How To Recover From A Bad Performance

How To Recover From A Bad Performance

 This article is about how to survive after you had a terrible performance or audition. If you have not experienced a terrible performance or audition recently, this article is not for you. However, if you just had a terrible performance and are feeling down about it, then you will want to read this content.  

So you just had a bad performance…maybe you couldn’t get into the music, execute your passages, or the pressure of the situation was too much to handle. Either way, welcome to the club. Maybe it’s not your first visit, but I guarantee there is no successful performer out there that hasn’t experienced this. So how do you feel after a bad performance? Frustrated? embarrassed? disappointed?  Sad? These are all totally natural reactions and inevitable. Our career consists of constant evaluation and at certain points, even with little or massive preparation, we will have poor performances that get under our skin. It’s just going to happen.  


However, what I want to help you realize is that this experience is the single greatest opportunity to improve your performance skills. Not only is it the best opportunity to improve your performance skills, but a huge opportunity to improve your life. Right now, you have tons and tons of leverage. The performer I am today is because of many experiences like this and it’s to the point where after I had an amazing performance, I actually look forward to the next bad performance because I will become more self-aware and rise to the next level. This is how awesome a bad performance is! 


Let me describe to you what experiencing a bad performance is like to me. I hate them because it just ruins my mindset. It chips away at my confidence, increases my anxiety for the next performances, makes me feel frustrated that I couldn’t play to my standard, and leaves me embarrassed. In fact, the worse it is, the harder it is to shrug off and it can have an effect for quite a while. Probably the most powerful experience I had was back in undergraduate school where I entered a competition and expected to win. So guess what happened when I started performing? I began doubting myself, focusing on the wrong things, and the physical manifestations overpowered me. My heart was pumping too fast, my bow control was all over the place, I was rushing like crazy, and it was a disaster. So of course, I didn’t win. I felt so destroyed after that competition I didn’t even practice for a month. I was really down and unmotivated which is the complete opposite of what got me to that competition in the first place- waking up early to practice, being patient and persistent with my development, and loving a musical life. Maybe you have experienced something similar to this but again, this is your biggest opportunity to develop your performance skills because of a few reasons.  


The first one is because this is a time you’re going to have to perform with a really negative mindset. The professional schedule doesn’t give you much time between performances so before you know it, you’re back on stage. But this is a great thing, because it teaches you how to perform at a high level without being dependent on your state of mind. What do I mean by this? Well when things are rolling in life and everything is good, your positive state of mind helps inspire your music, makes performing easier and life is all good. However, being in a negative state of mind forces you to become a robot by discovering the processes that mechanically allow you to perform your best. Why is this awesome? Because if you can perform well with this mentality, think about when you get your confidence back. You’ll be unstoppable.  

However, there’s more to just learning the mechanics and principles of performing. For example, it’s the focus on how we want to feel in life. After that competition I felt what I felt- unmotivated, sad, and basically just helped time move forward by watching movies and over eating carbohydrates. Then I saw my friend perform and this guy is just conquering life. The way he talks about music, his vibe and energy he projects to the audience, the way he authentically performs and more. So, I’m sitting there in awe thinking, “Shouldn’t I be like this? Weren’t there times I resembled some of these traits?” I thought to myself- what would I rather be? a negative, uninspired, self-loathing musician which is what I strongly felt, or would I rather get back on the path to becoming the best musician I can be. Well I decided to get back to work and I improved my preparation process exponentially by reflecting over every detail, learning from others, finally checking off things on my to do list that have been on there for months, and my teacher took notice. It took a while but I felt like I arrived to a new level. 


Look, don’t be afraid. I always say go out and perform as much as possible but part of that is getting to experience these terrible performances or auditions, There is nothing like sinking to rock bottom of your musical career and then building yourself back up. After such bad performances, my performance skills shot up to levels I didn’t even know I was capable of. I felt a renewed and soaring confidence.  

The last benefit is that it forces you to realize that you can be fulfilled and happy just being yourself and that’s what matters the most. It might sound crazy and unreasonable right now, but you have to ask yourself how can you survive and THRIVE off of these inevitable experiences? What kind of mindset does it take? Once you answer those questions it all leads back to the key idea that you can define your own happiness as a musician. It is not until this is realized that you are able to perform well and ironically, that’s when the more prestigious accolades start coming in.  


Finally, we all got big dreams. Some may want to become a soloist, professional orchestra member, active chamber musician, teach, start a music business, etc. However, with those big dreams come obstacles like this where it sets you back into a negative mindset. From now on, every time that happens, you get this unique opportunity to learn how to strengthen your core self, thrive, and before you know it, you are even more rock solid and ready to face your next challenge. I want to end with a corny quote from a famous man. Thomas Edison once said “our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”