Performance Psychology – in just 5 steps!

By Ehrenfellnermusic (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Inspiration for this post has come from reading an excellent book The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green with Timothy Gallwey.  This book is an excellent start to understanding how to improve your performances, as well as your confidence and belief.


Firstly, let’s consider what performance is all about.  When performing the three top things for the musician to consider are how to:

1)    Express

2)    Communicate

3)    Entertain

Performance is equal to your potential minus the interference that occurs.  General interferences can include problems such as nervousness and your control mechanisms, memory, or distractions.  These problems can be referred to as internal interferences or external interferences.


music-7971_150In terms of practice, it will help you in performance if you consider certain principles or effective ways of working:

1)    Once is a slip, twice is a habit

2)    Think ten times and play once (Franz Liszt )

3)    Never play faster than you can think.  Alternatively, play as fast as you can, but as slow as you must!


When preparing for performances it is very important to consider the time scale that you have available.  Are you working toward a deadline of 1 day, a week or a year?  Preparation should be approached with a three dimensional strategy.  Think carefully about the music you are playing in terms of History, Biography and harmony.  It is important to listen to a variety of performances, learn about the composer and understand how important musical features work.

When preparing for an important recital or performance consider health, fitness and stamina.  On these occasions getting adequate sleep and rest is vital.  The use of visualisation techniques can provide a greater feeling of security.  Through visualisation it is possible to practice being at the venue, allow yourself to experience the feel of the room, the vibe from the audience, the temperature and so on.  This will give a little more control over your emotions and concerns prior to the concert.

When preparing it is very important to have had a rehearsal with the pianist you will be working with and have had the opportunity to run your programme.  Some performers prefer to wait in the wings for about 60 seconds prior to going on stage, but this is really down to personal preference.


Ensure that you are dressed appropriately for the performance, following any necessary conditions from the event organisers.  Make sure what you wear will not interfere with your performance or cause you (or the audience a distraction).  Consider how you will walk on to the stage, whether or not you will bow and how you will acknowledge that you have an accompanist (if necessary).  At the end of your performance consider carefully how you walk off after your bow (and acknowledgment of your accompanist!).


For any performance a real key to success is the need to believe in yourself, and perform with conviction!

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