The Key to Having Better Show Performances

Dc the key to having better show performances
It’s an unfortunate situation that we’ve all been through.

The situation where you play a lick really well in rehearsal throughout the week, you feel good about it heading into the show, and then you get to the show and blow it.  The lick dirts out as the audience and judges look on and you’re forced to continue performing while simultaneously wondering, “What in the world just happened?”

After the show you start running through the week with the other members of your line. “We cleaned this section on Monday and then played it really well Wednesday and Thursday.  It sounded good in our run through this morning.  Why didn’t it sound good in the show?”

The Difference Between a Rehearsal and Performance

When you’re in a rehearsal - you’re in a rehearsal.  

You’re either on a football field, parking lot, gym, or some type of rehearsal space that is most likely very familiar to you because you either rehearse there on a regular basis or your organization has a well defined routine that can be followed in a similar setting.

In a rehearsal you typically have multiple opportunities to play a passage.  If something isn’t working you have the opportunity to stop, break it down, and fix it.  If something went wrong you can reset and do it again.  If you miss a direction change or entrance you can go back and get a better start.

This is all to say that a rehearsal can be comfortable.  You know what to expect and if something goes wrong you know that you’ll probably get another rep to fix it.

A show on the other hand is typically hosted in an unfamiliar location.  The setting is different, the timelines are different, you’re playing in front of an audience, judges are weaving in and out of your drill, the group performing after you may be watching you, and you only have one shot to impress the people you’re performing for. Needless to say, there are a lot of different factors and pressures experienced in a performance that you don’t typically experience on a regular basis in rehearsal.

More often than not, when something goes wrong in a show that was perfectly fine in rehearsal, it’s usually something related to these unique factors that caused it. But these performance factors are all part of the activity and are something that every member of every group has to cope with. So the question is not “how do we eliminate these factors?” because there’s no way you can eliminate them.  The question is, “how do we prepare for these factors?”

The key is to practice the way you perform.

How to Practice the Way You Perform

It’s a simple statement - one that’s easy to say “Yeah, I got it” and then move on without thinking about it.

But when you actually spend some time digesting it you’ll find a very important mindset that is crucial for your success on show days. Strive to bring the same energy to every rep in rehearsal that you bring to every show performance.  Imagine yourself feeling the pressure of a judge watching you as you play the percussion feature.  Focus intently on what you’re doing and ignore outside factors in rehearsal just like you would do in a show.  

If someone walks in the room while you’re playing - stay focused and don’t move your eyes until you’re done with the rep and are released from set.  Imagine an audience sitting in the stands watching you.  Pay attention to your heart rate and understand what it feels like to control your excitement. Understanding how you react to these factors is crucial for every performer to be aware of because every individual reacts to them differently.  

Take the time to remind yourself and your fellow drumline members to practice with these factors in in mind throughout the week to become more comfortable with them.

Practicing the way you perform will not remove the unique factors of a show day.  However, it will help you prepare for them and feel more comfortable when they present themselves and that will go a long way in helping you have a better show performance.

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Pat McLaughlin

4 November 2013 in Education
Pat mclaughlin headshot

Pat McLaughlin

Pat McLaughlin is the founder of Drumline Chops.  He graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in music education and is currently the percussion director at West Bloomfield High School.