Stagefright

Stagefright

Anyone have any suggestions for tackling stagefright and building confidence playing for an audience? I have been playing fiddle for about 20 years. Many times I put it down for months when discouraged, but in the last 3-4 years I’ve played regularly. In other words, I don’t have 20 years worth of skill. Though people tell me I play well, I’m clearly one of those players who is very hard on myself and likely plays a little better than I think I do. I go to regular sessions and in the last year have been playing solo or with small groups for informal gigs like parties, dances and local community events. I really enjoy playing out and want to do so on a regular basis. The problem is I get scared to death when I have to play in front of an audience or on a stage. I make myself do it because I’ll never overcome it if I don’t but the fear can inhibit my playing and makes my face turn bright red (so now everyone else knows I’m nervous too. Yuck) I would love any suggestions or advice

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Your fiddle career sounds like mine on the flute - I’ve playing long enough, but pretty off and on, not 20 years worth.

I don’t have much problem playing before an audience though. The toughest thing I ever did was playing solo recently at a funeral. But that was more fighting back the tears, and I just about succeded, so people congratulated me after, etc.

Tell you what I did before I gave a research talk to my department recently - this will only apply if you’re reasonably physically fit. I was pooing myself for days beforehand. So one hour before I was due "on" I went and did a 5 mile run. Cleared out all the adrenaline stress molecules and I felt very clear thinking and calm. The talk went really well.

Don’t know if it applies to fiddling but that worked for me.

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Well, there’s always that gambit of visualizing the audience in their underwear and thus making them less intimidating. But I keep getting it wrong: I either picture them in _my_ underwear, or me in _their_ underwear…Oh all right, that was silly.

I don’t have any great all-purpose solutions, but maybe just a few thoughts. I try to remember that, with few exceptions, a performance is not a confrontational or adversarial situation — the audience _wants_ to hear me play, and while that doesn’t entitle me to be arrogant, nor does it mean I should be apologetic.
If you’re stage-shy, it can be easy to avoid looking at the audience and instead focus like a laser on your instrument. I think that can only worsen the situation, because you send out signals that you’re uncomfortable. Try and look out at least every once in a while — you don’t have to catch someone’s eye, but maybe just gaze for a few seconds at an indeterminate spot so it appears you’re relating to the audience.
A general, if obvious, bit of advice is be careful about speed. If enthusiasm can make you play too fast, so can nervousness, and chances are you’ll really make a muck of things. Take things a bit slower than in practice. Just because you _can_ drive 65 MPH on the highway doesn’t always mean you should.

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I have a tendency to learn or remember a fetchingly pretty new tune that nobody knows, and play it on the dear old mandolin, and when I start to play everyone goes quiet. And suddenly there is a little devil on my shoulder saying "They’re all listening to you! - you can’t do this! - you’re going red! - you played a bum note! - they’ve all gone quiet! - you can’t do this!" and then suddenly its finished and sometimes people applaud, and sometimes they say it sounded "nice", and sometimes they ask what it’s called, and the sun shines again and everyone’s happy and no-one has been injured.

So why do we do this?

I too have been playing at sessions for about 20 years, perhaps its our age?

I’m in no condition to run 5 miles at present, Danny, but I remember what its like and I agree with your suggestion. By the way, now you’ve been around as Lord of the Flies for a good while, may we call you Bluebottle?

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You should try taking some "Rescue Remedy". I would never dream of playing on stage or putting myself out there but had to make a speech at a wedding once and didn’t think I would be able to do it but with some Rescue Remedy on board I felt fine and even enjoyed it! However I find now that I’m getting older I don’t really care anymore when asked to play something at a session and will do my party piece and if people like it well and good, if they don’t, tough!

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Winterhawk (great name!), like many good players you can be a bit of a perfectionist at times, and concentrating on playing perfectly can freeze you up.

It’s worth remembering, though, that on the majority of occasions the non-playing audience won’t notice your little slips, and if they do, they’ll consider it all part of the fun (a very important word in this context, but funerals and the like are obviously excluded). The musicians present, if they hear a mistake, are generally forgiving (or should be!) - "been there, done it myself, got the t-shirt" etc.

