Overcoming a Bad Performance

Performing music is the reason we spend so much time and effort in the practice room.  But, even when we know how to practice and feel well-prepared for a concert, sometimes the outcome of the concert is less successful than we wanted.

Hey, it’s happened to us all.  I’ve had terrible performances, and you probably have too.  Sometimes, the problem was mine.  Other times, one of the other musicians was to blame.  Either way, it’s not fun.

No matter what the outcome of any single performance, I consistently use an evaluation process that helps me prepare for my next gig.  By following this procedure after every live show, I’ve come to realize that  no concert is ever as bad as I initially thought it was.  (Okay, except for the performance where the bridge of my upright bass collapsed with an explosive bang and fell to the floor.  That was a total disaster…)

Here’s a quick outline of this evaluation process.  I usually do it the day after a performance, sometimes carefully writing everything down, other times just thinking it through in my head.

1.  Return to your practice space.

2.  Write out what went well and what needs to be better.  Start with what went well!

3.  Clearly define the issues that need work.

4.  Whenever possible use neutral language.  For instance, it’s better to say “I need to work on my intonation in the middle section” than “I never play in tune.”

5.  Create a practice plan to deal with the issues.  Be very specific.

6.  Use slow practice, your metronome, positive visualizations, and all the other practice techniques you know to overcome the situation.

This procedure is a little known secret for overcoming the negative emotions that can haunt you after a bad concert.

By paying attention to your successes as well as your failures, and by creating a rational plan for improvement, you will be able to confidently move forward toward your next concert.

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