In a recent post, I mentioned some difficult performance situations that had a devastating effect on musicians.

Let’s discuss what you can do in the practice room to prepare yourself for these situations.

In a nutshell, you want to create some discomfort in your practice space.  You need to know that you can deal with a bad situation on stage and still play your instrument well.

Here are some specific issues and how to prepare for them while you’re practicing:

1.  Cold Temperature:  When the temperature drops, string instruments go sharp, wind instruments go flat, and your fingers won’t move quickly.  Crank up your air conditioner or practice in the winter without turning up the heat.  See if you can keep your fingers warm and keep playing.

2.  Excessive Heat:  At high temperatures, instruments also go out of tune.  Plus, musicians start to sweat and feel fatigued.  Turn up the heat in your practice room and see how you do.  Make sure you’ve got plenty of water to drink!

3.  Bright Lighting:  You may find yourself performing with a spotlight directed right at your eyes.  (Even when the spotlight is aimed at someone else, it can still affect you.)  You must be able to look away from it and still see your sheet music, other musicians, and perhaps a conductor.  Set up a light in your practice space and shine it directly at your eyes.  Be sure you don’t look at the light!  It’s a challenge.  An easy way to do this is to set up a music stand light and aim it up instead of down.

4.  Dim Lighting:  In some performance situations, the lighting is so bad you can barely see anything.  Try practicing with just a night light on in your room to prepare for this.

5.  Darkness:  Every now and then, musicians have to play on a dark stage.  It’s usually only for a few seconds, but it can feel surreal!  I’ve had this happen on large stages where back lighting is used.  This is where overhead and front lights are off and lights behind the band are aimed out at the audience.  In this situation, you cannot see anything.  Your instrument disappears!   Try practicing  in total darkness to make sure you can play without looking at your instrument.

6.   Bad Acoustics: There are times when you simply cannot hear yourself on stage.  This is extremely frustrating, but it does happen in the performance world.  To prepare for this difficult situation, practice wearing heavy duty earplugs.  I use foam earplugs, and then I put on headphones that go over my ears.  Record yourself as you play your music.  Listen back to see how you did.

You need to practice with these types of conditions in mind!  Make sure you’re able to play your instrument under extreme circumstances.

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