You feel anxious when it is your turn to perform, in an exam or a recital. This is perfectly normal, but have you thought about the reasons why you are so nervous? And what can you do to ease the tension mentally and physically?
According to Barry Green and Timothy Gallwey, the authors of the popular book “The Inner Game of Music”, “The basic truth is that our performance of any task depends as much on the extent to which we interfere with our abilities as it does on those abilities themselves.” (p.23) An equation derived from this statement is:
with P referring to performance, p to potential, and i interference.
What they suggest here is that you can perform better if the interference is much reduced, to the greatest extent that your performance will finally equal to the potential you have. To give advice on the aspect of performance, the authors suggest that musicians should identify their self-interference, i.e. what makes us nervous during performance, such as doubting their ability, fearing loss of control, or being afraid of not practicing enough, etc., and the clues to indicate such interference. There are two different aspects of the symbols, one aspect is that responsible for physical problems, like sweaty hands, loss of breath, stiff bodily movement. The other aspect is for mental problems, like loss of concentration, feeling of distraction, and loss of memory. These problems that interfere your potential are usually caused by your Self 1, that tells you what you should or should not do, and that predicts your failure; whereas Self 2 is the self that expresses your potential and lets your true ability and musicality to express themselves in a relaxing, unthinking, yet aware state. Thus, if you can ignore the voice of Self 1, you can eliminate your own doubts and fears and then their physical and mental effects. Certainly, all of these need time to be practiced and thought thoroughly before they come into play. What the authors stress in the whole book is to feel easy and be self-confident in your own playing, e.g. to think of what you have done to prepare for your recital, to be just consciously aware of the process of your playing without critical judgement (Conscious Awareness), and to concentrate relaxingly (Relaxed Concentration). Any of you who are interested in such idea and the exercises behind it should read the book for better grasp of its philosophy.
The above opinion I have raised from this book seems not so relevant to the eleventh hour before one’s recital. Surely it is not. In my point of view, performers should be well prepared long before any performance or exam arises. And when you are in full preparation, you will be more confident to perform in front of people.
Then, what is the definition of “full preparation”?