Preparation=Visualization and Focus.

Mental preparation for performance success.

Visualization and focus are among the most important concepts and actions during a performance. Not addressed often enough, these concepts play a main role towards the success of a performance and give us the platform we need mentally to make those technical and physical efforts become “second nature".
Visualization helps to put our mind in the best possible place for success. Having a clear concept of what we are about to do is key, therefore, we need to be as familiar as possible with the music, the instrument, and all the other variables that come into place while performing. For example, let’s say we are about to start a piece of music with our group and we are not completely sure about the tempo and the speed of the difficult passages, the only fact that is processing in our mind at this point is a negative one that has nothing to do with the music at all. The “voices" in our head are going to start taking over and since we are not familiar enough either with the music or the sole act of performing, our chances of success have been and are being diminished by a big percentage. If instead, we know the music well and have a clear concept of what is about to happen in our minds, we can then focus in the most important aspect of our playing: singing.
Singing through our instrument is the goal we strive for, is the only way to communicate with an audience and to make sure our message gets across. It is important to understand that the brain can focus in one thing and only one thing at the time, therefore, if we feed it with music and we sing mentally every second we perform, the brain is going to be focusing on music and that’s it. Sounds very simple and logical, but taking into consideration the fear of being on stage, the different environment we are faced with, and the other hundred of variables that could strike us at any point; that simplicity and logic seems off limits. At this exact point our mind is going to start to wonder, if we add the fact of lack of visualization, focus and preparation, our chances of “crashing and burning" just went to the roof.
I like to think of visualization and focus as two elements that just like playing our instrument need to be practiced, prepared and worked on. In order to have a clear perspective of what is about to happen on stage, at that key moment, we need to know our music ……, be completely comfortable with our instrument and have the capability to translate into our playing what is being played or sung in our head. In our search for all these elements to come together and happen at once we reach the most important concept in performance and music: Preparation.
In earlier articles I have insisted many times in the importance of mastering the basics on our instruments. These basics will enable our mind to become free so it can visualize and focus without the handicap of our physical limitations. Every time we practice our basics we are preparing for any performance.
Analyzing and becoming one with the music is key. We must be able to sing, live and breathe trough the music we are performing. Remember, the piece of paper in front of us is only that, a piece of paper. It is a map to show the way, the magical journey is our making. Music comes to life when we take it and give it our voice, when we pour our soul into it (I have found through the years that memorization, if done properly, will enable us to take music to the next level in a quicker and easier way).
Finally, the infinite number of variables that come into place when performing will affect us only if we let them affect us, we feed that monster in our head every time we stop singing and thinking music. No matter how warm or cold the hall is, how full or empty it is and how many people are talking while we are playing, our focus should be the music happening at that time, in that precious moment. That musical line should be so loud and clear in our heads that it doesn’t leave room for anything else. The second we start paying attention to the variables more than just to help us get prepared and try to overcome them, we are positioning ourselves for failure. In other words, if the hall is cold the tuning will be affected, that’s all we need to know to prepare for that variable and fix it. It took us two seconds to realize it, hopefully before we started playing. Now it is done, time to start making music and stop worrying about that variable.
Visualization and focus are tied to each other as mental stages during a performance, they happen constantly and they can only exist and coexist through preparation.