Gareth Montanarello

Managing Performance Anxiety: Part 7

Updated: May 13, 2020

7 weeks ago I started this project to develop ways to become more comfortable with the nerves that inevitably accompany auditions and solo performances. I have learned a lot and if you are just joining, you can read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 here.

Last Week's Performance

Last week, I mentioned how I was unhappy with my weekly performance- it felt like a significant step back after several weeks of progress. I determined that these two things were the main causes of my less than satisfactory performance:

  1. I didn't do much to center before I played.

  2. More importantly, I didn't do enough to internalize these challenging excerpts during my practice sessions last week.

The first one was a relatively easy fix. The second one required more thought and effort throughout the week. I listed several things that I wanted to do to internalize the excerpts in last week's post, so I won't go into them too much here.

This Week's Performance

This week's performance was a lot more successful than last week's. I think I played well and I received some overall positive feedback.

Unlike last week, I centered myself and took time to get the tempo in mind before playing. This was immensely helpful, but I think the biggest improvements came from the quality of my practice sessions last week. I have been kind of letting my focus slip recently, so I tried to step it up when practicing last week. I went through and broke down each excerpt to fundamentals- mostly rhythms and bowings.

The Harbison excerpt, despite being a bunch of syncopated quintuplets, was more of a challenge with bow control and coordination than anything else. To internalize the syncopations, I counted aloud and played the passage on one note (at various tempos), then I internalized the crossings by doing a Zimmerman-style bowing reduction. I did similar work with the Strauss, too. Doing these things at different tempos helped solidify the excerpts technically and gave me more freedom to focus on the musical/expressive aspects of the performance.

In past posts, I talked about finding a specific character or "cue word" for the piece you are playing. The Harbison has one baked into the start of excerpt- sconsolato, meaning sad or disconsolate. The Strauss has a bunch of German, but I decided to focus on the way one that roughly means with passion. Keeping these words in mind and embodying their meaning before playing guides my technique far more effectively than anything else I have tried.

Other Ways of Simulating Performance

Since playing for people is difficult with the current quarantine situation, I have been finding ways to simulate the performance experience without actually being in the same room as anyone. Recording is one way, but this past week I have been trying out the interleaved practice methods that I learned from reading some of Molly Gebrian's articles. These methods involve selecting several sections of music and practicing each for a set amount of time before switching to a new section. The quick switching simulates the mental changes and discomfort that come with performing and helps ingrain the music more profoundly than just blocking each section.

I also mark up my parts with tons of reminders and other information. This stuff is helpful for practicing and dealing with performance memory lapses.


The next part of this series will be the grand finale. I have a couple more techniques to try out, so I will write about those in the next post, too. If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful at all, please consider sharing or subscribing to my email list! Also, check out some of the other parts of this series or some of my other articles!

Try out my 31 Day Scale Challenge!

Other Parts of the Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8


Recent Posts

See All