Let’s face it. Just about everyone is afraid to perform music in front of others for the fear of making a mistake. You may have recently experienced that terrifying moment during a performance of your own and felt paralyzed. Mastering the skill to overcome that fear is just as important as learning the piece itself.
Here’s the reality: you have to make mistakes through practice in order to strengthen your skills. That may sound discouraging, but we’re here to give you some easy ways to help cope with the fear of mistakes and how to recover from them while performing.
1. Fight pre-show anxiety.
Anxiety is a large contributing factor to musical mistakes, so it’s important not to let those fears become self-fulfilling prophecies. Many musicians choose to keep an item of personal meaning with them as a token of comfort. Young learners may want to have a stuffed toy nearby and adult musicians may find comfort in a piece of jewelry or favorite piece of sheet music. If there is something that you know will calm your spirits, bring it along.
2. Take a breather.
Whether you’re just beginning your performance or you are smack-dab in the middle of it, sometimes the best way to recover is to take a break and reset your mind in order to tackle a difficult portion that has tripped you up. You may adjust your seat, take a drink of water, or take a moment to find the tempo in your head. The goal is to take your time when restarting and to avoid rushing, which might lead to more mistakes.
3. Ignore it completely.
While any person can easily hear a mistake in “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” most music is sophisticated enough that a casual listener might not actually notice a mistake. This is particularly true of high tempo music. The audience may be so awash with stimulation that a simple error might go completely unnoticed. Lucky you! No need to break a sweat.
4. Make a joke of it.
Music should be about expressing your emotion through your performance, not worrying about your ego. Making a joke of your mistake is a great way to connect with your audience on a personal level. There are plenty of ways to do it, too. Look at your instrument like it has done something wrong, check your amp levels as if something has gone awry, or shuffle sheet music irritatedly. Most audience members couldn’t imagine performing on stage like you, so they’re very quick to forgive and release the tension you may be feeling.
5. Own your mistake.
Acknowledging your own faults is one of the toughest things to do, particularly when performing live, which makes it incredibly humanizing and endearing to an audience. All it takes is a simple smile or a nod. That kind of human connection between the performer and the audience is what makes live music so special.
Making mistakes is inevitable, so it’s important to have a good system for recovering from them. Now, you have plenty of things to experiment with to find the best solution for you. The good news about making a mistake while performing is that the more you do it, the less it hurts.
Have you been in this situation before?
Share your own thoughts on how to get over a performance mistake in the comments!
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