A very useful approach is not to focus exclusively on your technique but to think of entertaining the audience with your music as individuals and friends. You have no problem with playing in a session with your friends and leading off with tunes on occasions, do you? Think of the audience out there as your friends in an extended session who don’t happen to have brought their instruments with them on this occasion.

Frequent eye contact with the audience (or pretended eye contact - you can’t always see individuals) is very important and is one of the secrets of successful public performers, whether musicians, speakers, or what have you.

Other tips, stand (or sit) up straight and tall, breathe deep and easy before you start, and smile occasionally, or look as if you’re about to smile, at the audience.

Another very important aspect is tone projection. A hall is usually many times larger than your average pub room, and the volume level appropriate to that probably won’t carry properly in a hall (assuming you don’t have a mic), and this of itself can upset the inexperienced performer. So you’ve got to play that much louder, which is sometimes disconcerting and off-putting to the fiddler with the instrument blasting away under the left ear with all the squeaks and bow noises you get when you’re playing at volume. These squeaks and bow noises don’t carry more than a few feet and don’t get as far as the audience. I’d suggest practicing tone projection in a large hall so that you get used to the experience. Get a couple of friends in with you to listen and give useful critical advice.

Trevor

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WinterHawk, a few rather random points.
One is to always remember that the average audience doesn’t a)know the difference between a reel and a jig, b) doesn’t know that that long black instrument is a flute (It’s black so it must be a clarinet, right?), c) Probably thinks that your perfectly executed cran is some sort of bum note, and d) would really like you to to play Annie’s song, like James Galway did, because that’s real Irish music. So don’t be intimidated.
On a possibly more constructive note. Concentrate on what makes you feel good about your playing. Really try to get good tone and projection. Engage with the audience, or whichever part of the audience seems to be responding well. If someone seems to be falling asleep, ignore him, and concentrate on entertaining the person to his right who seems to be tapping her feet and having a good time! What Trevor says about engaging with the audience, so you all feel like you’re on the same side is actually so right. If you’re scared you will make a mistake, you probably will. You’re less likely to fear making a mistake if you are playing stuff you know so well that you’ve already made every possible mistake(!). If you know you have an ‘recovery strategy’ for every contingency, then you know you don’t have to worry…
Hope some of this gibberish is of use!

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This is all pretty good advice. You are not alone, winterhawk. I gave up playing for years because of the anxiety produced by any type of performance. Being an introverted perfectionist is not a happy combination. However, like MollyB, I found that I’m less obsessive about "performance" and having a lot more fun since becoming (ahem) A Woman of A Certain Age. In other words, if they don’t like my playing, they know where the door is. I work pretty hard on my music, but I’ve come to see it as one of life’s pleasures instead of another test I have to ace.

I also make a point of playing in the park on nice days—gets me out there, gets me used to playing when I know They are listening.

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Do what I do, play with a piper with a really really loud reed. No one can hear what I’m playing that way, and they all think I’m a much better player that way. *grin*

More constructively, I do one of two things:

1) Forget about the audience while playing (you certainly can’t between sets) and completely immerse myself in the music. I do this generally by looking at my fiddle and leaving no room in my head for anything but singing the tune inside along with my fiddle.

2) Find one or two friendly faces (works particularly well if you know them and they’re friends) out in the audience and concentrate on them. Smile as if they’re in on the joke, nod when they applaud to say thanks, whatever. Play the whole gig to them. To the audience, it looks like you’re looking into the entire audience that way. If my husband is around, I try to make sure that they’re not attractive men, but that’s about it. (If my husband isn’t around, attractive men are the way to go. *smirk* Kidding.)

The more you do it, the easier it gets, as has been mentioned before. So long as you’re enjoying yourself the whole time. Have fun!

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I too have played fiddle for over 20 years, but off and on, and without much hope of progress for most of that time. Then 7 or 8 years ago, a bunch of us started playing together at house sessions. Right away, someone suggested forming a band, and suddenly we were out, playing with mics stuck in our faces in front of large audiences.

