Nerves and right hand shake...

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
tonyd59

Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by tonyd59 » Wed Jun 08, 2011 1:18 pm

I have also suffered this exact same thing,i have been playing 30 years,done sessions,played on major hits,recorded extensively,definetely more of a studio bod and tryed to play a couple of open mike acoustic nights and it was a nightmare!! i mention this as my age,experience,technique etc, counted for nothing! the anxiety got the better of me on those occasions. It is still an ongoing battle and i may check out the book you mentioned.

pollepoulsen

Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by pollepoulsen » Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:45 am

This is a huge subject, and as some people have already said, there are books on the subject. That someone spent the time and effort that goes into writing a book should prove at least, to those who doubt the validity of performance anxiety as a genuine problem, that there are people to whom this issue is very real.

I have experienced performance anxiety, but since I have regularly performed since the age of 8, I have learned to use the nervous energy constructively, and channel it into my performance. Experience can't be bought, or obtained overnight, so I will try to give a few of the tips, that have helped friends of mine, and have also become important parts of my own thinking when it comes to performing.

The audience didn't come to count your mistakes, but to share the music with you.

A concert is a dialogue between performer and audience. If you make mistakes, they are more than willing to fill in the gaps, as long as they find what you have to say interesting.

If you like your rendtion of a piece, there is a good chance that others will as well. If you think you suck; they surely will. (In other words, prepare your pieces well enough, that you would want to hear yourself play them!

And lastly, the thing my teacher told me, that has had the biggest impact on my feeling secure when performing: "I would much rather listen to you, playing your heart out and making mistakes here and there, than listening to [specific name of performer whom we both knew] playing technically perfect, but his playing clearly showing, that he has never been in love or dumped by a girl"

Don't know if any of this helps; but it has helped strengthen my own security in performance.

Thomas

GuitarDay

Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by GuitarDay » Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:05 pm

Firstly I think this phenomenon is absolutely normal. Just today, one of my students told me about his "shakes" during a performance last night.

My advice on this matter would be to play as much as possible before audiences. The more routine performing is, the less susceptible you will be to "the shakes".

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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Sun Jul 31, 2011 1:44 am

At a recent Classical Guitar Immersion one of my students mentioned that he had found the hand shakes come from the brain addressing the fight or flight syndrome. When the brain senses a threat it sends adrenaline into the system. The larger muscle groups begin to fire in rapid succession, in particular your biceps. That means that the flexors and extensor muscles of the bicep are firing one after the other, keeping them ready to push something away from us or pull something towards us. This 'ready' state also causes the hand to shake.

I then remembered my cure....When I first started playing concerts I had this problem. I decided to try to slow down a little and become a bit more accurate with my nail placement. In addition to slowing down a little I pushed the string harder (firming my planting of the nail and flesh on the string), which also created a little more volume. This would, quite possibly, cause the flexors to be exerted at a higher rate than the extensors. I'm not sure. I just remembered that not only did this stop my hand from shaking but my anxiety level went down noticibly.

Hope this hasn't already been covered - just saw the thread.... signed johnny-come-lately.. :oops:

Scott
Classical Guitarist Scott Kritzer

Jose Gonzales

Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Jose Gonzales » Wed Aug 03, 2011 10:05 pm

Four things have worked for me in the past:

1. Propranolol (a Beta-blocker): I used this for headache prevention in the past, but it is also used to relieve performance anxiety and is prescribed as such. I had some really good performances when I used to take this medication, but I'm not on it anymore. Fortunately, there are other things that reliably work for me.
2. Playing very loudly and "letting go" prior to a performance. I find that pieces that require a lot of intense strumming, but not necessarily a high demand for pima dexterity, work the best.
3. Playing habitually in front of people who make me nervous. For me, these people are usually musicians who are out of my league (way better). This last one has probably helped me the most in the long run.
4. Take time to breathe before performing. 3 or 4 deep breaths immediately prior to your first note can work wonders. Best short run technique IMO.

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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:43 pm

Jose,

I'm not a big fan of beta-blockers. I dabbled in these for a while on a very small dose. I found (and others who admitted to have taken them), memory to be an issue. I was relaxed, maybe too relaxed and a little 'numb' and a bit forgetful. It was a funny trade-off; be relaxed but manifest a performer's top fear: forgetting the music.

I think performance anxiety (nerves) and the physical manifestation of such can be dealt with two ways. Performance anxiety (and your good suggestions of breathing, letting go), etc. are best done in practice. Doing them just before a performance won't be as effective as practicing these concepts into a piece, (if that is what you're suggesting). I teach a Performance Anxiety Rehab Workshop and we've come up with a fun pneumonic: B.L.I.S.S. which stands for Breath, Listen/Let Go, Integrate*, Slow, SLOW.

