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  1. #1

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    Hey, I'm new!

    I'm a jazz (atleast wannabe) guitarist, and I've spent this summer practicing everyday. I am confident and motivated when playing, and honestly feel I'm quite decent. I'm looking to get into an important jazz school (Esmuc, Barcelona) in June of next year. I'm currently studying at my local music school and have many great teachers.

    I have a problem, though! I am terrified to play infront of my guitar professor. He is the nicest guy I know, but still I feel a crushing pressure when I have class with him. I'm really having trouble with this, as I can't show him what I'm actually capable of, and therefore he thinks less of my playing skill. In the long run, I fear might have the same problem when playing for the jury at the jazz school I'm hoping to get into.

    I have no problem with a stage scenario. I've played live many times and have practically no stage-fright. I just feels like, when I'm playing in class, that my mind is concentrating 50% on playing, while the other 50 is focused on what he must think of my playing.

    If anyone can help me I'd be very extremely grateful. If you can make me feel better by relating to my problem, I'll give you an online hug.

    THAnks BTW JOE PASS IS THE BEST!!

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  3. #2

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    Have you told the prof about that issue and asked for help or advice? I think crippling self consciousness is a learned script. There might be exercises to desensitize or replace with a more productive script. It would be nice if we could shut off all that self questioning crap at will and just focus on the music. I’ve made some headway, but I don’t perform in high-stakes situations.

  4. #3

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    He is aware of it. It's not something I can easily hide.

    I haven't asked him for serious advice, as up till now, I never saw it as a serious matter. I think I will though, seeing that I'm willing to sign up to a forum for advice. I must seem pretty desperate!

    Thanks for the tip. Hope all is well!

  5. #4

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    Here's what works for me: Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly. Count to twelve. Play.

  6. #5

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    Maybe it's nature's way of protecting you from the folly of going to jazz school...

  7. #6
    More than anything, at least to me, I think it's the "fear of the unknown". Not that I had to audition for music school, but in all the times I've played in front of an audience, like many athletes (which I certainly am not, nor ever was), I was always nervous before playing (or in my former life as a banker, giving presentations to clients and/or management more senior to myself). Once I was on stage (or at the podium) and began to play (speak), the fear/nervousness subsided rather quickly.

    Take a look at some of the sites that cover fears about speaking in public. There are a lot of good suggestion ranging from focusing on what you're doing; not your audience, to picturing your audience in their unmentionables, or birthday suits.

    Good luck!

  8. #7

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    It's a really important question
    i know what you mean ....
    like , when I'm playing (or performing ?)
    I've got all these different viewpoints going on sequentially
    me , the audience , the sounds , the feelings
    the judgements , the wrong notes , the groove etc etc
    What's the drummer doing with the beat etc etc

    then there's all the actual operating of the instrument .....
    then there's the structure of the tune
    The keys , chords , melody , lines etc etc etc etc

    let alone the more esoteric stuff , interpretation
    cultural resonances of what you're playing ,
    trying to give it some sort of feeling maybe etc

    and on and on .
    And that's all unavoidable and good I reckon
    ....
    But its easy to get stuck on one aspect for longer that necessary ,
    which is what I think you're doing

    my strategy would be to notice when you're thinking
    'I wonder what the Prof thinks of this'

    then make yourself think .....
    I'm gonna phrase the next bit different to how I normally play it
    or another action like , I'm gonna play this line in thirds
    or I'm gonna play the bass line
    or anything about your playing probably

    i.e.
    you can't stop it coming up
    but you can change it up and move on

  9. #8

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    I'll look into it!
    Thankssss

  10. #9

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    Jee I hope not

  11. #10

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    I'll keep this is in mind.
    How I deal with the problem when it inevitably comes up is key!

    Thank you lots!

  12. #11

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    One guitarist I admire recommended “The Inner Game of Tennis” for learning how to overcome all the mental crap that distracts you from focusing on the goal when performing and that undermines your trust in your abilities. (He preferred it to the derivative “Inner Game of Music”.) I’ve read part of it, and this thread reminds me that I need to finish.

    The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W. Timothy Gallwey

  13. #12

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    cannabis?

  14. #13

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    My cures for anxiety are deep breathing and being prepared.

