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A Soprano on Her Head: Right-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances
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A Soprano on Her Head: Right-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  448 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Written for the musician, to reflect on and approach an old problem or a new problem with a different lens, this book is applicable to any performer who faces challenges with tension, a creative rut, lack of confidence, and more.
Paperback, 203 pages
Published February 1st 1982 by Real People Press (first published June 1st 1981)
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Oct 04, 2016 Melanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-improvement
Lots to appreciate about this book. Although it is written for the musician with performance anxieties, so much can be applied to many of life's circumstances. I liked the author's realistic look at silencing our inner judges, allowing ourselves to make mistakes -- and even occasionally fail, and how to get out of a rut. Really enjoyed the read.
Sara Roberts
Jan 18, 2013 Sara Roberts rated it it was amazing
Eloise Ristad, a music instructor, shares her experiences gained through teaching and performing. Each chapter is unique in itself, incorporating different methods of living a musical life, including practicing, performing, reading music, and appreciating every minute of it. This humorous yet insightful book is mandatory for any musician. This includes musicians who spend their time in practice rooms frustrated with their lack of progress despite the numerous hours spent running through the musi ...more
Feb 01, 2010 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010-reads
This book is my Bible. I have read it countless times since university. I even had to buy a second copy, because my first one fell apart-from being over read.

If you are looking to change things up a bit, whether it is in your musical life-or your regular one. A Soprano On Her Head will help you identify what needs to change, and how to find some solutions on how to change what isn't working.

Completely readable - and you don't even need to be a musician, in order to "get it".
Jul 06, 2008 Ed rated it it was amazing
This is a book that was repeatedly recommended to me by teachers and colleagues back in the conservatory days. I finally bought it in Aspen in 2003, but never read it until now, and boy do I regret that. Though I'm not sure I would have gotten much out of it much earlier. This is the sort of thing one has to be 'ready' for, I think, and it's only recently that my approach to my instrument and to music has become relaxed and flexible enough, not to mention mindful enough, to assimilate this sort ...more
Jill Walker Rettberg
Oct 11, 2014 Jill Walker Rettberg rated it it was amazing
I read this while trying to finish my PhD, on my musician sister's recommendation, and it was amazing. It didn't matter that it's written for musicians, not scholars, I found it hit the nail on the head. Like performers, scholars, and perhaps PhD students in particular, are under immense pressure to perform brilliantly, and most certainly suffer from the delusion that everyone else is super-confident and successful while me, well, I have of course a fraud, soon to be found out. Highly recommende ...more
Mar 15, 2007 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Musicians
Shelves: musicbooks
This is a fantastic book about performance/teaching/music. It presents ideas about stage fright and overcoming our personal hang-ups with performance. I definitely recommend this book! I wish I had the chance to see the author speak or teach; her writing made me feel that she was a beautiful person.
Aug 11, 2012 Jayne rated it it was amazing
Love, love this book. It really helped me get over my stage fright! Now I can perform without much nervousness :)
Rachel Steele
Apr 10, 2009 Rachel Steele rated it it was amazing
I read this after a master class with the author in music school. It's a game changer.
Laura Brisson
Apr 07, 2014 Laura Brisson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, music
Wonderful book. Essential read for performers and teachers!
Mar 18, 2017 Kathy rated it liked it
some interesting stuff, an interesting anecdotes, about learning, dealing with pressure, pressure situations, mental blocks, stuff like that.
Jan 29, 2011 Bill rated it it was ok
Recommended to Bill by: Kathy Greenholdt
Shelves: nonfiction
I only read this book because it was recommended to me by a fellow musician/songwriter who (like me) often suffers from stage fright. The book was so-so at best. I kept waiting for the great advice to come, but I read the whole thing and was disappointed by its lack of substance. Ristad's tone is pretty annoying throughout; it smacks of "look at me, aren't I clever? Isn't it great the way I helped all of these people solve their problems?" She also quoted from a lot of late 70s era self-help boo ...more
Jan 31, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it
If you can get past the 70's psyco-babble this book has a lot of good ideas and insight that is helpful to the practicing performer. While there is a lot of talk about the "inner child", repressed feelings, beating things with batakas and banging on bongos, Ristad does fairly often hit the nail on the head when describing the crazy self talk that all performers experience at one time or other. Not a "must read" but a "try hard to read" book for musicians.
