MAINTAINING FRESHNESS AS A PERFORMER

How do the great performers do it, maintain their freshness as a performer and surprise audiences by re-inventing themselves through their performance? Here are some useful tips:

1. Take regular time out. All top performers throughout history have been aware of ‘time out’. Looking at new material and looking across the board of performance and even to other fields are therefore essential habits and part of the package of being a performer. A complete break for R & D (research and development) can allow a trajectory into innovative ventures that set new benchmarks in one’s field and influence others.

2. Maintain a global outlook for what’s happening generally in performance, and get a sense of what the Zietgeist presents or requires. Often your own inspirational, creative concepts can be measured by what else is happening globally, or indeed, what is not happening locally.

3. Allow sufficient time for performance preparation. Though this may sound obvious, performance preparation generally takes longer than one thinks , allowing for life’s surprises along the way. Allowing sufficient gestation time for new material to sit comfortably in performance practice gives one confidence – well worth the nurturing and polishing – for a desirable sparkling performance.

3. Maintain your health and fitness with a daily strategies program for mind-body health and fitness.  One is setting a positive example to others in one’s performance. With every part of you involved while performing, the mental, physical, technical and emotional aspects all need to to align naturally.

4. Keep your novel performance concepts private! Especially if solo performing, it’s wise not to reveal your next performance ‘move’ (other than perhaps to your most inner trusted source). A trapeze-like balance is required, for one often needs to talk through or trial one’s new concepts. Allow your own past experiences, past disappointments, and your gut instinct be your present guide as to how your new project should unfold.

5. Enjoy the process and feel thoroughly inspired and confident in your performance preparation. This enjoyment and freshness will carry through to an inspired performance.

6. Practise visualising your upcoming successful performance. Image your confident performance regularly and success will be truly yours.

My health-oriented book, ‘Performance Confidence: A Training Program for Musicians’ assists all types of musicians – from aspirational students through to professionals – to achieve what is suggested here.

Nutrition to enhance practice and performance

Are you aware that there are foods that can alter mood, foods that make you feel calm, focused and energised?

Wouldn’t it make sense to be eating the ideal foods before your practice and performance in order to optimise your practice and performance? Musicians using my confidence training program have discovered that the type of nutrition they eat before they start work, during practice sessions, and before they perform makes a positive difference to the musical outcome, as well as giving the necessary energy and preventing fatigue.

Though nutrition can be a complex topic there are some general guidelines you can note immediately for eating the optimal nutrition before practice and performance. A performance-type nutrition is appropriate for professional athletes and musicians who practise regularly.

Performance Confidence: A Training Program for Musicians found at http://www.performanceconfidence.com/outlines these guidelines along with the optimal energy pyramid. I suggest you trial this performance-type nutrition for two weeks with the following food type proportions:

50%-60% carbohydrate-rich foods; 20%-25% protein; 20-25% essential fatty acids.

Becoming familiar with such terms is useful for the sake of your general health. The ‘carbs’ label is the least well understood as many people are not aware that carbs are in fruits and vegetables as well as grains. A plate of food will contain at least half the plate for carbohydrate-rich food choices including vegetables, and the other half of the plate will contain combined protein and essential fatty acids.  (‘Carbohydrate-rich’ is a better term than ‘carbs’ because most foods have more than one component such as vitamins and minerals.) All becomes clear in my easy-to-read training book – with tables of these 3 food groups within Nutrition as a strategy for peak performance. Individual body requirements considering the GI factor and gluten free are also discussed.  Did you know for example that by deleting wheat and dairy (going ‘gluten-free’), your nervous system and immune system can be given a positive boost?  That is because gluten is known to be inflammatory. You may soon realise that ideal food choices for pre-practice and pre-performance can make a real difference to the way you feel during practice and performance – creating a sense of calm, focus, alertness and energy.

 

 

 

Deep Breathing – use as enhancement strategy!

Would you like to be able to calm yourself instantly? The secret is in deep breathing for performance. Try six deep breaths, taking longer on the out-breath, in order to slow your breathing. Your mind-body will respond immediately in a positive manner.