  15. #14

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    I learned something simple---almost too simple!----years ago that helped me when I had to do a lot of public speaking.
    It's a mantra. (I learned it from a Dorothy Sarnoff book, "Never Be Nervous Again" IIRC. She was an opera singer and Broadway performer.)
    I thought mantras were silly but there's nothing mystical about it. Just a way to regulate breathing (-which gets out of whack when you're anxious.).

    I'm glad I'm here.
    I'm glad you're here.
    I care about you
    I know that I know.

    Say this to yourself, over and over. The repetition is relaxing. It keeps OTHER thoughts from intruding.
    It reminds you that you have prepared and you know what you're going to do. (I used to worry, before being introduced to speak, that my speech was crap and this wild idea that just popped into my head was better and I should say THAT instead, or wait, maybe this OTHER half-baked idea was even better. No. That's nerves. The best way to quieten your nerves is to slow down your breathing and keep anxious thoughts from taking roo.)

    Simple as this sounds, it helped me a lot.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    I learned something simple---almost too simple!----years ago that helped me when I had to do a lot of public speaking.
    It's a mantra. (I learned it from a Dorothy Sarnoff book, "Never Be Nervous Again" IIRC. She was an opera singer and Broadway performer.)
    I thought mantras were silly but there's nothing mystical about it. Just a way to regulate breathing (-which gets out of whack when you're anxious.).

    I'm glad I'm here.
    I'm glad you're here.
    I care about you
    I know that I know.

    Say this to yourself, over and over. The repetition is relaxing. It keeps OTHER thoughts from intruding.
    It reminds you that you have prepared and you know what you're going to do. (I used to worry, before being introduced to speak, that my speech was crap and this wild idea that just popped into my head was better and I should say THAT instead, or wait, maybe this OTHER half-baked idea was even better. No. That's nerves. The best way to quieten your nerves is to slow down your breathing and keep anxious thoughts from taking roo.)

    Simple as this sounds, it helped me a lot.
    I do similar repetitions with a quote from some stoicism book I read at some point - "We suffer more in our minds than in reality". It helps me to realize that in cases like this, there is no real external threat. Stoic philosophy in general is helpful for anxiety and stress. Even when dealing with actual hardship and bad situations it's helpful to try to avoid making situations worse than they actually are.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by drbhrb
    I do similar repetitions with a quote from some stoicism book I read at some point - "We suffer more in our minds than in reality". It helps me to realize that in cases like this, there is no real external threat. Stoic philosophy in general is helpful for anxiety and stress. Even when dealing with actual hardship and bad situations it's helpful to try to avoid making situations worse than they actually are.
    so true, avoid the second arrow! anyone know that Buddhist metaphor?

  18. #17

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    Most music schools accept sending audition tapes. You can record your audition, also may be send a recorded live performance. Is that an option?

  19. #18

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    Not for music, but for getting out of the bed in the morning and all that follows, I take Zoloft.

    Ironically, it seems to give me insomnia, so I counter that with sleeping pills, which work so well my wife has to shake me and push me out of bed in the morning. So it goes...

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyLoveHandles
    Not for music, but for getting out of the bed in the morning and all that follows, I take Zoloft.

    Ironically, it seems to give me insomnia, so I counter that with sleeping pills, which work so well my wife has to shake me and push me out of bed in the morning. So it goes...
    cannabis?

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758
    cannabis?
    The last things I need are demotivation and the munchies

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by djg
    yea, suggest drugs to the young lad. well done.
    I wouldn't suggest taking anything without consulting your doctor. I just know what I need to do to function. I'd probably have killed myself without medication.

  23. #22

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    Beta blockers can help with aspects of anxiety like shaking hands: In Defense of the Beta Blocker - The Atlantic

  24. #23

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    I had the same problem when I first became a university music major. I had been performing solo and in ensembles since I was nine years old and never had any stage fright. In fact I was downright cocky about playing live and looked forward to every performance. This was not my experience in a performance class that was required of all music majors. I would literally shake before having to perform solo in front of the department chairman and all of the other music majors every two weeks. It was baffling - and very disturbing.