Even with all those skills working for a player the negative affects associated with nerves, (shaking hands especially), can just show up. My students are well trained to kick into the BLISS mode to alleviate them. One of my CGI students last year finished the first set of the student recital with the Allegro from La Catedral. After the concert he told me that despite playing well he felt out of control, that his left hand began to shake, which was odd for him. Now he wasn't originally planning on playing this work but it fit so well for the program that I persuaded him to, even though it wasn't quite up to tempo when he arrived. (He'd been doing what I suggested; SLOW PRACTICE.) So he brought it up to tempo and did a fantastic job. In fact, certain passages he'd never played better. I then asked him when he had ever seen a player of any caliber that piece as his or her first piece!

But back to his shaking hand. He said he just started to breath, let go, listen, slow the piece a bit and things went better than he felt! I reminded him that had he not practiced these techniques consistently they would not be so readily at his disposal and his performance could have easily gone the other way. (You know, the one we all dread.)

Regarding breathing; I learned that when we take a deep breath a nerve that runs from the base of the brain to the stomach stimulates the outer wall of the stomach which contains seratonin. The seratonim then travels back up to the brain, disengages the fight or flight orders resulting in a slowing of the heart beat and ultimately the breadth.

I submit that when we are in this relaxed state that we better access the good learning we've embedded in our myelin (the memory around the nerves), and the more we can recall. In David Brooks' book The Social Animal the author states that:
When a beginner learns a task, there is a vast sprawl of brain activity. When an expert does it unconsciously, there is just a little pulse. The expert is performing better by thinking less. When she's at the top of her game the automatic centers of her brain are controlling her movements
He also states that the conscious part of the brain is capable of processing about 40 bits of information a minute. The sub (or 'adaptive') part of the brain about 200,000 per minute. Think of them as processors. I ask students, in crunch time, which processor do you want working for you. When we realize this we come to understand the importance of focus in practice.

I teach students to first train or practice (input) and then work on relying on that training in performance (output). If the training is good and the performance skills are learned the player has the ability to tap into that bigger processor and the output can closely match the input. Or as Tim Galloway states in The Inner Game of Music, "Performance = potential - interference".

So when I catch my mind wandering in practice I bring it back to the directive at hand, knowing that every minute I'm practicing I'm laying the foundation for performance.

*The Integration refers to performance practice directives taught in the workshop. But those unfamiliar with my workshops can certainly do the others with good results.

Seems there might be interest in another PAR workshop for this fall. Originally I teach them in the spring. If you want to keep posted just go to my website and SUBSCRIBE.
Classical Guitarist Scott Kritzer

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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:20 am

GuitarDay stated:
My advice on this matter would be to play as much as possible before audiences. The more routine performing is, the less susceptible you will be to "the shakes".
I respectfully have to disagree with this. For decades I performed with the affects of performance anxiety. I had just come of my Carnegie Recital Hall and Wigmore Hall debuts (in one week) and was performing for about 120 very kind people in Astoria, Oregon. You'd think after decades of performing and having just played two nerve racking recitals that I would be fine. Nope, the same nerves, same affects.

I'm not saying your that advice wouldn't be true for others, just not for me. It was at that recital that I decided I was no longer going to feel like getting into a fetal position before performances, that I was going to figure this thing out or quit. Fortunately I found a route....
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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by lagartija » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:35 pm

I find your post very interesting, Scott. I recently had my second ever "recital" (playing two pieces for the music school recital--mostly kids and their parents) and two thirds of the way through my first piece, my right hand began to shake which made it quite difficult to play the arpeggio of the second piece, Brouwer Estudio Sencillo VI.
I took a deep (diaphragmatic) breath, listened and tried to get into the music and I finally did manage to get the arpeggio going (and not just hitting random strings with random fingers :shock: ) by the second chord change. So I guess I've discovered some of the helpful things on my own.
Scott_Kritzer wrote:*The Integration refers to performance practice directives taught in the workshop. But those unfamiliar with my workshops can certainly do the others with good results.
I am across the country from you and unfortunately, unlikely to make it to your workshop.... could you explain what is being "integrated" and what you mean by performance practice directives?
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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:32 pm

Lagartija,

BRAVO! I suffered from PA (Performance Anxiety) for so many years so I have nothing but compassion for those who perform, amateur or professional. I never grow tired of hearing of others' successes.

