How To Minimize Mistakes On Stage (and what to do when they happen)
By Jack Haddad
As you noticed, the title of the article is not how “not to” but how “to minimize”. Let’s face it we are all humans, and humans do make mistakes (and tons of them). In this article we will lay out how to prepare for a performance beforehand in order to make the best out of it and have the smoothest performance possible. However if “God forbid” a mistake do happen, I’ll share with you a couple of tips that will help you hide it and get over it.
I’ve been performing on stage since I was 15 and let me start by saying that from my own personal experience on stage that I made at least one mistake during every performance (if not more) and I still do till date, it’s just human. However you should come to a concert as prepared as possible in order to restrain the chances of screwing up. If you have 1% of doubt about any part of your performance, fear will take you by surprise in the middle of a performance. Trust me you don’t want to encounter that feeling, come prepared!
How to Come Prepared
If you are preparing for a concert and you are afraid of messing up during showtime, then the best way to guarantee a successful and stress free performance is to be ready 125%. It means not only to memorize everything but be ready to perform even if you were asked to do it while being blindfolded.
If you are reading from music sheets have spear copies somewhere with you, if you are using a pedal board and circuits make sure to have every single detail perfected, train switching between pedals as well. If you have a speech or a word to say, also practice it a bazillion times until you can’t get it wrong anymore. I can’t emphasize enough, practice everything!
So you came prepared but still messed up. Here’s the best way you can hide it:
when on stage or during a recital, don’t stop playing and don’t let it disturb you, keep going as if nothing happened. Most likely people will not notice and if they do they will admire your persistence for staying focused. So basically the best way to hide it is to actually not react at all.
If you are playing with a band, make eye contact with them. If you or anyone else made a mistake look around (discreetly of course – no waving !!) and make sure all the band is aware of it that way you can all help each other get back into sync.
Sometimes, acknowledging your mistake and being honest about it with the audience can be of a great relief. I do it personally, sometimes I tend to forget what the opening phrase of a certain song is, and the audience always comes in handy if you ask them!
Thing is people come to live performances in order to enjoy themselves and listen to great music, they are really not as picky as you think they might be. And it’s even more so when the audience is actually friends and family. No one will look down on you; on the contrary everybody will have a good time! Which brings us to the 6th and final point.
Your attitude towards the situation and how you deal with it is what makes the whole difference.
It will set the tone for the audience:
Although mistakes can be frustrating for a musician, don’t let it get to you. If the audience sense that you are getting angry it will ruin the experience for them, which will backfire against you. Instead remain positive, see point 5.
It will set the tone for you:
Take notes of them, practice them slowly, carefully and own them.
Adopting a positive mindset towards mistakes and learning from them makes all the difference between those who fail and those settings themselves up for success.
As a final word, In order for you to enjoy yourself during a performance you must come very well prepared and rehearsed, this will minimize your nervousness which will also help minimize mistakes on stage. However if a mistake happens and as you know they do happen a lot, maintaining a positive attitude and learning from them is crucial for your progress and growth as a musician.
About The Author
Jack Haddad is a guitarist, singer/songwriter, performer and guitar instructor. He is the director of JHGuitarSchool in Kaslik-Beirut, Lebanon. Anyone in Lebanon interested in becoming a better guitarist, click here for the best guitar lessons in Lebanon.