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Subject: rec.music.classical.performing - FAQ

This article was archived around: 25 Oct 2000 08:36:20 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: music/performing
All FAQs posted in: rec.music.classical.performing
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Archive-name: music/performing/faq Last-modified: 2 January 1999 Version: 2.1b
Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) for rec.music.classical.performing * This is a monthly posting which attempts to address some of the questions most frequently asked in rec.music.classical.performing. The term `FAQ' is used henceforth to refer to this posting. Contents 1. What is rec.music.classical.performing? 2. How do I post to rec.music.classical.performing? 3. Some suggestions for combating performance anxiety 4. Over-use Syndrome (tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome etc.) A. How to contribute to this FAQ * The last update to this FAQ was dated 31 July 1996 (version 2.0). On that occasion several sections were omitted as it was felt that they were largely supplanted by better reference sources on the world-wide web. I specifically referred readers to the WWW Virtual Library at the URL http://www.gprep.pvt.k12.md.us/classical/ . As of this minor revision, I have renumbered the remaining sections and made a small addendum to the section on over-use syndrome. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. What is rec.music.classical.performing? Rec.music.classical.performing is a Usenet newsgroup intended for people who are involved in or interested in the performance of classical music (or closely-related genres), at any level and in any capacity. (If you are unsure what the terms `Usenet' and `newsgroup' mean, I suggest you read the articles in news.announce.newusers before reading any further - ask someone at your site if you have trouble finding this.) The fortnightly posting `Welcome to rec.music.classical.performing!' includes a more detailed charter for the newsgroup and it is strongly suggested that you read that article before posting anything to the group. There is also a fortnightly posting `Which Classical Newsgroup? (FAQ)' which should help potential posters decide which group best suits their requirements. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 2. How do I post to rec.music.classical.performing? Posting to rec.music.classical.performing is accomplished as for any other unmoderated newsgroup. It would be helpful if posters would bear in mind the following guidelines: - Always use an informative subject line; in particular, change the subject line on a thread which is going off-topic to something more appropriate. - Keep cross-posting to a minimum; make judicious use of the `Followup-To' field where cross-posting is necessary. - Edit quoted material to a minimum but, at the same time, keep articles as self-contained as possible. - Perhaps most importantly, take time to prepare an article before posting it to the net and ask yourself whether an email message may be more appropriate when replying to a previous article. These guidelines are generally applicable and part of standard `netiquette' (for further advice on posting, see the group news.announce.newusers.). Do not be discouraged from posting to rec.music.classical.performing! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Some suggestions for combating performance anxiety [When the topic of performance anxiety was first raised in the newsgroup, a significant number of responses appeared in which various methods for overcoming stress were suggested. Only a few of those are represented here - if anyone notices any glaring omissions, please let me know. - SN] If you do not suffer particularly from performance anxiety, count yourself privileged. Anxiety in moderation can be a good thing, helping you to focus all your energy on the task in hand. Clearly, though, if you feel especially uncomfortable when playing or singing (or conducting...) in front of an audience, your performance will suffer. There are countless ways of coping with the stress of performing, some of which work better for some people than for others. Some have suggested pre-performance exercises of various sorts, from deep breathing to meditation to screaming (quietly if necessary!). Also suggested were longer-term techniques such as the Alexander Method. Many people suggested (temporary) dietary changes as a means of calming nerves prior to a performance. Indeed, one of the most popular remedies would appear to be the humble banana. Eat a couple of these before you perform and you'll have no problems (or so we are told). [I have forgotten the other dietary advice given in the original discussion - if anyone was taking notes, I'd be very grateful... - SN] Now for the serious stuff. A number of performers have advocated the use of various drugs as surefire ways of reducing/avoiding anxiety. While it is certainly true that drugs can be effective, it is equally true that their misuse can be highly dangerous. Never use anxiety reducing drugs unless medically directed. Beta blockers, such as propranolol (Inderal in the US), block the body's response (reaction) to adrenaline. Propranolol is well recognized as effective in reducing performance anxiety. It is one of the safest drugs ever developed, having been in use for treatment of high blood pressure, angina pectoris, and hyperthyroidism for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, beta blockers have at least one potentially fatal side effect: they will worsen the severity of asthma attacks and may precipitate an attack in an otherwise well controlled asthmatic. Persons with heart failure or mild degrees of heart block should usually not take beta blockers, as they can worsen these problems. Propranolol is supplied both in straight tablet form (taken every 6 to 8 hours) and in a long acting (LA) formulation, so be sure to find out from the prescribing physician how soon before a performance to take the medication. " Corticosteroids, such as Prednisone, work by reducing inflammation through suppression of immune responses. A number of side-effects have been attributed to use of such drugs, including thinning of the skin and redistribution of fatty tissue. Short term use of these drugs (a few days to a couple of weeks) will not usually have such adverse effects, though, given the suppression of immune response, corticosteroids should never be taken when suffering from a bacterial or viral illness. A book on the subject of performance anxiety which comes highly recommended is `Stage Fright; its causes and cures, with special reference to violin playing' by Kato Havas. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 4. Over-use Syndrome (tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome etc.) There have been several articles in the newsgroup from people asking about dealing with pain during or after playing their instruments. Here's a brief description of some types of over-use syndrome and a few suggestions on what to do if you have pain. If you have pain while playing your instrument (or after playing), it might be related to what doctors now call `over-use syndrome.' This is caused by strain on muscles, ligaments and tendons causing swelling, which induces pain. One common type of `over-use syndrome' is tendonitis, caused by a swelling of the blood-vessel sheath surrounding tendons. For performers, this often occurs in your fingers, your hand, or your arm, or your shoulder. Tendonitis is common among musicians, typists, professional phone bank workers and assembly-line workers; the common denominator is work (or play) involving very repetitive motion in the fingers, hands or arms. Another, more specific, injury is carpal-tunnel syndrome (CTS). The carpal tunnel is a wrist `tunnel' formed on three sides by bone and the 4th side by a strong ligament (the Transverse Carpal Ligament, to be technical). There are nine tendons and the median nerve which travel through this tunnel. Each tendon is surrounded by a lubricating lining, called the synovium. CTS is caused by the compression of these tendons in the carpal tunnel, either by swelling of the synovium, injury to the bone or ligament, or by fluid retention. CTS should be treated by a doctor. There are several types of treatment for CTS, including surgery, but surgery is the last resort and should never be done on a musician without a second or third opinion. If you think you have tendonitis, there are several things you can do on your own to try to relieve it: i. If possible, stop practising for a day or two. Also try to avoid doing a lot of typing or other repetitive hand activity. If the pain persists after a couple of days, see a doctor. ii. Before practising, warm up your hands, wrists, arms with warm water or a heating pad on a low setting. Keep the affected area from getting cold while playing (say, from sitting under an air-conditioning duct). iii. While practising, stop frequently, put the instrument down (unless, obviously, you're a keyboard player) and relax. A slow warm-up session with several short rest periods can help relieve stress. iv. You can use an anti-inflammatory medication (such as Ibuprofen, also sold under such names as Nuprin, Advil, and others). A doctor can prescribe stronger medication. You may want to take Ibuprofen after eating to reduce stomach upset. Aspirin is slightly less effective than Ibuprofen, but works. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is not an anti-inflammatory drug. v. Right after playing, apply a cold pack or ice to the affected area. An ice cube massage right after playing can do wonders for tendonitis in the hand or fingers or arms. I have a large cold pack I keep in the freezer which I used to use for my shoulder. You can apply lots of cold for short periods of time, but don't go overboard and get frostbite. vi. Sometimes a hand brace can help by immobilising the hand, wrist, arm while not playing the instrument. vii. If you type a lot, say while writing messages for rec.music.classical.performing, use a wrist rest for your keyboard. They even make mouse wrist rests if you do a lot of mousing at the computer. Avoid computer games that call for a lot of typing or clicking. viii. Again, though, if the pain continues, seek a doctor's care. Cortisone shots, prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy and even surgery can be required. There are special medical clinics for performing musicians. [Andy Brandt has a list of such, a selection from which could be added to the FAQ if there is sufficient demand. -SN] ix. Tell your teacher. Perhaps there is a way to change your technique to relieve stress on a particular muscle or tendon. A doctor who is familiar with instrumental technique can analyse what is causing the problem and suggest solutions. Some doctors specialise in keyboard instruments, wind instruments, string instruments, etc. x. Try to stay in good general physical condition. Normal exercise can do a lot to prevent over-use. Many musicians, in school or later, often neglect their general physical (and mental) well-being. This information, based on personal research and experience, is not professional medical advice. If you want professional advice, seek a good physician. [Andy Brandt disclaims any liability for the accuracy of material contained in this article. Additional information and corrections, if any, are always welcome. -SN] Scott Van Hoven recommends the well-established `Alexander Technique' (named after Frederick Matthias Alexander) whereby the patient/student is trained to use his or her body appropriately to avoid risk of injury. This can, for many people, be a useful preventive and curative method. A search on the web should reveal plenty of further information. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- A. How to contribute to this FAQ Contributions to this FAQ should be emailed to Sandy Nicholson at the address given below, as should any corrections, suggestions or queries directly related to this posting. Many thanks to the following for their contributions: Andrew Levin, Andy Brandt, Anita Thesen, Bjorn F Langoren, Cindi Roden, Claudia Zornow, Dale Gold, Dan Breslau, Daniel Downey, Denis L. Clason, Elizabeth L. Jones, Gene Ouye, Genevra Neumann, Greg Baker, Greg Skinner, Hanspeter Schmid, Jason Tiller, John A. Polito II, John Lewis, Jonathan Helton, Joris Geurts, Kailan Rubinoff, Kathie Fry, Kip Bishofberger, Lawrence E. Mallette, Lisa Argiris, Mark Bitter, Marko Hotti, Marlon Feld, Martin D. Jenkins, Matthew Cable, Matthias Brixel, Michael Bersin, Nancy Leinonen Howells, Nathan Kreitzer, Neil R. Corman, Nicole de Beer, Peggy Lin, Phil J. Tompkins, Robert Levine, Robert Nelson, Scott Van Hoven, Seth S. Katz, Stephen Birkett, Stephen Wilcox, Terence T. Lung