The stage is not where and when you want to discover how your brain and body are going to react and perform under pressure.
Fortunately, you can actually practice having stage fright and practice responding to it well before the performance.
The practice goes like this:
- Create enough pressure to trigger your emotional, mental, and physical performance anxiety responses.
- Once you become aware of each stress response, immediately respond with a constructive counter-measure.
Here are four low-stress ideas for cranking up the pressure…
- Play for an audience of one. Going from an audience of none to an audience of one is a much bigger step than going from one to two and two to three and so on. Practice playing for a trusted friend and pay attention to what happens. Of course you should take advantage of every informal opportunity to perform. Play for your friends and family or demo a piano at a music store.
- Do a “dress rehearsal” at the actual performance venue. As best you can, set up the actual conditions in every detail. Practice taking the stage. Practice smiling, greeting the audience, taking your seat, laying your hands upon the piano. And pay attention to your thoughts, breathing, heartbeat, and body language.
- Visualize Your Performance. If none of the above are available, the next best thing is to imagine them. Imagine taking the stage. Imagine seeing their faces. Imagine the lighting and the sounds. Imagine your breathing and heartbeat. Imagine your body posture and your hands on the keyboard.
- Record or videotape yourself. The prospect of creating a potentially permanent record of your performance is a great way to crank up the pressure, with the added bonus of immediately telling you where the music is insecure and still needs work.
Having cranked up the pressure it is time to become aware of your stress responses and to respond immediately with positive countermeasures…
- Do you stop breathing? Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing!
- Do you clench your teeth? Practice letting you jaw relax!
- Do you avoid eye contact? Practice smiling at members in the audience!
- Does you mind race? Practice playing from your belly button!
- Do you tend to play faster? Sing the music in your head and play it the way you’re singing it!
- Do you hunch your back and pull your elbows pulling in? Practice an open posture and think C3PO arms!
- Do you lift your shoulders? Practice letting them go!
- Do you tend to play timidly? Practice going for it! Practice playing like you mean it!
Any other ideas to share? Please comment below.