I also went into this book thinking it wa
May 29, 2008 Marie rated it really liked it
I've always loved to perform, but as a Vocal Performance student at the University I started to loose sight of why I chose that major in the first place! The critique of certain people got to me, and I started to feel judged even when I wasn't really being judged! This book helped me set all my insecurity aside, and get back to the joy of music and performing! Even if you're not a musician or performer, this book can apply to anybody.
Lake Lady
Sep 03, 2012 Lake Lady rated it it was amazing
This was recommended by a friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The first time I picked it up I didn't get far, the second time I whizzed through it. It may not be a valuable book for everyone, and it's not just for musicians. Read with an open and curious mind it's full of great reminders for anyone who is interesting in any sort of learning and/or teaching. I found the ideas and examples delightful and am sad that the follow-up was never finished due to the author's untimely death.
Despite the title, this is a good book for all musicians, not just singers. Eloise Ristad is a creative teacher who finds all kinds of ways to rethink the how we learn, and to discover how working with our bodies affects singing/playing and performance. Written in 1982, the book contains a number of references to the then-contemporary "inner game" concepts.
Ruth Bonetti
Mar 07, 2014 Ruth Bonetti rated it really liked it
This is a readable, lively book that gives approachable suggestions for performers to conquer their nerves. Ristad draws on her own work as musician, teacher and coach to give accessible and warm anecdotes that are most helpful. It's some years since I read it, so it's time for a reread, but the word that sums my memory of it is 'empathy.'
Ben Kintisch
Jul 17, 2007 Ben Kintisch rated it liked it
Recommends it for: head case musicians/performers
I thought I was the only crazy singer out there. Feeling much better. There are at least ten others, based on the vignettes in this book. Oops, pardon me, I need to stop reviewing books and go back to standing on my head. I'm not sure what it does for my singing, but based on the title, it might be good for me. Especially my soprano range?
Kim Collins
Dec 07, 2013 Kim Collins rated it really liked it
Read this a long time ago. It's a bit dated now, but we all must find "what works" related to performance anxiety. Worthwhile read for any musician who's ever had a phase of jitters and self-doubt. I keep it in my teaching studio as a resource for students.
Jul 14, 2008 alia rated it liked it
this flipped up my ideas on music/teaching.
Nov 24, 2008 rae rated it it was amazing
reading this book is a good way to unstick oneself.
Mar 01, 2008 Juliann rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this one about 15 years ago, and was too young and new to singing to understand everything in the book, but remember really connecting to a lot of parts I still use in my own teaching now.
Jan 11, 2013 Linden rated it it was ok
Read this because my piano teacher made me! Therefore, I didn't enjoy it.
Mar 04, 2008 Cj marked it as to-read
I've heard of this book numerous times but haven't gotten around to actually READING it yet.
Kelsey Gallagher
Jul 05, 2013 Kelsey Gallagher rated it it was amazing
My new bible!
Jul 15, 2012 Ashbocho rated it it was amazing
Incredible. For anyone wanting to open their mind and look at things from another point of view. I will certainly be reading this book again!
Sep 08, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
A classic. Reread this after many years, and it's just as relevant as ever.
Feb 02, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommend by my vocal teacher.
Markie Gent
Jan 14, 2013 Markie Gent rated it it was amazing
Very good book. It is a great read for those who are stuck musically and need another way to access their art. It is great for "normal life" application as well not just the musical world.
Sep 11, 2008 Janis rated it it was amazing
I read this in college (and should read it again), but I remember the advice being so amazing--and not just for music performance, but for life in general.
Oct 27, 2014 Barbc rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ambay
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“The pat on the back becomes more important than the music or the skating. One part of us becomes ever more committed to earning the pat on the back, while another subversive part—that we try to ignore—kicks and screams and resists the teacher’s authority. This is the part that gives us all kinds of excuses for not practicing.” 0 likes
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