Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Psychology of Performing - Part 2: Forgive Yourself

Learn how important it is to forgive yourself during performance.

In this second video, Robert talks about how to deal with the possibility of making mistakes or feeling nervous during performance, both of which could alter your performance from how you planned it.

Released on December 3, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with the second part of "The Psychology of Performance." Today's subject is "forgive yourself." That's right, a very important element of performing.

Now, if you've ever performed, you know that there is the element of chance. That's right; you practice so that you have consistency. But you come out there, and you have a different audience. The piano may be different. Just having the room filled with people changes the acoustics, and you might get thrown for a moment.

So, how do you deal with that? Well, that's what we're going to talk about today. The worst thing you can ever do is to get into a cyclical thought pattern - which I've talked about in a previous video - if you miss something, let's say. And what's the natural reaction? Your heart may start pounding. Your palms could become sweaty. And the worst thing you can ever do is start thinking, "Oh, my gosh. Suppose I miss something else!"

And it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? Because once you take your mind off of the performance and into this fear, you're no longer concentrating on your performance, and your mind can play all kinds of tricks on you. So you have to remember, first of all, a musical performance is important, but it's never a life-or-death proposition for you. You have to forgive yourself, and move on, and stay in the moment.

Worse yet, if you start thinking about your musical performance and start thinking of the "What's coming ahead?" and going, "Do I remember that part?" Once you take yourself out of that moment, you can really screw yourself up playing mind games. It's much like when you lie down to sleep at night. If you've ever done this, and you think, "Oh, if I get to sleep right now, I'll get eight hours sleep." And then you're lying there for a few minutes, and you just happen to doze off, and you think, "Oh, I think I'm going to sleep," and then, oh, my gosh, you're awake again. And if that happens once or twice, you could start getting into that cycle of "Oh!," you know, instead of just relaxing into sleep.

Well, performance is much the same way. You want to stay in the moment, and forgive yourself if anything goes wrong, and keep in the moment, not worried about what is past, or what's coming. But just enjoy the moment, staying involved, reaching the audience with the beautiful music.

So that's the lesson for today. In a performance, remember, no one's going to die, so forgive yourself if something goes wrong. You're only human. Nobody plays perfectly. Stay in the moment, enjoy your performance, and you and your audience will be richly rewarded.

Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at and, and look forward to more in this series on the psychology of performing.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

1stviolin * VSM MEMBER * on December 8, 2014 @3:22 pm PST
Your video really helped me when sitting my Grade 6 violin exam the other day. Went into panic mode once or twice then tried to "stay in the moment" and continued to end of pieces! I expect I could put your advice into action a little better but it certainly works!
Just when I needed confidence too - thanks!
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on December 3, 2014 @5:02 pm PST
A book that is relevant to the issue you discuss, plus to other related matters, is one called "The Inner Game of Music".
While what you say is correct of course, it's hard to put in need only refer to world class virtuosos who get upset and beat themselves up afterwards if during a performance they miss even "one" note.
Robert - host, on December 4, 2014 @11:09 am PST
You are right. Worse yet are the times I see parents scold their children for not playing perfectly in recital. This can set up a pattern of failure in music and in life. Although it takes hard work to become an accomplished performer, music is about sharing beauty and should be a joyful experience.
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