What happens when we perform to an audience?
When we’re learning to play an instrument, we can be taken by surprise by what happens when we perform in front of others. If you’re not used to performing, how can you learn to overcome the nervous reaction to having people watch you when you’re playing?
Tonight the class was moved into the main auditorium at St Bride’s. We had loads of space, so I thought we could have some fun with it. I thought it would be useful to spend the looking at what happens when we perform, and to investigate what we can do to start to quell the nerves.
Overcoming nerves when playing fiddle in front of an audience
We played through our performance set to warm up, and 3 of us tried out a simple harmony for the Sleeping Tune. We decided that when we play the set at the Big Seat by the Fire, we’ll play the Sleeping Tune twice – once with the harmony and once without.
After this we split into 2 groups. Each group got up and performed the set for the other group. Then the ‘audience’ gave some feedback, and we spent a bit of time talking about how it felt to play together in front of the rest of the group.
There were a lot if interesting things to learn from doing this. Firstly, the sky didn’t fall in! Both groups managed really well with being put into a position of performing in a group that was effectively paying together for the first time. There were feet tapping in the audience, and some good feedback about the interactions between group members when they were playing. People in the groups found it hard to hear everyone, so we talked a bit about how we might stand when we play at the Big Seat, so this isn’t too much of a problem.
After the break we tried playing again, with everyone together. It was much less exposed that way. The group also tried standing in 2 rows, rather than a semi circle, which made it easier to hear each other. When the group came to the repeat of Brenda Stubbert’s Reel, and the rhythm section came in with the accompaniment, the set was swinging along – it was clear that everyone in the class really relaxed into playing at that point, and it had a big impact on the sound we made.
There are some interesting articles online about dealing with stage fright. Here’s a link to one about mastering performance anxiety and another called ‘What every musician should know about stage fright‘
I’ve posted a copy of the Sleeping Tune harmony on the website music page.