How to Handle Mistakes During a Performance
Stage fright manifests itself in different ways. For serious sufferers, it can create a mental block and make concentration nearly impossible. People with this kind of stage fright tend to fear the lack of control that goes along with it more than the possibility of actually making a mistake – one slip up can create a snowball effect of blunders, and one sour chord can turn into several. Therefore, it’s good to know how to cope with a musical mistake when it happens so it doesn’t hurl you into panic mode.
You will make mistakes – it’s a reality that every musician must learn to accept. It’s ok, you’ll get past it. (Of course, knowing your material is a huge help, so give yourself plenty of quality practice time.)
On stage, the key is in how well you keep your composure after a musical blooper. If you feel overwhelmed during a performance, do the following to regain control over your playing:
- Take a moment to breathe, adjust your bench, or take a sip of water. Smile or nod at the audience if you feel the need to ease any tension, or simply get back into the music – you’re more affected by the mistake than they are.
- Set a comfortable rhythm in your head (or metronome).
- Start again from the beginning of the song (if you’re not too far in) or restart the page or line.
- Stay calm. Your energy is better aimed towards playing and enjoying the song.
- Don’t worry about winning; it’s about conveying a feeling through music, and the opportunity to do so is never lost.
Minimizing On-Stage Nervousness
- Keep a Token of Comfort Nearby
Keeping a special object around you can soothe your nerves by putting positive, familiar thoughts in your mind. This is a trick for all ages; stuffed animals work well for nervous children, while adults tend to favor sentimental jewelry or sheet music.
- See the “Trees for the Forest”
You may know the saying “they can’t see the forest for the trees,” meaning a person has trouble appreciating the individuals that make up a group. It’s a good saying to understand for the sake of fighting prejudice, but when it comes to severe performance anxiety, reverse it.
Thinking of each individual in an audience – and worrying about each person’s opinion of you – can drive even the most confident performer mad. Instead, think of the audience as a single body of music-appreciation. Observe the calm of the crowd, a smiling face, and remember that the audience is there to be moved by your talent.
- Get Used to Performing in Public
The only way to overcome stage fright is to face it, so it’s good to start performing in front of an audience as soon as possible. You can find information on open recitals in your area from colleges, instrument retailers, and piano teachers. You can also ask cafés, clubs, and piano bars if they have an open mic night.
Don’t be afraid to start off small. Perform in front of a small group of friends or relatives to get a feel for a live audience.
○ Understanding the Cause & Effect of Stage Nerves
○ Overcoming the Physical Symptoms of Stage Fright