Yikes! I kept thinking, "What a faker I am. Here I’ve played all these years, but I’m just now really getting into it, and I’m not ready to wow an audience. I can barely get through the tunes! I feel like a complete newbie. Why amd I doing this?!"

Now some of that inner monologue was right on the money, but some of it was a simple lack of confidence. There’s an old show biz saying that an audience will always mistake confidence for competence. Play with bravado, and everyone will think you’re a rock star. The reverse is also true—play timidly, and no matter how good you really are, people will assume you’re a dilettante.

So I finally dropped out of the band and went back to playing sessions. In the last couple of years, we’ve returned to doing gigs, and now I’m much more comfortable. I know I’ve put some concentrated effort into the music, and I’ve taken the time to assimilate everything I learned over those 20 years and actually use it in my playing. That took some serious woodshedding, and that has made all the difference.

When Winterhawk says s/he’s played more regularly in the last 3 to 4 years, I’m tempted to say, "Give it another year or two, and things will really start to click." It seems crazy to play for two decades and still need to work on basic competencies, but that’s often what it takes, especially on fiddle (not a very forgiving instrument). If you want to be able to perform, work on a few key goals:

(1) Teach yourself to relax while playing, no matter what the circumstances. Aim not for a perfect or dazzling sound, but an *effortless* one. Focus on losing the tension in your bow arm—an anxious bow arm leads to "right hand vibrato." Practice taking deep breaths while playing, and experiment with eye contact versus closing your eyes to find out which works best for you.
(2) Practice playing in the midst of serious distractions. First, with the telly on. Then turn the volume way up. Then turn the telly and radio on. Then go play in a city park or subway station, not necessarily to busk, but just to play. Work on keeping the tune going no matter what else is happening.
(3) Let yourself play really simple versions of tunes—a basic melody to fall back on for times when your hands are too cold to do rolls, or you’re too nervous to think.
(4) Practice playing tunes for 20 minutes at a time without stopping, no matter what. Keep the rhythm going with that bow, and if you miss a few notes, just keep noddling till you’re back on the melody. This is crucial to playing for performance—if you know you can keep going, you’ll overcome the fear of the dreaded abrupt silence.
(5) Give yourself a mental mantra about how fun it is to play. The more fun you have, the less you’ll worry about what the audience thinks (and chances are, the more fun they’ll have, too).

Finally, most musicians use some sort of soothing strategy before going on stage. Yoga, deep breathing, hard exercise (I can vouch for Danny’s run therapy—I always feel more relaxed after a good run, or even a brisk walk), alcohol, visualizing the performance in their mind, beta blockers, a nap, etc. Try different things and find what works for you. It’s not cheating—just wise preparation.

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Thanks all for wonderful suggestions. I am new to this site and this is my first post, so you’ve given a warm welcome. In particular, making a point of having eye contact with the audience and remember to breath are really helpful. I swear I can get through a whole tune without inhaling. And I never thought that by avoiding eye contact, I may be in fact be feeding on my own insecurity by not only feeling scared but looking it as well. Makes sense though. And Zina, I have tried to sit next to the louder instruments and admit it helps! It’s also really helpful to know that though many of you look confident and professional, you’d just as soon go throw up in a corner too. Thanks all.

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Heh, literally. Apparently opera singer Beverly Sills used to toss the cookies before every performance. Then she’d be fine.

Appearances count for a lot on stage. One thing that helped me early on was to watch myself play, either in a mirror, or on video. I realized that I *looked like a fiddler,* even if I didn’t quite feel like one at the time. Also, the playing looked easy and effortless, even when I was struggling. Now I get teased by other musicians and even audience members about looking so relaxed, they wonder if I’m falling asleep. And I can tell you I look that way pretty much whether I *am* relaxed, or nervous.

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Welcome to The Session, winterhawk — we’ll look forward to seeing more posts from you in the future!

