Elevating the Rehearsal Experience: Tips for Inspiring Performers

Elevating the Rehearsal Experience: Tips for Inspiring Performers

Seeing Yourself in a New Light

I’ll never forget the day the club installed that angled mirror above the piano. It was a simple change, but it transformed my entire performance experience. As the pianist for the Michael Gallant Trio, I’d been playing a regular residency at Tomi Jazz, a cozy midtown Manhattan venue with a downtown Tokyo speakeasy vibe. The stage space was limited, with my Nord Electro tucked under the piano’s key bed, making it hard to see the audience unless I craned my neck.

But once that mirror went up, everything changed. Now, all I had to do was glance upwards, and I could see the entire audience reflected back at me. And there I was too, fingers dancing across the keys, facial expressions and all. This newfound ability to watch myself perform in real-time was a game-changer, providing insights that elevated my musicianship in ways I never could have anticipated.

Stay Focused and Present

As any performer knows, it’s all too easy for your focus to drift, especially during those long gigs or marathon rehearsal sessions. Maybe you’re feeling a little jetlagged or haven’t had time for a proper meal. Before you know it, your mind starts to wander, and suddenly, you’re not fully present in the music.

But with that mirror in place, I found I could quickly snap myself back to the moment. Whenever I felt my attention starting to wander, I’d simply glance up, and there I was, right in the thick of it, improvising with my bandmates and aiming to give the audience an unforgettable experience. It was a visual reminder of why I was there and what I was trying to accomplish.

The same principle applies whether you’re rehearsing solo or with a group. Having that mirror in front of you can be an invaluable tool for maintaining focus and staying grounded in the present. It’s a tangible representation of the work you’re putting in, a visual cue to keep you from drifting off into daydream territory.

Taming the Inner Critic

As musicians, we’re no strangers to self-criticism. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a vicious cycle of nitpicking our own performance, especially while we’re still in the midst of it. And that negative feedback loop can really get in the way of us playing our best.

But here’s where that mirror comes in handy again. When I found myself slipping into that unproductive mindset of self-critique, I’d simply look up and see myself in the moment, playing with energy and passion. It was a reality check that snapped me out of those exaggerated, unhelpful mental representations and allowed me to refocus on the task at hand.

I encourage you to try this technique, whether you’re rehearsing, practicing, or even performing live. The more time you spend truly inhabiting the present moment and observing yourself in action, the less mental space you’ll have for that inner critic to take over. It’s a simple but powerful way to stay grounded and play with confidence.

Elevating Your Technique

Of course, the mirror isn’t just useful for keeping your head in the game – it can also be an invaluable tool for honing your actual technique. When I’m practicing singing, for example, I make a point of doing it in front of a full-length mirror as much as possible. It’s so much easier to spot those little issues, like clenching my throat or straining my jaw, when I can see exactly what my body is doing.

The same principle applies to any instrument. Watching yourself play in a mirror can help you identify problem areas and highlight your strengths. Maybe you’ll notice that your guitarist has a distracting hair-flipping habit, or that your drummer’s amazing flourish would look even cooler from a certain angle. These little insights can make all the difference when you’re trying to elevate your performance.

Even if you’re practicing solo at home, the mirror can be an invaluable tool. You might realize that you tend to hunch over in a way that makes you look scared or uncomfortable, and then you can consciously work on adjusting your posture. Or you might catch yourself flashing a winning smile at certain moments – a detail you can then incorporate into your stage presence.

Elevating Your Performance

Ultimately, the mirror isn’t just about fixing technical issues or keeping your focus – it’s about elevating your overall performance. When you can see yourself in action, you gain a whole new perspective on how you’re coming across to the audience.

Take that rehearsal setting, for example. By watching yourself in the mirror, you can learn so much about your group’s visual dynamics – where the different musicians should be positioned, how the overall setup looks, and how you can best showcase your talents. These insights can then be seamlessly incorporated into your live shows, creating a more polished, professional, and engaging experience for your audience.

And it’s not just about the stage presence – the mirror can also help you fine-tune your emotional connection with the music. Maybe you’ll realize that you naturally flash a big smile during certain chords, and you can then make a point of positioning yourself to share that joy with the crowd. Or you might notice a subtle tension in your facial expression that you can work to release, allowing your true artistic passion to shine through.

Embracing the Mirror

So, whether you’re a seasoned performer or just starting out, I highly encourage you to embrace the power of the mirror. Seek out rehearsal spaces with mirrors on the walls, or even set one up in your home practice area. Use it to stay focused, tame your inner critic, refine your technique, and ultimately, elevate your entire performance experience.

After all, as musicians, our goal is to create moments of magic that captivate and inspire our audiences. And with the mirror as our ally, we can gain the insights and self-awareness we need to make those moments truly unforgettable.

So, the next time you’re gearing up for a big show or diving into an intense rehearsal session, remember the lessons I learned at Tomi Jazz. Glance up, see yourself in action, and let that reflection guide you to new heights of musicality and artistic expression. The stage is yours – now go elevate it.

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