Performance Skills for Musicians

Published on 1 May 2024 at 11:21

It is always challenging to carry over what is achieved in the practice room or in rehearsal to the stage. Developing the strength and stamina to perform on stage takes time. This aspect of music-making is prevalent, especially when a young musician strives and works toward professionalism.

Retaining one's achievements during lessons on stage is a skill that can be learned. We can do quite well during a rehearsal, then walk on stage and, for whatever reason or situation, have problems performing. The result is dissatisfaction and possible demotivation.

I had this conversation with my younger daughter a while back. She had had a performance and retained much of what she could do during rehearsals on stage. I was proud of her then because this skill takes time to develop and patience to acquire in a musician's toolbox.

How can we ensure our success in the practice room or during a rehearsal is reflected in our performances?

Playing conditions change during concerts and performances. Halls and audiences differ. We might be in a hall with far different acoustics. The temperature might be cold, and hands can react to that. Our instruments might even respond differently to those situations. 

Last year, I performed in a church where the sound I produced at a given moment reached back to me seconds later than I am accustomed to hearing, and it was quite unnerving. As I progressed from one note to the next, the notes I had played earlier returned to me anew. What an added bonus to my existing anxiety to perform well! 

Several aspects need to be considered in these circumstances. All of them work together and support each other in their contribution to acquiring the vital skill of retaining one's capabilities once one gets on stage.

Preparation and hard work

Frequent performances and acquiring experience

Self Reflection

Mindset and mental preparation

First, it is of the utmost importance to prepare well. Musicians should use their practice hours to prepare their pieces to the best of their abilities. And that takes time, perseverance, and diligence. The preparation aspect helps the performer be confident and less nervous on stage. Therefore, polishing the tricky and challenging passages should be addressed appropriately. The technical difficulties must be worked out, and the tempos must be tested. The performer must be confident that they have done the necessary work to play a particular piece.

Another component one must take into account is the frequency of performances. Creating opportunities to play in front of family and friends before concerts is beneficial. When one plays the pieces in their actual tempos in rehearsals and performances in front of loved ones, the problem spots emerge. That is when one can evaluate one's effort and proceed or continue with practicing the required work.

The skill of performing develops from performance to performance. The more we perform, the more we become experienced in the fine art of performing confidently on stage. The frequency of performances lessens our anxiousness and helps us focus on our performance on stage.

Playing often also opens up room for self-reflection, without which it will be nearly impossible to improve any aspect of one's playing. Questions like how would I do this part differently next time, what aspects of my practicing routine should I change, what exercises can I use to correct specific passages? 

The performer also needs to consider and work on their mindset. The moment they walk on stage, it is a different setting altogether. They should be prepared for that and be in that mindset before going on stage.

One way is to shut down unnecessary thoughts. Find ways to calm the nerves and prepare the mind for that performance before the performance. 

Therefore, whenever you have a performance, follow these suggested steps. It might not work the first time, but things will improve with more experience, time, and perseverance. You will walk away from your performance happy, satisfied, and motivated.

How do you ensure that you maintain your capability on stage without setbacks? Please share in the comments below. 

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