The Violin Channel member Tina Lee, from China was keen to know: ‘What is the best way to recover when you mess up on stage?’
We threw Tina’s question over to Japanese violin virtuoso, Mayuko Kamio:
Thank you for asking such a great question.
First of all, a mess up happens to everybody, professionals do mess up much more frequently than you’d think. So don’t fret over it too much!
My candid advice for you is that, ultimately, you should practice so that messing up doesn’t interfere with your performance outcome.
It is not wise to strive to be perfect if your performance date is fast approaching. You have to narrow your focus on one or two things that you are really good at. In other words, if you are trying to perfect the intonation, the articulation, the vibrato, and the bowing just one week before the performance, your concentration is all over the place, and the reality is that you probably won’t get them perfect by the performance day, really. Your will power and self-control may be a limited resource. And your time definitely is limited. Try to be unique and different. There really is no reason for the audience to listen to you if you are perfect, but like anybody else. So before going out on stage, don’t ever be afraid about other things, just concentrate on what you already have, but really make sure that every person in the audience will hear your beautiful strength.
So if you mess up, you’ll know that it’s not a catastrophe because you have got this extra something in your performance. You just go back to concentrate on delivering your beautiful side. And if you still feel totally out of control on stage, it’s often due to your heart rate and grip strength. If you are missing notes in fast passages, you might be playing much faster than you think you are because of your increased heart rate. Slow down, try to play much slower than you think right. Or your grip may have gone limp, and you are not pressing down the fingerboard with your fingers as hard as you should be. I always tell my students to hit the fingerboard with their fingers to the extent that you can hear the hitting noise.
If you have a memory slip? I know it’s the scariest thing, but trust your muscle memory, breathe in, and just let go. Your fingers won’t let you down. If you are totally lost and in a panic, go ahead and improvise. I’m ashamed to say that I once had to improvise throughout the piece because I was underprepared, but I kept playing some plausible notes, and people ended up asking which edition I used for the performance. See, I’m not proud of it, but it may not be as destructive as we may think.
Lastly, just imagine going to your favorite violinist’s concert. If he or she has a memory slip or misses some notes, the truth is, you may be surprised or a little disappointed by his or her mistakes, but you will most probably be marveling at his or her mastery whether it be a rich sound or legato of the bow.
You should try to reach that level, and you’ll be there in no time.