Posted: 12/10/2005 1:13:33 AM

From: Richmond Hill, Georgia

Joined: 9/18/2005

I played for some people today who were not members of my family. Basically everything fell apart at the seams, figuratively.

I normally sit when playing. In this instance I was standing.

I was so nervous I was wobbly on my feet, my heart raced, and I couldn't do anything right. It was awful. I have been playing now for two months. It sounded like me at half the time I've spent.

Any suggestions? Or will just regular exposure to my "victims" be the only remedy?

Posted: 12/10/2005 11:54:51 PM

From: Somewhere in space.

Joined: 12/5/2005

If you normally sit while playing, perform sitting down. I normally sit down and I find it hard to stand still while playing.

Also, yes, you need to spend more time with your "victims". Nervousness can make you mess up, too. (True for music, final exams, almost anything)
Posted: 12/11/2005 5:46:05 AM

From: Portland, OR, USA, Terra, Sol, Milkyway

Joined: 3/1/2005

Another suggestion. Try switching to another instrument that is less sensitive to the jitters when performing in public until you feel more confortable playing in public. Then switch back to the theremine when you think you have gotten over the jitters.
Posted: 12/12/2005 12:15:48 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

Tallwes's suggestion may work... but then again, it might not.

I've performed dozens and dozens of time over my life... but I've found that each new instrument means a new bout of nerves. This has even extended to different forms of the guitar... that is, even after dozens of solo appearances on classical guitar, I was a nervous wreck the first time I played electric in public.

Here are some helpful hints (free advice, and worth every penny!):

1) B-R-E-A-T-H-E deeply and slowly, through your nostrils (not through your mouth). This will help to calm your body, and to some degree your mind will follow.

2) Concentrate on the task at hand. Forget your audience; think about what you're playing... and not just the note you're playing now, but the note that's coming next, and the one after that. How far do your fingers/knuckles/hand/wrist/arm need to move, or not? How are you going to shape the volume as the phrase continues? The more you can fill your mind with the music and maintaining its trajectory, the less you'll care about anything else in the room.

3) If you haven't already, try practicing with your eyes closed. Even without the nerves issue, this is a good way to sharpen your awareness of what you're doing... and in a pinch, you can shut out the distraction of that audience, the better to concentrate on the musical task at hand. (And of course, to breathe... slowly... through your nostrils...)

4) Above all, don't dwell on your errors. They're going to happen; you just need to let go and move on. Don't let them cascade. Always think about what's coming next, rather than what happened before.

I hope you find one of more of these techniques useful!

Posted: 12/12/2005 12:25:21 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

P.S. Oops, almost forgot:

5) Try practicing in the presence of individual "victims" from outside your family, rather than a group of them. Invite people over one at a time for a demonstration. Don't frame it as a performance; you're just two friends, talking, having a good time, messing around a little with the theremin. Keep doing this until you've had everyone over at least once.

This ought to reduce the sense of pressure when you perform for your friends in plural: Everyone's already heard you, so this diminishes the novelty of performing for them. And in the worst-case scenario, even if you were to experience another round of nervousness-impaired playing, you could take comfort in the knowledge that they know your true level of skill, and that they'll discount what they just heard as the fluke that it is.

But again, with any luck (and with the help of one or more of the above), it won't come to that!
Posted: 12/12/2005 1:06:00 PM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

This is all good advice.

One thing I would add, though, is that it may actually be easier to play for a large audience than for a small one.

I have played music for groups of two or three people on up to audiences approaching ten thousand and I have found that the more people there are, the more the group dyanmics takes over and they become like any other audience.

You just have to win over a few of them and the rest will follow.

Also, keep in mind that the audience is on your side. They want you to be good and they want to be entertained.
Posted: 12/12/2005 7:34:01 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

A couple of tips from a book I read about juggling that seem to make sense.

If you can juggle nine balls in private, juggle seven in public. Never try to show off your best stuff.

What impresses people is how easy you make it look, not how difficult it actually is. Consequently often the easiest things get the most applause.

And from my own experience of public theremining - at this stage of my development I am assuming that what people are interested in is not my playing, it is the theremin. So I don't so much play it as demonstrate it. That way there are no expectations of quality so when (if) my demonstrating becomes more musical as I warm up (the theremin takes about fifteen minutes to warm up, I need at least that much!), it is an added bonus.

