Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

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VJOFan
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Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by VJOFan » Sat Oct 16, 2021 5:42 pm

Some exercise earlier today brought to light how much of an efffect headspace can have.

After doing the right things to get ready for the first work set of some squats I took my preset rest. During that three minutes my brain went for a cruise through the multiverse. By the time I got under the bar I had no focus and when I stood up under the weight I was like a piece of grass in the wind. I racked the bar and was about to take some wieght off when I realised it wasn't strength or technique that let me down. I just wasn't devoting my concentration to the task at hand. Thirty seconds or so later, with my head in the game after being much more careful about my mental checklists and cues, the wieght almost felt like it lifted me off the rack. An almost failed workout became very successful.

To trombone.

The first squat attempt made me recall the times when I exploded in audition first rounds even though my playing was good and I had prepared the material well. In those cases I more or less cut myself as I walked acrioss the stage to the music stand behind the screen. My body was sent to work without my brain.

Would anyone care to share some of their proven ways to get the brain on task at crucial or pressure filled moments? I'm sure anyone heading into a performance soon or thinking about eventually taking auditions would benefit from hearing from some more experienced players. Once you are truely prepared, how do you make sure that preparation isn't sabotaged by a wandering mind?
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harrisonreed
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Oct 16, 2021 5:56 pm

This doesn't sound like stage fright / performance anxiety, which is what I've had to overcome.

Where is your mind wandering to as you walk out onto an audition stage?
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VJOFan
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by VJOFan » Sat Oct 16, 2021 7:06 pm

The size of the hall, that nice house seen on the way to the audition, the sound of footsteps, the lighting, all the bodily sensations, wondering about whether the job is too big to hold on to… there’s no end to possible distracting thoughts. Successful players either naturally focus on the music or have a defined set of methods to get there at the right time.

What I’m talking about can be seen as part of stage fright. It’s not always dry mouth, a racing heart and cold sweat. Sometimes it’s just not being able to see or think clearly.

It can be stage fright, but that isn’t the only non playing preparation or ability thing that can betray a performance.

To be truly focussed is a lot of work for me. I’m not always nervous when my brain wanders off.

Having the music incredibly prepared and feeling superhuman as a player is the most important way to ensure a successful performance, but even then the gray matter can screw things up.

What’s your key to being there, in the moment, when the moment calls?
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harrisonreed
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Oct 16, 2021 7:20 pm

20mg of propranolol, 30 minutes before the performance.
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Burgerbob
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by Burgerbob » Sat Oct 16, 2021 8:12 pm

I've been running into this at work. I've had enough time that I'm really comfortable with the music and movement and it lets my brain wander, sometimes into mistakes.

Good thing I have another full week ahead of me to reflect on that!
Posaunus
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by Posaunus » Sat Oct 16, 2021 9:02 pm

Burgerbob wrote:
Sat Oct 16, 2021 8:12 pm
I'm really comfortable with the music ... it lets my brain wander, sometimes into mistakes.
Are any of us immune to this ?

I repeatedly remind myself to... FOCUS!" :roll:

It used to be so easy ... when I was young! :cool:
WilliamLang
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by WilliamLang » Sat Oct 16, 2021 9:26 pm

we have to practice performing (or auditioning) with the same rigor we practice practicing
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harrisonreed
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by harrisonreed » Sat Oct 16, 2021 9:31 pm

You can't practice performing or auditioning without actually performing or auditioning in front of an audience or a panel. You can tell yourself you're doing that, but without an audience, you're not actually doing that. I think the real issue is if you let your mind wander during normal practice. The smartphone generation probably has huge issues with this.

As for the propranolol, the amount of clarity and calm it provides during a real performance is incredible.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by Doug Elliott » Sat Oct 16, 2021 10:45 pm

Closing my eyes works most of the time. Sometimes I focus on a point on my bell, or a point in the room.
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by WilliamLang » Sun Oct 17, 2021 12:04 am

as trombonists we often start performing solos and such at a later age than pianists and all. it's my belief that we should take as many chances as possible, especially while in school, to perform in front of other people, thus "practicing" performing. one way (but not the only way) to get better at something is to continually do it. there's no one size fits all advice, but this will hopefully help some people.
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by GabrielRice » Sun Oct 17, 2021 7:34 am

Fill your mind with useful thoughts.

Limit them so that the useful thoughts themselves don't turn into a swirl of static. I think we humans have room for about three thoughts.

Useful thoughts in any performance situation - especially auditions - need to include:
1. rhythm
2. pitch

That leaves room for one more reminder that helps you achieve the performance you have practiced, possibly two if they are simple.

You CAN practice that, and the more you practice the sequence of useful thoughts leading up to a stressful performance or audition situation, the more easily you can divert back to them when the distracting thoughts start to intrude.
Last edited by GabrielRice on Sun Oct 17, 2021 5:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Doug Elliott
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by Doug Elliott » Sun Oct 17, 2021 10:10 am

I'll add one more to that short list:
Dance.

Imagine someone dancing to what you're playing. That takes care of the rhythm in a visual way, and helps set a mood. And it's a way to think in practice that totally applies to performance.
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harrisonreed
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by harrisonreed » Sun Oct 17, 2021 4:28 pm

Dancing or thinking of dancing is a good idea. Even for excerpts there are certain "non-dancy" movements you can memorize, shifts in your footing or leaning a bit into a phrase, that might help keep your head in the game. If the performance is some sort of solo, memorizing it is also a surefire way to keep your mind on the music.
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by AndrewMeronek » Sun Oct 17, 2021 5:29 pm

Just pertaining to concert performances, I just about always tune the audience out by focusing on the interactions with my fellow musicians on-stage, only. That puts me in the same frame of mind as when we (the musical group) rehearse.

But that doesn't work with auditions, performed completely solo.
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by Elow » Sun Oct 17, 2021 7:56 pm

How about playing in a busy bar? Big band gigs always find a way to get me distracted
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by timothy42b » Mon Oct 18, 2021 6:01 am

Burgerbob wrote:
Sat Oct 16, 2021 8:12 pm
I've been running into this at work. I've had enough time that I'm really comfortable with the music and movement and it lets my brain wander, sometimes into mistakes.

Good thing I have another full week ahead of me to reflect on that!
Sounds like activation of the default mode network (DMN). Athletes think this is responsible for those unexplainable blunders by good athletes in various sports.

https://www.additudemag.com/default-mod ... dhd-brain/

When things are going well one can lose focus on the task. Then the brain turns the autopilot (DMN) on, and anything can happen.

The opposite is true for my bell ringers. They may be well prepared, but in performance they are nowhere near comfortable enough to have DMN problems. Instead, stress degrades their performance and they lose focus for that reason.

I would guess the idea is to be somewhere in the middle, focused but not too comfortable.
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Burgerbob
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by Burgerbob » Mon Oct 18, 2021 8:24 am

timothy42b wrote:
Mon Oct 18, 2021 6:01 am


Sounds like activation of the default mode network (DMN). Athletes think this is responsible for those unexplainable blunders by good athletes in various sports.
Very interesting! I'll have to check this out. I know this happens to everyone at work, people who have done the gig for the last 5 years will blank an entire phrase after playing it correctly hundreds of times.
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imsevimse
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Re: Best Advice for the Mental Side of Performance

Post by imsevimse » Mon Oct 18, 2021 10:01 am

Best is to do a lot of performances with the same music, too many to be able to count. We have now done more than 100 concerts with the Johan Stengårs Big Band. I was nervous the first times but not anymore. I guess it helps to know the music and be well prepared for anything. We now know the music well but we never know when to play a solo because that change a lot.

/Tom
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