Some people are born with an innate sense of confidence that they carry with
them through life. For others, confidence is trait that has to be won in battle.
Among all of the talent that exists in the world and the unfortunate realities
of the music industry, it's easy for somebody who doesn't have innate confidence
to feel intimidated. Below are six tips on what to do when your confidence starts
to falter, and what you can do to improve the confidence you already have.
1. Dress the part
One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing
a band get onstage, and everybody is wearing cargo shorts,
T-shirts, or flip-flops. If you're wearing the same clothes
onstage as you wear when you run errands or hang out with
friends, you aren't putting enough thought into it.
Whether you like it or not, image is a huge part of the music industry. When
you take your look as seriously as your music, people notice. Now, I'm not saying
that a full tuxedo or elaborate stage costumes and makeup are a requirement
for every gig (though they might be for some gigs), but you should at least
put a little thought and effort into looking professional when you're performing.
If you show up to an audition with a professional band, and you can play at
a professional level, and you look like a professional, you'll have way more
going for you than the average musician.
Additionally, if you're in a band, coordinate!
Some of the weirdest stage shows I've seen have involved some
members wearing flannel and Converse and other members in
suits. You don’t need matching outfits for every member
of the band, but wearing similar looks will actually have
a marked impact on your stage show and drastically contribute
to your overall stage presence as a group.
2. Be ridiculously well-prepared
Every musical project will require preparation. I'm challenging
you, however, to prepare like you've never prepared before.
Start prepping for opportunities as if your career depended
on it, because in many cases, it will.
Take world-renowned guitarist Pat Metheny, for example. As a teenager, he discovered
the music of jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton and liked it so much that he learned
the majority of Burton's compositions. When Metheny finally got the chance to
see Burton live, he introduced himself and managed to convince Burton to let
him jam. Due to his preparation, Metheny was able to confidently and proficiently
execute any tune that Burton wanted to call. This later led to Metheny joining
the group, which was his first big professional break.
Over-preparing can make your career. When you show up for an audition, rehearsal,
or gig, the better prepared you are for it, the more confident you'll be. If
there's ever a part of a song that you're unclear about, that's what you should
be spending your practice time on. Make it so that there are no uncertainties
when you go to play with other musicians. People will notice, and word travels
fast about musicians who are consistently well-prepared and confident.
3. Measure your progress
When you spend a lot of time struggling
with a particular concept or weakness, it's easy to forget
how far you've come from where your playing was in the past.
There are many tools and trick you can use to measure your
forward progress as a musician, and it's a system that I wholeheartedly
recommend. It's a great confidence booster to compare where
your playing is now to where it was before. Returning to old
practice sheets that you used to struggle with will give you
comfort in where you skills currently are and will help you
be more confident.
My favorite way to do this is through
recordings. These days, any smart device can make quick, decent-sounding
audio recordings. Making a recording of what you're working
on every week is, for one, a great way to hear yourself from
a listener's perspective and identify problems in your playing
that you might've missed otherwise. You can then take that
recording and compare it to an older recording of yours, just
to hear how much progress you've made. This way, you can feel
more confident in where you are, while simultaneously identifying
new areas of your playing to work on.
4. Spend time with people at your level
One of the fastest ways to improve on
your instrument is to spend time with other players who are
better than you. By doing so, you can pick up a lot of great
tips and tricks on how to progress farther and faster. If
you only hang out with players who are better than you, however,
it can have a detrimental effect on your confidence. This
might make it even harder to play with better musicians, as
you'll be lacking skill and confidence simultaneously.
As important as it is to play with superior
musicians, it can be beneficial to spend time around others
on your same level if you feel your confidence waning. Remember
that music is supposed to be fun as well as challenging, and
it might be easier for you to have a good time and feel confident
and comfortable when you're hanging out with players who aren't
forcing you to push your limits at all times.
5. Carry marketing tools
If you have business cards, CDs, stickers,
or any other kind of merchandise, always keep something on
hand that you can give to somebody. If you meet somebody new
and the conversation turns toward your music, have something
that you can give them to show that you're actually serious
about your craft and not just a bedroom mirror diva.
Be careful not to be pushy or cocky when handing
out these materials. If you're going to hand somebody a business
card or a CD, make sure it's because they want it, and you
aren't forcing it onto them. If you can avoid pushiness, having
these items on you and ready to give out is a great way to
show that you're confident.
6. Mentor others
Just as there are a staggering number
of musicians in the world who are farther along in their journey
to mastery than you are, there are also many musicians who
are just getting started. And just as you've been helped by
players who are more skilled than you, you may soon find other
less experienced players coming to you for advice. Giving
advice and mentoring other players is actually a really effective
method of solidifying concepts that you've learned and reinforcing
your foundation and fundamentals.
By taking an active role in the development
of other musicians, you yourself become a better and more
confident musician. You'll also, of course, have the feeling
of satisfaction that comes from helping another person, and
you may even discover that teaching is something you're good
at and want to pursue further.