Anxiety of Musicians in Music Performance

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The proposal presents the topic of the anxiety of musicians in music performance, as well as how this anxiety could be alleviated. The research questions are as follows: 1) Is there a link between musicians’ types of temperament and the extent of anxiety they face in music performance? 2) What are their perceptions of the ways the anxiety in music performance can be alleviated? 3)Is an individual approach for every musician required in order to alleviate the anxiety during music performance, or would it be more appropriate to follow some generalized guidelines? The total number of participants is 25. They were involved by utilizing the approach of random sampling. The research uses mixed methods, appealing to the pragmatic paradigm and phenomenological theoretical framework.

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Topic Under Investigation

The theme of the anxiety of musicians in music performance has been significantly explored. However, it seems rational to say that there are a few studies that utilize the mixed-method approach within the topic given. Moreover, there is a visible gap in research that confirms a solid correlation between the psychological peculiarities of musicians and the extent of anxiety in music performance. By using both quantitative and qualitative data sets, the paper aims to fill this gap and discuss how the mentioned anxiety could be alleviated.


Overcoming the anxiety in music performance is not only an urgent problem that requires constant close attention, but also a bleeding problem, which, on the one hand, speaks of the need to solve it, and on the other, it always leaves “blank spots” in the process of its comprehension. Possible ways to solve it personify both the level of development of the music and pedagogical industry and the indicator of its imperfection. Since a person represents a kind of microcosm with multi-element and polysystemic structures (biological, physiological, psychological, pedagogical, social), it is extremely difficult to find the shortest way to solving the problem of overcoming the stress of public speaking.

This situation is due to the difficulty in implementing an individual approach, which is associated with the diverse nature of a person, and with the specifics of his or her psychological peculiarities, and with the adoption of the optimal decision regarding the “course of treatment” (tuning) of the inner world. It is essential to recognize that the process aimed at overcoming the stage excitement in a destructive version, at stabilizing the internal forces of the organism, takes place in the plane of both consciousness and the unconscious.

Literature review

The problem of the anxiety of musicians in music performance concerns everyone whose activities involve going out to the public. According to scientists, this anxiety can be considered as a reaction of the human body to a stressful situation (Matei & Ginsborg, 2017; Sabino et al., 2018; Thomas & Nettelbeck, 2013). That is, nature has programmed us to worry, and if we are faced with any danger, then we experience anxiety. Other psychologists associate the mentioned phenomenon with the way of life in primitive society. All human actions in those days passed through the prism of social encouragement or punishment; exile was tantamount to death. For the contemporary, the fear of failure or of hearing negative feedback about one’s actions is often the reason for fear of speaking in front of an audience (Dempsey & Comeau, 2019; Kenny & Osborne, 2006). However, a person, in the process of his or her socialization, has developed to such an extent that public performances are inevitable. We go out to a large group of people and try to prove something, show. People, viewers can judge, and they may not like what they see – here, the anxiety is like a limiter of the performer’s capabilities.

Hence, the real reason for the anxiety is not the certainty and unpredictability of the public reaction, what people and listeners will say about the performance. This is a kind of formula in which public opinion becomes important – “I want to please people, whether they like me or not.” Moreover, like adults, students may worry about their established reputation at school and are even afraid of losing it (Papageorgi et al., 2007; Clearman, 2020; McPherson & McCormick, 2006). They are worried about the opinion that teachers or parents have about them.

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It is widely believed among athletes that success in sports is more easily achieved by people with a strong type of nervous system – phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine. For persons with a weak kind of higher nervous activity (melancholic), whose nervous system is characterized by weakly expressed excitatory and inhibitory processes, the road to victory is closed. A similar dependence is observed in musical performance – musicians with a strong unbalanced type of nervous system (choleric), more often than others, experience a stage state that resembles a “pre-start fever.” Performers with a strong, inert system (phlegmatic) are more likely to fall into a state of “creative apathy”. Musicians with a weak type of nervous system (melancholic) overcome unhealthy forms of stage excitement more difficult than others (Kurmanaev, 2016).

Performers with phlegmatic temperament have a relatively poor range of dynamic shades. Artistry is often lacking in performance. Sometimes they imperceptibly slow down the pace. They feel constrained when they are forced to turn to an unusual composer’s language. They do not show initiative in organizing their performances. They prefer not to change their partners in the ensemble. They work methodically and calmly. They readily rely on previously acquired performing skills. They are less susceptible to negative forms of pop excitement less than others (Kurmanaev, 2016).

Performers with a choleric temperament may be characterized by the following. The choleric play, as a rule, is distinguished by high artistry. They strive to play brightly and expressively. They often have difficulties in the rhythmic organization of musical material. They have a tendency to imperceptibly accelerate the tempo, shorten pauses, and underexpose of long notes. Failures are hard for them. Then, performers with a sanguine temperament work unevenly – before a responsible performance, they engage in a lot and enthusiastically; after the performance, they hardly overcome their reluctance. Sanguine people willingly look for the use of their creative powers, take the initiative in organizing their performances, but they quickly get bored with a piece of music, even the one that they themselves have chosen. They adapt flexibly to unusual working conditions. Failure is relatively easy to bear (Kurmanaev, 2016).