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I’m with Zina, I look at my fiddle, or better still close my eyes entirely. I used to be paralyzed with stage fright when I was in orchestra, and it didn’t help that I was quite conspicuous. (I’m with in a gnat’s whisker of 6 ft tall and built like an American football player, thanks to my Dad.) Luckily I finally discovered that when I don’t see the audience my fear is much reduced. So I close my eyes and dive into an awareness of the tune, and do fine.

Also Dave (Showaddy) is right —- if you ignore the little niggling voice, you’ll find out when it’s all over that nobody died, least of all you. Unless you’re playing for musicians, pretty much only your own reactions will give away mistakes. If you are playing for musicians, well, musicians can be remarkably forgiving when it’s not their own performance they’re evaluating. *grin*

Best of luck,
Sara

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Will said something about soothing strategies…

"Mmmmmmm. Alcohol…."

I once filled in for somebody at a cd release concert by a nice folk singer lady. Not only did she toss her cookies before the show, but she made life absolute hell for her partner, who was leading the band. Each to their own, I suppose, but that’s when I started thinking these people are taking the whole thing way too seriously. Music should be aMUSing, for both the PLAYers and the audience, after all.

Gzeg: Master of Stage Fright… NOT!

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I have a friend named Nils who coped with his stage fright (actors) by subverting it into making himself sleepy. Once he was struck by such a horrible case of nerves before a performance that he fell asleep standing up, leaning against a wall. It certainly worked for the rest of us, we laughed ourselves sick at him.

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Here’s my approach. The first tune/song you perform should be one you know inside and out, upside down, backwards, forwards, be able to perform it in your sleep and maybe even in a coma. This may or may not help with your pre-show nerves (a certain amount is healthy) but after that first tune it should be smooth sailing from that point on, because you didn’t die, and the world didn’t end. Maybe you even sounded good??!! After the first smattering of applause you should be enjoying yourself and the whole experience. If you’re not, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it….

I’ve started virtually every (paying) show I’ve done (as a singer) with the same song for the past 30 years. I’m still nervous before the gig but that tune gets me past the fear and into the joy.

Of course that first tune also has to be one that you truly love and love to play/share.

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Good replies guys, and again welcome, winterhawk.

BTW Dave, as for Bluebottle: Neddy! you dirty rotten swine!

Deffo play the tunes you know backwards forwards, &cetera. And stick to the formula - ie if you do a jig three times then do play it thrice.

One more thing (looks like my going for a run seed ended up on barren soil - no prob) - often the fear you have is the fear of fear. You’re scared sh!tless because you think you’re gonna fluff it on the big day… then you go and soldier through it (maybe making the very occasional mistake - and if you do, big deal, play through it - you’ll get more Kudos for getting yourself back on the rails, than freezing up, which you won’t)…once you’ve got through you’ll want to do it again! It’s a fun power trip. A whole hall full of people are shut up listening to YOU! How often does that happen to we mere mortals? :~}

Good luck when it comes!

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The great thing about death is that it only happens once. What I mean is that if you do die on stage once it’s happened and you find you’re still there, it takes some of the sting out of death.
Let me elaborate: I had to accompany two top players in one night (No name-dropping here) and the first one was an absolute disaster. He played way too fast and with an absolute profusion of ornamentation on the whistle to the point that I couldn’t hear the melody in the fallback speakers. I died.
The great thing about that was I got a chance to redeem (arise from the dead) myself. It wasn’t easy going back on stage but it ended up feeling good - played as well as I ever could. After that experience I don’t think I will have a problem with stage fright again.
On another parallel aspect of this topic I was dragged along to a Secret Garden COncert recently and found myself in the 4th row amongst some very diehard fans. The weird thing is that the fiddler spent so much time looking and smiling into the front 4 rows that I found it quite disconcerting. She seemed to be so busy looking around that one felt she was just playing on automatic and quite separated from the music that was coming out of her fiddle.
Cheers

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I’ll tell you what our harp player did recently. We played a charity gig in a really nice setting to a friendly, attentive audience of about fifty people. The first set went down really well. To open the second set she just stood up and told the audience (without microphone)she had a problem with stage fright but would nevertheless attempt to play three solo pieces. She got stuck in the first one because of some buzzing in the P.A. and started again with the words "I told you.." The rest went really well and everybody was happy.

