Knowing when you’ve practiced enough!

Practicing is a way of life for musicians.  Not only are we expected to perform at consistently high levels, we are constantly learning new music, improving our skills, and reaching for new heights.  Let’s face it, we want to play or sing well.  We want to make great music and we certainly want to avoid embarrassment, disappointing ourselves and others, and, of course, we want to avoid mistakes and failure.  Now, add the pressure of an upcoming high-stakes performance (audition, jury, barrier, make-or-break recital or performance).   I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a “perfect storm.”  We want to perform well, we need to perform well—we BETTER perform well!

When you start thinking this way about yourself and your performances, you may not even recognize them as such, but you’re making demands.  Granted, these demands are masquerading as desires or reasonable expectations, but they’re still demands.   Placing unreasonable demands on yourself, worrying about outcomes, and focusing on uncontrollables in your performing leads to anxiety about performing, tentative performing, or NO performing—just continued practicing.   When you find yourself in this situation you, like most performers facing this “perfect storm,” make a bee-line (to move swiftly in a direct, straight course) for the practice room.  Practice is second nature to us.  Practice is necessary.  Nothing can take the place of great preparation, but more practice is not always the answer and is not what’s needed in this particular situation.    When an important performance is right around the corner, you don’t need more practice, you need better practice.

When is enough, enough? 

When can you know you have practiced enough? 


At some point prior to that upcoming performance, you need to decide that time for practicing is past and time for performing is HERE!  When you practice right up to a performance, you keep correcting yourself,  you keep evaluating and judging your playing or singing—all great practice skills, but not great performance skills.  That “better” practice you so desperately need involves shutting off your evaluating and judging voice and turning on your trusting and accepting voice and attitude.

Good performers need to have both good practice skills and good performance skills.  To be a calm and confident performer, it is important to know which skills to use when!  As the performance draws closer, taper off practicing specific skills and drills (practicing) and start trusting by letting go of conscious control over correctness and accepting your playing or singing by eliminating judgment and evaluation from your thoughts (performing).  Then, courageously stare down whatever doubt and fear you might be experiencing and say to yourself, “I am prepared for this performance.   I accept that I am a life-long learner and I trust that this performance will be an enjoyable lesson.  Now, I am ready to share. ”

Making the decision that you are as prepared as possible (important distinction:  not finished, but a work in progress) for this particular upcoming performance is the first step to knowing when you’ve practiced enough!   You may not be able to control the outcome of your performance, but you are in complete control of how you prepare for it—technically, mentally, and expressively.  Preparing by continuing to evaluate, judge, and control your playing or singing up until the time of performance will keep you in the practice mode.  Preparing in the last days leading up to a performance by trusting your preparation and practice and courageously performing in the face of doubt and fear will shift you into a confident and focused performance mode.  Declare your practice complete!

Let’s break it down:

  1. Your performance/audition/jury is coming up in a week.
  2. Adjust the amount of time you spend in practice evaluating, self-coaching, & fixing to c. 20% of the time.
  3. Spend the majority of your “practice” time performing—free of judging, evaluating, and correcting.
  4. One day or two before the performance, decide that enough is enough—free yourself by declaring your practice complete.
  5. Time to share (perform).

Next time you declare your practice complete, let me know!  I would love to hear how it works for you.  Leave your thoughts in the Speak Your Mind box below!

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