How to regain your confidence after a bad performance

by Landi Schaap

You just had a terrible performance… you played too many wrong notes, had a horrible memory laps, were incredibly stressed you could not stop shaking or just simply could not get into the music.

Welcome to the club.

Dealing with disappointment

Any musician out there will have at least one performance experience that felt like a complete disaster. After all, we are only human, and mistakes will happen. 

The whole purpose of a live performance is the unpredictability of it all. It is like watching jugglers or acrobats at the circus, not only for entertainment but also the thrill and suspense of something that could possibly go wrong. The one thing that attracts and engages each member of the audience – the element of chance! Let me share some strategies that you can implement to get some perspective after having a bad performance. 

Strategy Number 1: Was it truly that bad? 

What could possibly be worse than practising all those hours and crashing on-stage? If you find yourself in this position, ask yourself, did you truly crash, or do you just think you crashed? 

Remember that when it comes to a performance, anything feels ten times worse than how it is perceived by the audience. I would strongly recommend that you record your performances. There have been so many performances that I thought ended in complete disasters only to listen to the recording after and hearing that it was not nearly as bad as I thought. It is completely normal to feel upset after an unsatisfactory performance, but when this happens it is crucial to not share these emotions with the audience. They most likely enjoyed the show, and they are going to leave delighted. 

Strategy Number 2: Use this opportunity to improve your performance skills.

Before you know it, you will be back on stage without much time to process your bad performance experience. You probably just wish that you did not have to perform so soon again, but believe it or not, it is the best thing you can do. This opportunity will teach you how to perform on a high level without being dependent on perfect circumstances to keep you inspired and positive. When you are in a negative mindset it forces you to dig deeper and discover how you can perform your best by blocking out anything that might not go as planned before the performance.

Why is this such a good thing? Just think about it, if you can perform well on your worst day, just imagine how unstoppable you will be on your best! By getting up after hitting rock bottom of your music career, your performance level will shoot up by levels and your confidence will be sky-high! 

Strategy Number 3: Keep going. 

One of the most important lessons I learned in music was to keep going. Whether you play a wrong note or make a mistake, it is crucial to any piece of music to keep the pulse. A steady progression of time in music keeps the listener engaged to follow what is happening in the music. When you play a wrong note, your audience usually will not even notice, but when you shift a steady beat, they will feel like something is not right. 

This concept not only applies in music, but in every aspect of life. Of course, it sounds simple, but it takes practise. Grab that opportunity after a bad performance to keep going, the more it happens, the more practise you get. As the saying goes, “The show must go on”. 

Keep going

Strategy Number 4: Practise performing. 

Now don’t get me wrong… Slow practise, drilling and rhythms are all very important parts of how you spend your practise time, but so is practicing performing. If there is one lesson I learned during the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that you should create your own performance opportunities when you practise. By simply recording yourself, performing to your pets or doing run-throughs of your pieces in concert-attire you get to experience a small amount of performance adrenaline you would not have had otherwise. By doing this on a regular basis you are well on your way to handling extra pressure on-stage like a breeze. 

Performance, confident performing

Strategy Number 5: Redefine what makes you happy.

Sometimes a bad performance experience can be the perfect opportunity to realize that you do not need a perfect performance to be happy and fulfilled in life. You learn that you define your own happiness as a musician, and you will be surprised how well you perform once you come to terms with this.  

From now on, every time you find obstacles like bad performance experiences on your path as a musician, just remember that you get the unique opportunity to grow, strengthen and thrive through the challenge, ready to tackle the next opportunity that comes your way. Like Thomas Edison once said “our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *