Psych Outs & Music Performance Anxiety

Musicians who strive for successful careers enter an incredibly competitive arena in which a 10-15 minute audition can make a huge difference in their careers. Since conductors, directors, judges, and audition panels make their decisions by comparing you to other performers, it might seem natural for you to do so as well.

However, when you focus on other performers and their performances or you make negative comparisons about how another performer is better, more experienced, or more successful than you are, it can make you feel inferior and can cause you to psych yourself out.

Some musicians psych themselves out by comparing themselves or their performances to recordings of professional artists who can be much older and more experienced and often have the luxury of recording in a studio, playing or singing multiple takes until the ideal composite recording is achieved. Comparisons such as these can intimidate you and can cause you to doubt your abilities and skills.

Self-intimidation is one of the most difficult mental challenges to overcome and can lead to performance anxiety for musicians. You may be able to ignore what others say, but it is not easy to escape your own thoughts or doubts!

How does intimidation lead to performance anxiety? The following is what intimidation can look and sound like:

  • Your focus is on others: their technique, their high notes, their speed and agility.
  • You may say to yourself: “My voice is tiny in comparison to hers.” or “I can’t articulate that passage nearly as cleanly.” or “Listen to his intonation—spot on! I should just pack up and leave!”
  • At auditions while waiting to go on, you listen to competitors onstage and begin to have doubts about your own performance.
  • You are afraid of embarrassing yourself by making mistakes. These kind of thoughts usually start with, “What if…”
  • You feel that you don’t belong at an audition or competition because you are not good enough.

One way to start overcoming self-intimidation and your music performance anxiety is to focus on your own performance. If you are intimidated, you likely focus too much on other performers or competitors. If you are thinking too much about your competitors, work to shift your focus prior to performance to a pre-planned routine that will help you keep your thoughts on the things that will make you confident and your performance strong.

If you make comparisons to others, work to focus on your own strengths instead. Think about what makes you feel confident. Remind yourself of how diligently you practice, of your ability to perform well under pressure, or of other excellent aspects of your performing. You may want to recall what others have complimented you about in the past.

These are just a few of the strategies we can teach you about self-intimidation and music performance anxiety. For more about self-intimidation and other mental challenges performers experience, please post your comments below about your mental game of music challenges…

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