Something that every musician could confirm is that playing at home and playing in front of a larger audience is not the same thing. Performing in front of a large (or even small) audience is more a matter of emotion than technique.
Once you are on stage or when you play just for some friends there’s no time to learn anything more than what you’ve already learned practicing at home. This thought could make you doubt your skills but don’t worry: after the first note you play, fear will disappear.
1. Check everything & warm-up
Before starting the concert, check that everything is all set to go: if you are amplified, check the mic, cables, scores, be sure you don’t need an extra light source to read your sheet music, hide a handkerchief or a towel somewhere so you can keep your keyboard clean during the concert.
Then take your accordion and play slowly scales and technical exercises.
It’s very important to do it very slowly! If you do it fast or at the right speed, you may start getting more and more tension in your hands. After a while, stop playing scales and exercises and play once the whole piece you will perform, then rest for a few minutes.
2. Clear your mind
While you are playing, think only about the music you are playing. Clean your mind from every thought and focus just on your music.
Leave every problem off the stage.
Do you know which parts of a piece are the most important? The beginning and the end: your audience’s attention will be higher in those parts than in the middle.
Making a mistake at the beginning or at the end of your performance is way worse than making a mistake in the middle.
4. Don’t freeze if you make a mistake
You likely make some mistakes at some point. Mistakes happen, even the best musician can make mistakes. There’s a rule to follow if you make a mistake: never stop playing. Don’t freeze, don’t panic and keep playing.
A very small part of the audience will hear your mistakes. It is very important not to make any grimaces, you don’t want to tell the audience that you have just made a mistake.
There’s only one way to overcome performance pressure:
- practicing until you feel confident and keeping playing in front of an audience every time you can. You will build experience and with time, you’ll learn to control your emotion.
Here some tips to improve the quality of your practice sessions and your performances:
5. Split the score into sections
When you have to learn a new piece, split the score by sections. I suggest starting from the harder part of the score.
In this way, it will be much easier to go through the entire score once you’ve got the hard job done.
6. Practice with a metronome
Practice each section separately with a metronome. Start very slowly then increase the bpm (beat per minute) only when you can play the whole section without mistakes.
Don’t skip any step, sometimes you need to stay on the same bpm for days or weeks before increasing speed.
7. Practice every day at the same time
Practicing accordion is a daily exercise, for the first days, it could be tiresome, after a few weeks it will become a habit.
Your brain will get used to this routine and your practice sessions will be more enjoyable.
8. Play with emotion
Challenge yourself to play each measure with emotion. Keep listening to what and how you are playing.
Don’t play just with fingers, put your heart in each measure you play.
9. Learn correct fingering
Practice fingering: every time you have to learn a new piece, take a pencil and start writing your fingering on the score.
Know your fingering and use it always, don’t improvise.
10. Practice bellows inversion
You need to know when you have to invert your bellows movement to avoid missing notes.
Use your pencil and mark the measures where you need to invert the bellows.
11. Play in front of an audience
Play for your family members, for your friends, your neighbor, or whoever would appreciate it. Every chance to play in front of someone is a good time to test your performance.
Like everything else, playing in front of an audience is something that needs practice.
12. Record yourself
Once a month or even more often, get used to recording yourself. This will make it easier for you to realize your progress and motivate you to be consistent in your daily practice.
If you follow these tips until they become a habit, I guarantee you will gain confidence in playing in front of an audience over time!
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Author: Giovanni Lucifero