The student news site of Carroll Senior High School

Dragon Media

The student news site of Carroll Senior High School

Dragon Media

The student news site of Carroll Senior High School

Dragon Media

Dear Arden…

How do I feel less nervous about playing my instrument in front of others?

“Dear Arden,

I always feel very nervous playing my instrument in front of others, do you have any advice or stress relievers?”

-Anxious Instrumentalist


Dear Anxious,

Save for piano, I’m not much of an instrument player. I am, however, a bit of a singer, so I will try my best to apply my experience with singing to help you out.

In my experience, the most useful stress-reliever is practice. In any situation that you can, practice. The more you practice, the more likely it is for playing to become muscle memory, so, even if you are nervous in your mind, your body will push through and repeat the motions it knows so well. Obviously, there are times where you have to sight read, so this may be inapplicable in those situations. If you are concerned about sight reading, while you can’t practice the exact sight reading you might do, you can practice sight reading in general so you are ready.

Other than that, there are a few things you can do to make performing in front of other people less scary. First, start small. Play your instrument in front of one person who you know will support you, like a friend or family member. Then, once that’s started feeling more comfortable, try playing it in front of more than one person. You don’t have to go from performing alone straight to performing in front of a full classroom or audience; you can take it as slowly as you need to.

Next, stop thinking of performing in front of people as a big event where you have to prove yourself to them. It is not as big a deal as you may think. This is especially important if you’re doing it in front of someone who is there to help you, like a teacher. I take voice lessons, and my teacher lets me cycle through choosing my own songs to sing. And so, I thought this meant that I should only choose songs I knew really well. However, after doing this a couple of times, my teacher got annoyed with me – if I already knew the songs well, then there was no point in practicing them with her because there was nothing she could do to improve them. It was then that I realized that these voice lessons weren’t here for me to be perfect every single time. They were there for me to learn. Making mistakes in these cases is actually a good thing because then there is a professional there to help you improve. So, just treat playing in front of other people as just practicing, because that’s really all it is.

However, a more formal setting, like a concert, will require a different approach. When I’m singing on my own, I have to perform a bit and make certain facial expressions at the audience because it’s just me onstage. However, if you are just playing your instrument, then you don’t have to do that. You can just focus on your instrument. It’s a common saying to picture the audience in your underwear, but I would argue that it’s better to ignore the audience entirely if you can. Just try to block them out and pretend that you’re just practicing your instrument alone. You don’t even have to look at them.

Another stress reliever is a certain breathing exercise that my voice lesson teacher taught me called halt breaths. Breathe in, hold that breath for 10 counts, then breathe out. Do this four times, and be sure to stop if you feel lightheaded. This will calm you down and will be especially useful if you happen to play an instrument that involves using your breath.

Finally, just know that you can do this. And if you mess up in front of someone else, it does not matter. They won’t even remember in a few minutes. Plus, I’ll let you in on a little secret: most people don’t know enough about music to know when you mess up, and those who do know enough about music have probably made similar mistakes. So, don’t stress about it. Just take a breath and play your instrument; even attempting to play your instrument in front of other people is an impressive feat in and of itself.

I know you will do great,


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About the Contributor
Arden Berry
Arden Berry, Co-Editor in Chief
Arden is a senior at Carroll Senior High School and is currently a co-editor in chief of the Dragon Tribune. This is her fourth year as a member of Dragon Media as well as her eighth year in choir. Sophomore year, she was on the UIL Journalism team and progressed to state in copy editing. Outside of school, she practices piano, plays video games and writes. She hopes to pursue a career in research related to the social sciences.