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Sources of support and advice

On this page you will find information about:

  • Physical and mental health issues that can affect musicians
  • Support and advice on dealing with health problems
  • Stage fright, performance anxiety, depression, substance misuse
  • Other sources of help
  • Music Therapy

Do you suffer from:

  • Pain, numbness, tingling, sharp pain, dull ache, weakness, loss of grip or restricted movement affecting your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders or back?
  • 'RSI', tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, dance injuries, muscular tension, hypermobility or musculoskeletal problems?
  • Any other aches and pains?

It could be to do with repetitive movements for prolonged periods, your performance technique or posture.

Basic tips include:

  • Warm up before you play a practice, lesson, rehearsal or concert
  • Take regular breaks from rehearsals, demanding repertoires and schedules
  • Ensure that you have proper seating, which is the correct height for you and allows for movement and rest – most musicians should have a forward-sloping seat
  • Pay attention to your body, learn to recognise healthy fatigue and stop before it hurts.

Be fit to play: Top tips for instrumental musicians

The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) can provide a health assessment for free and offer advice on any of these issues.

General advice sheets

Risky business: Situations that put the musician at risk

Sensible eating for performers: Finding a healthy balance with the food you eat 

Keeping fit and healthy on tour: Twenty steps to a more balanced working routine 

Vocal loss or strain

Read BAPAM’s factsheet ‘Fit to sing: Vocal health is about mind and body as well as voice!’ or book a free BAPAM health assessment for advice. 

Stage fright and performance anxiety

Anxiety may be:

  • Situational: being on stage/in front of people
  • Interpersonal: being oversensitive to the criticisms and expectations of others
  • Motivational: allowing inner doubts to affect your playing
  • Physical: associated with the body not doing what it is supposed to, either through bad technique, posture problems, or overuse/ misuse syndrome
  • Mental: the long-term effects of burn-out.

What can you do to help reduce your performance anxiety?

  • Manage your time effectively
  • Accept when you are tired and take a break
  • Do not put off relaxing, make it a priority
  • Do not take on too much and never be afraid to say no
  • If you become ill, rest until you are fully recovered
  • Be realistic about perfection
  • Talk about it with someone you trust
  • Look after your health, eat sensibly and exercise regularly
  • Ensure you get enough sleep and rest.

Whatever method is used, the goal is to develop the knowledge, strategies and techniques to deal with performance anxiety.

Read British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) factsheet ‘I can't go on: coping with stage fright’ 

The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) can also provide a health assessment for free and offer advice on managing stage fright. bapam.org.uk


The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) is there to help you with emotional or psychological issues affecting you as a performer. Book a free health assessment to discuss depression or anxiety concerns with a specialist. 

Mind, the national mental health charity, provides advice and support to anyone experiencing mental health problems and those around them.

Plus information on where to get help, medication and alternative treatments, and your legal rights.

Drug or alcohol addiction

Substance misusers can be a hazard to themselves and others.

The lifestyle imposed by a person’s job may increase the risk of alcohol or drug abuse and stress may be a contributory factor.

If the problem is ignored, eventually the person’s job will be at risk.

Read British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) factsheet: ‘The drinks are on me: How do you manage stress, and how can you spot the signs of a drink problem?’ for more advice.

Other sources of help

Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcohol Concern
Al-Anon family groups
Gamblers Anonymous
Music Support
Narcotics Anonymous
Talk to Frank

Stress at work

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance on preventing and coping with workplace stress. Plus information on tackling workplace stress for employers and employees.

The Law

All workers have the right to expect a healthy and safe working environment, and it is the employer’s duty in law to provide such.

If an employee is being put under excess pressure and suffering stress as a result, it may be that Health & Safety law can be used to challenge the employer. This is covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Someone who feels they are being bullied or discriminated at work is likely to feel stressed as a result of such treatment. If this is the case, an employer’s failure to prevent and deal with discrimination is covered under the Sex Discrimination, Race Relations and Disability Discrimination Acts.

Union Safety Representatives

Union Safety Representatives can use their extensive rights, under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (SRSCR) 1977, to investigate and take up problems of work-related stress in the same way they investigate any other workplace hazard.

Union Safety Representatives should use their powers in ensuring that Risk Assessments:

  • Are carried out properly, in agreement with recognised trade unions, and are repeated when changes take place
  • Include the invisible hazards of work, of which stress is a major component

Music Therapy

In music therapy, the therapist assists the client in addressing particular problems and challenges through the process of music-making in a safe environment. This is not the  same as teaching an instrument, rather building a non-verbal relationship, with client and therapist improvising music so that communication can be achieved.

The music therapist strives to help the client reach a state of self-acceptance and emotional release. Playing instruments, singing and improvising music can be strong tools for self-development — the rewards are life-affirming and can be life-changing.

Music therapy in the UK

There are around 600 qualified music therapists in the UK, working in such areas as mental health, learning difficulties, behavioural disabilities, addiction, neurological problems, HIV/ AIDS, sexual abuse, eating disorders and in prisons and hospices.

Before considering training as a music therapist, it is essential to become proficient on your instrument and to learn how to read and compose music. Music therapy is an MA level course and, due to the amount of academic work involved, a BA or BSc is usually a prerequisite.

Standards are very high and, although it is unusual for people without degrees to be enrolled, if you are an exceptional musician with a large amount of life experience, you may be considered without a degree.

The career path

This is one area of music employment where older students are often especially welcome. However, music therapy is not a career path for the fainthearted, as students not only study all the psychoanalytical subjects, such as Freudian and Jungian psychology, they must also go through rigorous self-analysis. This important precaution is so that, when faced with a client who may be challenging, the therapist maintains neutrality and does not bring his or her own ‘baggage’ to a session.

Although you may specialise in one area, you will receive work placements in many different areas during training, such as special needs or palliative care. Many music therapists are hired full-time by the NHS, but often work part-time in another field.

You must train on an official course before you can legally call yourself a music therapist. Once accredited, you must be licensed with the Health Professional Council (HPC) before practising as a music therapist, which protects the public and the therapist.

Music therapy contacts

For more information about taking up a career in music therapy, please contact the following organisations:

British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT): A member association distributing information and news on music therapy in the UK.  T 020 7837 6100  bamt.org

Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy: This charity supplies music therapy training to PhD level, funds some student bursaries and features in-house clinical experience. T 020 7267 4496 nordoff-robbins.org.uk

Health Professions Council: Regulator protecting clients and patients who use the services of the health professionals. T 020 7582 0866 hpc-uk.org

Useful organisations