In Making Music and Having a Blast, A Guide For All Music Students, Bonnie Blanchard gives some really great advice regarding performance. Here’s a brief summary of those ideas. All musicians have been there…your heart is beating out of your chest, you feel like you can’t catch your breath, your hands are sweaty, you’re getting the nervous yawns and you feel as if you might die if you don’t find a restroom immediately. Performance anxiety can rear it’s ugly head and musicians need to learn how to cope. These feelings are self-imposed, but we can reduce them if we prepare our music and our minds for performance.
Prepare your music. Make sure you are 150% prepared for performance. Even if you get a little nervous, you still have 100% left to give during your performance.
Plan your practice and stick to it. If you have a schedule and stick to it, you will achieve your goals well before the performance. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does make permanent.
Prepare for performance. You might be able to perform perfectly in a comfortable environment, but have you recreated the actual performance space with an audience and judges? Schedule mock performances or auditions that gradually become more stressful or resemble the actual event. Once your performance day arrives, you will feel comfortable because you’ve practiced performing.
Practice playing for an audience. Anything or anyone will do; a stuffed animal, plant, your family pet, a parent or sibling, a group of best friends, your teacher, members of your studio, a voice recorder or video camera. Gradually increase your audience size to decrease your fear of playing in front of people.
Visualize the real thing. Practice your performance by visiting the room you will be playing in. Practice walking on stage and giving a successful performance. By the time the performance day comes along, you will feel comfortable with the music and the space.
Prepare your mind. Learn how to control your body when it reacts to stressful situations. We are what we tell ourselves so practice positive self-talk during stressful situations. Use visualization exercises, imagine positive scenarios and positive results.
Focus on your playing and your music. Forget about perfection and be willing to take risks. Don’t lose sight of why you are performing in the first place: for the love of the music.