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Here are five ways to guarantee a lacklustre and unpolished performance (the last thing any performer wants!)

  1. Leave memorisation to the last minute
  2. Forget to practice in front of a mirror
  3. Compare yourself negatively with other performers
  4. Insist on perfection
  5. Let nerves get the better of you and rush through your music.

1. Leave memorisation to the last minute

Forgetting lyrics is the stuff of nightmares for most performers. While mind blanks can happen to the best of us, there is something you can do to avoid that traumatic experience.

And that’s giving yourself plenty of time for memorisation. We all learn in different ways. Some of us are visual and need to see the words or write them down to learn them. Others need repetition, while some people like to learn lyrics without music first. Regardless of the strategy that works best for you, time is your best friend. It takes time for lyrics to gel, so make sure you leave yourself at least four to six weeks for memorisation.

performing at Kathleen Connell's studio concert

ACTION STEP:
When planning for a performance and choosing your repertoire, look at your performance date and work back to your start date. If you don’t have four weeks, then consider other songs that you already know.

2. Forget to practice in front of a mirror

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. Practice makes permanent.
There are no short cuts here. Practice is the only way to truly take to the stage with confidence.

And yet you need to use your practice time wisely. Once you have your lyrics down pat and have mastered the technicalities of your music, I always recommend practising in front of a mirror. Because there’s more to a strong performance than just the quality of your voice. Eye contact, hand and body movements and facial expressions all impact on the way you connect with your audience and tell the story of your song.

ACTION STEP:
Step in front of a full-length mirror and imagine that you’re performing to a crowd. Take note of your posture, expressions and the way you move. Another hot tip is to perform in front of a family member or friend you feel comfortable with and ask for their feedback.

3. Compare yourself negatively with other performers

As Tim Hiller says, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else’s end.”

Thinking that you need to perform to the standard of Michel Buble or Kelly O’Hara will only prevent you from starting and giving performance a go.

We all need to start somewhere and the only way to improve is to perform and then perform some more. Every time you step on stage or in front of an audience, you’ll grow in confidence and identify areas to improve at your next performance.

ACTION STEP:
When you start comparing yourself with other performers, stop! Instead, celebrate the fact that with each performance you complete, you’re achieving another level of ability and skill.

4. Insist on perfection

I’m sure many of you reading this will identify with being a perfectionist. In your everyday life, you like things to be ‘just so’. And you set high expectations for yourself (and maybe others!)

But it won’t help if you let your perfectionism spill into your performing life. It’s simply not possible to have everything – from your breathing to your vowel sounds – just right. Plus, standing in front of an audience is unpredictable. You can never be sure how your audience will respond or behave and there are dozens of other factors that can take you by surprise.

So, what if things don’t go to plan? Don’t give yourself a hard time. See it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

ACTION STEP:
Name three goals that you can focus on in your performance. That way you can hone your attention on a few aspects of your performance and relax your focus in other areas. For example, you might aim to make eye contact, express emotion and nail your high notes.

5. Let nerves get the better of you and rush through your music

What I often see is performers who let their nerves take over and the result is they rush through their music. It’s important to recognise that nerves are a natural part of performance. In fact, it’s necessary to have some degree of nerves, because they help to prime and prepare you for the big moment.

ACTION STEP:
One of the best ways to manage nerves is to acknowledge them. If you try to fight or ignore them, nerves can get the better of you. Take the power away from them by noticing their presence. You can even cultivate a sense of gratitude towards them. They’re there for a reason: to help you perform to the best of your ability!

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