Trembling Hands

Posted In: Performing

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    susan-ash on #62624

    I’ve only played in public about two dozen times. The last time was a small recital and I played one song. I KNEW the song, and had played it a number of times in public. I was not particularly nervous about the recital, and in fact due to a lot of public speaking feel comfortable on a stage in front of people.
    When I began to play, my hands started to tremble uncontrollably and made it very, very difficult to play, in fact although I made it to the end there were many wrong notes.
    This has happened once before and that time I was video taped. That time as with this time the trembling that I interpreted as extreme, wasn’t noticeable to anyone watching.
    I wonder if this is just inexperience that will go away with time? Why is it I’m not feeling nervous, but my hands go off on their own with wild internal shaking?
    Any ideas will be helpful.

    Sid Humphreys on #62625

    It could still be nervousness. Especially if you don’t feel confident enough with the piece you are playing. This is discussed in Dr. Carrol McLaughlin’s book, “Power Performance.” This book helped me out a lot with the shaking and taught me how to practice more effectively to boot. Of course I still take half a beta blocker from time to time, but thats only because I don’t implement what this book has suggested. Like you, I can sing, dance and speak in public without a worry but put me on the harp and nerves will kick. Hope this helps you too! Think you can find a copy of this on Amazon as well as Lyon and Healy web sites.

    andee-craig on #62626

    It could just be excess adrenaline. Maybe you’re confident and not nervous about playing the piece, but maybe you’re just really excited?

    susan-ash on #62627

    Sid..thank you for the reply. Really good to hear that someone else is confident about some types of public appearances, but can get nerves about other types. Somehow I was lumping it all together. And the book will be helpful, glad you suggested it.

    Andee…I think you make an interesting distinction between being nervous and excited. I’m sure it’s a fine line, but you have me thinking about it a little differently, because it does feel like adrenaline.

    katie-buckley on #62628

    Susan…I think it happens to everyone. The key is learning how to control these “symptoms.” For me, I had the shaking, and sometimes I still do. Oddly, it crops up at really random times. I found not panicking about it is the main thing. If you start thinking “oh no, I’m shaking” then you lose your concentration. When I was first experiencing this, before a concert, I played for as many people as I could. I invited them to the house or in to my practice room. I had them sit extremely close to me, move their feet too much, basically, any situation you think you can get in. Also, its one thing to know how to play a piece from start to finish. Its also really important to be able to start a piece anywhere. In the middle of measures, in the middle of difficult passages, in the middle of easy passages. Literally, everywhere. All these things and simply performing more helped me get over the shaking. Its actually more normal than you think 🙂

    sherry-lenox on #62629

    Adrenaline rush is what is controled by using a small dose of a beta blocker before performing.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #62630

    Try supporting your fingers with the ones that are not playing; for example, if you are playing with your thumb and second finger, move the third, fourth and fifth finger beside the second finger to form a “paddle” or “mitten”. You would be surprised how that helps quell the shakes. Also, when you feel that adrenalin, take a deep breath. Breathing really helps get you through tough passages, so keep breathing. A lot of people unconsciously lock their jaw and hold their breath, which starves the muscles of oxygen. Practise in front of a mirror to watch that your jaw is relaxed, your shoulders are down, and try smiling as you play.

    susan-ash on #62631

    Thank you Elizabeth. I do hold my breath when I play and so now understand that may be contributing to this problem.

    katie-buckley on #62632

    Yes! Breathing! Its just as important for us as it is for wind instrument players 🙂

    mia-strayer on #62633

    Yes breathing is very important. My harp teachers teaching me that. Do you have mild cerebral palsy? That is what I have. And that is why my hands are always trembling.
    The Mueller is a good idea but I don’t actually own one so I will use my iPad for that.
    If you have anymore ideas please send them my way.

    patricia-jaeger on #62634

    Susan, playing from memory cured anxiety I used to feel when my eyes had to travel from page to strings. That was too stressful in my case. As long as I knew what intervals the fingers needed on the string, and practiced quite a bit on the leaps or other difficult places in the composition, my confidence grew. Then practicing from very slow and loud, to quickly and softer, gradually increasing the metronome speed, I was eventually in better control of what the piece required. Then before a performance, the state of mind you are in ought to be that ‘;there may be some mistakes after all, but that is all right.’ You are not alone; let your spiritual sense give you peace.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #62635

    Have you read “The Inner Game of Music” by Barry Green? There are some great books and articles about stage fright. Also, it makes a big difference if you break down your practising into VERY small chunks and repeat them at least ten times slowly each practice session, until the circuits start firing more smoothly. Be able to start at any one of these chunks. Do several “practise performances” before you have to do the real one. This can be for an audience of teddy bears, but it will stimulate the adrenalin, and help you learn how to cope with it.

    mia-strayer on #62636

    I play by memory! That is because I cannot see! And that is not the reason why my hands are trembling. It is because of mild cerebral palsy.
    Me and my harp teacher do a lot of things by ear which really helps a lot.

    susan-ash on #62637

    I sincerely appreciate all the responses to my question. In addition to excellent suggestions, it reduces my stress to know that I am not alone.

    eliza-morrison on #62638

    You are definitely not alone! This is a very common — nearly universal — problem.

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