Practice Makes Permanent: Tips to Conquer Stage Fright

The Music Gallery's winter recital will be here before you know it. With performance, preparation comes performance anxiety. It is important to practice your instrument with intention when preparing to meet a new goal. We've compiled a few tips to help students set their intentions and get performance-ready.

Hear How You Sound and Consider How You Want To Sound

Use a recording device to record your practice. I use the Voice Memos app on my smartphone. Listen to the recording and point out what you've done well and what you might like to change. Re-record at the end of your practice sessions and note the progress you've made that day.
You could also practice in larger spaces when possible to prepare for how it feels and sounds to play in a big room. You'll need to project to the back of a large concert hall on performance day, which is a bit different from the demands of the practice room.

Address The Physical Causes and Effects of Nerves

There are non-musical aspects of performing. The most prominent are nervousness and excitement. Part of your preparation should focus on handling anxiety and staying cool while playing your instrument under pressure. The trick here seems obvious, but it's forgotten too often. Don't forget to breathe.
The trick to getting anti-anxiety breathing exercises to work for you onstage is to incorporate them into daily practice. 
Practice timing your breathing to your music. It's difficult to breathe consciously while playing, so start with rudimentary exercises and scales to get used to how it feels before applying it to your repertoire.
If you're used to breathing while you play every day in the practice room, you can do it in performance and significantly reduce your anxiety at the same time.

Stop Negative Self Talk

Most people have a tendency to talk to themselves with more negativity than they would ever imagine spewing to anyone else. Artists and musicians are especially vulnerable to the effects of negative self chatter, so it is important to be aware of your inner-dialogue and develop tools to combat it when it gets in the way your progress. If you use negative self-talk in practice, you will use it in your performance too.
Speaking in the third person can disembody negative self-talk and help you realize how harmful that negativity is. Shifting your point of view can help you write a more positive and encouraging story for yourself.

Don't Try to Be Better Onstage

Try not set expectations of a perfect performance because mistakes inevitably will happen. Practice acceptance of this and you'll be less likely to panic. 
The show must go wrong and musicians have to adapt to whack-a-mole style issues. You can practice keeping your nerves at bay and thinking on your feet by taking advantage of every performance opportunity that presents itself. Over time, you will adapt more easily to broken strings, bad mic cables, nasty colds, nerves, or whatever else could get in the way of your ideal performance.

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