These are 5 tips that will help you improve your performance. These 5 things are not difficult to implement, and they don’t have to do with guitar playing. Instead, they help you curate the before and after of a performance. They can also bring some positive attitude that will enrich your playing in front of an audience.
Take a Pause
First, take a pause. It’s easy to have an eagerness either to rush into a piece of music or to end too abruptly. Instead, take a breath, a moment. This can be a time when we relax some of the performance anxiety. It can be a time to simply relax the body. Or it can be a time to think about the music (such as the tempo) before you begin.
The next tip is tuning. A virtuosic piece that is played beautifully but is out of tune will sound pretty terrible. Tuning is a skill that must be practiced like any skill. Here’s a tip: intentionally get your guitar out of tune and then begin tuning to one string. Go here for a comprehensive guide on how to tune by ear, how to tune with an electronic tuner, and much more.
What to say
Do you know what you’re going to say before your performance? It’s common to introduce your piece or pieces before you play. But if you haven’t thought about what you’re going to say, what you do say can adversely affect your performance. Taking the time to prepare what you say ahead of time can help with performance anxiety and can also have an emotional impact on the listener during your performance.
Think through the different steps you need to take before and during your performance. Do you have your music ready? Is your mic setup (if you’re playing online)? Is your guitar in tune? Have you thought about what you’ll say? All of these can have a big impact.
Be Kind to yourself
We can often be very self-critical. But if you’re negative either before, during, or even after your performance it can take away from your performance. But your perception of yourself is often wildly different from an audience member’s perception. So be kind to yourself.
If you have other things you want to share that helped you with getting ready for a performance, share them in the comments below. We are eager to read about your experience.
I remember Roland Dyens saying in a masterclass “It’s your time, take as long as you need to tune.”
I also try to remember what a marvelous instrument the guitar is. I’ve played some pieces horribly, yet had people gush over how wonderful the guitar sounds.
Practice “flub recovery:” it’s easy to polish a piece during rehearsal/practice, and then have some small flub show up in performance. For me, the ability to let it go and carry on is a skill worth developing. My performance flubs usually show up in places not expected: after all, the hard passages got practiced thoroughly (they did, didn’t they?) so it’s elsewhere that the performance goof appears. If you’re not prepared for it, the temptation is to freeze. Or stop, go back to get it right, etc. Practice before performance should include the decision to carry on, regardless. Finish the piuece. Is the fire alarm sounding? Okay, then stop playing and evacuate the building. Otherwise, let the goof go and finish the piece.
Performance anxiety is likely a ubiquitous feeling for many whom perform. I have unique and interesting tactic to combat it that was conveyed by a teacher before a high school exam. its really strange, but effective. He said before a test (performance) close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine your entire body is slowly filling up with orange crush soda pop. It will slowly fill your feet then legs slowly filling up. Imagine your entire body slowly filling up over the next moment or 2. After a moment when you are all filled up with that orange greatness, you will have effectively left no room for anxiety in your upcoming task. While it is weird, a good distraction like this can help you ease your anxieties through distracting yourself away from the anxiety trigger. Enjoy
Yes, Maestro Dyens was a champion of the “art” of tuning on the guitar. He saw it as an opportunity not only to tune the instrument, but even to improvise and “feel” the key of the piece you were about to play. And I completely agree with you — the sound of the guitar is what makes it so precious!
Dave B (CGC team)
Great advice, Peter! I think that is such an important part of performance. And “performance practice,” even though it’s different from practice proper (or what I call “practice practice”), gives us the chance to really “let go” and focus on playing music. Love the fire alarm bit. haha! Thanks for the comment!
Dave B (CGC team)
Haha! That is quite unique…but I imagine it worked well for teenagers who were likely drinking a lot of orange soda! :) But, yes, absolutely it’s important to be able to distract yourself from all the self-talk we think about (especially the negative kind). I lovve the analogy. Thanks for the comment!
Dave B (CGC team)