Hello performance anxiety.

Just a few days before my first ever presentation of the Alexander Technique to musicians IN PORTUGUESE! My crowd, my people, but not my language! There is a very subtle but definitive anxiety that I register rising and it takes me back to my good old percussion days…

Growing up as a classical musician was very tough for me, the perfectionism, the high levels of stress, the well-known concept of NO PAIN NO GAIN… Please, I tried it and it didn’t work for me, as it doesn’t work for most people I know. Funnily enough, the majority of musicians I know that are successful and thriving are usually light and fun personalities, who magically manage to have loads of free time and a good mood.

My attitude is towards the second group nowadays (or so I want to believe!), and here is the significant difference between then and now. Back then I believed that the only thing that could support me into performing well on stage was my practicing – my knowledge of the actual piece of music. State of mind was absolutely secondary and to me it just meant calming myself down when I started getting overwhelmed by the stress of performance anxiety. Back then, the famous quote by Nietzsche ‘I must be unprepared if I am to be master of myself’ was an absolute mystery to me. Try telling that to a classical musician, OMG! Yet, there is a solid truth there. When you’ve dedicated time and energy practicing your technique, thinking and making decisions about your interpretation over and over, what is left to determine the quality of the performance on stage? It is your coordination. And what determines your level of coordination? YOUR THINKING.

The understanding of mind and body unity is absolutely crucial to musicians. It is the key to overcoming common chronic problems, such as tendinitis, speed limitations, performance anxiety and many many more of the repertoire of musicians’ worries…

Here is the good news; your state of mind – or quality of presence as I prefer to call it – is something we train. It is like a muscle, if you don’t exercise it it becomes atrophic. And with an atrophic presence-muscle your performance anxiety begins.

How do I exercise my presence?

You can start by asking yourself a simple question as often as possible:

– How is my anxiety or worry affecting my neck muscles right now?

This question is always useful; write it down in a stick-it and put it on your music stand, write it down next to EVERY difficult passage or part of the piece you are practicing! There are simply not enough times you can ask this question! You can ask it when you are playing your first scale of the day or when you find yourself in front of your audience.

And why?

The quality in which your head balances on top of your spine will determine the quality of muscle tone in the rest of your musculature. 

(this sentence is THE principle of the Alexander Technique and you can read more about it here)

Neck tension becomes shoulder tension, shoulder tension becomes elbow tension, elbow tension becomes wrist tension yada, yada, yada…It doesn’t go the other way around! So, isn’t it funny musicians are obsessed with what their hands or fingers are doing and have absolutely no consciousness of what their head is doing? Here is a tip for you: when you notice your hands or fingers are tense, take a moment to shift the attention from your hands to your neck.

This is a very important piece of information for time- and energy-challenged musicians. It means that they don’t have to take care of the body and take care of the mind separately. They can do it all at once while they are practicing. And the best news is that this approach will actually make your music practicing much more pleasurable, easier and effective and will make your performance take off!

p.s. for any questions, doubts or comments you are more than welcome to contact me preferably via email

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