Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. This information on Beta Blockers does not constitute medical advice
Some musicians resort to prescription drugs to overcome nerves. I mention this because it happens, not because I approve or recommend this approach. One in particular that is very popular is Inderal, the brand name for propranolol. This is a Beta Blocker. Basically, this drug blocks the action of adrenaline on the system, so reduce sweating palms, shaking, butterflies in the stomach, and other physical manifestations of on stage nerves. Beta Blockers do not, however, block any of the psychological issues of performance anxiety, such as internal dialogue and are a quick fix rather than a long term solution to these problems. If you suffer from any kind of stage nerves be sure to read The Inner Game of Music before you resort to any kind of medication. This book, by Barry Green, former principal bassist with the Cincinnati Symphony is based on the original ideas in W. Tim Galloway's book, The Inner Game of Tennis and helps reduce the psychological effects of nerves on performance. Barry Green collaborated closely with the original author on the book, as well as testing out and modifying his ideas with his students over a two year period The book is, in my opinion, one of the most important books on musical psychology to have been written (if not the most important) and is required reading for all of my students once they are at a level/age to appreciate the importance of the lessons. Check out the Music Practice Books page for more information about this must read book.
As you may imagine there is considerable debate over using prescription drugs to help cope with performance anxiety and whether they are safe, a good idea in certain circumstances, fair to other performers if you are auditioning etc. If you do decide to investigate them for personal use please remember they are a prescription drug and you should always consult a doctor before going any further. There are several groups of people who definitely shouldn't take them.
There are also various herbal remedies available which claim to help performance anxiety although you would need to do your own research into how effective and safe these are.
I do not recommend using any chemical to control your performance nerves. There could well be unwanted side effects, and what happens when you leave them at home?? Much better to practice performing and maybe use sommething like Journey to the Wild Divine or take up Yoga to learn to learn to control your body and mind. Not only will this make you a better performer, but will probably enhance other areas of your life as well!
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