Are mental skills important for a performance?
A simple and basic questionnaire shows how artists - professionals and students - who have never approached mental skills, confirm their importance for the success of a performance.
It is many years, now, that mental skills are learned and practiced in many sport disciplines. The athlete has the chance to support his practical preparation with exercises that prepare him (or the team) for the performance.
On the contrary, in arts (music, acting, dancing...) most of the times mental skills are ignored or not properly learned: artistic training programs are tailored to cover all the technical topics and concerns, but do not specifically provide a systematic and customized path to mentally prepare the performer.
Consequently, many artists are proficient, confident, focused during their rehearsals but, as soon as they have to perform in front of an audience, they start to experience many mental issues (such as sweating hands, trembling legs, shortness of breath, loss of concentration, lack of confidence...), with consequent mistakes and inaccuracies. This, in addition, creates a sense of discomfort that affects future performances as well.
Starting my career as a mental coach, I wanted to understand the perceptions and the feelings of executors that have never received a structured mental training.
So I designed a questionnaire: five multiple-choice questions that recreate situations and examples familiar to every performer. I wrote it in two different languages - Italian and English - and shared it on social networks and a forum: Facebook pages and groups (dedicated to musicians), LinkedIn groups (as above), a forum dedicated to guitarists, and my personal blog.
The questionnaire was:
Mental preparation for a performance: what do you think about it?
Have you ever had anxiety, panic, loss of concentration and of self-confidence before and/or during a performance?
a) Every time
b) Happens often/sometimes
When you do a mistake, during a performance, what do you think?
a) Here we are, I knew it!
b) How could I do this wrong? The hardest part still has to come...
c) Oh well, let’s go on
d) Let’s hope that the audience didn’t notice it!
In your opinion how much can your performance be affected by issues like anxiety, stress, doubts and lack of motivation?
a) At a lower or null rate
b) They really have a bad influence on the performance
c) They mean the good or bad outcome of the performance
d) I don’t know
In case of preparation for a competition, what’s more important for you?
a) The perfection of my technique. I wanna win!
b) To do my best. This time I want to see what I’m capable of!
c) To place, but if possible also to enjoy it. You know, it’s my passion!
d) All of them, but I already know that they will let others win...
Beyond your technical preparation, what would you like to improve in view of a performance?
a) My competence in introducing my show, speaking with fluidity
b) The anxiety aspect: hands that sweat and tremble...
c) The fact of better involving the audience
d) Nothing: I’m already perfect!
The results I collected were the following:
Beyond all expectations, the answers clearly highlighted a common need to combine mental training to the technical preparation. Both professionals and students identify in mental issues a real and serious problem that affects the success of their execution.
Some data from the PROFESSIONALS' ANSWERS:
the 57% of the sample population have often experienced mental issues during their performances (question 1);
When a mistake is made during the performance, the majority tends to keep going; but still there is a good 35% that wonders if the audience noticed it (outlining the fact that many of us lose concentration, focusing on mistakes and their effects), (question 2);
50% of them think that mental issues have a real bad influence on the execution. Furthermore, the 29% believes that those mental aspects will determine the good or bad outcome of the performance (question 3);
the 57% would like to improve their communication with the audience (question 5).
In addition, I asked question 4 to understand what is the best motivator for artists that prepare for a competition, since it can be many things: they may strive to win, they may want to exceed themselves, testing their own improvement; they may just want to enjoy the experience, in order to live a different situation or meet with other colleagues. The 57% of them want to give their best, no matter if they win or not.
This research's results are even more interesting when we take a quick look at the answers of the students.
In fact, 60% of the students experience mental issues every time they perform, and 98% of the total believes that those mental issues will determine the good or bad outcome of the performance.
These numbers stress the relevance of the mental training: a consistent and systematic method that could work in synergy with the technical preparation and teach the interpreter how to control and manage his own emotions: before, during and after a performance.
[article published on 24 November 2015. All rights reserved.]