How to Perform Like a Pro

May 20th, 2010

This article came from an earlier version of the AOV.

To perform like a pro, you have to do it constantly, under the spotlights. Because that’s what pros do. They’re constantly performing. That’s why they’re good.

At the beginning, this could mean imposing yourself on others, playing free gigs, whatever it takes. The goal is to establish familiarity, to make the performing experience as ordinary as possible.

If you go out under the spotlights every day, pretty soon, those spotlights will stop bothering you.

But you have to do it under real conditions, or in simulated conditions if real conditions are not available.

If you’re a concert musician, play in concert halls as much as possible. If you’re an athlete, perform in tournaments. If you can’t do it in real concerts and tournaments, do it in rehearsals.

The truth is, you can’t learn your skills under one set of conditions and expect to deliver them under another. In other words, you can’t practice your guitar in your bedroom and expect to replicate that performance in a concert hall.

Many people do not understand this.

They would practice a great deal in their practice rooms and attain a high level of proficiency. But then they go out in front of the public, find themselves unable to deliver, and would blame it on nerves.

Yes, nerves is always a factor, but it’s more than nerves, it’s also inexperience; if you’re not used to performing in front of an audience, you wouldn’t be able to deliver your true potential.

Sometimes the problem is not lack of experience, it’s lack of preparation.

To play like a pro, you must know your material like a pro. This means practicing your moves over and over until they become second nature.

The trick is to acquire a repertoire of moves and routines that you are deeply familiar with and which you can play at the drop of a hat.

That’s what pros do. They have a core repertoire of favorite moves and routines. When they play, they would usually reach into this repertoire and perform something they’ve done many times before.

If they have to do a new move or play a new piece, they would practice it over and over and test it in front of many audiences before they add it to their core repertoire.

That’s a disadvantage many beginner and student players have. They don’t have a core repertoire.

When they play, it’s usually something new, perhaps even something they just learned last week.

That’s tough. If you’ve just learned a piece, there is no way you can play it as well as someone who’s played it for forty years. (Translation: If you’ve just learned the Chaconne, don’t expect to play it like John Williams in your first performance, or even in your tenth performance.)

That’s why it’s good to put things in perspective. Don’t expect too much from your first performances.

And don’t be afraid to perform the same routines over and over. That’s the only way to polish your act, to do it constantly.

If you were to check the programs of concert artists, you will see the same pieces featured over and over.

I used to think it was a lack of versatility. Now I realize it’s a sign of their complete professionalism.

At the beginning, you might have to be a one-trick pony, but with time, you’ll become a two-trick pony, and in no time at all, you’ll be a hundred-trick pony.

Pros understand one thing.

It’s not how many routines you have in your repertoire, it’s how well you play them.

One Response to “How to Perform Like a Pro”

  1. Kevin Walton-Guitarist Says:

    Excellent observations and insight! I couldnt agree more. The material and work you provide is very good for my progress and further studies. I am enjoying your Blog information and overviews very much. Many Regards. Thankyou. I noted I misspelled Toccata in another Blog post and correct that mistake here.

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