Meri’s Musical Musings

(Prescription) Drugs and Music Performance

Posted on: January 25, 2011

Much has been touted about music performance enhancing techniques to help musicians perform better, such as visualization and breathing exercises. For me, some of the techniques others suggested I try actually increased my performance anxiety. However, there are some individuals which the techniques either don’t work, or don’t work well enough for them to perform well. For some of these people, prescription drugs may help significantly.

I myself for years had problems performing well, especially in a solo situation. Before taking prescription drugs, I rarely, if ever, performed at the top of my game, and had quite a number of disasterous solo performances. The turnaround came soon after I met my husband; we worked quite a while together playing, rehearsing, and even performing a number of pieces. But I’d often have a memory lapse, couldn’t understand the rhythm, couldn’t understand how the parts fit together (such as in a fugue or canon), miscounted a rest, or would totally lose my concentration, even when I had practiced a lot.

That started to change when I was treated for depression and anxiety several years ago along with treatment from a therapist. For the past several years, I have been on an anti-anxiety drug and an antidepressant. Within about a couple of weeks to a month my husband started to notice that my concentration was greatly enhanced, and I made a lot fewer rhythmic errors. Not only that, but within two months of starting treatment, I had a highly successful first exam from The Royal Conservatory of Music, which was an early intermediate piano exam. And about a couple of months after that, we did a highly successful concert for me psychologically. I started noticing changes after about 3 months. (Although I also started practicing less on clarinet) Within two years I had a number of performances that I definitely was at the top of my game, including an awesome audition on some challenging clarinet pieces for a university music program. During the next few years, my poor-quality performances dropped from an average of at least once every six weeks, to on average, less often than once a year. I did, and still do exams from the RCM, but I don’t know if I would ever be able to do an exam without medication for anxiety and depression.

Besides my own experience, I know of at least a couple of other people who prescription drugs improved their performance significantly. So yes, they are a highly possible solution for those which techniques such as those mentioned in books such as The Inner Game of Music don’t work, or don’t reduce the anxiety of music performance enough. In combination, however, they have produced some fabulous performances.


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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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