Grace notes: ….and relax!

Last Thursday (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a few times) I had my end of year exam. I’ve mentioned here that one of my big struggles this year has been with performance anxiety. I’ve been trying a few techniques to combat this and I really think they’ve worked! I managed to get through my exam without falling apart, forgetting my piece and letting every mistake get the better of me. Here is what helped me through.

1) Memorising. I knew my piece back to front, inside out and upside down. I was practicing from memory for a couple of months without using the music and so was used to not staring at the dots the whole time. This allowed me to be completely immersed in the piece and distance myself from the fact it was an exam (I also played with my eyes closed which really helped! Even though I may have looked a little silly…).

2) Visualisation. Every night before I went to sleep I ran my piece in my head. I imagined I was in my exam room and playing with my accompanist and tried to feel the ‘nerves’ of the performance. This is also a great technique to help you sleep… I definitely didn’t make it to the end of the piece every night!
I got this technique from a great YouTube channel called Clarinet Mentors, which have a few videos on how to manage performance anxiety which apply to all instruments, not just clarinets.

3) Listening. In the weeks leading up to my exam, I recorded myself playing the whole piece through every couple of days. This meant that I could listen back to it and hear for myself the good bits, and the bits I needed to work on. I could also listen to one from a few days before and hear the improvement, which is a great confidence boost!

Maybe if you’re struggling with nerves, or are stuck in a rut with learning your piece, these three techniques might help!

Also, apologies for being late on this post. I had a mini-holiday in Prague (we got back at 4am this morning), and that was the perfect post-exam treat! I’m totally relaxed now and ready to start up again with practice, lessons and learning my part for the college opera, ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream‘.

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