You get up on stage. Adrenaline is rushing through your body. You’ve been working on a solo for months, and now’s your time to show it off. The band is counting on you. And as the crowd screams your name, you grab the microphone, take a deep breath and… you’ve lost your voice?!
Sound like a singer’s worst nightmare? It’s enough to give any musician a scare!
Luckily – with the exception of this nightmare – most of the time when you make a mistake, it’s much more noticeable to you than to your audience. But for someone just starting out, we know how traumatizing it can be. Making mistakes is a natural part of learning – and it shouldn’t scare you. Here are some pointers to think about, courtesy of Gerald Klickstein from The Musician’s Way Blog:
1. Errors are not failures
An on-stage mistake resembles a stutter: it doesn’t bar listeners from hearing and feeling the larger phrase. When we miss a note or drift off pitch, if we keep up the musical intensity, listeners will stay immersed in the music and don’t notice the flub. Even when bigger mishaps occur – say, a singer misses an entrance or has a sizable memory slip – we can still keep the mood alive.
Failures, in contrast, result in lasting loss: a driver who causes a fatal car crash fails as a driver and citizen. Just remember: an on-stage error can’t become a failure unless a musician turns it into one.
2. Errors are not shameful
Musicians who confuse errors with failures often harbor shame. Not only do they view slips as disasters but also conclude that their missed notes prove that they’re untalented. Of course, mistakes aren’t fun. We might even feel guilty if our blunder alters a special moment in show. But there’s a world of difference between guilt and shame.
It’s human nature for us to feel guilty if, for example, we accidentally damage a friend’s instrument. People who feel shame, though, believe that their mistakes indicate that they are inferior. When musicians perceive errors as shameful they also wrestle with stage fright because if on-stage slips seem catastrophic, their possibility triggers fear.
In truth, every musician, no matter how gifted, makes errors on stage. As we build up our abilities, we make fewer and smaller errors, and we mask them more gracefully. Nonetheless, our errors alert us to things we need to learn, so if we treat them positively, they can actually aid our development.
3. Errors are information
When we rid ourselves of any negative emotional baggage associated with errors, we can then see them for what they are: information. Errors don’t come with emotional strings unless we strap them on.
Memory slip? Enjoy ad-libbing through it, and then explore the possible causes in practice. If you discover a flaw in your memorization procedures, modify your learning habits accordingly, and your on-stage security and artistic power will grow.
In sum: Instead of running out screaming the next time you miss a note, think of it as a learning experience, keep calm and keep on going.
Readers, what do you think of this advice? How do you react to mistakes and what do you learn from them? Check out our Facebook page and join the discussion. Happy Halloween!
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