Oh, and put on a brave face! Honestly - your facial expression affects your emotional state as well as the other way around.

Posted: 12/13/2005 3:53:09 PM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

Gordon has a good point. Sometimes the easiest stuff gets the most applause.

A case in point:

I once had a performance in front of a pretty good-sized audience at a benefit concert.

I was singing and accompanying myself on guitar and I was after some bands so I thought I should add a little somethgin here and there so I worked up a couple of tunes where I could play kazoo during what would be a lead break. When I rehearsed it I would just spit out the Kazoo and start singing again when it is time for the next verse of the song.

So here I am playing guitar and doing a little kazoo bit and they're digging it OK. Then it's time to sing again and I spit the kazoo out, only this time, instead of letting it hit the stage, I manage to catch in my right hand without missing a beat in between strums on the guitar.

That was the biggest applause-getter of my set. Not my great singing or mya fantastic guitar playing nor even my incredibly deep, heartfelt lyrics.

They clapped and cheered when I caught the freakin' kazoo!

Oh well, at least they clapped.

Posted: 12/13/2005 8:08:24 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Gordon shared the quote:

"If you can juggle nine balls in private, juggle seven in public."

Great quote -- profound!
Posted: 12/15/2005 12:32:23 AM

From: Morrisville, PA

Joined: 10/19/2005


When anyone appears in front of people, whether playing a theremin, performing a play, or even giving a quarterly company sales report, it's normal to be nervous.

Others above have provided you with sound advice.

There is another aspect to the issue of nerves and playing well that has more to do with your approach to the instrument every time you practice. Of course, playing the right notes, practicing your technique, training your ear -- all of these pretty much go without saying. But none of them deal with a very real barrier that goes to the heart of the desire for perfection. This desire, along with nervousness, are two emotional states that feed off one another.

The very notion of playing flawlessly is self-defeating. However, the goal of playing FREELY, without effort, is attainable. This does not mean flubbing your way through things, nor does it preclude technique, training your ear, learning the music, or anything else. Rather, it is an additive approach that produces a unique state of mind that comes with conscious practice that can then be sustained. Some call this being "in the zone." It's great to be there, but what are the directions?

I work with many people across a number of disciplines; from actors to corporate executives who must speak in front of people, to other musicians. The key, ( even if only for a few minutes a day at first ) is to STOP TRYING and STOP THINKING ABOUT TRYING. What does this mean? It means supplanting the frustration of striving, or making mistakes with a very real commitment to freeing yourself enough to get out of your own way. How to do this? I work with a lot of techniques, depending upon the situation and the person I'm with, but a very good place to begin is the following:

ONE: Stand in front of your theremin, raise your arm and let it make a sound. Lower your arm. Do this ten times. It's easy right?.. .since all you are doing is raising your arm, you're utterly unconcerned with what to play. All that is required is that you make a noise. Insignificant as this sounds, when you are done, you will have had a very basic experience of pure effortlessness.

TWO: This technique requires that you be honest with yourself. Stand about ten feet from your theremin. Be patient and wait. Wait until you just feel RIGHT. Then walk up to the instrument and play -- NOT A SONG, NOT ANYTHING YOU KNOW. IMPROVISE MUSIC, even if it's just basic notes, but do not formalize anything into a scale. Play. BUT-- the second you find yourself THINKING about what comes next, or how you sound, STOP. It requires honesty to recognize and admit that you're trying, anticipating what to do next, planning, listening and judging. IT's crucial that you STOP when this happens. Move away again. Repeat this process at least a few times. You are seeking to familiarize yourself only with how it feels to play MINUS all the clutter, mindchatter, and preoccupation with perfection. It's easy to underestimate the value of doing this, UNTIL you've done it and actually had the genuine feeling of freely playing without TRYING.

Within the past month, I've used this technique ( or slight variations on it) with three people who've recently taken up the theremin. One of them has actually had a theremin for years and never been able to hold a melody. This seemed somewhat hard to believe, so I asked her to play Mary Had A Little Lamb... her assessment was right. She was so concerend with fingering and not committing to playing a note unless it was the right one, that she'd rendered herself incapable. After fifteen minutes of using this method, for the first time, she played a simple, straightforward melody of her own choosing. It just came out of her. Was it absolutely pitch perfect? Not really, but that didn't matter. She'd succeeded in getting out of her own way, she'd experienced the elation of playing freely FIRST, and thus was then able approach an actual song with far les

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