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Some background: I play the violin. Next spring, I will play in school. This will be graded and part of my final grade for music class.

The problem is that I have almost no experience playing in front of people (except my family). The last time I performed was more than three years ago, so I tend to be very nervous when playing in front of people (you might be asking how I can know when I never do - last summer, I played in a quartet, so not really solo, but sort of).

I realized that when I changed my teacher one year ago, I first was nervous playing in front of them, but after a while it became better and I am now completely comfortable. So I concluded that I get less nervous when I often play in front of the same people.

However, this is not possible for the above described case. So I somehow have to emulate this situation while practicing at home to make my brain think that I am performing for my grade.

What are tips for practicing to be less nervous when performing?

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Obviously you are not going to be able to hire a crowd for every practice performance you do, especially right now with what's going on in the world. However, I have experienced plenty of ways to prepare for this so let me share my tips:

1. Do a lot of pretend recitals

I don't know what the format of your performances and whether you have introduce yourself, the piece, talk about it, etc. but whatever you have to do, do it out loud and in front of people. Your best bet will be in front of your parents or teacher, but you can be creative and even livestream this kind of stuff to your friends. The idea is to make your practice feel as real as possible, so that the difference between a practice recital and real one is minimal. You can also dress up in your performance attire, this helps a lot to because you feel more important (I can't find the time stamp but in this interview Julian Casablancas mentioned how when he dressed up a certain way he played music in that particular fashion, specifically a wedding band)

2. Destress

Performances in front of big crowds is nerve-wracking for 99% of people naturally. However, don't overthink it. Sleep well, eat healthy, take deep breaths, relax your shoulders, maintain good posture - basically anything a chiropractor or doctor would tell you. If you are operating like you are when you are relaxed, that will help you approach the recital in a more collected fashion then if you are pulling 4-hour of sleep a night and binging on alcohol

3. Reprogram your mind

Reprogramming is kind of a cheesy technique, but it personally worked for me. Keep repeating a positive mantra in your head (for me it was "You're the boss" because I felt like I didn't have control, but it's just anything reaffirming and confidence-boosting) every single day many times a day. You'll be amazed at what you can fool yourself (a paradigm shift :) ) into believing

Those are just some techniques that worked in my experience. Good luck!

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Adding to Andrew's answer - record yourself, especially video yourself. Imagine that camera is the audience. Because it's recorded, the pressure will still be there to play well. And - after, wher you press play, you'll be able to see for yourself what your audience would see. There will be positive parts, which need emphasising, and not-so-good bits that you can then work on. Body language, facial expressions, etc.

It should be a given that the piece/s you are playing can be played at the same time as you recite the alphabet, say the 2x table, in other words you know them well enough that you don't have to worry about mistakes happening. That's actually all part of the nervousness. Eliminate that factor, and you'll lose a lot of the inconfidence.

Keep the recordings, and take them every few days. Look back at the earlier ones, to give you a yardstick as to what has/n't improved.

Couple of other pointers. Nervousness is useful. It keeps you on your toes. That bit of adrenalin flow is there for a purpose, so use it. Mistakes may happen. Carry on as if they hadn't. It's impossible to 'unmake' a mistake. Smile and continue - or just continue. People are listening to what you play at that moment, not the mistake you made several bars ago.

All this can be done without involving anyone else - important at this covid-ridden time. Go for it !

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    "Mistakes may happen... Smile and continue" Fantastic and often understated point. Perfomance, unlike recording, is an audiovisual spectacle. You can play flawlessly but if you glare menacingly at everyone you'll leave an odd impression. Just be happy and proud to show off whatever you learned, regardless of what happens during the actual performance Dec 17, 2020 at 22:15

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