Performers with a melancholic temperament seem to possess the following features. As a rule, the details of the performance are very carefully worked out; a lot of attention is paid to the details of interpretation. They often lack the scale of performance, artistic emancipation, creative courage. Slowly adapt to unfamiliar working conditions. They suffer especially hard from negative forms of stage excitement. Failures are extremely painful. It is known that pure temperaments are relatively rare (Kurmanaev, 2016). And although in the creative work of a musician, there is no predomination of features of a particular temperament, there can also be observed certain features inherent to another. The daily solution of similar performance problems, the constant fulfillment of the same creative tasks gradually change the human psyche.

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Work to reduce the anxiety in music performance should be carried out appropriately, taking into account a musician’s personality: their temperament, typical reaction in stressful conditions, the level of personal anxiety, in some cases, only the help of a psychologist is needed (Marko, 2019). However, the scholarly dimension also claims that most general guidelines apply to every musician. Among them are the following – rational selection of the repertoire; formation of stability in a concert performance due to conscientious preliminary preparation; working out a complex of stage rituals; multiple playing of the prepared material in different settings; preliminary study of the acoustic capabilities of the scene (Vaag et al., 2016; Marko, 2019; Brooker, 2018).

Research Purpose Statement

The purpose of this phenomenological study is to investigate the ways in which the anxiety of musicians in music performance may be alleviated through the lens of their experience regarding the theme, establishing a link between their psychological peculiarities and possible approaches to the given issue’s resolving. Both quantitative and qualitative methods will be applied, using surveys and individual interviews, respectively, in order to obtain a comprehensive and exhaustive data set for the research. The study aims to provide insight into musicians’ perceptions of anxiety in music performance, as well as to shed light on the importance of solving the problem.

Research Questions

In order to explore and understand the phenomenon of the anxiety of musicians in music performance and define how it may be alleviated, the following research questions will be addressed:

  1. Is there is a link between musicians’ types of temperament and the extent of anxiety they face in music performance?
  2. What are their perceptions of the ways the anxiety in music performance can be alleviated?
  3. Is an individual approach for every musician required in order to alleviate the anxiety during music performance, or would it be more appropriate to follow some generalized guidelines?

Philosophical Statement

A pragmatist paradigm guides this study’s exploration of the phenomenon of the anxiety of musicians in music performance and the ways in which this anxiety could be alleviated, seeking to understand how the participants’ psychological peculiarities – or types of temperament – affect the process of addressing the issue. Pragmatism might be determined as a research philosophy that is founded on the rationale that there is no single approach to learn but a variety of ways in which a phenomenon can be understood as there are a plethora of realities. According to the paradigm, understanding multiple realities may be achieved by integrating several research methods. Hence, in adopting the mentioned paradigm, this study takes on a mixed-methods design, appealing to both quantitative and qualitative practices. Through such an integration, it is expected to obtain a better understanding of the issue’s manifestations from the perspectives of the participants who experienced them, as well as from scientific testing of facts. In order to understand the anxiety of musicians in music performance and define ways in which it can be alleviated, the theoretical framework for this research is phenomenology.


To investigate the anxiety of musicians in music performance and explore their experiences within the scope of the theme, as well as to establish the link between their psychological peculiarities and ways in which this anxiety can be alleviated, this study will take the form of a mixed-method phenomenology. A phenomenological mixed-method approach suits the nature of this topic of study, underpinned by a pragmatist paradigm, seeking insight into the participants’ experience of the phenomena, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative approaches (Martiny et al., 2021). In aiming to investigate the musicians’ experiences and reflections on these experiences, individual interviews and surveys will contribute to understanding and studying the topic from different perspectives. The mixed-method approach will lead to a more detailed discussion in the framework of addressing the research questions and result in balanced conclusions on the issue and the ways to overcome it (Salkind, 2010; Shorten & Smith, 2017).

Methods of Data Collection

Data for this study will be obtained through in-depth, individual interviews with the participants with open-ended questions, which will result in detailed answers, giving significant insight into their experiences in the framework of anxiety in music performance. Interviews will be conducted via video conferencing utilizing the Zoom tool and will be audio-recorded for transcription purposes. Interview questions are designed in a manner that fits the aims of this study and allows the participants to provide exhaustive answers (see Appendix A). These interviews will contribute to obtaining significant data sets that will shed light on the musicians’ perspectives, experiences, and reflections within the scope of the theme. Then, surveys with close-ended questions will be a source of quantitative data that will be provided to the participants prior to the interviews (see Appendix B). They will show the participants’ psychological peculiarities and these peculiarities’ correlation with the anxiety in music performance.