    It came down to the fact that deep down, I knew I wasn't ready for these performances. I knew I was going to f--- up and there was no kidding myself about it. In all my other performance experiences, I was more than prepared, I was over-prepared: I had the material stone-cold memorized after months of rehearsal and I knew that I could play my part no matter whether the whole band train-wrecked around me, I would nail it. In this class, however, each student had to perform solo every two weeks. Two weeks is not a lot of time to prepare a new piece, which meant that I was reading, not playing from rote, and hadn't nearly enough time to work out the finer points of any piece. These were solo classical guitar pieces, not jazz, so any improv was an error, not an embellishment. Add to that the fact that my department chair was a world-class symphonic conductor who would not only hear every mistake but call you on it after your performance concluded: "That was nice, but in bar 38 you played an F natural instead of an F sharp."

    Make no mistake, he was kind and supportive, but he also wasn't letting anything slide! The point of the class was to learn how to perform, in a safe and supportive environment. But I had barely begun playing solo classic guitar at that time and I was struggling with so many things: technique, tone, repertoire, learning to read, not to mention the idea that every single person in the room was as good a musician as I was or, in many cases, a lot better.

    I agonized over this stage fright for a long time, trying to dissect it and trying to combat it. It was maybe about halfway through the second semester of this biweekly ego-torture session that our prof made the offhand comment that "you know, you don't have to play a new piece every two weeks. You can play the same piece again. This is about learning to perform not learning new material." The entire room breathed a collective sigh of relief and I discovered that the second time through on a piece, after I'd had a month to prepare it, was a LOT less stressful. I still wasn't at that stage of feeling cocky and anticipating thunderous applause - I was, in fact, still pretty nervous - but I wasn't TERRIFIED, I didn't feel like I was going to absolutely HUMILIATE myself.

    That experience taught me a lot about myself and about performing. The skills necessary to play when not totally ready to do so are important: getting a grip on your own jitters and staying focused on the music are as important as learning to play in time and in tune. And learning to hear and understand your inner gauge of readiness and respond appropriately is important too. I definitely would rather be the guy who knows he's not there yet than the guy who thinks he's great when everyone around him thinks he sucks.

    Over the years, I've learned that on stage you remember only about 30 percent of what you remember in the practice room. There are lots of distractions: maybe the audience is loud, maybe the mix is bad (as in, you can't hear yourself AT ALL), maybe it's too hot or too cold, maybe lack of skill or awareness on the part of one or more other members of the ensemble just prevents the group as a whole from firing on all cylinders, maybe you just aren't feelin' it that night.... but learning to deal with obstacles effectively is part of becoming a pro player. So listen to your inner voice, practice hard, do your best... and, as the popular saying goes, "feel the fear and do it anyway."

    It is great that you are tuned in enough to feel stage fright. Use it to become a better musician. The first step to "getting there" is admitting to yourself that you're not there. You'll get there, it just takes some time and effort. As a beginner, you are growing a lot of different skills. When these skills become stronger, you'll know deep down that you have more tools for coping with all of the various obstacles to performance that you might encounter. Knowing that your on-the-fly skills are stronger, along with being better prepared, will undoubtedly calm your nerves a lot. Betcha in a year or three you won't have this problem. In the meantime, hang in there - many of us have been through this!

    SJ

  25. #24

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    Thanks to everyone's advice. Although I appreciate your concern, I don't think I'll be taking any medication soon lol
    I am, though, very glad to hear the mention of stoic and buddhist mindsets, as they have already helped with a previous hardship not related to music.
    It all comes together, in one way or another!

    Thanks for the book recommendation, Kirk. And to whom it may concern, I thought Siddharta was a good read!

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by djg
    furthermore it's not your task to impress your teacher in the first place. and quite honestly he probably could not care less. your path is about learning and progressing. since you want to study at a jazz school, you're most likely not very good yet anyway so who cares what you're capable of *now*?
    .
    sooo true it hurts! Thanks for the bluntness!

