This is How to Prepare for a Concert Performance

Posted by Mike Schumacher

You’ve booked an upcoming show. Great news, right? It’s a chance to showcase your skills and get some performance experience. 


But hold on, are you ready for the show? Do you feel confident in your abilities and the abilities of everyone you’ll be playing with? How many people are going to show up to watch you play? And most importantly, do you have enough time to practice your heart out?


It doesn’t matter whether you’re a concert newbie or a longtime professional who’s played dozens or even hundreds of shows: performing live can be scary, and there’s nothing worse than feeling unprepared, like the dream where you didn’t study for your high school finals tests. 


But it’s ok. Take a deep breath and get ready for some important tips on how to prepare for a concert performance. In case you’re wondering, these tips apply to basically any type of live performance, and they also apply regardless of your current musical skill level. 


We’ve done our research on the topic, and we even reached out to a renowned cellist who shared some wonderful advice. We’ll be getting to that later. 


First, let’s start out with something you probably already know. Maybe you’re sick of hearing it, but it’s true nonetheless: you need to practice. 


Practice, practice, practice 


Securing a performance in the first place means you know what you’re doing. You won’t get booked for a show if you can’t even stay on-beat or you aren’t hitting your notes. So take a moment to appreciate the skills you already have. 


That said, it’s up to you to prove those skills on the night of the concert. Your fellow musicians are counting on you to hold up your end of the performance, and you’re the expert when it comes to knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are, specifically in regard to the pieces you’ll be playing at the concert. 


Musicians get told time and again just how important practicing is, and it’s 100% true. Even world-famous artists practice, typically on a daily basis, both to master new skills and maintain the old ones. 


A good way to start when you’re prepping for a concert is to play through the entire set. Play all the songs in order and make a few quick notes on which songs didn’t feel quite right. As a musician, you’ll have an intuitive sense of which moments you don’t have mastered. 



These problem areas are what you’ll be focusing on during your practice sessions up until the night of the show. If you’re really struggling with a certain section, one of the best things you can do is to slow it down. Play it so slow that you’re guaranteed to hit every note. From there, slowly speed things up. 


You’ll build up your muscle memory for that section bit by bit, and with enough attempts, you’ll be able to play the section no problem. 


Now, with all that said, it is definitely possible to practice too long and too hard, but that’s something we’ll address later in the article. 


Attend all rehearsals 


This tip is an extension of our advice to practice as often as you can, but there’s a crucial difference. 


What’s the difference between practice and a full rehearsal? Well, rehearsals aim to have all performers practicing together, which is especially important if you’re gearing up to perform anything other than a solo show. 


So if you have a band or you play with an ensemble or an orchestra, rehearsals offer something unique and vital to the performers. 


Solo practice is your chance to work out the most difficult portions of what you’ll be playing. A rehearsal, on the other hand, gives you the chance to practice playing with others. In fact, anyone who has experience playing with a group knows just how much listening you have to do for the performance to be successful. 


Orchestras and ensembles tend to be more exact in this aspect. If there are elements of the music that the conductor wants to be played in a way other than how they’re written, they will tell you so. Also, in classical and chamber music, improvisation isn’t all that common.



However, if you’re playing in a rock band or a jazz trio, things will probably be much more open-ended, and that makes rehearsals extremely important. Even if everyone doesn’t know exactly what they’d like to do the night of the concert, they need to at least give you an idea, and that works in the reverse, too. 


If there’s something you really want to try or you want to make a change to existing plans, you have to bring it up. You can’t simply spring that on your bandmates the night of the show. 


Also, compared to solo practice, rehearsals can be a lot of fun. Playing with other people is pretty much always going to be more enjoyable than playing alone, and the more you play music together, the more comfortable you’ll feel on stage. 


Find your confidence 


This one can be a real challenge for some musicians, but it’s an essential part of learning to be confident and comfortable on stage when there’s an audience watching. 


One of the biggest sources of confidence you can look to is the practice we’ve been talking about so far. When you’ve gone to the trouble of mastering your parts, it will automatically boost your confidence. You’ve put in the effort, reducing the chance you’ll make mistakes during the concert. 


Rehearsals are another part of that. If everyone is feeling comfortable with each other and they’ve made their plans clear, it’s that much more likely that everything will go smoothly. 


But even then, the reality of having dozens, hundreds, or thousands of eyes staring in your direction while you play is intimidating to a lot of people, regardless of how well they know the music. 


If this describes how you’re feeling about an upcoming show, try to remember that everyone at the concert is there because they want to see you play. People aren’t in the habit of going to concerts they don’t think they’re going to like. 


how to prepare for a performance


And lastly, if none of this is helping you to feel confident and self-assured, then one of the best things you can do is focus on the music as much as possible during the performance. 


Think of it as a job. You’re here to play this music and share it with others. Stay on your toes, listen to your fellow performers, and if you do make a mistake, don’t dwell on it. The most important measure is the one you’re playing right that second. 


Take care of yourself, feat. Tamar Sagiv 


The next tip comes from expert cellist Tamar Sagiv. Originally from Israel, Sagiv began studying the cello at the age of eight. Years later, she’s made her mark on the world of professional music, playing in venues like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall, and the New York Public Library. 


Sagiv also released her first solo album, The A Train, in the summer of last year. The concept for the album was that three international composers wrote pieces specifically for Sagiv to perform. From there, Sagiv wrote two pieces of her own to open and close the album. 


Of course, Sagiv has performed around the world, and she’s learned over time exactly how to prepare for concerts. 


One of her most important pieces of advice isn’t so much about practicing, though she always aims to practice several hours a day. 


What Sagiv highlighted when we spoke with her is the importance of maintaining a sense of balance and making sure that you’re not wearing yourself out. 



“Finding the balance between practicing and resting is always important, and each person has their own routine to help them focus for their performance. I often find that when I’m feeling well physically, I also feel well mentally. Until two years ago, I didn’t pay attention to the food I was eating and how much I was sleeping before a performance. Today, I know that for me it plays a crucial part in preparing myself for a performance and feeling good on stage.”


This is such an important idea. Yes, practicing is important, but there’s a point where you risk neglecting other aspects of your well-being. As Sagiv mentioned, paying close attention to what you’re eating and how much you’re sleeping is crucial. 


If your practice sessions (or anxiety sessions) in the run-up to a concert have gotten to the point where you’re just not taking care of yourself, then that preparation isn’t helpful anymore. 


Listen to your body and give yourself plenty of breaks, especially in the last few days before a show. You’ll be glad you did. 


Curtain call 


Every musician is different. There isn’t a single, ironclad method for preparing for a concert, and so much of your preparation depends on what you’ll be playing and who you’ll be playing with. 


Still, we hope these suggestions have given you a better idea of what might be helpful to you, specifically. You can even try different approaches to see which of them fits your life and your schedule best. 


Preparation is a way of earning on-stage confidence, and when the crowd applauds, don’t take it for granted. You’ve earned their admiration through hard work, and that’s always something to be proud of. 

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