Why You Should Commit To A Performance Schedule

In the last practice sessions before a high-stakes audition or recital, we focus and put forth our best work.  We improve quickly.  After it’s over, we relax. When there’s no performance upcoming, we tend to fritter away our time and get little accomplished.  That’s natural, but it’s the definition of inconsistency.

On the other hand, the pressure of a high-stakes performance can be anxiety-inducing.  Keep the pressure up too long, and it can cause a whole host of emotional and motivational problems, from anxiety and fear to depression and panic.

We’ve got to find a balance.  The ancient Greeks differentiated between two different types of stress: Distress, the overwhelming tension which comes with anxiety and pain; and eustress, which is the tension that motivates us and helps us to improve.  We want to find the sweet spot where we have enough tension to keep us focused, but without overwhelming ourselves to the point of fatigue, distress, and anxiety.

What follows are some tips to help you find that balance.

Commit to a performance schedule
I recommend performing a small amount of music once a week.  It should be soon enough to feel like there’s always a deadline approaching (eustress), but not so often that you feel rushed (distress).

Share Your Work
-A Youtube or Vimeo channel
-Post to Instagram or Facebook
-Send a video or sound file via email
-Schedule a recurring in-person performance for your family or roommates

How much should you produce?
Aim for a chunk of music that challenges you, but small enough that you can polish it in time.  You don’t have to perform completed works every time!  It can be one small section of a sonata, an eight-bar improvisation, or even a challenging technical exercise.  You’ll quickly learn how little is too little and how much is too much.

Get feedback
You should ask for feedback from friends and teachers who you trust.  It’s worth asking them to “praise in public, criticize in private.”  Still, a critical ear can help us figure out where to focus our energy.  The privacy of the practice room allows us to ignore all manner of problems.  You may find that just the practice of sharing your work regularly helps you to listen to yourself more closely.

Balance the immediate with the long-term
Don’t get so focused on the next performance that you forget about the long-term skills that will ultimately take you to the next level.  That’s like driving so fast you forget to fill the gas tank.  

Revisit your old work
After you’ve done this for some time, look back and see how far you’ve come.  There’s nothing quite so motivating as progress.  You may also notice certain problems that continue to crop up over a long period of time—which is valuable information that you can include in your practice planning and private lessons.

So how will you share your work in 2021?  How often?  Post your commitment in the comments.

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