Back in high school, I was really confident performing music on stage, whether it was in school or in the community.
My attitude was, “I own this stage; no one can take it away from me.”
But then, I hit a real low point in my life and my playing, and I experienced fears that I never could have imagined before.
Almost overnight I was afraid to play in public. I was even terrified to play at rehearsals, and to even practice in my own room because people could hear me!
For years, I would suffer from this debilitating performance anxiety. I lost my edge and my drive and my confidence. It was humiliating.
Lots of research and study, and facing my fears helped me to get past this horrible time in my life, and a few years later I was back performing on stage again. This time in front of hundreds and even thousands of audience members.
What led to this extreme performance anxiety? How did I eventually get over it?
Feeling Confident Performing Music; Your Music Performance Mindset
You're probably looking at this title, and wondering, what does mindset have to do with my own music playing? You may be thinking, “I just want to figure out how to play the theme from Star Wars.”
Or maybe you are playing in a community group or church, and are thinking, “I only need to think about playing the notes and rhythms on the page so I don't sound bad in front of everyone else.”
Or, you're playing a classical piece of music in preparation for an upcoming concert, and approaching a trouble spot – a spot where there are many 16th notes in a row, and you have to coordinate your fingers, air and tongue in order to be able to play it. You may be thinking, “Oh no, this spot again. I'll never get this at tempo in time for the concert even though I keep practicing it over and over.”
In all these situations, your mindset plays a huge part in helping you prepare to perform the music you are working on. In fact, it plays a larger role than you could possibly imagine.
What does it mean to have a music performance mindset? Is it only for professional musicians, or can hobbyists and amateurs benefit?
To achieve a performance mindset, you have to be willing to approach your practicing and performance with focus and determination.
Some of the most successful athletes and musicians in the world know how to get their mind “in the zone” when performing in public. They have practiced their performance mindset in the practice room or on the field for many years so that when performance time came, they were ready.
They practice certain mental techniques and exercises, such as meditation and visualization just as much as practicing their craft. In fact, there have been many studies that have shown improved results from adding these techniques to one's practice regimen.
But you don't have to be a professional musician or athlete to use the techniques. In fact, meditation and visualization can help everyone achieve their goals.
There are literally hundreds of apps and tools, both free and paid, to help you meditate and achieve the focus you need.
Another way to achieve a performance mindset and build your confidence is to be prepared. Preparation comes from carefully-though-out goals and practice sessions to achieve those goals.
Need to organize your practicing? This tool, which has been downloaded by thousands of musicians can help you:
A third way to build your confidence with your performance is to take the focus off of you. Who are you really performing for?
When you are on a stage, whether it's as a soloist, part of a jazz quartet, concert band, orchestra, choir, etc., you are performing for the audience! (Watch the second video below to learn about a tip I use every time I perform to help me get past anxiety and focus my performance.)
The audience is there to be entertained, and it's your job to do that. Have fun with it – isn't performing music supposed to be fun?
How did I get my confidence back?
I got outside of my head and changed my focus. I share some of those insights with you in the following videos to help you gain confidence in your performance.
In the first video below, I answer a great question about “getting out of your head” when performing, and offer one key insight to dealing with this issue.
How to Conquer Imposter Syndrome
Sometimes, your thoughts can prevent you from doing things that you know you can do. Imposter Syndrome, or thinking that there's always someone better than you so who are you to offer what you have to the public, can hold you back from not only expressing yourself, but also from ever getting better.
How many times have you said to yourself, “Why should I even try to audition for this performing group? I haven't practiced as long as everyone else and they are so much better than me. I'll just wait until I feel I am better.” Months and years go by and you are still waiting…
One key way to fight Imposter Syndrome is to be super-prepared with your music. Using my Ultimate Practice Planner can certainly guide your practicing and allow you to set goals and focus on achieving them.
Another idea is to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (which is the title of a terrific book by Gavin DeBecker). Once you have prepared as best as you can, go for it!
Perform often in public – you have to practice doing that too.
Check out this video for how to build your confidence and fight Imposter Syndrome…
You see, practicing an instrument goes beyond playing the right notes and rhythms. It goes way beyond playing the right changes at the right time. It also includes the mental aspects of building up your focus, your drive and determination and following through on your goals.
In fact, the following quote, I think, sums it all up:
Music is 90% mental, 9% air and 1% lip….Vince Penzarella, former 2nd Trumpet, NY Philharmonic
Work on the mental aspect, the mindset, be super-prepared and organized, and the confidence will come.