Teaching by example is the only way that I know how to produce results. When I give students advice on performance preparation, dealing with stage anxiety, choosing audition and competition repertoire, I use anecdotes from my own experiences. When a student decides that they want to pursue music full time, they get personally-tailored career guidance from me that's current and relevant. Teaching has given me new incentives to build a career as an internationally-recognized guitarist.
In your mind you must be several steps ahead of what your body is doing. This allows you to form the shape of a particular chord or arpeggio before your hand lands. It also allows you to relax and lighten your touch when faster or more awkward passages are approaching.
II. INDEPENDENCE OF THE HANDS
Coordination is only as strong as the quality of each individual component – your right and left hand. In practice, each should be able to play through the piece on their own. This challenges your muscle memory and takes it to a whole new level. The right hand on the open strings and the left hand on the fingerboard without sound. When all we know is the feel of both hands together, a slight glitch in one of our hands can throw off an entire sequence of notes. When each hand knows their part it’s much easier to keep these sequences going without losing continuity.
III. INDEPENDENCE FROM TACTILE MEMORY
Tactile memory or “muscle memory” is a process in which the movements can be learned subconsciously through repetition. Our subconscious memory can fail under the stress of a performance. The subconscious memory is very difficult to control which can explain why some are able to bring out repressed memories through the process of hypnosis. Tempos under %50 of the performance speed allow you to learn the notes you are playing at a conscious level. Being able to see your music – either the fingers on the fretboard or the score itself will secure your conscious memory.
IV. ADVERSITY AND ADAPTATION
On occasion your technical ability on stage will not feel optimal. Insufficient warm up time or a cold hall will make the hands tight and slow. This is time to hold back and play slightly under tempo if possible as your hands get comfortable. Exhaustion will make the hands weak and heavy. Adjust by taking longer pauses in between pieces and lighten your touch on the strings to avoid further exhaustion.
V. INDIFFERENCE TO DIFFICULTY VS. SIMPLICITY
Make it a point not to judge the difficulty of each passage of music. If you begin to label your music based on difficulty, you will find yourself tensing up as you fear an upcoming difficult passage. See all of the passages as a part of the musical whole. The only time to distinguish difficulty is in the practice room. On stage, equal attention is given to all of the material you play.
VI. PERFORMING UNDER PEAK ABILITY
Rarely should you push the limits of your technique in a performance situation. This is where you can lose control. Instead, overcompensate difficulties in the practice room. To build endurance, loop difficult passages by playing them more than they appear in the music. To be comfortable with velocity, be able to play at least 5bmp above the necessary speed for the passage.
VII. CONTROL OF INTERNAL TENSION
Self-criticism has no place in performance situations. Develop a thick skin to imperfections and be numb to anything that is impromptu. Dwelling on a past mistake in a performance takes your focus away from the present. Let the recording tell you where you had trouble, it’s your job to continue with the performance.
VIII. CONTROL OF EXTERNAL TENSION
There should be no excess strain in the body expect the minimal tension required to make the notes sound as you desire. When you run through a piece or an entire program practice making yourself tense up and relax. Find the minimum amount of stress needed in the hands and the rest of your body to complete the work. This will allow you to multitask during a performance. You will be able to gauge your body’s tension and adjust accordingly.
IX. REPETITION OF STRESS
Continue to put yourself in stressful situations. It’s not necessary to become numb to performance anxiety but you should familiarize yourself with it and go through it on a regular basis. You can then know what to expect and you will probably learn that the worst that can happen is still not the end of the world. Further, you can learn your particular weaknesses and give closer attention to them in the practice room through careful analysis. Performance stress will actually help you to fix these weaknesses in your playing more immediately.
X. SETTING AND OVERCOMING BOUNDARIES
What your hands can do in the practice room and what they can do on stage may be different. Know your own boundaries and judge them by what is possible in performance situations. As you keep raising the bar, stay realistic with your current performing abilities. While your most difficult showpiece is comfortable in practice you may not be ready to put it on the program as the opening piece. Make a list of certain techniques that are difficult for you in the first five minutes of a performance and make it a goal to overcome at least one of these difficulties every few weeks.
No matter your preparation, you must trust what your hands are doing. Hesitation and playing it safe will flatten your playing even if it does make it more accurate. Hesitation is also a sign of fear and will cause you freeze and tense up during passages that worry you. Eventually, let your practicing do the work and just do it.