Top 10 Jedi Mind Tricks for Flute Performances that Slay

The original wellness guru, Yoda, once explained to a young Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I wish Yoda could be backstage reciting words of wisdom whenever we find ourselves terrified to play the flute…in public…in front of other humans! Luckily, there are number of other Jedi-style mind tricks that we can lean on in Yoda’s absence to calm our nerves, clear our heads, and welcome our fierce flute-playing confidence back with open arms. In today’s blog, I will be sharing 10 of these approaches to help bring a bit of Jedi magic to your next performance. May the force be with you always!

1. Give yourself permission to not play perfectly. Better yet, dare yourself to play badly. Perfectionism breeds anxiety, especially before a performance. We often find ourselves fighting off the whispers from our inner critic that we aren’t ready and will make mistakes. These are lies, brought on by nervousness. If we give ourselves permission to fail, then these false statements have no power.

2. Explore the worst-case scenario. What would happen if you bombed your performance? Would you be kicked out of school? Would you be fired? Would the world explode? Probably not. How reasonable is that worst-case scenario? If it actually isn’t the end of the world, you don’t really have anything to fear. The consequences of a bad performance are totally survivable. So, you essentially have nothing to lose.

3. Try Meridian Tapping Techniques. Meridian tapping techniques involve tapping along the various meridians of the body while reciting a supportive, affirmational phrase. This phrase may include a truth about the current situation, “I am so nervous to perform because….” and a supportive phrase, “…but I know that I am a talented flutist and love my flute playing.” There are ten areas on the body you may tap. You may tap all of them in a sequence while reciting your phrase or select one or two areas that work best. Tap each area with two or three fingers and repeat until you feel less anxious. 

  • Karate Chop Area – Outside of the little finger on either hand. Tap with your opposite hand.

  • Eyebrow – Where the top of your eyebrow starts next to your nose (either side).

  • Side of Eye – Outside of the eye (either side) on the softer area between the temple and rim of bone.

  • Under the Eye – About one inch below the eye (either eye).

  • Under the Nose – In the grove between your nose and lips (sometimes referred to as the “cupid’s bow”).

  • Chin – In the groove between the lips and chin where the lip plate of the flute is placed.

  • Collarbone – One inch below your collarbone and one inch from the center (either side).

  • Under Arm – Side of body (either side), and four inches below the arm pit.

  • Wrist – Three finger widths from the crease of the wrist. You may also gently tap both of your wrists together.

  • Top/Crown of the Head – Using all fingers, tap the crown of your head located directly between both of your ears.

4. Create an affirmation soundtrack. This worked like a charm during my last recital! Record yourself giving yourself a pep talk. Pull up your favorite voice recording app on your smart phone, press record, and say all of the things you’d expect your greatest cheerleader to say. “You are so ready for this recital! You are going to rock it.” Listen to your affirmation soundtrack often – Even during your commute to and from rehearsals. You will be surprised how effective listening to yourself say positive things to yourself is on your flute playing confidence, no matter where you are in your studies.

5. Do an Alexander Technique-style lay down. Alexander Technique centers around understanding how our bodies react to stimulus. A stimulus could be a lesson, a performance, or something else that makes us anxious. One of the easiest Alexander Technique exercises is a simple lay down. It is what it sounds like. Simply lay down on the ground using a book (or two) to support the back of the head, knees bent towards the ceiling, elbows bent, and hands resting on the stomach comfortably. Breathe slowly in and out, focusing on lengthening the spine and widening the body with each breath. Rinse and repeat for 15-20 minutes and watch your performance anxiety vanish before your eyes. Yoda would approve!

6. Write it out. Journaling is powerful, but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) opens doors to your brain. According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive behavioral therapy, “places an emphasis on helping individuals learn to be their own therapists. Through exercises in the session as well as “homework” exercises outside of sessions, patients/clients are helped to develop coping skills, whereby they can learn to change their own thinking, problematic emotions, and behavior.” There are many helpful CBT exercise worksheets available online to help get you writing about performance anxiety. One of my favorites is the CBT for Kids: Thoughts, Feelings, & Actions from Therapist Aid. Try it out the next time you are anxious before a performance.

7. The Finger Breath. This one I cannot take credit for as it was something I picked up from a Keith Underwood masterclass many moons ago. Simply make an L shape with your left hand using your index finger and thumb. Place your lips against the long side of the L, approximately where the base of your index finger meets your palm, allowing plenty of space between your lips. Then take a large breath (it should sound quite noisy and ferocious). When we are anxious, it is sometimes difficult to breathe. A finger breath helps give you a large, relaxing breath when you need it the most.

8. The Breathing Bag. A Breathing Bag is a wonderful tool used by many flutists to develop breath management. One of the most basic exercises is to simply breathe in and out of the bag. Just the act of breathing in one’s own breath is calming and grounding. This is why people experiencing a panic attack often breathe in and out of a paper bag. The Breathing Bag is an upscale version of this, discrete enough to fit in your flute bag and use before performances.

9. Listen to a super empowering piece of music. Musicians naturally understand the power an inspirational song has on our spirit. For example, I always feel super confident and indestructible after I hear the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. What is your power song? Put it on repeat before your next performance.

10. And finally, as The Nutty Professor remarks, “No matter what, you’ve got to strut.” Give every performance your all, even if you are scared. Performing is both a learning experience and an opportunity to share your music, and your heart, with others. Enjoy the process and use these Jedi mind tricks to bring your very best to each performance.

Do you have a Jedi mind trick not mentioned here? Which approaches work best for you? Do you have a fun story about your own Jedi mind trick experience?

Happy fluting!

About the Author, Rachel Taylor Geier:

Rachel Taylor Geier holds a DMA in Flute Performance from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, an MM in Flute Performance from San Francisco State University, and a BM in Music Performance from DePauw University. Former applied instructors include Immanuel Davis, Linda Lukas, Anne Reynolds, and Rhonda Bradetich. Dr. Geier currently teaches and freelances in Davis, California and hosts a popular Flute Friday Blog Series.