Frustrated by Inconsistent, Anxiety-Ridden Performances?
(Why Practicing More Is Not Always the Answer)
Have you ever wondered why you can sound and feel great in the practice room, but walk out on stage a few moments later, feel the adrenaline kick in, and experience a meltdown?
Or had a piece completely memorized, played it through countless times in rehearsals with no problems, and then suddenly went blank in the middle of a competition?
Or spent an hour meticulously working on a passage, only to discover the next day that it’s still just as hit or miss as the day before?
Confused and frustrated
Hi, my name is Dr. Noa Kageyama. I’m a sport and performance psychologist and am on the faculty of The Juilliard School. But 15 years ago, I was a frustrated conservatory student and haunted by questions like the ones above. I knew I had talent. And I knew all about discipline, sacrifice, and what it took to be successful. But despite my best efforts, I struggled with inconsistency and was exasperated by how often my playing fell short of what I knew I was capable of. My hands would get cold, clammy, and tight. I’d feel my heart pounding in my chest, my mind would start racing, and I wouldn’t be able to remember how the second line of the piece was supposed to go. And that was before I even walked out on stage!
I knew none of this was my teachers’ fault. I was lucky to have studied with many truly great teachers; a list which includes Stephen Clapp, Ronald Copes, Franco Gulli, Paul Kantor, Masao Kawasaki, Roland & Almita Vamos, and Donald Weilerstein. I could not have asked for a better or more complete musical training. Yet, I knew something was missing – I just didn’t know what.
Finally, some answers
Then I went to Juilliard, and on a whim, signed up for a course titled “Performance Enhancement for Musicians” taught by Dr. Don Greene. It sounded interesting, although I was pretty skeptical that an Olympic sport psychologist and former green beret could teach me anything about being a concert artist. To my surprise, what I learned that semester changed not only how I performed, but how I felt about performing. My whole approach shifted. Even my practice habits changed dramatically.
Performances were no longer fraught with such uncertainty. I was having some of the best performances of my life, and playing at a high level consistently too. It felt pretty great. But more than anything, I loved the feeling of knowing that I had finally figured it out. For once in my life, I knew exactly what I had to do to perform up to my potential on stage.
As you might imagine, I was hooked. Sport psychology opened up a whole new world of skills to learn, skills that were helping me become a more compelling musician and performer, but which I had never learned. I couldn’t believe that this wasn’t public knowledge. How could more people not know about these principles and techniques? I wanted to learn more, and after finishing my masters at Juilliard, I went to Indiana University to pursue a doctorate in psychology.
Introducing Beyond Practicing (v2.0)
Beyond Practicing is everything I wish I would have known 25 years ago, organized as an online 7-module home-study course that represents a step-by-step walkthrough of the key psychological skills that sport psychologists have been teaching elite athletes for years.
The course covers the essential concepts from the sport and performance psychology literature, and with the specific demands of a performing musician in mind, shows you exactly how to develop the ability to overcome nerves, the critic in your head, memory slips, distractions of all kinds, and play your best when the pressure is on. It’s very similar to the classes I teach at Juilliard – except you can proceed at your own pace, on your own schedule.
If you’ve been interested in performance coaching, but found it difficult to schedule, work out the logistics, or too much of a financial investment, this home-study course might offer what you’re looking for.
What Will You Learn?
Skill #1: How to Regulate Your Stress Response
Many musicians are plagued by nerves, doubts, and fears in the hours, days, sometimes weeks before performances. Most have never learned how to regulate their body’s built-in fight-or-flight response, never mind how to use this energy to their advantage.
You’ll learn a 7-step pre-performance routine called Centering, that will help you take the edge off your nerves and start every performance on the right foot. After all, a great first impression can really be a big help in big auditions or competitions when time is short.
Skill #2: How to Practice (More) Effectively
Practicing can be frustrating, and there’s nothing worse than putting in the hours and failing to see results. Rest assured, it doesn’t always have to be this way.
There is indeed a “right” way to practice and a “wrong” way, when it comes to making progress and building confidence in your playing. You’ll learn how to accelerate your progress with “practice sprints,” problem solving models, and more. And you’ll also learn three different ways to memorize music, that are way more effective (and permanent) than merely repeating the same thing over and over.
Skill #3: How to Build Confidence
Confidence is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important ingredients for success. But many assume that confidence is either something you’re born with, or is largely out of our control.
