Mastering the Art of Performing
What is performance anxiety? Most musicians have had moments of doubt when they do not think they are in control of their nerves when they are performing. The practice sessions daily and nightly that we put in sometimes are not enough, even though we think we have a piece mastered.
Practicing is an art. So many times we believe that being able to play a piece ten times in a row will be enough for us to be prepared for our performances, or that practicing six hours a day will bring us to the mastery level.
Careful and thoughtful practice is difficult to achieve, but when you understand the nature of how to practice and prepare for a performance we can control our anxiety.
First, find the sections that are difficult for you in the piece or pieces you are trying to master. Practice those sections at a slower tempo, then speed up five clicks of the metronome until you can play at tempo. If you are struggling with an intricate finger pattern, change the rhythm or bowing. For example, if the section is all sixteenth notes, change the rhythm to dotted eighth sixteenth notes or triplets, or add a different bowing. Practicing just the shift notes and not the notes in between is helpful as well.
The day of the performance try to stay away from caffeinated beverages, drink lots of water to stay hydrated, and eat a banana which adds potassium to your body that can help control nerves. If you have practiced the difficult sections to be at 120% mastery, then when the nerves set in, you will perform at 100% mastery. It is just the nature of the beast, our nerves set in and if we are not prepared beyond mastery, then our technique may falter.
As musicians we are performers and live for the stage.
We may not be public speakers, or debaters, but it is our choice to entertain to audiences night after night. Life is too short not to be prepared for every performance at mastery level. Don’t waste your time or your audiences’ time by not being prepared for all performances. Practice smart not hard.