I’m excited to write Brass Chicks’ second-ever Five Things Friday! Because I have struggled a lot over the years with performance anxiety, I have had to work to find functional solutions. In this post, I will share five of my favorites. I hope they will help other musicians as much as they have helped me.
1. Breathe Deeply
The number one thing that helps me with nerves is controlled breathing. Slow, mindful breathing exercises. Not only does deep breathing release stress-inhibiting neurohormones, it also reminds me how my air should feel when I play.
2. Perform Before you Perform
The only real way to practice for a performance situation is by performing. I like to play for people as much as possible, in order to make myself more comfortable doing it. Even playing an excerpt or two for family (or a pet!) can help.
3. Wear Flats
Disclaimer: I see other badass women wearing heels and performing wonderfully all the time. Their work is amazing and hugely impressive.
Personally, though, I don’t ever wear shoes with high heels. To me, they’re just another sexist way to keep women uncomfortable. Even if I did wear them, though, I would never wear heels and then stand to perform! At a time when I already feel shaky and posture is crucial, unstable shoes are the last thing I need. My concert oxfords are my best friends.
4. Eat a Banana
I’m not sure if the “bananas combat performance anxiety” thing is true, but the placebo effect is real. You can’t argue with results! I like to have a banana about 45 minutes to an hour before a big performance.
5. Have a Plan
My biggest anxiety symptom is that my mind wanders in performance and I become easily distracted. When I have a detailed plan for every note, bar, and phrase in a piece, I can focus on that instead of the kids talking in the audience or what I’ll eat for dinner.