Resources for Flute Study:
by Leonard Garrison

I. You’re not alone

  1. Everyone gets nervous. The most experienced and successful musicians learn how to make their anxiety work for them.
  2. Accept that you may be nervous.
  3. Perform as often as possible.

II. Preparation

  1. Being prepared is the best antidote to anxiety.
  2. Always memorize, but use the music.
  3. Don’t feel guilty for not preparing more.
  4. Prepare well ahead of time, then let your music rest and come back to it.
  5. Practice performing a piece without stopping on the first attempt.
  6. Arrange a mock audition or a recital run-through.

III. Visualization

  1. Picture success. Imagine how a world-class performer would accomplish your task.
  2. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” It’s probably not too bad.
  3. Before the event, visualize everything in great detail: how you walk out on stage, acknowledge the audience, and tune, what you are wearing, how you shape every phrase, how you feel afterwards, etc.
  4. Create a narrative for your music. Where is it set? What emotions does it evoke? What do you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell?

IV. Attitude

  1. Don’t put too much stress on one audition or performance; if you blow it, it’s not the end of the world.
  2. Take pleasure in your playing; focus on the music, not technical perfection.
  3. “The avoidance of failure is not the same thing as the pursuit of success.”
  4. Turn off judgmental inner voices. Just play, don’t evaluate. Go easy on yourself.
  5. Calm your mind and focus your thoughts.
  6. Be energized, optimistic, alert, and self-confident.
  7. You can’t control what the audience or jury thinks of you, so just concentrate on playing.
  8. Any audience wants you to play well.
  9. Concentrate on what you are playing that instant. Don’t dwell on mistakes, and don’t fear that passage coming up.
  10. Develop performing rituals.

V. Competition

  1. Challenge yourself, don’t compete against others.
  2. At an audition or a competition, try not to listen to the other flutists. Choose warmups to benefit you, not to impress them. Long tones will help more than a race with the flutist next door.
  3. Don’t hold back; give 100%.
  4. Learn from failure.

VI. Physical relaxation

  1. Remind yourself to breathe slowly and deeply.
  2. Consciously relax all the muscles in your body, one at a time.
  3. Before playing the flute, do some stretching exercises.
  4. Study the Alexander Technique.
  5. Hold the flute lightly rather than jamming it into your chin and hands; use light finger action.

VII. Nutrition, sleep, and exercise

  1. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or sugar.
  2. Eat a light meal that is high in carbohydrates (pasta).
  3. Drink plenty of liquids.
  4. If possible, travel a day before a performance.
  5. Avoid sleeping pills the previous night.
  6. Regular exercise builds up the body’s tolerance of anxiety.


VIII. For Further Reading:

Bruser, Madeline. The Art of Practicing: a Guide to Making Music from the Heart. New York: Bell Tower, 1997.

Caldwell, Robert. The Performer Prepares. Dallas: Pst…Inc., 1990.

Cameron, Julia. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992.

Dunkel, Stuart Edward. The Audition Process: Anxiety Management and Coping Strategies. Stuyvesant, NY: 1989.

Green, Barry and W. Timothy Gallwey. The Inner Game of Music. New York: Anchor Press, 1986.

Greene, Don. Audition Success. New York: ProMind Music, 1998.

Greene, Don. Performance Success. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Havas, Kato. Stage Fright: Its Cause and Cures. London: Bosworth, 1953.

Herrigel, Eugen. Zen in the Art of Archery. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.

Krüger, Irmtraud Tarr. Performance Power. Translated by Edward H. Tarr. Tempe, AZ: Summit Books, 1993.

Loehr, James. Mental Toughness Training for Sports: Achieving Athletic Excellence. New York: Plume Books, 1982.

Restak, Richard. Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain's Potential. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2001.

Ristad, Eloise. A Soprano on Her Head. Moab, UT: Free People Press, 1982.

Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan, 1980. S.v. Psychology of Music,” by Natasha Spender.

Salzman, Mark. The Soloist. New York: Random House, 1994.

Schneiderman, Barbara. Confident Music Performance: The Art of Preparing. St. Louis: MMB Music, Inc., 1991.

Triplett, Robert. Stagefright: Letting It Work for You. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1983.

Werner, Kenny. Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. New Albany, IN: Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Inc., 1996.

Wilson, Frank R. Tone Deaf and All Thumbs. New York, NY: Viking, 1986.

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Copyright ©2013 by Leonard Garrison. Contact us: Lionel Hampton School of Music, University of Idaho, PO Box 444015, Moscow, ID 83844-4015
208-885-6709 (phone), 208-885-7254 (fax).