Fact: performances are not rehearsals (or practice sessions).
Now, I know this is stating the obvious, but have you ever gone on stage with a plan than goes something like this?
“I really nailed that note/passage yesterday, and it’s been bugging me for ages. So glad I finally worked out how to do it. I hope I can do it again today. That felt so good yesterday. I hope I practised it enough times yesterday so that it’s really in my system and ready to go. I hope that old way of doing it doesn’t come back and take over. I hope I can be the me that I was yesterday. I just have to do what I did yesterday and everything will be fine.”
Do you recognize any part of that? I suppose it’s what I used to call “performance anxiety.”
That’s what I mean by trying to replicate your last practice session on stage. There are three huge problems with this strategy.
The first problem is that I didn’t have a performance plan.
The second problem is that I was trying to reproduce feelings.
And the third problem is that I was discounting the importance and role of the audience.
Today I’ll just deal with the first problem: the lack of a FULL performance plan.
I used to have the kind of conversation (above) with myself all the time. I would work and work on mastering technical hurdles, still working out approaches til the last minute. And this is actually what most musicians do, and IT’S FINE. And I still do it. It’s just that I used to forget about the bigger picture.
I knew what the words meant, and I had thought about what the music was doing and what I wanted to say with the piece, and I would always do lots of research about the character, the composer, the musical style, the poet, the background story and all the stuff we are taught to do. All that stuff is important for creating a context for your piece and the performance. It’s not that I was completely clueless or that I hadn’t thought about performance at all. I thought I had the big picture.
So, what was missing?
What I hadn’t thought about was how the piece and I would change when I stepped out in front of an audience. My plans all worked in my practice room, but they didn’t work so well on the stage.
Because I had only done half my preparation. I thought I’d done all of it, but there were still huge chunks that were missing. The audience was missing from my plan. An understanding of the nature of performance was missing from my plan. I was missing from my plan.
Next time I’ll explain the other two reasons why trying to replicate your last practice session is a bad idea.
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