This is pretty simple. Performing makes you better. Period. Performing can supercharge your abilities and help you make big gains in a short amount of time. Since performing is such a scary thing for most everyone I hope to motivate you to get excited about it, rather than be terrified of it. Even seasoned top level professionals get nervous when they perform. They are proving it is something to embrace, not avoid. Many will even pretend they are fearless, but this is a front. Our fears have the power to motivate us like no other.
Performance is throughout history the culmination of years of hard work and study for a musician. It is not just the energy, focus, and practice time you have put in on a given song. It is also everything you have ever done with music before you even started working on that song.
It is always easier to perform alone at home than in front of a live audience, but it is much less thrilling. The nerves put what we know and can do to the test. The more ingrained the music and muscle memory is, the better it goes. I do not want to exclude the important skill of keeping your mind in a positive state in a performance, but that is a whole other subject.
The emotional charge that comes with performing heightens out awareness of where we are really at with our instrument. It can be crushing as well, so be careful not to let negativity drive your thoughts. Leverage these emotions(including the negative ones) to help you practice with more focus. More drive. More passion. And just more often.
Having a deadline for a performance is one piece that psychologically puts pressure on our playing. The accountability of knowing others will see and hear is another massive psychological benefit. These are self evident. But there is another. Reflection.
All the excitement comes before and during the performance. Lots of progress is usually made during this point. There is often loss on the other side of the performance. Having actually gone through with facing your fears and/or achieving your dreams brings a lot of hindsight.
Taking an honest look at how things went is brings a treasure chest of wisdom. Once you perform, you should set aside time to reflect and determine what went well and what could be improved for next time. The greats are great because they kept at it. They learned form mistakes and they used them to refine their work.
Everyone wants to do their best and impress the audience, but have you ever seen an amazing performance and said, “I bet this is their first time performing.” Nope! You intuitively know they have performed enough times to reach the stage in which they are at. But it is possible for a bad performance to happen to seasoned performers. In fact it happens to everyone. Even the best have an “off night”. People know this.
How To Review
I would prepare questions to ask yourself in advance. Don’t wait until after the performance when your emotions could be very high or very low depending on how it went. Determine them now, when your emotions are neutral and more objective.
Ask things like, “What went well in my performance that I would want to do again?” List at least 3-5 things. “What can I do to make my performance better next time?” List 3-5 things. If you have more then great. “What can I do differently next time?” There are many more questions you can ask yourself. Write down some of your own. Keep it positive and constructive. Anticipate you might have an “off night” or that you might be more emotional than usual. You never know what might happen, how people will react, or even how you might react. If you have enough experience to know in general how you might react, then prepare for it by asking yourself questions to keep your mind balanced and focused on the next performance and making it even better.
About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional musician, songwriter, and owner of Supertonic Guitar; guitar lessons Franklin TN.