How do you become a more confident performer? Thorough preparation, of course. And by performing as much as possible.
Beyond that, there are a number of things you can do on your audition or performance day itself (and the day before) to help ensure things go smoothly.
The day before:
- Make sure you know where you need to go, and what time you need to leave. Calculate what time you should warm up and get ready. Add in plenty of extra time for traffic and any other unexpected delays.
- Lay out your entire outfit, including an extra sweater in case of cold air conditioning or inadequate heating. Make sure everything is clean and that you feel comfortable playing your instrument in your chosen outfit, including shoes. (If it's been a while since you wore the clothes, it's a good idea to try them on the week before to make sure they still fit!)
- Set out your music, instrument, and anything else you will need for the performance.
- If your performance is scheduled for early in the day, pack any water or food you'll need so you don't have to rush to do this on performance day.
- Eat as healthy as possible, avoiding too much sugar, salt, and caffeine.
- Visualize your performance from arrival at the venue to completion, imagining yourself playing confidently and at the top of your ability.
- Play your instrument, but not too much! I often will take a nice slow warm-up, and then run through my music once, but no more. Give your muscles and brain a break and take it easy.
- After you have prepared, forget about the performance! Do something else, and get to bed at an early hour so you get plenty of sleep.
On performance day:
- Wake up in plenty of time to eat a healthy, sustaining breakfast (eat some protein and fats, and avoid sugars and caffeine).
- Consider doing some stretches to remove any tension in your body.
- If there is time, do some light exercise to get rid of any excess energy that can interfere with your performance. If you are short on time, a short walk in the fresh air can make a big difference.
- Dress in your performance clothes, and again visualize a confident, focused, and excellent performance.
- Play your instrument just enough to warm up. Focus on playing in a relaxed and natural manner, with full and beautiful tone.
- Gather up everything you need, which may include your instrument, sheet music, music stand, tuner, metronome, recording device, phone, water, food, toothbrush, extra sweater, directions, and entry forms. Be sure to leave home in plenty of time for the performance.
- At the performance, check in and make sure you know exactly where to go, and when. If you have extra time, take a walk around the block, or talk about unrelated things with family or friends. When it's time, find the warm-up room and warm up as much as you need to in order to feel ready to perform. Stand or sit tall and breathe deeply. Don't play your music over and over, and keep your focus on your own playing- not the other people in the room! Make sure any thoughts going through your head about the performance are positive ones. If a negative thought appears, quickly replace it in your mind with a positive one.
- When it's your turn to play, breathe deeply and walk confidently into the performance space. Speak loudly and clearly when you introduce yourself. If possible, play a few notes to get a feel for the room and/or the piano. If playing with other instruments, make sure to tune before playing.
- Make sure you are "in the zone" before you begin the performance. Think through the first few bars of your piece to ensure correct tempo and feeling. Maintain your focus throughout the performance by focusing entirely on the music. This does wonders to reduce nervousness.
- You're done! Smile and take a bow.
- Later in the day, re-visit the experience to evaluate what went well and what can be improved for next time. This is not the time to berate yourself! Try to be impartial. You can also seek the input of others who observed your performance. Now go do something relaxing.
These ideas stem from my own many years of performing and auditions, from words of wisdom from various teachers over the years, and from many years of competing in sports- there is a lot that transfers, as both athletics and music involve both physical and mental preparation and performance.
Try these out before your next performance or audition, and add your own suggestions and experiences in the comments!
Hi! My name is Mariya, and I teach flute and piano lessons in Redmond, WA and am a performing musician. Here I share thoughts about learning music and helping others learn how to play an instrument.