Practice, practice, practice – that’s something I whittle on about a fair bit on this blog. It is very important if you want to progress on the classical guitar, or any other instrument, or any other skill really. Consistent, regular, targeted practice. Can’t beat it!
There is one more thing that you also need to be doing, particularly if you’re looking to take an exam, or perform for others in some capacity.
What is it? Performance practice.
Practicing the act of performing is so important and I was reminded of this by a friend of mine this week who has just attained his Diploma in Piano Performance. He commented that practicing performance, practicing in front of friends, strangers and basically anyone that would listen made a huge difference for him when it came to taking the exam. From my own point of view, I couldn’t agree more and have experienced the same for myself.
It’s a bit like a professional athlete – training and working out in the gym day in and day out or rehearsing set pieces or moves is undoubtedly going to make you (a) very fit and (b) well across how, when and where you need to move. This fitness is not “match fitness” however. There’s something about getting into the fray that does make all the difference – it’s the getting out there and committing, learning from the experience and developing from it. This makes you a true athlete.
In the same way, as a guitarist putting yourself into “match” situations is really going to sharpen up your playing game!
Why is it important?
You will undoubtedly experience some physical and mental feelings and sensations that you wouldn’t necessarily experience in the practice room when it’s just you, the guitar and the dog. By practicing your performance skills you expose yourself to, learn to go with and even use to your advantage the differing feelings and sensations of live performance. There’s no substitute for doing this really.
You can also practice other elements of your performance – practicing how you will walk to your chair, how you will set yourself up, how you will tune, and importantly how you will accept your rapturous applause in what is quite possibly a new or different environment to that you used to in your daily practice.
See if you’re able, particularly in the lead up to your next exam or recital, to work some performance practice sessions in. Play for your family one Sunday afternoon, play for your friends one evening, join a local musical group or guitar society and find out when their social gatherings are, busk, play for hospital patients. There are opportunities everywhere. It doesn’t really matter where, or for how long (or even playing what in the early days whilst you’re getting used to it), the important thing is just to give it a crack.
There’s only really one real sure fire way of blowing your nerves out of the water, and that’s to get lots of performance in! Do it over and over and over again. Accept and allow yourself to feel nervous. It’s OK.
By getting up there and doing it, allowing yourself to feel the sometimes oddly different experience of playing for others will help dissipate your feeling of nerves over time. Getting your performance practice in now will allow you to experience and manage these experiences, feelings and so on in relatively “safe” environments.
And just like your day to day practice, the more you do of something (generally) the easier it becomes and the more natural it becomes too.