It has occurred to me this month when teaching and coaching how incredibly important practice is for the performance we give at the end of it. This isn’t just an issue of practising the notes, but more an issue of how we practise in an emotional, psychological way. Practising in an emotionally healthy way can have a big impact on how we perform.
Focus: armchair practice Being focused in performance is one way of keeping nerves at bay. When we are totally engaged in what we’re doing, we’re far less likely to feel exposed, or concerned about what people think of us and our playing, which are key contributing factors to performance nerves. I have found ‘armchair practice’ to be very valuable in this respect. Armchair practice is when we look through a piece away from the instrument and imagine how we would play it. So many of us are frustrated that we can’t always get our focus in gear for the first playthrough or performance of something and yet that’s what is often required of us. It’s easy to just go for it and hope for the best which can be hit or miss. A piano student had exactly this issue last week. She had played first time and hadn’t felt focused, so her nerves kicked in. When she stopped, looked at the music silently away from the instrument and then played, her focus was hugely improved, and her nerves disappeared.