violinist playing in an orchestra“Public performance is a potent truth serum.”
-William Westney, pianist
The Musician’s Wayp. 201

In my post, “The 3 Roots of Performance Anxiety,” I explain how stage nerves arise due to personal, task-related and situational factors.

This article zeroes in on situational aspects.

Below I sum up four ways for rising musicians to build up the security necessary to excel in high-stakes performance circumstances such as concerts, auditions, competitions and recording sessions.

4 Ways to Excel in High-Pressure Performance Situations

1. Acclimate to Diverse Performance Settings

To perform confidently, we require much more than musical and technical preparation.

We also need, among other things, the know-how to ready ourselves backstage and then handle performing under bright lights and intense stares.

By doing practice performances in diverse surroundings, especially ones that simulate real-world conditions, we accustom ourselves to performance environments and learn to feel at home under the lights. Then, the zing of being on stage can actually inspire our creativity.

In contrast, music students who don’t deliberately practice performing can become unhinged by the variability of performance situations.

2. Build up Presentation Skills

When we project a robust presence from the stage, both we and our listeners reap greater satisfaction from our performances.

Stage presence is built on presentation skills, especially speaking and body language skills.

So it’s crucial that we refine these abilities in practice performances, using video-recorders to help us evaluate and improve on our work.The Musician's Way book cover

3. Learn Performance-Enhancing Techniques

The Musician’s Way delves into numerous techniques that boost our self-assurance and lessen fight-or-flight activation when the pressure rises.

“Music students who don’t deliberately practice performing can become unhinged by the variability of performance situations.”

As we try out those techniques in practice performances, we discover how to stay centered and retain control.

In time, the tactics we adopt inoculate us to most situational pressures.

4. Get Organized

Concerts, auditions, and recording sessions call for careful planning.

As chapter 8 of The Musician’s Way demonstrates, tools such as a pre-performance inventory make it simpler to prepare without turmoil.

Careful organization also helps ensure that we’re rested and focused when the stage door opens.

*  *  *

All in all, when we coordinate our preparations and cultivate expertise with performance situations, we lay the groundwork to unleash our potential as performing artists.

Related posts
The 3 Roots of Performance Anxiety
Assessing Your Performance Skills
Conquer Stage Fright with Task Mastery
Practicing Performance

© 2017 Gerald Klickstein
Adapted from p. 149 of The Musician’s Way
Photo © Stokkete, licensed from