“Your central tasks are finding inner peace and strength, on the one hand,
and being very well-prepared for your performances, on the other.”
Eric Maisel, author & psychologist (The Musician’s Way, p. 146)
In my previous post, “The 3 Roots of Performance Anxiety,” I classified the causes of stage nerves as personal, task-related, or situational.
Here, I point to ways in which we can address those causes and become joyful, artistic performers.
What’s a Performance?
First, let’s clarify what a performance is: “In a performance situation, there are stakes involved in how well you play or sing” (The Musician’s Way, p. 146).
And the higher those stakes become, the greater the potential for anxiousness.
Whether we’re on stage in front of thousands, auditioning for a prospective employer, trying to impress a friend, or recording in a studio, we’re performing – the size of an audience or even the presence of an audience isn’t what defines a performance.
Regardless, when we know how to employ smart strategies, we’re set to defuse nerves and deliver heartfelt performances.
1. Personal Strategies
- Develop positive responses to stress. In and of itself, stress isn’t a problem; it’s how we react to stress that determines whether we excel or crack under pressure. The techniques described in Chapters 8 & 9 of The Musician’s Way outfit performers to channel nervous energy into creative power.
- Affirm meaning in performing. Performing takes conviction. To play or sing confidently, we need to believe in the music we present and our missions as performing artists.
- Refine your self-evaluation skills. It takes experimentation for us to become adept on stage and in the studio. But to learn from our experiences, we have to honestly size up our strengths and weaknesses.
2. Task-Related Strategies
- Choose accessible repertoire. Easy music leaves us with the inner capacity we need to focus in performance, counteract jitters, and build confidence.
- Acquire comprehensive practice skills. When we learn music deeply, our command holds up even in trying circumstances.
- Reinforce performance habits. Performance skills become habitual only through steady practice, which is why it’s essential that we emphasize habits of excellence whenever we play or sing.
3. Situational Strategies
- Acclimate to performance settings. Alien situations can be tension-provoking. When we gain experience with diverse performance environments, though, we can feel at home wherever we perform.
- Build up presentation skills. Practice performances provide ideal opportunities for us to become adept with stage deportment and presence, speaking to audiences, and the like.
- Learn performance-enhancing techniques. When the pressure is on, it’s natural for us to feel a surge of adrenaline. But techniques such as 2-to-1 breathing and mental imaging, in addition to thorough preconcert planning, help inoculate us to situational pressures.
© 2012 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © JHersh, licensed from Shutterstock.com