to give you good advice.

http://www.ralphshaw.ca/

Here's more posts on UU that may help: http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-67116.html

JonThysell
09-17-2013, 05:37 AM
I just did my first open mic last week, with a song I know inside and out, and despite having no problems with public speaking, public singing was a whole 'nother issue.

I chose a fairly low-key song (Can't Help Falling In Love With You) and try as I might, I couldn't get my voice to project AND keep the ukulele going at the same time. My hands went cold and I don't think I ever looked up at the audience.

That said, the whole crowd joined in singing which let me focus more on my playing. I made a couple mistakes, but just kept going without stopping.

I was shaking the whole time, but no one seemed to notice (or at least, they were kind enough not to say anything). Overall it was a great first time, but I was surprised at how nervous I was when I started singing, as I have no problem with any public speaking, presentations, leading meetings, etc.

My advice, make sure you not only know the song inside and out, but that you have an intro and ending to it, so you have something to build up before starting the song, and a home stretch to hit at the end.

hibiscus
09-17-2013, 08:02 AM
Unfortunately, I have had severe anxiety while performing for 45 years. Most of it stems from being a perfectionist. Now that I'm a few days from being 65, I think I'm too old too care if I'm perfect~ I hope so! It's just ridiculous. I actually had to stop playing a beautiful organ in church, because each Sunday I got more and more nervous to the point I couldn't even play. (Guess I'm the wrong person to ask:()
Good luck!

Uncle Rod Higuchi
09-17-2013, 08:49 AM
OK, now from the 'heretic'... :)

Do you play with a music sheet in front of you? If not, then you'd better not lose concentration! :)

When I perform I always have a music sheet (literally or digitally :) ) to help me out. I sometimes play
games with myself as I'm performing, like NOT looking at the sheet for at least one verse, or trying not to
play off the sheet at all. a bit dangerous at times.

a little bit of 'support' like that helps me :)

keep uke'in',

Newportlocal
09-17-2013, 09:26 AM
OK, now from the 'heretic'... :)

Do you play with a music sheet in front of you? If not, then you'd better not lose concentration! :)

When I perform I always have a music sheet (literally or digitally :) ) to help me out. I sometimes play
games with myself as I'm performing, like NOT looking at the sheet for at least one verse, or trying not to
play off the sheet at all. a bit dangerous at times.

a little bit of 'support' like that helps me :)

keep uke'in',

I love you being the "heretic." I agree we can't all play song after song from memory.

UncleMoon
09-17-2013, 12:06 PM
I spent 20 years in sales. That job is more of a performance than anything.

The one thing I always told my guys - even if you miss something - keep going, they don't know what's supposed to come next. I kind of take that approach with my playing too. Although I've never played in "public", I do play for my wife & family. They don't know if it's right or not, and if I hit a goofy note, or fat-finger a chord, I keep on playing and pretend I was supposed to do that.

rem50
09-17-2013, 01:18 PM
My opinion. I play in front of people regularly, not because I am really good at it it is just because it is one more way to give. You will do well if you get your eyes off yourself and remember that the people really appreciate you and what you are doing. Another thing is have fun. If you were fantastic and perfect you would be doing it for a living. Until someone pays you, they have no reason to complain :) Concerning songs, just play ones you have half down pat. What I mean is one part has to be able to be done without thinking... the words are either all memorized or the playing is all memorized. When one of those is accomplished then you can do "a little thinking" on the other part while doing the song. Hope this helps. Have fun! You will be fantastic!

Mxyzptik
09-17-2013, 02:36 PM
OK, now from the 'heretic'... :)

Do you play with a music sheet in front of you? If not, then you'd better not lose concentration! :)

When I perform I always have a music sheet (literally or digitally :) ) to help me out. I sometimes play
games with myself as I'm performing, like NOT looking at the sheet for at least one verse, or trying not to
play off the sheet at all. a bit dangerous at times.

a little bit of 'support' like that helps me :)

keep uke'in',

I had not planned to have a song sheet, I don't find them that helpful. It seems like if I have it out I look at it and if I look at it then I can't get into the song. It seems to become more mechanical.

I think I will chance it, maybe take my iPad so I could peak at it before I started but I don't care for using a sheet.

Ukuleleblues
09-17-2013, 03:19 PM
I had not planned to have a song sheet, I don't find them that helpful. It seems like if I have it out I look at it and if I look at it then I can't get into the song. It seems to become more mechanical.

I think I will chance it, maybe take my iPad so I could peak at it before I started but I don't care for using a sheet.Just go out and have fun, it's contagious. Downside of sheet music is low lights, wind, if you lose your place it's hard to find it again, a lot easier to recover from a mistake like missed words if you aren't "reading" it. If you make a mistake NO ONE will notice or care. Make the songs your own. Enjoy the scene.