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It also helps to team up with another musician for practising etc., because then you can play together when called upon. When in Dublin I often played when asked with M a wonderful flute player, then on moving here I teamed up with a fiddle player. She then got married to a bouzouki player and we often played together. Recently I’ve been playing a lot with another flute player. Problem is that in these relationships the other player has usually been the better musician and I would tend to end up learning their tunes and if they move on you can be left a bit adrift. So it is good to put yourself out there and play your own tunes when asked and to hell with what anyone else thinks.

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The jitters has never bothered me, but my singing teacher told me to lick your lips before you go on stage. Try it - it helps.

Get comfy - look around the audience and smile at them - say hello, have a chat - now you can start playing.

I like the comment about practise playing solidly for 20 mins. You do need to be able to do that if you are going to play seriously and after 20 mins, you should be about played in.

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I thought licking your lips was just to pretend you had lip gloss on!

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A good example of Ottery’s "recovery strategy" in action was three years ago in Listowel when Brendan McGlinchey was on stage playing a set of his own tunes. When he’d finished the first part of the opening tune he suddenly stopped playing, laughed, turned to the audience and said "I’ve forgotten me own bloody tune!". There was then a short whispered communication with one of his colleagues sitting on the stage, who evidently reminded him of the rest of the tune because he then restarted and finished the set without any further problems.

The recovery strategy in that instance involved some relaxed humour and immediately getting the audience on his side.

Trevor

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Excellent advice everyone! Thank you. So maybe if I go for a run, hit the outhouse, lose my lunch, down a shot or two of whiskey before I get on stage, smile like a crazed woman at a naked audience and maintain some sort of eye contact even though I may actually be sleeping, I might be able to pull this off 🙂
Actually, I should mention most of my playing is for Irish Step Dancers. The good news is there will be more attention on them than me. The bad news is if I stop playing, they may clog me to death.
I will definitely take many of your suggestions to heart. Thanks for the support!

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With stepdancers (I’m one of them), the main thing is to not stop, because that’s the main thing they’re told by their teachers — don’t stop dancing, no matter whether you’ve forgotten your step or you’re scared, or what. So long as there’s at least a beat that’s discernable, they largely don’t care about the quality of the music, although that may not be true if they’ve ever danced to music played with great lift (and even then they may not know why it’s so much more fun to dance to that person’s music).

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Winterhawk wrote:
>smile like a crazed woman at a naked audience

No, no, I was very clear about this: an audience in their _underwear_. No nudeness or nakedity! After all, we’re decent, normal folks here.



*snort*

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Thanks Zina. Good points. 2 of the dancers are my daughters so I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out at the studio since they’re too young to drive and have become quite the Feis mom in the last couple of years. You’re right. They don’t stop no matter what. At the last Feis, the sound system blew and even those little 5 year olds kept going! If I mess up, I’ll just make sure I keep the beat until I’m out the mud.

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Gee… it was ME that undressed the audience.. oh dear.

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I remember once dancing at a feis in a basement of a Masonic Temple, what a crowded mess that was. I was on the stage, my slip jig had just started, and in the first couple measures, some kind of huge fight with men yelling and women screaming started up in the entry way to the basement.

My back was turned to the noise, and I was dying to turn around to see what was going on but of course had to keep dancing; the musicians were craning their necks to see what was happening (it was Pat King and Tony Nother, and I think Regan Wick on the piano), the judges were turning around to see what was going on, one of the local TCRGs is running towards what’s happening crying, "stop! stop! What are you doing!?", and all the dancers in the line were panicking (it was the week after Columbine and some of the kids were from the school) but of course we had to keep dancing…finally one of the feis organizers ran onto the stage yelling, "stop the music, oh, please stop the music!" and one of the adjudicators finally got it together enough to tap his bell for us to stop.

