“Give yourself over to the emotion of the music while you also lead the music, directing your execution and the emotional flow.”
–The Musician’s Way, p. 187
Aspiring musicians work hard to develop technical and interpretive skills, which are the most obvious abilities needed to perform accurately and expressively.
But there are other less-apparent skills necessary for musicians to excel on stage.
Commonly termed “mental skills,” such abilities affect our confidence under pressure, our creativity, and how effectively we direct our execution as we play or sing.
This post touches on not only mental skills but also emotional ones, providing links to related articles on this site.
Mental and Emotional Skills of Expert Performers
Expert performers maintain an inclusive yet gentle focus as they perform – they think/feel ahead, sense their co-performers, and make continual adjustments to optimize their music making and connections with listeners.
All the while, they open conduits of emotion to bring their music to life and allow spontaneous ideas to flow.
Such awareness and flexibility are easy for them to carry out because they’ve ingrained key habits during deliberate practice. As a result, they trust in their concert preparation, enjoy performing, and typically do their best playing or singing when on stage.
What if problems, mistakes, or nervousness arise during a show? Adept performers employ countermeasures, which they’ve thoroughly practiced, that resolve issues and dispel anxiousness.
The following articles address mental and emotional skills of expert performers:
“Expert performers maintain an inclusive yet gentle focus as they perform.”
Building Robust Mental & Emotional Skills
If you’d like to boost your inner skills or otherwise upgrade your performances, the first steps are to review what and how you practice.
To acquire fundamental skills – e.g., to overcome performance anxiety, improve memorization, or gain experience on stage – choose new accessible repertoire that won’t challenge you musically or technically. Select something you’ve never played or sung before so that you won’t be influenced by prior learning habits.
Then, employ the deep practice techniques spelled out in The Musician’s Way to assimilate the music such that you can soulfully execute it with minimal effort.
At the same time, reinforce performance skills as you practice to cultivate the habits you’ll need at concerts or auditions.
When an easy piece is thoroughly learned, practice performing it using the methods described in The Musician’s Way – i.e., first for a recorder, and then for peers in a performance-development group. As your skills gel, test yourself in low-stakes public settings.
“If you’d like to boost your inner skills or otherwise upgrade your performances, the first steps are to review what and how you practice.”
Here are links to articles designed to help musicians strengthen inner skills and become fearless, soulful performers:
- Becoming a Confident Performer
- Connecting with Audiences
- Harnessing On-Stage Energy
- Practicing Performance
- Soulful Control
- Varied, Distributed, and Interleaved Practice
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The Musician’s Way is the only book to cover the essential artistic, technical, mental, collaborative and professional skills that aspiring performers require.
© 2022 Gerald Klickstein
Photo via Pixabay