Successful musicians take confidence into their own hands, and you’ll learn how to do the same. You’ll learn a 3-step process for silencing the inner critic who sabotages your confidence without having to rely on overly-cheery affirmations (“just stay positive!”) or lower your standards.
Skill #4: How to Increase Courage & Trust
A close relative of confidence, courage is probably the single most important skill when it comes to making the most of our talents and realizing our full potential – not just on-stage, but off-stage as well.
The bold captivating performances and the career success you achieve are all proportional to the amount of courage you have built up – and the degree to which you can trust yourself in high-stakes situations. It’s really difficult to play up to our abilities if we are constantly second guessing ourselves or seeing ourselves screw up before we even get to the tricky passage coming up.
You’ll learn how to systematically develop more trust in your abilities and push the edges of your ability.
Skill #5: How to Concentrate on Demand
Most would agree that concentration is important, but one of the problems I often see is that not many have learned how to practice and strengthen it.
If your thoughts start racing when you are nervous, or your mind goes blank (and not in a good way), you’ll learn how to get into that specific mental state which is more conducive to performing “in the zone.” This is one of the keys to rediscovering how to actually enjoy performing (and even auditioning) again.
Skill #6: How to Develop Ironclad Attentional Control
You’ve probably been told that if you just “focus on the music,” things will be just fine. Of course, that’s much easier said than done (and what does that even mean, anyway?).
The performance literature suggests that our ability to stay focused only on those things that are relevant to what we are doing at that moment is the overarching key to great performances. But most of us have never learned how to do this, or what specifically to think about. In this lesson, you’ll learn techniques and principles which will enable you to keep your attention focused where it needs to be, when it needs to be there.
Skill #7: How to Minimize Mistakes and Bounce Back From Adversity
Some mistakes are inevitable, but many of the ones you make under pressure are not. That’s because everyone has a specific “oops” reflex that tends to cause more mistakes (which then cause more mistakes, and so on).
There’s a tendency to dwell on mistakes and imperfections, but that interrupts our focus and takes us out of the moment. And this increases the likelihood of our making another mistake, and then another, and so on, unless we learn how to move past these mistakes quickly. You’ll learn a 5-step recovery sequence that will enable you to stay poised and focused in even the most difficult situations – and make sure that mistakes don’t ruin what might otherwise have been a great performance.
How Does the Course Work?
The Performance Skills Inventory
One of the biggest hurdles we face is not knowing why our performances degrade under pressure. What is actually responsible for our less than stellar performances? Is it purely anxiety-related? Or a lack of confidence? Concentration issues? Focus issues? Insufficient mental toughness?
We could go in circles for years, trying to identify the problem and appropriate solutions with a trial and error approach.
That’s why the course starts with a mental skills assessment to identify where you’re at, and what needs work.
The Performance Skills Inventory & Profile is the product of 15 years of research on thousands of performing artists by sport psychologist Dr. Don Greene. The 84-question assessment will show you exactly what needs work, and exactly what’s been holding you back from more consistent and compelling performances.
7 skill lessons (in printable PDF format)
Once you have identified your mental strengths and weaknesses, you’ll dive into the PDF and audio skill lessons and begin learning how to develop the key performance skills highlighted by your PSI results. Each lesson provides a bit of conceptual background on how each skill is related to peak performance, and then simple, straightforward guidance on how to develop that skill.
Altogether, there are 250+ pages of performance psychology training with examples, exercises, and strategies that you can use immediately. But don’t worry – it’s not a brain dump of research findings, but a structured, organized approach to help you learn how to keep from freezing up when you walk on stage. I know you’re busy and don’t have time to wade through needless information, so I’ve done the work of distilling decades of performance psychology research into concise and to-the-point lessons – all the information you need without the extraneous “filler.” And if you’re a details kind of person, you’ll find links to supplemental content and book recommendations for further skill development.
To help you stay on track and more easily incorporate the exercises and drills into your practice, each lesson also includes step-by-step checklists and companion worksheets which will help you keep tabs on your progress.
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7 skill lessons (in video MP4 format)
The PDF’s are great for scribbling notes in the margins and flipping through quickly as a reference, but sometimes a picture (or video) is the easiest and quickest way to grasp a concept.
So, you’ll also have access to 9+ hours of video presentations on the course material, which you can stream to your laptop, iPad, or iPhone for convenient learning on the go.
