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When no one will listen…

February 26, 2012

So let’s say that you need some performance practice, but for whatever reason, you haven’t been able to secure any performance opportunities. What do you do?

Well, in order to simulate a performance experience, you need to delineate the characteristics of a performance.

For one, you won’t be used to the performance conditions. You’ll likely be in somewhat unfamiliar clothes (especially shoes!) and an unfamiliar place.

Depending on how you specifically react to nerves, you might feel your heart pounding, you might get sweaty palms, or your hands might be shaky. Etc.

In simulating performance for practice purposes, try to recreate as many of these conditions. Sometimes, you have to be creative.

For instance, to get your heart racing, try running up and down some stairs before playing. After finishing, run back to your harp and immediately start playing. Have your shoes ready to put on immediately (if you’re wearing shoes) and ideally you should have your pedals set (although having to set your pedals could be good practice too). Try playing – the feeling of your heart pounding will make the experience eerily similar to an actual performance. The reason you need to transition from exercise to playing as quickly as possible is because your heart rate will slow down as you play, and you don’t want it to slow down too soon. You can compensate, if you’d prefer, by doing more strenuous exercise beforehand, as this will make sure that your heart rate will remain elevated for the duration of your practice run.

To help with clothes and locations, I’d recommend practicing in the clothes you will perform in. Also, try practicing in different rooms, if it’s possible, so you can get used to compensating for the sound and for the visual aspect.

The essential lesson here is that performance is, in many ways, the opposite of practicing. Things will be different, so try changing things up during practice, when you can comfortably adjust without pressure. Play with only one shoe on. Play in your underwear. Play with the bench at the wrong height. Quickly put your pedals in a random setting and begin playing a piece – see if you can reset them while playing. Set up distractions for yourself. This is a chance to be really creative!

Have fun, and comment if you have any favorite ways to change things up!


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