I would suggest working on this breathing technique specifically on a piece which you've well prepared. And, why not give the second thought a try Listen. And when I say to 'listen' I mean without judgement, simply observe. I would really like everyone reading this post to understand something very, very important. When we are doing this corrrectly our listening mechanism becomes broken. This is the single most important factor - the one that kept me from understanding my occasional successes, ultimately costing me years of performance anxiety. Let me explain....

In my PAR Workshops I can get a player performing in front of the class into the 'observational' (non-critical, letting go, breathing, just observing, not trying), mode, no problem. But there is a HUGE difference between what the player hears and what the audience hears. In almost every case it sounds like the player has jumped months if not YEARS in playing ability, yet, oddly, the player's experience goes like this; "Well, it felt easier but other than that I might not sure I noticed anything else". It takes all the members in the class to convince the player of how much better they sounded. This, as they say, 'blew my mind'. The player's monitoring system, when in the observational mode, is broken!

Why? Well, my theory is that when the player is observing, not judging they are not aware of self and thus can't become self-conscious, thus, critical. Did you know that every time you do something embarrassing in public that your brain tracks all those like experiences from the past, all the emotion, all the fear? One of the first steps you can practice is when you become self-conscious simply observe something around you; that women's red scarf, the smell of the food coming from the restaurant kitchen, etc.

One time I dropped a coffee mug in a coffee shop. BAM! It hit the ground with an explosion. The place went silent, I could feel my heart pound, my ears get hot, and then, as instructed in a book I was reading at the time, I simply found something to observe. I looked down at the floor and thought that the shape of the coffee on the floor looked like California and I broke that self conscious feeling as well as all the physical symptoms. In what took only seconds I then reacted cooly and looked up at the barista and asked for a damp cloth. The coffee house went back to their conversations and I felt as cool as the other side of the pillow!

I recently ran across a cassette tape of my teacher Michael Lorimer working with me back in the 70's. The difference between me trying to play and me simply observing was remarkable but at the time I couldn't hear it. I know can remember specific moments like these peppred throughout my career but it's only been within the past decade that I've understood. It brought tears to my eyes thinking of all those years that I didn't, and worse yet, all those years I wasn't able to help others understand.

So Lagartija, and all those out there trying to cover this difficult terrain, find a way to monitor this; either tape record yourself or play for a friend. (We here in Portland have what one of my students labelled PAR Pods where people get together every few months, understanding some or all of these principles, and perform for each other, clearly stating, before the performance, what their objectives have been and how successful (by percentage) they feel they were in practice in attaining those objectives. (Objectives could be to do BLISS or any of the integration (I) from the PAR class that they've done. Then everyone can give their feedback.

So play one time really trying to not make any mistakes and then play again either letting go, breathing, whatever and compare the two. Now, initially there may be a few more mistakes, or not. Those little mistakes (not driven by trying too hard) will wipe away like leaves blown by a strong wind!

Thanks for the feedback - you made my day!

Scott
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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:45 pm

There's a bit of discussion going on at my post on this subject http://scottkritzer.com/2011/08/03/thou ... /#comments. I don't know if I'm suppose to link to another (self serving site) I'm hoping the moderator will jump in if I've broken protocol. In fairness I've linked DelCamp and this post in my blog. Apologies for my lack of awareness here.... :oops:
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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by pogmoor » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:51 pm

Scott_Kritzer wrote: I learned that when we take a deep breath a nerve that runs from the base of the brain to the stomach stimulates the outer wall of the stomach which contains seratonin. The seratonim then travels back up to the brain, disengages the fight or flight orders resulting in a slowing of the heart beat and ultimately the breadth.

I submit that when we are in this relaxed state that we better access the good learning we've embedded in our myelin (the memory around the nerves), and the more we can recall.....

He also states that the conscious part of the brain is capable of processing about 40 bits of information a minute. The sub (or 'adaptive') part of the brain about 200,000 per minute.
Your ideas on breathing seem very sound, Scott, but your explanation of the bodily mechanisms involved is misleading, in that some of the information is incorrect and some is half true. I think the credibility of your ideas would be much improved if you studied the physiology of arousal more carefully.
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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Thu Aug 04, 2011 5:18 pm

Pogmor stated:
I think the credibility of your ideas would be much improved if you studied the physiology of arousal more carefully.
I have been working with doctors on the biomechanics of the hands and this seems pretty basic, (once one gets beyond the terminology) but I have to admit when it comes to the brain it seems the research is less 'approchable' for a person of my limited understanding. And I certainly don't want to mislead anyone. But that doesn't mean I'm not excited about learning on the subject or that I haven't found some success.

