First note trouble

Advanced Technique, Performance Questions, Auditions, Recording, etc.

Moderators: Classitar, pied_piper, Phineas

Post Reply
User avatar
MissyHPhoenix
Posts: 368
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:19 pm
Location: Hammond, LA, USA

First note trouble

Post by MissyHPhoenix » Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:10 am

Do any of you have problems with your first note when you are anxious? I find myself consistently cracking the first note of play when I am tense from being in a new situation and/or group. Usually after the first couple of notes I smooth out and am fine, but that first note makes me wince and turn red!

If you have troubles like mine, how do you handle it? Any ideas?
Missy

Why Be Normal????

User avatar
Classitar
Posts: 346
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 6:49 am
Contact:

Post by Classitar » Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:23 am

May not be relevant to this problem but one pc of advise I like about starting to play is to play the first couple of measures mentally before starting.This helps my confidence as well as getting my memory on track

User avatar
Zevang
Posts: 580
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2006 5:28 pm

Post by Zevang » Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:02 pm

Well, said. Mental preparation is the first thing. In fact the music begins before the first bar is played. It's said the the silence before the sounds is a part of the music! :-)
I think that's why there is a period of silence (from the musicians AND the audience) before the music starts. It's all about concentration.

Now, take care of your fear. You might be conditioned on feeling it before anything else, so when it's time to play you're already taken by this fear.
Everybody has some amount of fear before playing. The difference is if that's under control or not.
The work, IMHO, is about fill your brain with the musical/technical aspects of what you're about to play. This is something you must practice for everything you play, even during your daily practice at home.

I think there might be too much "empty" brain spaces just before you play, so you must occupy them with what really matters.

There is also an exercise that may help. It consists of taking your flute well positioned in your hands (not yet at your mouth). With a peace of your choice at the music stand, bring the flute to your chin and begin immediately to play the first notes (say, two or three bars). This must be done with the shortest possible interval between the moment when the flute reaches your chin and the beginning of the sound. This will condition the brain to think first about what you're about to do, don't letting any gaps where the fear might take over.

Hope it helps :-)

User avatar
MissyHPhoenix
Posts: 368
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:19 pm
Location: Hammond, LA, USA

Post by MissyHPhoenix » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:30 pm

Zevang -- do you mean that I should put my flute up and start to play immediately, rather than getting in position and waiting until the music starts? (Does that make sense?) In other words, try to not give myself too much time to think about that first note so that I don't get freaked out?
Missy

Why Be Normal????

User avatar
Zevang
Posts: 580
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2006 5:28 pm

Post by Zevang » Fri Oct 08, 2010 9:26 pm

(sorry, long response)
Well, sort of. I would recommend it as an exercise when you're alone. But since the problems you pointed happen when you play in a group, maybe another approach is necessary.
The real problem is not the playing itself or other technic problem. The problem is the fear of beginning to play. I think it happens because your mind is kind of empty just before you start, so there is a "thing" taking over, and that's fear, or a sort of shame of not being successful in front of the others.
The prompt playing exercise is for conditioning you for not being dependent of procedures that might distract your attention from the music itself. But, on the other hand, if you keep your mind empty, or not distracted, fear can take over, so it's a bit more complicated than I thought.
Though there are many things you could think about related to the music you're about to play, that might help occupying your mind so you get rid of fear. Depending on how frenquently you play in a group, this may take some sessions until you get accustomed to the practice. You may think of the key of the peace, the color desired for the first note, what would be the tonguing for that first note, the dynamics of the passage, check your positioning of the fingers, arms and shoulders, think of relaxing all the muscles you won't need.
As I said before, everybody has some level of fear when playing with others. This may be a secondary issue, that comes and goes away quickly, or may take bigger proportions and really disturb.
As an example, in my case I feel very comfortable playing at the orchestra. A few times though, when the repertoire is really difficult and if I had not the time for proper preparation, I feel a bit insecure.
A completely different situation is when I do the solo of a concert. This is really a challenge because I'm completely exposed in front of the others, and there is nobody between me and the audience. I'm not a professional soloist, so I only do soloes once in a while. That's the problem for me. I'm not that acquainted to the situation. On the other hand, inside the orchestra, even doing a solo part, is so easy for me. That's currently my "natural environment".
The challenge is making the activity something natural to you. That takes lots more of mental conditioning than practicing lots of flute technic and so on.
Just occurred to me, that something really important when you prepare to play in a group is warming up. Scales, E.J.4, E.J.10, Harmonics, or common long tones, you name it, really help breaking the ice.
Sorry for the long post and I hope my bad English doesn't confuse you any more ;-)

User avatar
MissyHPhoenix
Posts: 368
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:19 pm
Location: Hammond, LA, USA

Post by MissyHPhoenix » Sat Oct 09, 2010 8:22 am

No, your english is just fine - I understand what you are saying perfectly. I agree with you, too. It is the anxiety taking over because I want to hit that first note perfectly and am making it more of an issue than it should be, I think. I will try your method of mentally preparing and trying to keep the anxiety at bay by concentrating on the music itself. I'll let you know how well it works!

Thanks for the help.
Missy

Why Be Normal????

User avatar
MissyHPhoenix
Posts: 368
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:19 pm
Location: Hammond, LA, USA

Post by MissyHPhoenix » Sat Oct 09, 2010 8:24 am

Classitar -- didn't mean to ignore your post! Your idea makes sense too -- I think you are basically saying the same thing as Zevang, which is to concentrate on the music instead of thinking about how anxious I am.

Thanks!
Missy

Why Be Normal????

User avatar
Zevang
Posts: 580
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2006 5:28 pm

Post by Zevang » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:38 am

Oh, thank you! :-)

Let's think about something a little different.

