Making the most of a bad situation
As I settle in for my 5 hour train ride from Washington D.C. to New Haven I am thinking about the performance last night. It was not a soul crushing disaster, but it was far from my best performance. I had memory slips, some pretty poor phrasing in a couple of new pieces and I generally felt unprepared. There are many reasons for these types of performances, some factors being in our control and others not. The important thing, however, is to make the most of it and don’t become fixated on negatives. There is little to be gained from chastising yourself inwardly or outwardly, but there is a lot to lose.
I had a bad habit several years ago of sharing my frustrations and self critique with people after the concert. The day I realized that this was a behavior that I needed to change was when a kind member of the audience came up to me and paid me a wonderful complement. She told me that she saw …*insert famous classical guitarist here* live in concert and thought my performance was better! I proceeded to tell her how wrong she was and how terrible my concert was. This was bad for several reasons. Not only was I undermining this person’s artistic judgment I was also ruining their memory of the concert. Furthermore, after berating myself for a little while, I found out that this person organized a concert series in Europe… whoops. So all I really achieved through my negativity was negative results. Since then I have been working on my outlook following all performances, good and bad, and I have come up with some ideas that I follow and you may consider trying if you suffer from a similar “Eeyore effect”
Just because we might feel disappointed with our performance doesn’t mean that everybody was.
Our perception, from the performer‘s point of view, as to how a concert went is severely distorted through our own subjective perception. Unrealistic expectations, fears, stress and a predominant focus on the negatives means that we are likely to be a poor judge of how a performance came across to the audience. One audience member might be attending their first guitar concert, one might be out on a first date and has more on their mind that just your Scarlatti, one might be a seasoned musician, one might be your brother… you get the picture. Point is, people will respond to your performance in different ways for different reasons and if they enjoy it, don’t sabotage yourself, and them, by taking away from that enjoyment. Accept compliments with gratitude and humility. It will make everyone concerned feel better.
I saw the sign
In regards to practice and repertoire concerts are invaluable insights into what needs more work. If you missed some passages, lost good tone during difficult passages or felt tense in your hands after long pieces, you should take note of these things and address them in your practice sessions. The famous line “it sounded better in the bedroom” highlights the fact that normal practice sessions are void of some crucial aspects that we need to address in our playing. Namely, performance anxiety. Just because a passage is working when you are warmed up and calm doesn’t mean that it will work in the concert hall. So treat these slips in performance as valuable insights to what needs work.
Get a grip
Was it really that bad? Probably not. And if it was? So what! Negativity can breed fear, anxiety, stress and it is an easy hole to fall into. Confidence on stage is an elusive trait and you are definitely not going to attain it through self deprecation. Focus on what was good about the performance, think about compliments you received and give yourself some positive affirmations.