By Maya Phipps
Hello! I am preparing for a big performance but I’m extremely nervous that I’m going to mess up and make a fool of myself in front of all those people I hardly know. What do I do?
Did you know that not all nerves before and during a performance are bad?
What? How can that be?
It is true! In fact, some nerves during a performance will actually help us perform better. These nerves, the good ones, help us stay in the zone and focus on our accordion, our music, and our performance.
Well, that sounds great, but how do I get these ‘good nerves’ and not the bad ones that cause stage fright or cause me to mess up on a piece I know really well?
That is a good question, my friend. The good news is, with just a little knowledge and effort it isn’t too hard to develop or attain the good nerves.
Really? Cool! Please tell me more!
Ok, let’s first start with the most obvious one. Practicing. It is really important that you practice your accordion efficiently before a performance. The days and weeks leading up to the performance should be the most intense practice days. Make sure you include warm-ups and other exercises along with your songs. Don’t just play your accordion. Practice.
Of course, we all know how to physically practice our piece (or pieces), but we can also practice mentally.
Hold on! Did you say we need to practice mentally? How on earth do we do that?
Yes I did say that! What I mean is that we need to know our music so well that we can play every part in our head. If we play it in our mind, (seeing ourselves play it note by note), we literally know our piece inside and out. This can be helpful when we want to practice at a time when we may not have our accordion. Just do it inside your brain! It is an instrument we can access anytime and anywhere! Try it!
I will! That’s so cool! What else?
The next important thing is your diet.
My diet? I’m confused…what does my diet have to do with music and performing?
Some foods can inhibit your ability to think or feel good. With the accordion being such a physical instrument, this can be especially important. I wouldn’t recommend eating or drinking anything with sugar in it on the day of your performance. A famous food item that has been known and recommended for reducing nervousness during performances or tests is a banana. Try to make a habit of adding bananas to your breakfast or snack the day before a performance. Also, I don’t recommend caffeine on the day of the performance.
Why? That sounds strange. What if I drink coffee at least everyday?
I know it may be hard for you to not drink coffee in the morning of a performance, but caffeine only adds to adrenaline levels when you are performing. Even when we don’t have any coffee before a performance our body naturally gives off adrenaline that can help us focus and play more efficiently, but if we have too much adrenaline, it can cause us to be jittery and not focused. So, hold off on the coffee until after your performance. Also, we play the speed of our heart beat and caffeine increases our energy, thus causing us to play faster than normal.
That makes sense, but what if I am really tired before my performance. I usually aid fatigue with caffeine. I don’t want to be yawning like a bullfrog all day.
That is totally understandable and leads me to my next point: Getting enough sleep before the day of the performance is very important. Try going to bed earlier than usual and drink herbal tea to help you relax. (Although it is important to get enough sleep the night before a performance, it is even better to get enough sleep a few nights before you play.) This can help you keep a healthier body so that you don’t get sick from being tired for too long. Getting sick before a concert is the last thing you want!
Also, drinking a lot of water and keeping hydrated helps immensely in several different ways. Staying hydrated can prevent you from getting sick, and helps your muscles, joints and brain pay more attention. (Water is the best thing to consume before a show).
This all sounds great! I guess a healthy body is key to having a fantastic performance right?
You got it! But all this being said, health isn’t everything you need to focus on while preparing for a performance. Along with efficient practice, you should also consider knowing and familiarizing yourself with the environment where you will be performing. If possible, schedule a dress rehearsal or visit the venue and take a look around. If possible, even practice performing with your accordion at the location. Get the feel of how it will be like when you perform, just with more people watching you later on.
With this, I also suggest observing and connecting with the audience before, during, and after the performance. When you know the audience, you feel more confident playing in front of them.
But above all else, stay positive. If we let ourselves be anxious or worried about our performance, we can look unprepared and unhappy. Our attitude not only affects us, but it affects the audience as well. Our audience enjoys seeing people smile while they are performing. It shows that we enjoy doing what we’re doing. Just have fun! That’s all that really matters in the end, right?
Sure! Thank you so much! I feel better about my performance already! I had no idea there were so many things that went into preparing other than practicing my accordion. I have a feeling my next concert will be awesome!