Performance Anxiety: Classical vs. Pop Musicians


An interesting blog post over on BulletProofMusician.com takes a look at the difference in levels of performance anxiety between traditionally-trained classical musicians and musicians in other genres.

The blog article looks at two different studies. One study by British researchers used 244 musicians, of which about half were classical musicians and the other half a mix of pop, jazz, and Traditional Scottish musicians. Almost three-quarters of the musicians in this study were students, with the remaining being professional musicians.

The second survey was larger, with 625 musicians (from 36 countries) participating. This study also used amateur musicians (27%) as well as students (27%) and professionals (46%). In terms of genre, this study used a greater percentage of classical musicians (71%) as opposed to other genres (9% jazz, 9% pop, 7% folk, and 2% rock).

I’m not going to give away the results of these two studies (definitely check out the BulletProofMusician.com article for that), but I will say that I’m not super surprised by the results of how classical and non-classical musicians feel during performances.

I know that I have felt different levels of anxiety in performing different genres of music. I’m not sure if it’s because of the physical setup (in a pit vs. on stage), the venue (in a loud bar vs. a dead-quiet concert hall) or the repertoire, but I do notice a difference. As Noa mentions, it’s interesting to think if there are differences in the “classical music culture” that could be changed to provide a better balance.

A very interesting addendum to this is that these studies show that not only is there a difference in anxiety and nerves in performance, there is also a difference in the pleasure and satisfaction derived from practicing. I’m not sure what it is about the traditional training process in classical music vs. other music genres that causes this disparity, but it deserves some more study, and I’m going to try and give it a bit more attention in my teaching.


About Colin Dorman

Colin is a freelance horn player and teacher, as well as a fan of tech of all sorts, aviation, and increasingly complex flight simulators. He also enjoys beer, bourbon and fitness - but not at the same time. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, as well as right here at ColinDorman.com!