But frankly, when it comes to how the brain works with the nervous system I'm a bit in the dark. I feel I have made some headway with the book The Talent Code but there are other books I'm reading where I feel the research is a bit questionable.

I would greatly appreciate any corrections or clarifications that you can make!

Thanks in advance.

Scott
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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by lagartija » Thu Aug 04, 2011 5:45 pm

When I said that I "listened" to what I was playing to get back my composure, I meant that I focused --as I do in my practice room-- to the sound coming from my guitar and its quality (and tried to ignore the audience's attentiveness). I record myself on a regular basis to hear what my playing sounds like from the other side of the guitar. It also shows me how much I have progressed on a particular piece. The Brouwer VI study that I played is one that was very well prepared and one that I thought I could play under any circumstances. However, the right hand shaking was something that I hadn't practiced in my practice room! :lol: I had played it cold under all sorts of non optimum conditions, but not with physical shaking.
My aim at that moment when I took the deep breath and listened, was to put myself back into practice room mode where some of my best performances have occurred!

As for observing, I don't agree with the listening mechanism being "broken" when you are in observation mode. I will only speak for myself.... when I play, I always listen to what I am playing and the quality of the sound and I do NOT have the running commentary that people often say they have in their head about "how" they sound (as in "I really suck, why can't I hit that note without buzzing, etc."). My listening leads to automatic correction of any problem I hear with tone, volume, dynamics or whatever I am focused on improving during that segment of my practice, but does not bring "judgment" into the picture if you mean correlating the sound I am hearing with my worthiness as a musician or taking myself to task for mistakes or failure to achieve the goal. Maybe it is a scientific background or the type of analysis I learned in the practice of martial arts, but for me, it is very analytical in nature; if I hear the sound and it wasn't quite what I wanted, I fix it (too naily? change attack angle. too soft? push down on string more. too buzzy? feel for proper position on frets, etc.). Even phrasing and other interpretive aspects comes into this analysis. My goal in performance is to be able to play as well as I do in my practice room and perform as I have practiced.

As for my anxiety, I know I can get up and speak in front of a large crowd without nervousness. But I have been speaking for 56 or so years and only playing guitar for two! So my confidence in my playing is not nearly as well developed as in my speaking abilities. I know that will come with time and practice.
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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Thu Aug 04, 2011 5:58 pm

All of this sounds great! :bravo:
My goal in performance is to be able to play as well as I do in my practice room and perform as I have practiced.
That's it, right there.

Glad to hear all of this.
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Re: Nerves and right hand shake...

Post by Kenbobpdx » Thu Aug 04, 2011 6:18 pm

I am finding this thread very useful. I attended the Portland Guitar Society meeting this past Monday, had a great time, and heard some wonderful guitar playing. I did not take my guitar but was encouraged by Jeff Elliot and Cyndy Burton to bring it and play at the next meeting. I have to say the very thought of doing this has thrown me off kilter.

I always found solo recitals to be very stressful. This was part of why I stayed out of the classical guitar scene for many years. Now the thought of getting on stage and playing one or two pieces before a very supportive audience feels daunting to say the least and I have been playing the guitar for 40 years albeit mostly in the privacy of my own home or on the front porch. Scott's suggestions are very good ones and the hardest part is that I know all of those techniques. The interesting thing is that I have no issues speaking professionally in front of any size group. I've testified in front of legislative committees, done press conferences with a congressman, spoken to professional groups and student groups, and I have had few issues with anxiety. Heck, I've even gone into a few of them totally unprepared and did fine. But play the guitar? Yikes!

Scott, I really should give you a call as we are both in Portland. I like the idea of a PAR Pod where folks can get together and perform for each other understanding that the underlying purpose is to address PA. And to hear that you suffered from PA amazes me because I have seen you perform over the years and you always seemed so calm and in control of your playing. I could also use some one on one teaching time to tackle some of the pieces I am drawn to.

While playing for the cat and dog late at night brings a certain amount of satisfaction I believe performing for other people elevates our playing. But PA strikes fear into what should be a joyous thing. One thing I am trying to do is to record myself as Scott suggests. I got a digital recorder a few weeks ago but haven't been faithful about using it yet. With it I am considering posting some of my playing here as a way of validating my playing but the difference between recording and performing live is one of takes. Recording allows multiple do overs while performing is one and done. I have to say this topic is a big, complicated mess!
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