Focus On The Process

One of the most important of the 7 Strategies for a Great Pre-Performance Routine is focus.  We’re not talking just any focus, but a focus on:

  1. What is most important to your performance (and I’m not talking about the outcome!)
  2. What is within your control
  4. This very moment

We are examining the components of a great pre-performance routine to help you respond effectively to music performance anxiety you may feel so that you can perform free of worry, self-doubt, and fear.  As we see above, numbers 1 and 2 are very similar.  First of all, you will want to become aware and recognize where your current focus is directed—pre-performance and during performance (and post performance, actually—but this is for another day!).  Many performers who become fearful and anxious to the point of adversely affecting their performances, direct their focus to outcomes.  Outcomes can be the result of a performance, whether you think you are performing well, what others may be thinking of your performance, or whether you will win or be hired.  Although this can be very important to you, it is not the most important thing to be focusing on for the sake of your performance.

Why?  Well, that’s where number 2 comes in.  Outcomes are not important for you to be focusing on either pre-performance or during performance because they are out of your control.  To focus on what is within your control you want to make sure you identify what you can and cannot control in your performing.  Let’s look…

OUTSIDE of Your Control:

  • Thoughts of others (judges, teachers, conductor, audience, other performers, family)
  • Mistakes you’ve already made
  • Other people’s behavior or performing
  • The acoustics or conditions of the performing space
  • Your health at the time of performance
  • The outcome of the performance
  • Any worry about what may or may not happen in the performance

WITHIN Your Control:

  • Your thoughts
  • How you execute your performance
  • How you react to events (mistakes, distractions, doubt)
  • Your preparation for the performance
  • Your warm-up or practice routine
  • Your composure level
  • Thoughts and behaviors that help you focus on your performance

Next, is making sure you focus on the process of your performing.  What I mean by that is focusing on what it takes for you to perform well.  Letting your focus wander to what is unimportant or out of your control takes energy away from what is going to make your performance successful and enjoyable.

When you are aware of where your focus needs to be—on what you can control and what is important to this performance, you can start becoming aware when your focus is drawn off target.   When you notice that your focus is drifting, practice quickly shifting it back to what you’ve identified as important to your performance.

Try this—For your next performance, think about the piece(s) you are to perform and ask yourself these questions:

  • Where are the most crucial moments in this particular piece?
  • What must I do to successfully perform in these places?
  • Where should my focus be directed to perform the the way I want to?

The answers to these questions will help you identify the key words in working on your focus:  where?, when?, and what?

  • Where is my focus?
  • When do I need to focus on the key factors in this work?
  • What do I need to focus on?

Performance psychologist, Alma Thomas, in her book Power Performance for Singers has a wonderful section in her chapter on The Art of Concentrating that contains exercises on how to train your concentration and find a relaxed focus.


If you would like to work one-on-one with someone to help you train your focus and implement it into your performing, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

If you haven’t already, subscribe to my site by checking out the free mp3:   Mental Strategies for Peak Performance in Music.  You will receive a monthly newsletter and tips to keep you performing at peak levels.


 Work cited

Cohn, P., & Allan, D. (in press).  The relaxed musician:  Mental preparation for confidence performances. Orlando:  Peak Performance Sports.

Emmons, S., & Thomas, A. (1998).  Power performance for singers:  Transcending the barriers.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

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  1. Thank for very interesting and wise words!
    Kerstin Thunberg

    • Dr. Diana Allan says:

      Hi Kerstin,

      Thanks so much for your comment. For performers, concentrating on and keeping our focus on the process is of utmost importance. Actually, you know as well as I that you don’t have to be a performer to know that focusing on things outside of our control is a recipe for fear and disappointment. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you apply this with your own clients. All my best at this holiday season, Diana

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