Have you ever heard about a book named "The Zen Acher's Art". There is another book around this topic related to motorcycles. These books brings us some of the western philosophy of concentration and intention on what we are doing.
Anyway, you told about being anxious when the first note is about to be played. I remember (many, many years ago) when I read that book, they described the Archer's technic of letting the arrow leave the bow. The archer never knows the exact moment when it happens. Something like this is used by sport shooters as well. It's something related to the concentration and focusing on what will happen, no matter when it will happen. We're talking about fractions of seconds of course. It's obvious that when you play the first note in a group, that must be together with the others. But thinking about the Zen technic, it may serve you as a means to grow your concentration and make the beginning moment easier.
I do that sometimes when, for example, the traffic is heavy and I'm in a hurry, so I need to calm down. First I take several deep breaths and at the same time I begin to let my mind empty and focus at my inside "voice". It's like a "mantra". It gives me a level of absence that helps me keep focus on me, instead of the adverse situation outside. Even my movements turn lighter. I could keep hours like this.
This requires some practice (just like everything else... :-)
Just figure this situation: an archer is standing at a site, he/she rises the bow and adjust the arrow, stretch the bow's line, closes one eye, and the other keeps the track of the target. He/she breathes deeply and hold. His/her full attention is concentrated at the tip of the arrow, and at the target almost at the same time. The fingers begin to ease the tension slowly. Suddenly the arrow goes away and hit the target.
The focusing and mind manipulation when you start playing is just the same. Only the fractions of time are smaller.
Sorry for being so prolix. Sometimes I need to make a whole phrase just to describe a single word... :-)

User avatar
MissyHPhoenix
Posts: 368
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:19 pm
Location: Hammond, LA, USA

Post by MissyHPhoenix » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:03 am

Hmmm. Sounds like a condensed version of meditation. :o That might work! I have done meditation before to help with stress, and am fairly well adept at visualization techniques. If I can manage to practice it like what you described and get it down to a quicker implementation, I think that might be exactly what I need in order to keep my focus on the music instead of letting the worry take over! It never occurred to me to try meditation in relation to performance anxiety. Thanks Zevang! I will try this and let you know how it works!
Missy

Why Be Normal????

User avatar
Zevang
Posts: 580
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2006 5:28 pm

Post by Zevang » Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:26 pm

I'm very happy I can help you in some way. Look forward in hearing from you about this soon :-)

Cheers

c_otter
Posts: 93
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 4:18 pm

Post by c_otter » Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:49 pm

Hi Missy,

A few deep, slow breaths can help.

I've also come to accept that it is completely ok to mess up, as this is just a hobby for me and not a profession. In fact, if I mess up, I'm going to do so in grand style. This happens the most frequently when sight reading and I enter at the wrong time, but I do so confidently with good sound. (The level of the group you play in may change this, but most community band members are also making mistakes.) By the way, how would you treat a friend who messed up? Would you get mad at him/her? Would you think they were an idiot? Would they get anything more than an "oops" from you? There's no reason to think that the others will be any harder on you.

Seriously, the worst thing that can happen is that I will annoy the conductor and not be allowed to play any solos. I won't even get kicked out of the group. My friends will still love me. This won't affect my income. In general, I'm quite ok with making a complete idiot out of myself.

Ironically, not caring if I make a complete idiot out myself has made me more relaxed and improved my playing. Interestingly, I lost a lot of my fear about performance, when I was really stressed about other stuff and messing up flute seemed really trivial.

I don't know if this helps.
N

User avatar
MissyHPhoenix
Posts: 368
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:19 pm
Location: Hammond, LA, USA

Post by MissyHPhoenix » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:18 am

I don't mind making mistakes, but would rather avoid it. :lol:

Good news -- I went to rehearsal Tuesday night with all of the relaxation ideas in mind and the very first song was the one that I've had particular trouble with. By keeping my mind on the music instead of "worrying" about that first note, I had no trouble whatsoever! I was relaxed and calm and my embouchure reflected it. Thanks so much for all of the ideas! It's so nice to see instant results!

Thanks again!
Missy

Why Be Normal????

wkzh
Posts: 103
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 3:45 am

Post by wkzh » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:14 am

I think one thing you can do is to practice actually "hitting" the note without tonguing. This trains your lip's ability to provide the right embouchure in an instant, so when you want to play a note, you immediately recall muscle memory without having to worry about hitting the note. This is particularly useful for soft passages, where one is most prone to "freaking out".

Apart from the psychological benefits of such an exercise, it actually does help your flute playing as well, i.e. it's a confidence booster that actually has some basis.

Practising this exercise, however, may be initially very very frustrating, and one would take several weeks to even practice all the notes once, so be warned and perservere!

Hope this helps!
The flute family: probing the lower limit of human hearing and the upper limit of human tolerance.

User avatar
MissyHPhoenix
Posts: 368
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:19 pm
Location: Hammond, LA, USA

Re: First note trouble

Post by MissyHPhoenix » Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:30 am

Had rehearsal again Tuesday evening and again faced the same problem. When this particular song came up, for the 3 measures rest before the first note I deliberately thought calming thoughts and took deep breaths, simply watching the music instead of THINKING about the notes to come. Every time I did that, the first note came out beautifully clear and strong, no cracking, no hesitation. I think I have the solution now!

Thanks everyone for your suggestions!
Missy

Why Be Normal????

User avatar
Zevang
Posts: 580
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2006 5:28 pm

Re: First note trouble

Post by Zevang » Thu Oct 21, 2010 4:06 pm

You're welcome. I'm really happy for you :-)

Post Reply