6 Ways to Perform Better Under Pressure
Pressure. We all face it at serval points points in our lives.
As musicians, the constant pressure to stay on your A game during a gig is relentless. The better you perform, the more the audience expects the next time you’re in town.
However, we can use that stress to our advantage by changing our mindset toward more positive and quantifiable goals. Recalibrating our brains may sound daunting, but not impossible. Many people re-evaulate how they approach stressful situations and figure out a way to come out on top. There is absolutely no difference between you and them.
“When it’s Us versus Them, you can always count on me.”
– Sick of It All, “Us vs. Them,” Busted
God Bless New York Hardcore Punk Rock.
Anyway, as easy as it is to loose your grip, it’s difficult at points to maintain your composure. During a lesson, I always evaluate the situation from the student’s perspective, since they’re the ones experiencing it first hand. So, I share with them a few tips on how I learned to keep my cool under pressure.
When the stakes are high and you find your self worth low, try the following:
1. Mentally prepare for whatever lies ahead.
At this point in the game, you’re probably self aware enough to know what to expect when you’re abut to play. If not, it’s all good; you have to start somewhere.
We’ve all been in your shoes, and we know how the game is played. Regardless of whether you’re performing in front of 10 people or 10,000 people, every gig is important. Anxiety is through the roof and outside influences often infiltrate our abilities to remain focused.
Each performance is a culmination of all your efforts combined: from hours practicing your technique, styles, dynamics and musicianship. Ultimately, your A game represents your artistic expression. The bigger the pond, the bigger the fish you’ll eventually become.
So, good on you, killer!
2. Perform like it’s opening night
I learned this little tidbit from auditioning for every band I found on Craigslist… and I nailed every single one.
Maintaining that element is paramount to not only your playing, but your reputation. If you perceive this gig as an important stepping stone in your journey, then your band leader will respect you for that. More importantly, you’ll be hired relatively quickly, because you care about the show almost as much as the band leader.
3. Appreciate your talent.
Self awareness, self appreciation, and a positive work ethic benefit not just you, the player, but your surroundings as well. Positive self talk promotes endless productivity. Taking your musical journey seriously prevents distractions from weaseling into the process. Plus, it encourage others to step up as well.
No player on earth jams like you. With steady practice and a willful attitude toward self improvement, you WILL become better than you were yesterday. Respect the process. Most importantly, respect yourself.
4. Recognize your limits.
*Spoiler alert: YOU DON’T HAVE ANY LIMITS.
Limits are subjective. Also, they are slammed on you by society because they expect you to be “normal.” You’re an artist: YOU ARE ABOVE AVERAGE, AT LEAST. Inside that complicated and brooding brain of yours lies a work that could potentially save lives and alter the course of reality for your fans everywhere. “Normal” is a designation supplied by select individuals who wish to heard people like sheep and conform to what they deem as acceptable. Unfortunately, for them, you are built differently. Fortunately, for you, molding your talent into what you see fit will benefit the world, and this gig, in ways your current perspective won’t see right now.
Give yourself a chance. You’ve got this.
5. Have confident in your abilities.
As a young child, I had zero confidence in myself. However, I knew I was a good player. I didn’t see playing as a means of building self confidence, nor was that the reason I picked up sticks in the first place. I became a musician because I love to play and I love that it makes people feel good.
What my younger self didn’t realize, however, was that consistent showmanship kept my gigs steady and paying well.
That was going to take more practice. A lot more.
Recently, I came across this Ted Talk about perceiving confidence as a skill rather than a state of mind or a state of being. Confidence is muscle that must be molded and shaped and consistently worked. If I wanted to be a show person of some kind, I knew I needed to quantify my goals and work them diligently for a specific period of time. Once I have succeeded in fulfilling my obligation to myself, the show will go swimmingly.
Check out this Ted Talk on “The Skill of Self Confidence” to see how to trust yourself.
6. Trust Yourself.
You were born with a brain and gifted a soul. Each experience you’ve acquired up to this point teaches you various elements on how to perform well under pressure. These situations gifted you instincts with the ability to look ahead. Trust your gut, remain flexible and roll with the punches. It will benefit you in the long term to reinforce the positive habits and attitudes we discussed.
You’ve come a long way, and you’ll do great!
What kinds of methods do you use when performing under pressure? I’m interested to know, so I can use a few new ideas myself LOL.