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by starjasmine
    So listen to your inner voice, practice hard, do your best... and, as the popular saying goes, "feel the fear and do it anyway."It is great that you are tuned in enough to feel stage fright. Use it to become a better musician. The first step to "getting there" is admitting to yourself that you're not there. You'll get there, it just takes some time and effort. As a beginner, you are growing a lot of different skills. When these skills become stronger, you'll know deep down that you have more tools for coping with all of the various obstacles to performance that you might encounter. Knowing that your on-the-fly skills are stronger, along with being better prepared, will undoubtedly calm your nerves a lot. Betcha in a year or three you won't have this problem. In the meantime, hang in there - many of us have been through this!SJ
    WOW! Thanks for the story and support. I'll give it my all

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by drbhrb
    I do similar repetitions with a quote from some stoicism book I read at some point - "We suffer more in our minds than in reality". It helps me to realize that in cases like this, there is no real external threat. Stoic philosophy in general is helpful for anxiety and stress. Even when dealing with actual hardship and bad situations it's helpful to try to avoid making situations worse than they actually are.
    I remember reading Martha Nussbaum's book "The Therapy of Desire," which was about Stoicism (and other Hellenistic practices) and cognitive psychology. Massimo Pigliucci carries the lantern for Stoicism nowadays. (He is not alone but he is smart, informed, and insightful.)


  29. #28

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    I would concentrate on what makes you feel the best physically and emotionally in your life. Is it more sleep? Is it companionship? Whatever it is, get that house in order so that you will feel like you can conquer anything. I know for me it is sleep. If I don't get enough quality sleep I am a wreck. Also, I would stay away from alcohol, drugs and medications. They distort time. You want to feel every minute of your life with as much intensity as humanly possible.

  30. #29

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    Note: My answer is not intended neither a joke, neither a disrespect to your professor.
    If you think your are prepared, (because did your homework, so you are) and you are still anxious then...

    Short version:
    Imagine he is naked. Your anxiety will gone, you will be free to be yourself, as you were alone. His presence will not affect you.
    Maybe you hesitate to try this because you respect your professor, and think this is a disrespect. This case drop this idea.

    A bit longer version:
    This technique originally intended to battle anxiety in situation where one is anxious to speak in public, or in front of other people like a corporate team meeting, or a public gathering. Works instantly by treating the anxiety cause not just the symptoms. Treating symptoms are much less effective.

    ***

    To go further this path, you must work on the real causes, but experiencing that you have nothing to be anxious in such an easy way will help you understand and realize that this not anxious mindset is available for you, so you will go for it. Later you will see you professor like a normal man, just like you, who's role is to teach and help you, not as a terrifying person. All of this naked thing can be forgotten.
    Last edited by Gabor; 09-22-2019 at 03:20 PM.

  31. #30

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    You should note that you have something to contribute. That something is very personal for you, and something that you likely worked very hard on. People, including your professor, want to hear it.

    I wasn't a music major in college, but I had to produce a lot of work and present it to juries multiple times each semester. This started as a freshman, btw. The thing that got me through it was the quality of my work. If I didn't feel connected with it, and I didn't feel that it addressed the correct issues, I wasn't going to bluff my way through a jury. All of it contributed to my confidence in a lot of different settings throughout my entire lifetime. If you know, and think about, what you are doing the performance aspect may become second nature. You can look forward to that.

  32. #31

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    Lots of good advice here (for the most part ;-). I'd just add that performance anxiety is something all of us have to deal with, and in some cases have dealt with and put behind us. Might be helpful to remember that your Prof's been through it himself, and is well aware that you're somewhat crippled by it. I'm sure he can see through your nervousness to the talent underneath it and is patiently awaiting your breakthrough. He's seen it a hundred times before.

    My personal story is that I'm an ex-pro player with a few thousand gigs, auditions and so forth under my belt. I thought I was well beyond it. Recently though, after 15 years of not playing with other folks I auditioned for a small group of retired guys playing standards. It was as if I'd never played in a group before. I was pretty impaired and it took quite some time before I could calm down and do anything close to what I'm capable of. I only mention this to demonstrate what a difficult problem it can be to deal with. Don't get down on yourself about it!

    And here's another one. I remember a gig that an ex-girlfriend walked into. It was a difficult breakup and I wasn't over it at all. She was the only thing I could see or think of while I was playing. I took a solo completely and utterly distracted. As it was coming to a close I was pretty sure it had to have been total crap. The audience gave me some of the biggest applause I've ever heard. Just to say that sometimes what you think is going on in your playing isn't necessarily what's getting heard.