Sampling and Participants

In order to obtain relevant data sets required to address the aims of this research, participants were 50 musicians randomly selected from different orchestras. First, they were investigated by questionnaire, and then 25 participants were randomly chosen for face-to-face or online interviews, as well as for the surveys with close-ended questions. Given the fact that the available participant pool for this research is relatively big, a simple random sampling method was used (Ruel et al., 2016). The mentioned method seems to fit the purpose of this study as it allows involving a convincing number of participants, which contributes to the opportunity to generalize and provide new reliable perspectives on the issue.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Data analysis in this research will follow the five major integrative steps of the mixed-method approach suggested by Knowlton & Phillips (2013): sorting and coding, combining, linking and comparing, iterative guiding, counting and transforming. During the first stage, data obtained from the interviews and surveys will be recorded and appropriately sorted – quantitative and qualitative data sets will be separated to realize initial insights. It should also be noted that the transcription of the interviews will be done verbatim; hence, it is essential to take into account the responsibility to present the participants respectfully (Leavy, 2017; Parcell & Rafferty, 2017; Shelton & Flint, 2019). The second phase implies that the quantitative and qualitative data sets will be combined using Excel, which will show the full scale of the gained insights. During the third stage, quantitative and qualitative data will be compared. During the fourth step, the initial assumptions regarding the correlation between the musicians’ psychological peculiarities and the extent of the anxiety in music performance will be either confirmed or refuted. At the last stage, the findings will be transformed to conclusions that will address the research questions of this study (Knowlton & Phillips, 2013).


Given the relatively small participant size of this research, there will be some limitations regarding the findings’ generalizability. Still, the insights are likely to contribute to the study field considerably as there are a few works that explore the theme from the perspective of musicians’ particular psychological peculiarities. Data analysis will be validated through consultations with colleagues and the supervisor. Then, given the mixed-method approach, it will be important to double-check the appropriacy of the combination of quantitative and qualitative data obtained from the interviews and surveys.


This study will explore the anxiety of musicians in music performance, as well as provide possible ways in which this issue could be alleviated, referring to the participants’ experience, reflections, and perceptions. It is critical to remember that despite the fact that the researcher and participants are equal within the scope of the theme given, this cannot mean that experiences will be identical. Hence, it will be essential to take reflexive notes, as well as to journal during the whole project. This will limit bias in the study’s framework by contributing to the understanding of each participant’s experiences.

Ethical Considerations

This project will obtain ethics approval from the University of Queensland’s Humanities and Social Sciences Low or Negligible Risk Sub-Committee prior to commencement. The participants will be 18 years and over, as well as to take part on a voluntary basis. They will provide written consent to participate in the project and will be informed about the study’s theme and design. These participants will also be provided with pseudonyms in order to ensure privacy and will be told about it initially.


Brooker, E. (2018). Music performance anxiety: A clinical outcome study into the effects of cognitive hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing in advanced pianists. Psychology of Music, 46(1), 107–124. Web.

Clearman J.A. (2020). Experiences in Music Performance Anxiety: Exploration of Pedagogical Instruction Among Professional Musicians. In: Lee SH., Morris M.L., Nicosia S.V. (Eds.) Perspectives in Performing Arts Medicine Practice. Springer, Cham. Web.

Dempsey, E., & Comeau, G. (2019). Music performance anxiety and self-efficacy in. young musicians: Effects of gender and age. Music Performance Research, 9, 60–79.

Kenny, D. T., & Osborne, M. S. (2006). Music performance anxiety: New insights from young musicians. Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 2(2), 103–112. Web.

Knowlton, L. W., & Phillips, C. C. (2012). The logic model guidebook: Better strategies for great results. SAGE Publications.

Kurmanaev, Y. M. (2016). The role of the character structure in performer’s psychological preparation to concert performance. International Journal of Environmental Science and Education, 11(12), 5198–5208.

Leavy, P. (2017). Research design: Quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, arts-based, and community-based participatory research approaches. Guilford Press.

Marko, G. (2019). An exploration of musical performance anxiety (MPA) and its relation to perfectionism and performance. Semantic Scholar. Web.

Martiny, K. M., Toro, J., & Hoffding, S. (2021). Framing a phenomenological mixed method: From inspiration to guidance. Frontiers in Psychology. Web.

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Appendix A. Sample Interview Questions

Can you tell me about your activities as a musician? (Educational background, sphere of employment, instrument, etc.)

What were the reasons for you to become a musician?

  • Can you tell me whether there was any pressure on you to choose the profession?
  • Does your occupation fits your psychological peculiarities?

Can you tell me about crucial problems related to your work as a musician?

  • What is the place of the anxiety I music performance among these issues?
  • Do you consider this anxiety as a factor that substantially hinders your work as a musician?
  • Do you feel you know how to overcome this anxiety and perform well?

What can you tell be regarding the ways you fight the anxiety in music performance?

  • Do you see any interdependence between how you tend to overcome this anxiety and your type of temperament?
  • Can you list your essential approaches to deal with the anxiety in music performance?
  • Do you think there is a necessity to conduct seminars on dealing with this anxiety for musicians on a regular basis? If yes, could you explain benefits that musicians can get from visiting them?

Appendix B. Survey

What type of temperament is inherent to you?

  • Sanguine;
  • Phlegmatic;
  • Melancholy;
  • Choleric.

On scale from 0 to 5, show how the anxiety during music performance affects your work.

  • 0;
  • 1;
  • 2;
  • 3;
  • 4;
  • 5.

What is the best way to deal with the anxiety during music performance?

  • To find an individual approach;
  • To follow general guidelines.

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