I recently came across a Teen 10 article for student-athletes titled “How to Prepare for a Big Game the Night Before” and wanted to provide some tips for student-musicians. As a violinist, I’ve always been interested in how to maximize performance on concert days. Here’s a routine that I find helpful:
D-60 Start building “muscle memory”
The longer you train your body (or fingers in my case) to hit all the right notes, the greater the likelihood that you’ll automatically hit those difficult notes in a high-pressure situation like concert day. Building this sort of “muscle memory” takes time, so consistent practice starting from at least a month or two beforehand is usually better than a panicked practice spree right before the performance. Also, videotaping yourself during practice oftentimes helps discover any bad habits or mistakes you were unaware of.
D-7 Cultivate positive thoughts
According to sports psychologist Martin Turner and psychotherapist Amy Morin, vividly picturing yourself executing the perfect performance is key. Imagine yourself at your most confident. As Turner puts it, image training “conditions the mind to react well to pressure.”
D-3 Healthy eating and hydration
If you aren’t already following a diet, it can help to start one, even if temporary. According to classical music blog ‘Behind the Bridge’, sweets like cookies and cakes (I love them too, but a few sacrifices now can go a long way later) are best avoided to prevent sugar rushes and crashes that might hamper practice or performance. Music record label ‘Guidance Recordings’ specifically advises singers to avoid dairy products, citrus fruits, fizzy drinks, spicy food, coffee, alcohol, and junk food.
D-1 Routine to relax
A series of interviews conducted by the University of Ottawa found that top-notch musicians had a pre- performance routine to calm down and maximize their performance. This might be anything from starting off your morning with a game of Candy Crush to reading a book.
D-0 Maximize Warm- Up Time…and Eat a Banana
Practice to the last millisecond. And thirty minutes prior to your performance, try eating a banana. According to the Bulletproof Musician, the potassium, natural beta blockers, tryptophan, and B vitamins in bananas might help alleviate performance anxiety.
During the Performance: Let Go.
You’ve done all you can. There’s nothing else you can do to improve your performance at this point. The best thing you can do now is to let go and focus on the music. Enjoy!