And then of course, we all had to stay where we were while they discovered that two of the fathers had started a fight over a video camera running during the feis! It took a while to help the kids having hysterics over the violence so soon after something so horrible as Columbine, haul the dads out of the place, get it all back together; Pat King made an ironic announcement reminding people that video cameras weren’t allowed on the dancers, but if you saw someone, asking them politely to turn it off was probably the best thing. And then we had to start over again, which didn’t help any of us dancing out on stage, talk about your nerve and concentration being broken!

But we’d all kept dancing exactly as we were supposed to, and afterwards the judge thanked us for it. 🙂 (I think I placed second, if I remember right.)

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Yes, it didn’t take me long to realize that Feis parents are right up with there with hockey dads, soccer moms and Little League parents. Ouch. Good for you for pulling off the steps.

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I love playing for dancers! It really does take all the attention off the musicians, as long as you get the tempo the dancers want, and can keep it going as long as they want. It’s that all-important ability to keep making rhythmic noise, no matter what. It helps to have a good bodhran player with you—sometimes that’s all the dancers can hear anyway.

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When I was learning Irish dancing we had no tapes etc, (long before the days of CDs) and our teacher lilted the tunes for us!

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We still do! During class while I’m teaching steps, I almost always lilt for the students as they work on steps or form.

For a double/treble/heavy jig, it almost always comes out the first part of St. Patrick’s Day for some reason, but sometimes Miss Brown’s Fancy. For reels, sometimes it’s Miss McLeod’s, and sometimes it’s Atlantic Wave, since it’s two that they’re familiar with off the rehearsal CD that we use, with Billy McComiskey and Brendan Mulvihill playing. The latter is kind of funny, because I actually don’t play the tune out at sessions, I’ve never heard it in Denver area sessions.

Most teachers I know have certain favorite tunes that they lilt when teaching in class.

According to Helen Brennan, this was such a widespread habit that often the dancing masters were known as (for instance) Jimmy the "name of tune that they always lilted in class".

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Hate to sound ignorant, but what do you mean by a dance teacher "lilting"? I know what it means to me as a fiddler to play with a lilt, or aspire to.. is it some type of verbalization the teacher is doing? Zina, sounds like your referring to the One More Time CD which our kids use in class quite a but too, so if it helps to explain using that example..?

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There’s a couple of different names to describe what we’re doing, including "lilting" — Buddy MacMaster raised his eyebrow at that, though, and called it "jigging". You’re basically singing the tune using nonsense syllables (which may be why so many people call this stuff "diddly dee" music.

When I’m teaching class, though, lots of times I’ll call the step to the tune, "hop two three and jump throw back, step turn two three and swivel back…" (That’d make a horrible step, wouldn’t it? *grin*)

But sometimes I do lilt, if the dancer needs music slower than anything I have on CD or if we’re just doing a bit of it and I don’t feel like running the deck for that short a time. "Dum didda dum di tumdy dom diddle dumtee dum da dom…"

Everybody uses different nonsense syllables as it seems to them to be right at the time. You have to work at trying to do it at first, but after a while it’s pretty natural a thing to do when someone says, how does that tune start again?

(Oh, and yes, it’s One More Time — my favorite practice cd and the one I recommend that our students buy when they ask me!)

P.s.

I got to talk to Billy McComiskey in the kitchen of Emily_az’s parents while in Baltimore recently. I thanked him for the CD and told him how many dancers I know of use the thing. Billy told me that they (he, Brendan Mulvihill, and Zan McLeod) really need to do another CD of Irish dance practice music. My reaction was an enthusiastic "Oh, yes, PLEASE!"

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Oh, yes, PLEASE!

I wish women were as enthusiastic as that to my suggestions.

:~}

Only kidding. I hope you left billy alive. In fact I know you did, cos I heard him at the Catskills, and i can see why women would fall for him - the basso profundo voice and film star good looks. Oh well, in another life maybe…

:~}

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Oh yeah, the man’s sexy as hell. ;) Not to worry, Danny, you’ve got that accent, it slays the Yank women…

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…not to mention that he’s one hell of a box player, of course…rock and roll, dude!