7 skill lessons (in audio MP3 format)
And if you simply want to listen to the lessons, you can download the audio files to any computer, smartphone, or tablet as well.
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What if I have a question? Or want some clarification on how to apply a concept to my specific situation?
I want to make sure you have all the resources you need to experience on-stage success, so the Lifetime Edition includes access to a private Quora-style Q&A page, where I’ll be happy to answer anything (more or less) you’d like to ask.
Have a competition coming up and want to know how best to spend your practice time in the last week leading up to the big day? Just ask. Not sure how often to incorporate mental practice into your practice routine? Fire away.
And if the question is of a more confidential nature, just email me.
If you’d like to have access to the course even when you are in the middle of nowhere and don’t have a wifi or cellular signal (like in an airplane), the Lifetime Edition includes easy download links so you can save the video files to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
My Promise to You
It would be disingenuous of me to promise you a principal position in the NY Phil, a sneaker endorsement contract, a million dollar recording deal, and the complete and utter elimination of anxiety in 24 hours or less – because nobody can guarantee that.
But if you are tired of seeing nerves sabotage your performances and are willing to do some work, I can promise that your experience of performing will change. Your practice habits will change. And you’ll wonder how you got along all those years without these skills.
In fact, because I believe so strongly in the value of these skills, I’m willing to take on all the risk myself by offering a simple, straightforward 100% money-back guarantee. If by some chance you find within the first 60 days that Beyond Practicing isn’t right for you, I guarantee a full refund.
Simple. No hassles. Nothing to lose.
How Will This Course Help You?
In the late spring I read “How many hours should I practice?”. It immediately rang true for me. Why had all these years passed, with thousands of hours of practice, and I was still, more than I like to admit, hit or miss in performance.
I immediately started deliberate practice. Full and total concentration on everything I was doing during my practice. The results were almost instant. I performed the first violin part for Shostakovitch piano quintet a week later. Many of my colleagues approached me afterwards and said I sounded like a completely different performer. What was I doing they asked.
A month later I played a recital. Some of the violin guys I had been at Juilliard with who seem to be able to play everything, anytime, really well, and a world renowned violinist were there. They were all back stage before the performance to say hi. This used to be enough to reduce me to jelly, and my performance would suffer because of it.
But with my new way of practicing, I walked on completely confident, did not feel an ounce of fear, and performed the best I have ever performed in my life. I knew EXACTLY what I was doing, what I wanted, and it all happened the way I planned. I walked off stage for the first time in my life absolutely satisfied with what I had done, and made no excuses. Again, many of the persons I had been close friends with, but always slightly envious of their comfort and ease on the violin, came to me after the performance and asked me what I was doing differently, adding that they had never heard me perform so well.
Thanks Dr. Kageyama, I wish you had been at Juilliard when I was there!
I believe that your course and response to my question (about what to think about when you perform) really did help me to give successful auditions. For several months prior to the auditions, I would become so nervous before each performance, particularly if there was anything at stake. However, I am so much more confident now! I can let my mind be free and just hear the sound of my instrument.
Additionally, and not to be dramatic, I gave the greatest performance of my life since our last exchange! I was definitely in the “flow” state, as you mentioned in your course. It was truly a phenomenal moment that I don’t think I will ever forget.
I wanted to let you know that last week I performed a recital at the annual international conference last week and it was the first time I had played at one of those without beta blockers. A bunch of people said it was the best they had ever heard me play! I used my centering and all of the techniques we had worked on and I was amazed how much more comfortable I felt and how much more fun I had. Thanks!
I’ve been reading your blog for about a year, and finally bought the course two months ago. The course is interesting and well laid-out, and once I started, I immediately felt hope. Your description of what happens physically, mentally, and emotionally gave me the sense that I’m not crazy, and reinforced the hunch I’d had that my problems were mental in nature, rather than instrumental.
Most impressive about the course is the individual attention, the personalized insights and support you provided as I prepared for two auditions. After just two months of practicing some of the skills laid out in the course, I played the best I’ve ever played in an audition. I look forward to continuing on this journey and discovering my true artistry.
How to Get Started
|Performance Skills Inventory|
|7 Skill Modules (printable version)|
|7 Skill Modules (video version)|
|7 Skill Modules (audio version)|
|Downloadable Video Files for Offline Use|
|Lifetime Support + Q&A|
|Enroll Now||Enroll Now|