Learning to Cope with Performance
Stress Reduction is a Key Factor in Success
By Sally Bohls
Southwestern Musician – Texas Music Educator, September 1992
performance stress is a learned process.
This process should start when students are beginners and be
nurtured throughout their careers.
They start to build confidence in themselves and in their
abilities. Students who “feel
good” about themselves while playing will not mind putting in the hours
of practice required for an exceptional performance.
Every opportunity to perform is then viewed from a position of
being “in control” of the task at hand.
If very clear expectations are established in their minds, they
will learn to be as consistently correct in their playing as possible.
By striving for their best efforts, students learn the importance
of goal setting, adequate preparation, and mental focus/discipline.
In essence, they learn what it takes to succeed.
reduction is a key factor in success.
Students who demand excellence in their playing learn to cope
with stress. They learn to play
the necessary mental games to become physically and mentally relaxed and
therefore successful in stressful situations.
There are as many different relaxation techniques as there are
individuals. Students must
discover and understand the things that will keep them calm and “in
control” of their own situation.
three steps to coping with stress.
These three steps are goal setting, technical preparation/skills,
and mental focus/discipline. The
following outlines could be used as a set of guidelines for any student
Seeing clearly where one wants to be or what one wants to do in
order to move toward a specific goal and keep success within their
Deciding not to settle for anything but best efforts.
Understanding the amount of time and dedication required to
achieve a certain goal.
Establishing a realistic attitude toward self-evaluation.
Develop solid fundamentals of tone production, counting system,
scales, sight reading, phrasing, etc.
Find a good private teacher.
When initially working on the music, start slowly and steadily in
order to form a bond with the notes.
Use imagery in preparation – i.e. what is one trying to say or
portray through the music.
Pace yourself throughout the preparation – do not “peak” too
Always come to the performance with the necessary equipment in
good working order.
Play for other people before any competition.
Welcome and elicit opinions from teachers, directors, etc.
Always play with confidence.
Prepare thoroughly. This
thorough preparation results in a calm, positive attitude and a
Form a mental picture of yourself being successful.
Believe in yourself and your abilities.
Appear and feel confident about your playing.
Treat each performance as a celebration of the preparation – i.e.
play for the joy of the music.
Focus on “how” to play, not “what” one is doing, “where” one is,
or for “whom” one is playing.
Play for the enjoyment of playing, not in order to “beat” another
Develop an “aura” to help build confidence – think of yourself as
Mentally project yourself into a comfortable environment, i.e.
home practice area, practice room, etc.
Lock into your objective, do not be distracted – play exactly as
you practiced, do not let the other players performances alter your
Focus in a positive fashion toward the task at hand.
Think the performance through step-by-step.
Remember that it is not the winning or losing that really counts,
it is the grace with which you do what you do that matters.
If you lose, go home, practice, and do the whole process again.
If you win, the same rules apply.
Seek encouragement from teachers, parents, etc.
Get plenty of rest the night before a competition.
Eat the right foods before the competition.
No sugar, caffeine, etc.
Arrive in plenty of time – do not feel hurried or frantic before
Do something to keep yourself from listening to other players –
use crayons/coloring book, do word puzzles, listen to calming tapes,
Concentrate on relaxing the body.
Set the temp before starting and breathe deeply.
Do not focus on a mistake – always think forward, not backward.
Do not react (positively or negatively) to your performance.
want to know their greatest source of strength, they should look into a
mirror. What they see there
possesses a mind with no limitations.
The notes before them on a page are merely ink blots with no
brains. The only way those notes
can come to life is if the students as musicians choose to give them
life. Those notes have no power
over them. The individual
breathes life into the music.
Therefore, when students have the opportunity to share a part of
themselves with an audience, they should never be afraid.
They should be willing to share their experience and talent.
Above all, students will learn to believe in themselves and their
ability to make the perceived impossible happen.
The ability to attain excellence and cope with stress lies within
each individual. “Excellence can
be attained if you …. CARE
more than others think is wise …
RISK … more than others think is safe …
DREAM … more than others
think is practical …. EXPECT
.. more than others think is possible.”
Remember, success is only around the corner if one chooses to go
in that direction!
"Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song." Psalms 95:2
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music." Psalms 98:4