The Practice Room Effect: Why We Perform Better in Our Comfort Zone by Ali Soltani
Have you ever been practicing and rehearsing something perfectly at home but then blown it during a performance? Is your practice room playing always stronger than in front of your teacher?
This happens to every performer. The good news is- there are solutions!
When we practice in a comfortable space with which we are familiar, we hold no inhibitions. We practice “as if no-one is watching”. Yes, this is exactly what we should do. If it works so well in the practice room, why not do it when performing?
True, it is easier to practice “as if no-one is watching” when no-one is actually watching. We tend to get self-conscious in front of others and lose our edge during a performance. We have to put ourselves in a state of comfort when we perform in order to make this work. We also need to put ourselves in a state of heightened stress (hopefully, the good kind) during our practice.
Preparation is everything! Cramming for a performance is a lot like cramming for a test. It’s not very affective. We need time for our skills and knowledge to settle in and “marinate”. Every person is different, but I typically recommend having music prepared at least one month in advance of a performance. You’ve been reciting your ABC’s since you were two feet tall. In front of even the largest crowd, you would have absolutely no trouble or hesitation doing so. That’s because you’ve had years to let this skill “marinate”. It’s easy and you’re comfortable with the idea. Your music needs that same attention. You need time to let those skills settle and to become confident about them.
We also need to put ourselves consistently outside of our comfort zone when practicing. Have a set of eyes watching to give you the feeling of being in front of an audience. Grab a family member, neighbor, friend, pet- Anyone that can watch you and put you in a performance mindset. If nobody is around to watch, then record yourself and watch it on your own. During these practice performances, work to recreate the same freedom of playing you had in the practice room by yourself.
First thing first, take a deep breath! Remember that anyone watching you wants to see you succeed. They are there for the enjoyment of the music. Mistakes aren’t bad and they are bound to happen, just don’t let that slow you down.
Second, start strong! Nothing settles nerves or shaky hands like taking a leap of faith and wailing away on those strings. Once you settle into your sound, hopefully things become easier from there.
Third, smile! People watching you are your support system. Whether it is close friends and family, or community members, they wouldn’t “waste” their time to be at a performance. They are invested and care to go along for a musical journey with you.
And last but not least, rely on your preparation. You’ve done it before, and you can do it again!
So in the future, if you don’t perform as well outside of your safe-zone, just know that it’s not entirely your fault! Sometimes, we just need to let our music “marinate” and build up more to a strong performance.
Good luck and stay musical!
September 19th, 2018