Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tips for Becoming a Better Performer

Some love it, others hate it. Some thrive on and live for it and others shrink from it in terror.
I used to be somewhere nearer the shrinking from it in terror, but now I think I’m somewhere in the middle of both spectrum's. This is due to a few resources as well as some fabulous teachers I've had the privilege of reading/ studying with.

Power Performance:
A few years back one of my harp teachers lent me a book called Power Performance by: Carrol McLaughlin. Though I don’t agree 100% with Carrol McLaughlin (in some of her psychology , I believe she has some really good tips on how to become a better performer and great insight on how to conquer your stage fright fears.  I’m not planning on going in-depth into McLaughlin’s book, but instead I'll just mention a few of highlights that helped me.
        1. Practice in different environments once you get closer to your performance date:  living room, bedroom etc.
         2.  Practice your concert repertoire in order, non-stop, multiple times at least that last month before your recital/concert. 
         3. Play and perform as many times as you can, in front of an audience (big or small) at least a month before your recital: Nursing Homes, House Concert, the dog, friends etc.
        4.  Trust that you've put the work in and that your mind and muscles know what to do. Don’t doubt yourself; stay confident.
        5.  Practice your music in different sections, from memory. Try to see the music in your mind when  away from your instrument. Sing your music from memory. Practice away from the instrument by reading through your music.

Three years ago I had the blessing of being able to attend an annual AHS Conference in Denton Texas. While I was there, I listened to a talk on performance. Here are the few tips I gathered and have tried to implement into my performances since:

How to Enter the Stage and Begin Playing:

1. When entering the stage, walk with confidence, head held high, smiling! No grinning, but look pleasant, your audience wants to know that you are excited and happy to be playing for them!

2. Okay, you've bowed ( don't bow too low or too shallow and please don't look at the audience while your bowing! ); now sit down. While remaining pleasant looking (no grins, or teeth need to be shown), pull your harp back to your shoulder, dampen the strings with hands and change your pedals. Now is the part many people don’t think about; look up while doing this. When a person looks down, it comes across to the audience that you are not confident and that you are being introspective. Looking up portrays confidence, which will set your audience at ease.

3. Your pedals are set (or for other instrumentalists, you've picked up your instrument). Give yourself a few seconds to collect your thoughts and FOCUS. Remember what you are trying to portray in the beginning lines so your know how to attack the first notes, now your ready play.

Gleanings from Personal Experience 
/Insight from My Music Instructors:
Though I am not the most famous of performers, I thought I’d share some personal performance helps that have helped me immensely.

1. Focus was huge for me. Blocking out all that is around me and imagining that I’m in my own practice room at home, and it’s just me and my harp playing as unto the Lord, for His glory alone. I've found that as soon as my focus is gone for a few seconds, a mistake is made or my muscle memory will take over and that definitely can throw you into a tailspin! Remembering to stay confident, trusting in the fact that I've put in the practice and that God will bless my efforts as He sees fit.

2. Always practice your “performance” in the clothes you are going to actually perform in; shoes, clothes (hair style for ladies). It is easy to get distracted by a piece of hair in your face, or the shoulder seam in your top that's more restricting than the t-shirt you normally practice in.

3. I think that the biggest thing that has helped me perform better has been keeping always in mind that the music I am performing is for God. If I am playing for my glory, this is pride and selfishness both of which are sins and very grievous to God. For God alone should receive glory and honor and it is only by His grace that I am able to play. My playing should point to Christ and the work He has done in me, and not to my “talented abilities”.

4. Lastly, relax and enjoy this moment! Remember that a performance is only once, do your best and enjoy this gift of music God has given us!

To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen
Jude 1:25

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
 Philippians 4:13

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