We have all felt it.
The dry mouth, the shaking hands, the sudden loss of words. Performance anxiety is no fun. And when it comes to music, performance anxiety can kill good musical expression.
Here are five ways I've found that lessen performance anxiety:
- Adequate practice. A "polished piece" is one that has been mastered to a level that can be played with ease. Sometimes this takes weeks, and sometimes months! Depending on the level of difficulty, you may need more practice to get to a level of polish than you first think. Remember, learning the notes is only half way.
- Plenty of rehearsal. A rule of thumb I have started to follow is to formally rehearse the piece twice as much as I initially think necessary. That includes scheduling extra time if needed with an accompanist (I say "no" to the performance if this is not possible), and playing through it at least twice in the space I am going to perform in.
- Memorization. Reading notes that are not well internalized is a distraction when performing. Over-reliance on note reading is a sure way to destroy good musical playing, because the brain is engaged in reading rather than expressing. Sheet music can be used as a safety net for a performance, after memorization has taken place, but only as a prompt for the real purpose, music-making.
- Routine. Do everything the same way as you set up, each time you play and rehearse. This applies to everything from checking your tuning to the initial placement of your bow.
- Take your time. When getting set, take time to play the beginning mentally, get back in touch with what you are trying to do musically. Breathe, allow your body to settle as much as possible.
Dealing with fear is another aspect of the process that I'll cover in future posts. But if you'll do these five things consistently, your performances will go better and you'll feel less nervous.
You can conquer the fear of performing. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it gets, and if you take the right intentional steps, you will get there.