Performance Anxiety and Memorisation: Tricks to Help You Avoid Having Memory Slips Under Pressure on Stage

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Performance anxiety affects many people, especially when playing from memory. I've seen students with shaking hands, where the bow skitters across the strings; tears before going on stage; memory freezes; locked limbs. I had one student who was sweating so much in a lesson that her right hand kept sliding off the frog and up the bow stick - she lost control of her bow hold and her ability to do certain bow strokes or approach the piece in the way she wanted to.

First and foremost, performance is a mental game: it's about working through what is happening psychologically and finding the right outlook. A lot of people get nervous because they wait until when it really counts to perform a piece from memory for the first time, at a recital or in front of a jury. This might not just be bad planning: it could also be because of fear. When I was an undergraduate, I'd schedule a recital and then two to three months beforehand my stomach would seize up whenever I thought about it, wherever I was, and I'd get cold sweats. If the first time you perform something from memory is when it really matters then of course that will be even more terrifying.

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