With my gigging students we sometimes talk about performing. Of course, it is always a difficult subject. I am very aware of the shortcomings of our discussions. After all, we are in my studio, there is no audience, no prepared songs, no promotion for the concert. It is almost impossible to recreate the conditions of a live performance.
Still,we can do a few important things. I tell people (the ones with a lot of stage fright) to use their fear to their advantage. Fear is a very natural thing, and there is no sense side-stepping it or ignoring it. It will be eating your stomach, no matter what. But you can use the energy that fear provides. Adrenaline can be a great engine.
So, how do you channel it?
Well, I could recommend a few books and, actually, if you wanted ta have an in depth talk about it, I know an excellent music teacher. But, I’ll try not to deflect the subject.
You can study your part. That’s one way of channeling it. That’s what rehearsals are for. But that’s not preparing you for the gig. It’s just giving you something to fall back on in case you forget why you went on stage. In order to perform, you have to be in the moment. And, fortunately, you can kind of rehearse that.
Do this: visualize the whole thing. You take a moment let’s say three weeks before you go on stage and you go through your whole gig. But you visualize it as you being in control, relax, people riveted to your presence. You take your time to go through every moment, you really go through the intro, the verses and the choruses of every song, IN REAL TIME! Yes, you have to feel your instrument in your hand, the warmth of the light on your face, you have to mean every lyric, every feeling that has to go into the tunes, you smile when you come to a funny passage, you become sad when you sing break-up songs. Whatever is the mood of the moment you are in the concert, you have to be on your mind-rehearsal, it’s not a joke. If you botch it up, if you go through it too fast, you will just prepare your mistakes.
Now, does it get you ready for anything? No. It does not. But it helps tremendously. I hear the feedback of students, the very ones who were mocking the exercise before their show and are now full of gratitude for having done a great job rehearsing regularly everything in their mind as well as on their instrument.
It’s a lot of time, a lot of care for just one performance, isn’t it? Small price, really, for fighting that most common of fear: speaking publicly, performing in front of a crowd.