Nathan’s note: This week I’m thrilled to introduce my friend Seth Hanes, who runs The Musician’s Guide to Hustling. Seth is a horn player in Philadelphia, and a few years ago he found himself wanting more and better gigs. So he made it happen, and now he writes about how you can make it happen. His system shows you how to build a network of quality contacts and market yourself effectively. Seth’s new book Break Into the Scene lays it out for you. If you’re serious about freelancing, this is the book to get you started or take you to the next level.
The one thing
Whether you’re a violinist with a major symphony orchestra, a music major, or perhaps someone who plays the violin as a hobby, one of the most challenging things you will face is how to become a better performer.
We have all had the experience where we prepare the best we can for a recital or audition, but the actual performance still doesn’t go as well as we had hoped.
If we are being frank, sometimes you just bomb, right?
There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to translate your work in the practice room to the stage.
We’ve probably all had thoughts along the lines of:
- “…I’m just not great at performing.”
- “…I just get nervous and mess up.”
- “…I’m just not confident in my performance ability.”
Today, I want to talk about the one thing that anyone can do to improve their abilities as a performer.
I know, you might be thinking that it’s an obvious answer, and maybe so.
But here’s the thing – there’s a huge difference between practicing practice and practicing performance.
As students, many of us were always told what to practice, but not necessarily how to do it.
After years of operating that way, many of us get good at practicing how to practice, but very few of us ever make the shift and also practice performing.
All of the world’s best violinists have developed their performance abilities by sheer repetition, by practicing performance.
It’s easy to sit in the practice room and work on your technique, etudes, and the opening lick of your favorite concerto (practicing practice), but it’s hard to continually put yourself out there in front of an audience to build up your confidence in performing (practicing performance).
This skill is no different than any other part of your playing – the more you practice it, the better you will be at it.
So let’s talk about how to actually make this happen.
Set a performance goal for yourself
Like Nathan, I am a big believer in the idea that if you want to improve any part of your musical ability, you need to set a goal for yourself.
This is so simple, but almost nobody actually does it.
Whenever you set a goal for yourself, it gives you something to work toward and accountability to follow through.
For now, it’s not important how big or small your goal is.
The only thing that matters is that you set it and follow through.
Most people never bother to do this and they get stuck in a plateau.
But when you start consistently setting goals for yourself, you are quickly going to start seeing improvement in your performances.
Find opportunities to perform
This could be scheduling a recital, setting up a monthly mock audition with your friends, or just playing at your grandmother’s retirement community.
Depending on what you’re working toward, try to identify opportunities that are out there where you can start building up your performance chops.
There are likely a ton of opportunities that already exist in your area – it’s just a matter of making the conscious decision to take advantage of them.
If there aren’t a lot of opportunities, you can create them for yourself.
Even the violinists at the top of their game are often creating their own performance opportunities to improve various parts of their playing.
When Nathan and I were discussing this article, he shared some of his own experiences about creating opportunities, even after winning his first orchestral positions.
As a violinist with the Chicago Symphony, Nathan was putting together chamber music recitals to perform around the area which he used as an opportunity to learn new repertoire.
Around that same time, he also competed in his first international solo competition, in which he placed second.
To this day Nathan continues to create opportunities to practice performing – in addition to his role as First Associate Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he is also the Artistic Director of his own chamber music festival in his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.
Like Nathan and countless other top performers, you can improve your performance skill by actively pursuing and creating opportunities to perform more.
It doesn’t matter if you are taking auditions, preparing for a recital, or putting together a chamber ensemble, the most important thing you can do is create opportunities to perform more.
Do you have any experience of creating your own opportunities? If so, let me know in the comments below!
Seth Hanes is a horn player, digital marketing consultant, and the author of the new book, Break into the Scene: A Musician’s Guide to Making Connections, Creating Opportunities, and Launching a Career, which is available now on Amazon.