1. CHANGE YOUR FOCUS.
It is quite common that musicians keep their focuses in themselves. The goal is to “play good”, “be better”, “improve”: all of these thoughts are underlying a comparison to an unknown standard of what “good is”. In any case, the music is both the tool and the goal, so everything remains in the realm of the musician’s ego.
Again, a lot of musicians expect the audience to be kind of “polite”. They feel they are good, they have worked hard in their craft, so they deserve approval in form of applause. But wait! Here lies the first problem: Why should a musician “deserve” this warm approval for his/her craft? Is the job of a musician more important than, let’s say, the waiter from next door restaurant? He is probably doing also a superb job and we are not clapping like crazy when he shows his skills in his job.
What does this mean? The ego of an artist is huge: It is easy to feel you are the center of the universe when we are on stage, but we are not.
The biggest change I’ve ever experienced in my musical career was to change my focus to the audience. My approach is to “serve” people, look them to their eyes and see what can I offer them in that moment through my music. Even if it may sound too subtle, audience is extremely sensitive to your energy and attitude on stage. You can play a simple melody twice, with the same notes and articulation but with a different attitude and I can assure you, they will notice.
When you focus in giving, in offering and even in listening to the audience, magic happens. Music become a richer experience, a more social and communicative form of art. Why won’t you give it a try?
2. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE ABOUT YOUR BANDMATES.
So you are on stage. You know your guys, and let’s say you know them quite well. You know their strengths and their weaknesses. So here again… what is your attitude and thoughts towards them?
I think music, from a non-musician point of view is magic. Some guys go on stage and are able to fill the air with beauty and emotions. Wow. The audience can look at the instruments and see just a piece of wood here, a piece of metal there, some mechanisms in a random configurations all around… but when these guys go on stage, magically, everything works.
So taking this in consideration…how important is the tempo of your drummer or the intonation of your sax player? Well, it is important, but not the most important thing. When I jump on stage, the musicians surrounding me are the best musicians in the world, and I love them and appreciate them as such. Sure, they are probably not, but that is my attitude towards them. And again, this approach makes a big difference in the final result: audience is sensing that, musicians feel more comfortable and everything works better.
Do I mean working on your chops and skills is not important? No, of course not. You have plenty of time after the show is over to analyze and work in the musical matters. But again, on stage you are serving an audience, and they deserve to enjoy the “best possible band with the best possible musicians playing the most intense music possible”. And that is more dependent on your attitude and energy than your musical skills.
3. PRACTICE AND REHEARSE AS IF YOU WERE ON STAGE.
This one is a very common advice, but sadly we forget about it very often. Again, it is a matter of focus: you train to get your chops ready, to learn your stuff and be comfortable with the tunes. GOOD, that is really important! You are doing that beforehand, so you have a sense of security that allows you to feel more comfortable on stage and deliver a good show.
OK, but now this: If you prepare your technical stuff, why don’t you prepare also your emotional side, your energy and your attitude? So far I’ve found two reasons: First, musicians usually do not give any importance to that. And second, in the rare case of doing it, they think those things cannot be trained or improved.
I have to disagree. If you can go to gym to have a stronger body, you can also train your soul and emotions to become stronger. If you have the habit of playing with full intensity, presence and love, chances are you will jump on stage and that inspired state of mind will arrive easier and will make a bigger (and positive) impact on your performance.