By expanding your lungs with deep and rhythmic breathing you are are massaging the lymphatic system and creating the relaxation response. You are also refreshing and clarifying the brain with much-needed oxygen. We inevitably end up shallow breathing when tense, stressed, or even while engrossed at the computer, or during music practice. So it’s good to become aware about when this is happening, as otherwise you could be  missing out on optimising your practice time.

Did you know that deep breathing can be used cleverly in Practice and Performance at just the right moments  to refresh and revive?  Obviously one place is the actual pause sign in music. But there are many other suitable times when you could catch a  moment for a deep breath. Why not check out my book, Performance Confidence which contains plenty of examples. This all-important confidence-enhancing strategy is one of six for my ‘mindbody’ strategies program – to gain and regain performance confidence.  While each strategy separately is well known to create concentrational focus, give a sense of calm, and sustain energy, the six work together for a super-charged Gestalt effect – the end result being more powerful than the addition of each.

The holidays could be a great time to trial these strategies while going about your daily life, especially while recovering from the year and festivities, as well as assisting to motivate and get yourself back to health. Yes, these strategies are simultaneously health-enhancing strategies. Just note the difference in yourself over two weeks of use. Gradually you can start applying them to your practice, which is easy with the book’s guidance. You could even become your own performance coach. What a great start this could be for 2014!

Wishing you all a happy Christmas a and a refreshing, health-enhancing break!

 

A Nurturing Discipline for Quality Practice – Carmel Liertz

Have you noticed that when you are being kind to yourself, you have good feelings about yourself, feel a relaxed focus and have a great mindset to do well?

This ‘recipe’ could be used for quality practice.

The Problem:  It can be difficult to remember to be kind to yourself in practice sessions, particularly when you feel under pressure to get things done. It does require discipline to be aware of your mindbody instrument – learning to stop negative self-talk, and learning to stop for regular breaks to re-energise. Your sense of purpose (from sense of pressure) may feel so intense that you think, ‘I’m on a roll, must not stop!’  The passion, drive and perseverance are essential positive attributes for staying goal-focused and disciplined to get music learned and polished for performance. We don’t want to lose these. But at the same time we must learn to nurture ourselves in the process.  One could say that the same mental and emotional pacing required during performance is necessary for practice.

By pushing oneself on without sufficient breaks, any of the following can easily develop: tension and stiffness, brain fog, headaches, dehydration, a spike in blood sugar levels. You may not notice these negative signs until it is too late when you finish – dissatisfied and exhausted.

The Solution: Try practising in shorter, quality practice blocks which correlate with your mindbody fitness and concentration. This could be 30 minutes, 45 minutes or up to 90 minutes (if well-fuelled), with rejuvenation breaks between these practice sessions. (Even 10 minutes practice can be beneficial if a gap presents itself). Using the break between practice sessions to review what has been achieved will give you the necessary feedback on strengths and weaknesses, as well as motivation and insight for how to proceed. Nutrition breaks are also essential for refuelling the mindbody. ‘Performance Confidence’, the book/ebook, goes into great detail about this, demonstrating how to use such specific strategies, singly or in combination, to enhance your practice results. Many of these concepts you may not have heard of, or considered before. However, they are used by elite performers across various fields.

Dr. Ericsson (renowned researcher of ‘Deliberate Practice’) found that the best performers generally practice no more than 90 minutes – beginning in the morning, taking breaks between sessions, and training/practising no more than four and a half hours in a typical day.  While musicians may not often think about keeping their mindbodies fit for long-term practice, Ericsson emphasizes that individuals must avoid exhaustion and limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis, in order to maximise their gains from longterm practice. Experienced performance coaches would say this makes perfect sense – avoiding exhaustion which can lead to chronic fatigue, preventing muscle fatigue and injuries, so as to be able to maintain a quality practice schedule.

Suggested Mantras for quality practice:

Listen to your mindbody                 Be kind to yourself.