Fear factor in music

  1. Fear is one of the most natural things in music for a lot of people. Some of the greatest artistes (or for that matter, sportsmen or people in other walks of life) face it too. Only two kinds of people are generally fearless – the highly ignorant or the immensely knowledgeable. Great artistes are great not because they are fearless but because they overcome it by dint of hard work in the right direction and mental preparation with the correct attitude.

    Types of fear

    During one’s musical journey, an analytical person will notice several kinds of fear along the path! A few of them are given below:

    • Fear of each note (mostly long sustained plain notes) – some more than the other like Sa, Pa, Ga3, (the major third note) or high notes like S, R, G, M
    • Fear of some phrases
    • Fear of other friends/family members listening or walking in as we practice
    • Fear of other students in class (even those that are not better than us!)
    • Fear of guru
    • Fear of stage and audience
    • Fear of mike (how our own music will sound when amplified!)
    • Fear of peer artistes who may drop in on our concert
    • Fear of legendary artistes or other important people who may attend the concert

    Overcoming fear

    Each one of us can assess for ourselves which stage of fear are we in at a given point in time! However, all these can and must be overcome with quality guidance under great masters as well as more and more practice with lots and lots of patience. Patience does not mean just practicing for many hours each day. I am talking more about patience with respect to every note and phrase.

    A practitioner will see how he is able to eliminate each type of fear mentioned above step by step with the kind of patience I am speaking about.

    The approach has to be to practice until one feels good about the music first. Normally, the stages this would be:

    • After practicing a note/phrase for a few dozen times (it could be more or less based on how comfortable one is with a given phrase) one can get it correctly.
    • After a few more times after the stage of mere correctness, one will stop feeling conscious of it.
    • Only after a few more times will one stop being tense about it and start feeling comfortable with it (since one’s voice or hands start move more naturally).
    • Only after many more times will one feel confident about it when singing alone.
    • Only after several more times will one feel confident to sing it in front of others.
    • After some more time, others will also feel comfortable when they listen to us!

    Developing intimacy with each note/piece of music

    By getting to know the notes one by one and phrases one by one, an artiste will overcome this factor. Getting to know a note/phrase is akin to getting know a person or a family. There are many with whom our relationship is just a ‘Hi’ and a ‘Bye’. We will never know such people much. There are some with whom we spend hours, days, months or years and we get to know them better and better.

    So also with notes and phrases that we don’t spend time on. One will never get to know them well. Then how can one sing/play them well? Only when we spend lots of time on a note or phrase can we start knowing it better.

    With even more time, the note / phrase will also know us better! Sounds, weird? Actually, it is not. I will leave you all to introspect a bit about this to understand what I mean!


paddu said…
wow,ravi.what you have written in your article is perfectly true for any profession(as you have mentioned).when we were young,mr bhaskara das used to make us practice till we were perfect at each note.
please post more such articles
katyayani said…
thats really good.... i love the entire thing, but especially that last part abt others feeling comfortable, is really good and true too... its a similar case with dance, i guess... you have said something very simple, yet very true and almost always not-understood... as they say, the answer is always the more simple one...
Sumukh said…
Thank you for the article. Its a must read for all music students. It is absolutely true in my case. You have truly addressed my personal fears in all music (including my Mridangam) performances. Now I am convinced that more practice is sure to help.
KSS said…
A lot of fears are common. As Ravikiran explains most of them can be over come by shear dedication and practice. This is why legends of the past practiced each note 100's of times and thoroughly master it before presenting it on stage. One must not only be intimate with each note, but also thoroughly understand the meaning of the lyrics and understand the words in particular, so that while sing the words can be presented in one quanta with all the gamakas and other aesthetic attributes. As far as legendary artists sitting in the audience, an artist should be honored that he/she has a legend in the audience. Though this fear is natural, there is really no need for it. The artist can always talk to the legendary artist and actually receive very candid and extremely useful feedback. But if you see a legendary artist walk out of the concert after 1 or 2 krithis then, you probably have a bigger problem at hand. Some of the problems could require you to go back to drawing board.

I am always reminded of Akkarai Subbalakshmi and her dedication music. She practices the fundamentals (sarali varse, janti varse,..) every day. I have been told that Mysore T. Chowdiah did this till his very end. Plus she also plays a recording of legends and actually plays accompaniment on the violin to the legends music. If only others did this and I hope they do. I am convinced Akkarai will make a mark of her own, that is unparalleled to any thing in the field as long as she keeps up the same dedication.

San Jose, CA
Nalini said…
Really nice dissection and presentation of the various fear factors in music...Look forward to your blogs on other such influential factors in music.

I am sure you have come across the correlation that has been drawn to show that an individual requires at least 10000 cumulative hrs (in 10 years?) of practice (mindful) to reach excellence and eminence irrespective of the area of emphasis....

Shikha said…
Sir, very informative. Looking forward to such articles in future too. Thank you.
ushasrinivasan said…
detail wonderfully crafted article just like your music.you said it all.
Connoisseur said…
Despite your gifted musical abilities, sir, you have discussed a near-complete generic analysis of phobia in the area of performing music, particularly Carnatic music. This analysis should be archived digitally or better still printed as an added note in some of your own books like compositions, which I believe would help the student or the professional to address & thereby find ways to mitigate their own fears significantly. I am already taking this discussion seriously in music practice. Thank you so much sir.
Anonymous said…
RK inspires me like no other !
Anonymous said…
Very informative and practicle.
Thank you Guru Ravi Kiran ji, for showing a light on fear factor of music.

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