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My first contest appearance is coming up in less than a month now. I'd like to know from others who have played contests what they do to relax right before going up on stage and while waiting to start playing. How do I find my "happy place"? The judges don't really bother me because they're shut away in a room. The microphone doesn't bother me because I practice with one a lot. It's the audience, all those eyes on me, just waiting for me to do something that makes me nervous. Should I play with my eyes closed or what?

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yeah, or what. we all get butterflies, accept the fact that you might stumble, smile and forge ahead. if you don't have great control of your tunes,it will show. the happy place is knowing that you know the tune, cold. hope this helps.
Hi, Anita. I'm no expert, and have only been in a few contests myself. Plus, I think this can really vary with the individual. For instance, the "pretend-the-audience-isn't-there" thing didn't work for me. I'm better off if I acknowledge the audience, scan it for friendly faces (most out there want you to do great), maybe even wave to a friend, and only then try to forget about it and get down to business. But that's just me.
There's one thing, though, that can benefit almost anyone who's nervous about getting up on stage, and I can tell you what to do in one word: Breathe! Sounds stupid, but when you're nervous it's very easy to forget to breathe normally. You tend to breathe in a very shallow way, or even forget to breathe at all for long periods, then gulp air like you're drowning. And whatever nervousness you have, being oxygen-deprived will only magnify it. So just try to be conscious of your breathing, breathe deeply and slowy, and you'll be halfway there.
Good luck!------------Bob
Kerry asked for an update. Contest is a week from this Saturday and I'm feeling pretty confident. My tunes are under control. I've been using the technique of practising them faster than contest speed so that when I slow down to normal speed, it'll seem slow and easy. I've also loaded rhythm loops into my Loop Station and I play them over and over to iron out the rough spots. I guess the key is to play with authority, dig in and keep going whatever happens.
Today was the day. Practice had been going very well for the past few days. I did well but didn't make the second round. I got a lot of compliments from people in the audience, friends, and my teacher. That was worth more to me than the judges scores. Yes, I was nervous, but not disastrously so. I was concentrating so much on playing the music and trying to keep it smooth and steady that I didn't even think about the audience. What worked best for me to get started well was to hear the first phrase in my mind's ear and then play it that way. It was a learning experience. I probably should have smiled more.
Smile. Practise in front of a mirror to make sure you look happy. Smiling also puts the audience on your side. They are all glad they aren't the one on stage and they want you to do well. Before going on, practise with a metronome set faster than you can comfortably play. It makes your actual speed feel slower. I worked with an accompanist that kept the tempo down a little - that helped me win a couple of contests. I gave him my trophy one time because he was the real reason I won. As others have said here and Oscar Peterson the great jazz pianist told me "If you know your tunes, there is no need to be nervous". Lastly, if you have practised a tune 100 times, go for 200 and then 300 times. And always record your rehearsals. Gotta stop here 'cause I can go on and on. Good luck...
I see some great suggestions here... I just joined this forum, so this might be past the date even! You've conquered the judges and the mic issue. My suggestion would be to visualize yourself playing in front of the audience. As you play your pieces, imagine the audience in front of you - the visual - you see your hands, your guitar... just as you would through your own eyes... and imagine what sounds might be occurring at the time... the rustling of clothes, papers, whispering, etc. All of these tips can help to set you more at ease when the actual moment comes.

Another thought is that "It's too late to whet the sword when the trumpet sounds". i.e. There is no need to worry about how well you will play - because you are as prepared as you possibly can be at this point. practice time is over - you can reap the rewards of all that practice time. So relax! Smile if possible, it releases endorphins which will help you focus and relax. AND... wield a super positive attitude, e.g. If a friend or colleague asks you if you are going to win the contest ... you say "YES" whether you already believe it or not. Oh.. and don't listen to the other contestants right before you go on, as that can distract hugely. Best of luck..... Roger
I wanted to check back to see how it went. Sounds like it went pretty well. Congratulations! Next time will be a lot easier... -------- Bob

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