Does this sound familiar to you? For weeks now you have practiced your piano piece, every day for hours, and have been able to play without any mistakes from the first note to the last note and feel well-prepared for your upcoming performance in front of people.
But the more the moment of you walking up the stage and sitting down at the piano approaches, the sweatier your hands get and you find yourself constantly drying them on your pants.
And in the moment you’re about to play, you feel your heart rate accelerating and your hands on the keys shaking.
And suddenly it seems like your brain forgot about all the hard work you put in for this moment and you feel uncertain about remembering the entire piece.
That’s when you start playing wrong notes, wrong chords because you simply cannot remember what note and what chord comes next. Maybe you just call it your stage fright and now you start wondering how to overcome stage fright as a pianist.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Many pianists have encountered, at least at some point in their career, some form of stage fright which nothing had to do with their technical skills or experience.
Sometimes it’s just the pressure that you feel overwhelmed with. But just because this is a common thing among musicians does not mean you can do anything against it.
Let’s have a look at what you can do to overcome stage fright to give your best possible performances every time you sit in front of the piano with peoples eager to hear your playing.
Step 1: Prepare at home
There is a rule that says touch every key right before you press it down.
This especially applies to beginners who are sometimes still struggling to hit the right keys.
Instead of skipping notes, make sure you touch each note before you press it down. This will force you to play slower so your fingers can move to the key before it’s time to play that key.
When you warm up for your performance (and when you’re practicing at home) try to implement this approach.
It will help you to more consciously play each note.
Step 2: Fingerings and Muscle Memory
You can also try to go over all the fingerings you wrote down on your sheet music and trying to really memorize those too. So in case you are panicking during your performance and not sure what note to play, knowing the finger might help to automatically play the right note.
This has to do with your muscle memory. Try to isolate those parts that you find particularly hard to play and repeat them over and over.
This helps your fingers to memorize their movements. This happens unconsciously in your brain.
So even if you forget the notes, your fingers will just keep playing as the muscle memory steps in and play the right notes without you even consciously moving your fingers to the right keys.
Step 3: Your posture
Try to sit with your spine straight, have your elbows next to your torso and adopt the powerful, confident pose.
This helps your body to lower cortisol levels which helps to reduce stress.
So if you train this at home and learn to sit like this naturally it can be very beneficial for you as your body will put you in a relaxed state and provide confidence on a biochemical level.
Step 4: Forget Perfection
Always remember: no one is perfect!
At some point, even the best pianists in the world, mess up and play some wrong notes.
But usually you don’t notice that, because they don’t let that ruin their performance and just keep playing and that is key (pun intended).
So don’t let one wrong or missed note destroy your confidence.
Step 5: Distraction
If something like this happens during a performance, you need to distract yourself and focus on something else.
You could, for instance, count the beats, or pay special attention only to one of your hands. By doing this, you force your brain to stop thinking about what happened and think about what you are currently doing.
This will help you calm your thoughts and focus on playing again.
You can also train at home how to move on after playing wrong notes.
So if you see yourself hitting the wrong note when you’re practicing, observe how you react and how your fingers react.
Do you keep playing?
Do your fingers want to keep playing because of their muscle memory?
Either way, teach yourself to keep playing when hitting wrong notes.
As you see, there are many ways on how to overcome stage fright as a pianist!