Performance: Establishing a Routine
[Originally Posted on December 5, 2010 by Richard Matteson]
Today we’ll look at another critical area of performance development: Establishing a routine (or routines).
Aaron Shearer talk about establishing routines in his “Learning the Classic Guitar” volume 1. He suggests a series of routines to establish your concentration as you are seated before an audience in the final moment before you start playing.
1) Check the tuning of the guitar (or it could be any instrument) [Shearer is suggesting this not only to make sure your guitar is in tune but it's important to move your hands, get a feel for the strings and how your hands are operating doing some simple motor skills. This also gives you time to understand the effect the increased adrenalin has on your motor skills and to calm down from the initial adrenalin rush.]
2) Breathe deeply several times. [This has a calming or relaxing effect on the nervous system and can stabilize the adrenalin rush.]
3) Silently sing or solfege the first well defined phrase of the piece you are about to play [This helps you focus on the music and not on negative performance concerns. The more you can focus on the music the better the chance for a successful performance.]
4) The last step before beginning to play is clearly setting the tempo in your mind by silently counting. [It helps me to also feel the pulse in my body- usually I use my right toes to gently and quietly pulse the beat. The worst mistake is to simply get pumped up and start the tempo at too fast a pace]
You’ll need to do this routine over and over until you’re unconsciously competent, then it’s a habit. Aaron Shearer wrote that these steps direct your attention away from the audience, gives you time to gain composure and they create an atmosphere of expectancy in the audience.
These are not the only routines. There are stage conduct routines that should be learned as well as pre-performance off stage routines.
If we look at Aaron’s list of routines while seated on-stage just before a performance, there is no mention of positive thoughts. Aaron preferred to use practical and tangible guidelines.
He does suggest that the performer needs to direct their attention away from the audience and to tuning the guitar and the music.
I believe and studies have shown that positive thoughts improve the mental state of the performer which in turn leads to better performances.
Thinking about a past successful performance (or performances), thinking positive thoughts about yourself and your audience are also important mental routines and help give you the self-confidence to perform to the best of your ability.
Howard Thurston (July 20, 1869 – April 13, 1936) a famous magician from Ohio, never stepped onto the footlights until mentally he said over and over, “I love my audience.”
Be sure to add to your routine positive thoughts about yourself and your audience. We’ll look at other positive thoughts and examples in another blog.
More about routines to come—