Tips for performing music in front of a live audience

A combination of better weather and gradual easing of restrictions means that we can finally look forward to resuming musical performances. This is something that we have missed terribly over the past 14 months or so. Be it as a soloist or with other musicians, performing in front of other people is a precious experience on a number of levels – from the simple joy and thrill of sharing music with other people, to being a powerful tool for building self-confidence.

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Photo taken before social distancing guidelines

Even the most experienced performer can find the experience a little daunting, so here are a few tips and reminders for the performer:

Be prepared

  • Make sure you have done your practice – proper, focused practice as opposed to playing/singing through your pieces time after time without really getting a grip of those tricky bits.
  • If you are performing with another musician such as an accompanist, make sure that they have any sheet music in good time to do their own practice and also rehearse the performance with you. This rehearsal should ideally take place in the performance venue.
  • Avoid drinking gallons of coffee or energy drinks: all those stimulants in your blood won’t be any good for your nerves or concentration levels!
  • Prepare an introduction to your performance. This should not be a script which you read from, but rather a few words that you can share with your audience. As well as giving the audience some interesting and useful information, an introduction is an additional way for you to build a rapport – and perhaps even shake off any nerves before you begin your performance. Don’t forget to check that you know how to pronounce everything – especially names.

On stage

  • If you are nervous, you may find it useful to focus on your breathing, and make sure that you are taking steady, deep breaths. Many people find that their breathing becomes shallow or erratic when they are nervous.
  • Take your time! Ensure that your spoken introduction is delivered nice and slowly, and at a suitably confident volume that all audience members will be able to hear and make eye contact with the audience.
  • Try and relax. Don’t lock your knees; give your shoulders a couple of subtle rotations to get rid of any unhelpful tension in your body. Don’t be worried about taking time to ensure that you are in a comfortable position.
  • If you are using sheet music, make sure that you have a system in place for any page turns, and that any loose pages are in the correct order.
  • Remember to breathe!
  • Enjoy yourself! Live performance is a privilege.

At the end of your performance

The traditional way of acknowledging the appreciation of an audience is a bow. Do not bow before the applause. Make eye contact with your audience, and try and smile at least a little, no matter how traumatised you might be feeling e.g. being hung up about the fact that you played a wrong note in Bar 29!

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