Preparing For a Performance

Preparing for a Performance

Do you have a big performance coming up? Sometimes, the right preparation can be half the battle. Effectively preparing for a performance can be split up into three main areas. Your mind, your body, and your instrument. Let’s take a look at some strategies that can be employed in each of these areas.  

Male vocalist sings at an open mic night with his guitar.

The Mind

Even the most well-rehearsed performances can be derailed if the performer is stressed out or in a bad mindset. This section is about the mindset of a successful performer, not necessarily dealing with performance nerves. If you struggle with stage fright or performance anxiety, refer to the article “Overcoming Nerves”.  

Confidence is a huge factor in having a successful mindset. You’re ready for this performance, you are good at your craft, and you will give a great performance. Don’t let doubt creep into your mindset. If you’re focusing on all the things that could go wrong in your performance, chances are, those things will go wrong. And even if something does go wrong, a positive mindset will help you shrug it off with confidence. Remember the golden rule for performing: If you make a mistake, pretend you didn’t, and continue.


The Body

Taking care of your body while preparing for a performance is extremely important. Going on stage tired, dehydrated, or even over-full, can hinder your performance in different ways. Of course, the physical aspects of performance preparation can affect everyone differently, but following a few general guidelines can help ensure that you give your best performance on the day.

Firstly, the food you eat beforehand can impact your performance. Try to avoid overeating, as this can cause drowsiness or sluggishness on stage. Try instead to have a light meal. Excessive sugar is something else to watch out for, as you definitely don’t want to be hit by that sugar crash while you’re on stage! That being said, this may affect everyone differently. For some people, the adrenaline of being on stage and performing may overcome any negatives caused by food or drink.

Keeping hydrated is essential. There’s nothing worse than being dehydrated and getting a headache on stage. Depending on where you’re performing, it also pays to be extra cautious about keeping hydrated. Hot stage lights can cause you to sweat and lose fluid very quickly. It definitely pays to keep a bottle of water handy at all times, even while you’re playing.

A good night’s sleep is also vital to giving your best performance. If you’re tired or exhausted, that will translate to your stage presence. Finding a way to get the blood flowing can help increase your energy. Doing some light exercise on the day of the performance can go a long way to getting your body ready for the performance. Taking a brisk walk or going for a swim are good examples of the type of light exercise that is best for this. Try not to overdo it, however. A long, exhausting game of football, or an intense workout at the gym can just leave you tired and out of energy instead.


The Instrument

Having some time with your instrument before you play can help you get into the swing of things while preparing for a performance. Although, this can come down to personal preference. Many musicians don’t like to even touch their instrument on the day of a big performance, let alone practice beforehand. Many others, however, find it extremely beneficial to run through scales or warm up exercises. If you are one to tinker with your instrument before a performance, here are some things you can consider doing to warm you up and get you ready to play.

Try running over a couple of scales that relate to the piece or pieces you’re playing. If your difficult song is in the key of E for example, try running over an E scale in a couple of different formats to center your mind around the key. Try standard scales, arpeggios, and if you know your diatonic progression, try running through each chord in the key.

Standard warm up exercises are also very useful. Each instrument has unique exercises intended to get you ready to play. If you’re a piano player, try a couple of Hanon exercises (if you’ve never done them, ask your coach about them). For guitarists, finger per fret exercises are golden for warming up. Singers also have a range of vocal exercises, from sirens to lip buzzes – getting your voice ready is essential.


Following this article can help you make sure you get the most out of your performance. However, keep in mind that everyone prepares differently for a performance. What works for you may not work for someone else. Most of the obvious points can be applied to almost anyone, such as staying hydrated, or getting a good night’s sleep before a performance. Some of the smaller points on the other hand, such as warming up with scales or taking a swim beforehand may not work for everybody.  So with that in mind, follow the guidelines in this article as exactly that: guidelines.