How to Overcome Fear in Performing Recitals...

I played a lot of golf in my life and with that a lot of golf-tournaments. One thing I despised was the beginning of a tournament when they would announce your name and everyone was standing around watching you take that driver out and swat that little ball.


All eyes are on you and you know it. You feel so nervous sometimes that you become convinced that you’re going to have a rotten shot….and some of the time you do right there in front of everyone. If only I had a good plan going into that situation to offset the pressure and overcome the intimidation of the audience then all would have been a lot better.


It’s stage-fright…..and it is no different when you are doing a recital on the piano. O, you don’t have the club in your hands but you do have the staring audience. Your heart is beating like a drum. You’re light-headed and tense.

It’s a problem until you get into the music and if you can just get going you feel the whole thing will soon come together. But the nerves, the nerves….the nerves.

So, what can you do about this anyway. I have put together some points of interest that will help anyone get off on the right foot. Everyone suffers stagefright but only the mentally-prepared have victory over this. You don’t have to be overcome by anxiety or anything else if you will follow these simple rules.

1. Practice, practice, practice

“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Aristotle (384 - 322 BC)

This one may sound obvious, but the best way you can prepare for a performance is to practice your chosen piece of music over and over and over again. Know it back to front. Play it fast. Play it slow. Go over the areas you have trouble with in greater detail. Remember, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

2. Warm Up Your Fingers

Another simple idea but we like simple and simple works and you can remember anything that is simply put. So remember to just warm up your fingers before a recital it has been proven that warming up your fingers increases your composure.

So the next time you have a piano recital, try warming up those magical fingers by wrapping them around a hot cup of your favorite beverage, or simply keep them toasty inside your coat or jacket.

3. What are Friends for?


Call or text a close friend right before a recital. Tell them you are nervous. Talk it over with them as this will reduce stress.

When we confide in someone we calm the nerves and “knock the edge off” so-to-speak. A good dose of reassurance may be just what you need.

4. Avoid Sugar

Sugar products and processed foods in general can lead to anxiety so avoid them. A good idea is to avoid them a few days before the recital even. You can do without those chocolate bars and pastries for a couple days if it will help your nerves it seems to me.

Instead, switch to foods that are rich in nutrients like Vitamin B & omega-3 fatty acids. That would be a meal or two of fish with a healthy garden salad followed by some nuts or seeds. At any rate avoid sugar.

5. Know Your Audience


Check it out by asking ahead of time then think it through in terms of how you will handle this. If there will be dignitaries then mentally prepare for that. If there will be your peers in the audience mentally prepare for that. If the audience will be older or younger or primarily girls or boys or intellectuals or musicians etc. prepare for them all.

Do not let anything “surprise” you as this time is YOUR’S…..nobody else’s. You got this. You are in command of this recital.

6. Make sure You’re Well Rested and Smile too.


Lack of sleep….this is an enemy of performance in any field let alone in a recital. Lack of sleep affects your sharpness and timing. It affects your body-language and your demeanor.

Stay away from “sleep inhibitors” like caffeine or at least cut-back on your coffee intake. Other sleep inhibitors would be eating late at night and alcohol consumption so say “goodnight” to the nightcap. Invest in a good mattress and pillow if you have to but get a good night’s sleep.

These are all good pointers that will help you be as rested as you can for your recital and in the end don’t forget to smile. You know the old saying “Smile and the world Smiles with you weep and you weep alone….” It’s true.

“Smile, it is the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart” —Anthony J D’Angelo

How can a smile possibly help my recital you may ask? Well, I’m happy to tell you that a smile has various proven side-effects.

Here is a short list: (1) Lower Blood Pressure (2) Offers Stress Relief (3) Improves Relationships (4) Gives you a Stronger Immune Function (5) Offers Pain Relief (6) Can Give One a Longer Life. Never underestimate the power of a broad legitimate smile.

7. Focus on tempo

It is important to stay in the moment. By that I mean if you are caught up in all the anxiousness you will tend to speed up. Here’s an example. When we are nervous, we tend to speak quickly – our brain is just moving so fast.

The same thing can happen when we play piano. If you play too fast, you may find yourself tripping over your notes, making silly mistakes that you don’t usually make.

Take it slow. Don’t rush. Focus. Enjoy the performance as much as you can.

8. Be On-Guard for Take-Aways

One thing that I do that has helped me is when I am watching another person perform I study how they do their thing. How they engage an audience. How they present and what response they get.

It’s the ultimate laboratory so always study someone else to see if there are not parts of their delivery that might benefit you. You will not copy their every move of course but you can at least see a point or two etc that you would like to practise. How knows, it might fit your style and if it works for you and you feel good about it….try it. Take-aways are so very important to gaining confidence.

9. Meditate on the Piece

Meditation, the art of “thinking it through”…

Meditation, the art of “thinking it through”…

I have often practised this and it works very well. All you want to do is get in a quiet place and for a few minutes think the piece through.

Think about its valleys, its tender places, its fast flowing rapids, its tempo, its pauses, its joyful phrases and its strong lines.

Meditation has been a source of peace and solace for millions, and for a very long time. Even scientific studies have revealed that meditation increases the amount of the brain’s mystical grey matter. Meditation’ positive effects can alleviate most types of depression, anxiety, mood swings, and so on.

10. Have the Proper Perspective


At the end of the day, it’s just a performance. Can you remember that!!!!

Yes, you will prepare to do your utmost best. But, in the end if you make an error, it’s not the end of the world.

Music is about having fun, so embrace it!

By Duane Graves see Duane’s Piano Tuning and Technology.