Performing With Confidence: A Matter Of Unlearning
The Secret To Performing With Confidence
As a developing piano stylist, performing with confidence can actually happen early in the game. You may feel as though your “vocabulary” of chords and voicings is rather limited. However, please understand that building upon what you know is just a basic part of the process. This can be somewhat equated to speaking in front of a large crowd. It is not the lack of fancy phraseology that stands in the way of an individual projecting himself or herself with confidence. What does? Well, I am in agreement with Greg Prescott of Prescott Papers who puts it like this:
“Why do people dread public speaking? The key reason is uncertainty.”
Shedding uncertainty is really your ticket to a good performance of any kind. As a child learning to speak, you were already in touch with this kind of confidence. You had not yet learned what it was like to be uncertain about anything. You simply “performed.” Prior to even being exposed to the written word, your vocabulary started being formed by listening to those around you and repeating sounds you heard. Your eloquence may have been limited to “Goo-Goo-Gaa-Gaa” during your earliest stages but, even then, letting yourself be heard wasn’t questionable. Years later, however, something happened. You learned to doubt yourself, at least to some degree. In other words, you learned to behave as others around you behaved.
You see, there really is no secret. It may only seem that way. You already possess the innate ability to express yourself freely. It has just been camouflaged for a while. Learn to wipe away those crumbs of self-doubt that you picked up along the way. Give yourself permission to “be like a child” when it comes to this art of making music. You don’t need to have any concern about whether or not you know enough. Rather, stay tuned to what you do know and have fun using it in a way that makes musical sense.
Less Is More
Perhaps you have endured the experience of being an audience to a lecturer who seemed to flaunt his or her vocabulary in a manner that quickly lost your attention. On another occasion, you may recall hearing a different speaker who knew fewer words but put them across in a fashion that kept your interest.
I remember being at a cocktail party consisting of fellow pianists where each individual would take a turn performing. There was a guy who obviously had done his share of listening to recordings of the likes of Bill Evans and other piano masters. He really had a handle on a number of jazz piano voicings. It was really obvious that he wanted the listener to know it, too. His volume pretty much remained the same throughout the performance of every tune he played. In short, after listening to one song, I had heard enough.
At the same party was another gentleman who wasn’t a jazz player. He pretty much played everything in a “stride” style. In addition, he virtually never left the key of C Major. However, everything he played was from the heart. He had a terrific personality and his piano playing reflected it. Performing with confidence wasn’t something he needed to think about. I could have listened to him all evening. Others in the room felt the same way.
Appreciate Where You’re At
You are encouraged to develop an authentic appreciation for every new thing you learn, whether that be a chord, voicing, jazz lick, or anything else. Appreciate yourself, too. As my ProProach members hear me say time and time again, “Appreciate where you’re at and build upon that!” In the same way that learning a new word involves using it over and over in the context of phrases and sentences, a newly acquired chord voicing becomes a part of your style when you use it within the framework of tunes you actually play. In that program, you will learn new voicings for sure, but you will also learn how to incorporate them into your favorite songs. I’ve been told a number of times that this is one of the key features that sets ProProach apart from other methods.
Practice the act of performing with confidence by making it a point to play within your means as you integrate your personality with your music. As a result, you will set yourself apart from the masses without even trying. Not only will you enjoy a more mature sense of musicality, but your artistry will make itself evident to everyone listening in a very natural way. It won’t be long before they will be asking you back for an encore.