How to Handle Nervousness Before a Recital

Here's one technique you can use to calm those pre-recital jitters. It's called visualization and is something athletes and performers do before the event.

You imagine the event in great detail: what you see and hear, what happens. The event is done to perfection in this visualization. Here's an example of how to do it:

You stepping on stage. The floor is a warm oak, and the sides of the stage are, too. The hall has deep burgundy carpeting, and the chairs are soft and upholstered in burgundy, too. There's a light shining on the piano. It's just the right brightness. The piano is shiny and waiting for you.

You are calm. You are happy to be there and happy to be sharing your music with everyone. It is a great piece, and you love to play it.

You stride across the stage, confident that everyone will love the piece as much as you do.

You sit down on the bench and adjust it. Ah! Just right. You find the correct setting right away. Everything's off to a great start.

You raise your hands and place them on the keyboard.

You start the piece in your head, hearing the first several measures. Yes, that's the perfect speed!

Then you set your hands to the notes and begin to play. The notes float off your fingers. The tempo is just what you wanted it to be, and you are controlling the dynamics and pedaling, too. You are sure you are communicating your feelings about this piece to the listeners.

[here you imagine specifics about your piece]

You give a wonderful performance. You are so happy to be giving something to others that is uniquely yours to give. You finish your piece and are pleased with what you've played and know that you've given the listeners something quite wonderful!

After your applause, you leave the stage, your steps buoyant. You are well content with what you just accomplished.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When you do this visualization, personalize it. What are you wearing? What color is it? What is the temperature in the hall? Is it a cozy hall, or is it large and magnificent? What color is the piano? Where is it on stage? Is the case so glossy you can see your reflection in it, or does it have a rich satin finish? How many steps are there from the door to the piano bench? And so on.

The most important part, however, is the piece. As you visualize yourself sitting at the instrument, "play" through the entire piece, hearing the dynamics, phrase shaping, articulation, and all the details you want to include.

The emphasis is on the positive. You are imagining a wonderful performance, and you will give one if you will trust yourself!

Note: Jitters are actually a good thing! They show that your body is "gearing up" for its performance so you'll be ready to play!

One more thought: Anyone who says she is not nervous before a recital is either dead or lying!

copyright 2002, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me for reprint permission.


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