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Has anyone actually used beta-blockers for the stage fright? Only saw it mentioned once in this discussion. I have tried all of the above for 8 years or so and still have the "right hand vibrato". I play for a dance group which is fine as a group but get me solo and I lose it-even tunes I know well. And to make it worse- I blush when I make a mistake.

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I knew one or two classical musicians who used beta-blockers. One was a very fine oboe player - an instrument they say which is more unforgiving than the fiddle, if that’s possible 🙂 But it was the only way he could play as well as he did.

Trevor

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Lilting is a form of mouth music. hard to describe. There is a wonderful CD The Cavan lilter and everyone should have this as it the music in its purest form.

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BegF - followed that guitar link you suggested. VERY helpful. Thanks!

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Will mentioned busking in another context, but a while back I found it was great for nerves. Choose somewhere where no-one is likely to know you, there’s no come-back or responsibility, but you get to play solo, in public, for a couple of hours, or however long you can keep going. And it can pay quite nicely too!
I reckon there’s just no substitute for "mileage in public."

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My problem when playing in front of lots of people is definitely that inner voice, saying "you’re playing in front of lots of people, it just takes one slip and you’re in the shit, look at those fingers moving, isn’t this really complex, can you really do it?" and if I’m not careful, I end up listening to the voice rather than the tune and bang I slip (usually not to destruction, but a slip nonetheless). I used to do some yoga, and I find that focusing on the breath helps reduce that nasty voice a bit.

Last week I had to play on my own (well, OK, with a guitarist) on a large stage in front of several hundred people, and it went OK, but my hands are shaking now just thinking about it. Luckily, as with winterhawk, I was playing for dancers, so all the attention was focused on them - the music is just there for the rhythm.

The thing I find hardest in that situation is that feedback from the audience is much less than in a small-audience situation. When there are only a few people, you can usually hear the way people are responding, and build up their response by kind of "resonating" to it, which often gets people clapping, dancing, or whatever. On a large stage, you can’t do that, and I think that makes things quite a bit harder.

I’ve played solo at a couple of wedding services recently, and although I expected the stage fright to be really bad, it wasn’t too bad (the really quiet atmosphere in a church is a help I think), and although I made a couple of minor errors (that little voice again), no-one noticed and generally it all went well. I’ve been trying to concentrate on "ad-hoc" playing, so that even if I do go completely wrong, I can still make something up that sounds OK to those that don’t know the tune! This seems to be a help, as at least I know that if I do lose it, I’ve got another level to fall back on, rather than killing the tune completely…

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Re: Stagefright

I don´t suffer much from stagefright these days, but I certainly did in the past when I had less experience. In front of a large audience, high up on stage, my hands would start to sweat profusely, and slippery fingers on the concertina buttons spells disaster !
Rog´s point about feedback is very important. I would look for some sort of feedback from those in the front row - maybe a foot tapping - and concentrate on that person and that foot until I got into my stride. It´s all in the mind !
I got started on this music by going to Comhaltas sessions in London many years ago. In those days the procedure at the Comhaltas sessions was that everyone had to come up and do their "turn". This got you used to playing in front of a listening audience, from there you went on to playing at provincial fleadhs, and generally helped you for playing on stage.

Re: Stagefright

Fine looking for feedback from those in the front row… except when you’re dazzled by stage lights and the audience are in darkness!

It is amazing how different feedback can make you feel like you’re an entirely different kind of player. If I’m playing with people that are really listening, or by a player who is in the same sort of groove, it somehow feels like my fingers go in the right place without thinking about it, and everything becomes almost effortless. Conversely, without either of those things, it can feel like fighting my way through shoulder-deep mud, and I end up feeling that I can’t play for toffee (which isn’t far from the truth anyway, but it does seem that playing with good people allows for a welcome suspension of disbelief…)

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Re: Stagefright

I usually play in my family’s bar at 3:00 in the morning and everyone is too drunk to hear or care about mistakes!