While many people take up an instrument and learn how to play it purely for their own enjoyment, some choose to take their love of music to the next level by performing for others. However, being a great performer requires a level of confidence that playing as a personal hobby does not. If you wish to feel and appear more self-assured when you play for others, these are the best tips for developing greater confidence as a performing musician.
Recognize that confidence is made, not born.
The first step to building confidence as a performer is to make sure that you’re not framing the idea of confidence in your mind as something that you either “have” or “don’t have.” Confidence as a musician is actually something you either choose to create for yourself, or you don’t. Confidence is not an inherent trait that some musicians are blessed with and others are not. Anybody can build more confidence in themselves as a performer if they are committed and put in the necessary work.
Identify your strong points and areas that need improvement.
To build confidence in your performance abilities, you first need to recognize your strengths. What aspects of your abilities as a musician do you already feel good about? Maybe you have a talent for being expressive when you play, or you’re gifted at sight reading. Perhaps you’ve mastered a very difficult strumming or bowing technique on your instrument. Acknowledge that there are some aspects of your performance to be proud of before turning your attention to the areas that need improvement. When evaluating which aspects of your performance could use some work, try not to think of them as flaws, but instead consider them as opportunities for growth. Practice positive self-talk when working on these aspects, avoiding unsupportive thoughts that are critical and self-defeating.
Over-prepare for your gigs.
There’s one element of developing your confidence as a performer that should go without saying: you need to play at public shows. Playing for family and friends is a great start for musicians who are just getting into the practice, but eventually you will need to play a gig in front of strangers. In these instances, if you want to project confidence, it’s important to be more prepared than you think you should be. Practice often and practice effectively. Don’t run mindlessly through entire songs, but rather take your time, going over the more difficult parts of a song repeatedly until you can play every part of the piece seamlessly. Consider splitting your practice time into multiple, smaller blocks of time in order to keep your focus sharp and your interest alive. Confidence as a performer partially comes from knowing that you practiced enough and have the ability to play a song perfectly from beginning to end.
Be aware of your physical appearance.
Apart from being very familiar with the music that you’re playing, another way to be confident as a performing musician is to make sure that you physically appear self-assured. This means dressing for the part and maintaining the right posture. On the day of a performance, make sure you wear clothes that reflect your commitment to your music. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wear something expensive or formal, but remember to dress well, in clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Additionally, make sure that your posture on stage is straight and powerful. Not only will having great posture show the audience that you believe in your own abilities, but it also can have a positive effect on the way you feel mentally.
Spend time around people with similar skill levels.
Many professionals suggest that aspiring performers spend as much time as possible around musicians who are more experienced than themselves. While this is good advice for the purpose of improving your technical skills on an instrument, it can take a toll on your confidence if you constantly find yourself surrounded by people more advanced than you are. Balance time spent with more accomplished musicians by dedicating some of your time to people with abilities similar to your own. Jamming with musicians at a comparable level of accomplishment is not only fun, but it can also take the focus off technical skill-building and help you feel more self-assured when playing with other musicians.
Mentor someone who is just starting out.
Just as there will always be musicians who have more experience than you, there will also always be less experienced people who can benefit from your advice. Acting as a mentor to a budding musician will give you the opportunity to do something positive for another person while also receiving a confidence boost. By helping another person develop his or her talent, you can reflect on the knowledge you have accumulated and reinforce fundamental concepts in your own mind, which may give you more faith in your own abilities.
Keep thorough track of your progress.
If you’re aware of how far you’ve come from the point where you started, you’re more likely to appreciate your current abilities. Keep your practice sheets and make recordings of yourself as you continue to develop your skills as a musician. As time passes, you’ll be able to return to this evidence and use it as a reference to comprehend the extent of your accomplishments. Appreciating your growth as a musician will help you gain confidence and inspire continued progress.