There is practicing and there is performing and they are two very different sides of a coin. Practice is a solitary act while performance involves an audience, large or small. Having an audience changes everything.
Practice is something you will get used to doing every day, like eating, drinking, sleeping. Few artists perform every single day.
The truth is, you can’t practice performing. You practice to practice and you can practice to get ready to perform, but performing is so very different…
You can practice landing, rolling and catching your fall, but you can’t practice parachuting – unless you jump out of a plane. You can train your body to run a long distance, but you can’t train running a marathon race in a large pack of runners – unless you run many marathons.
So that’s how you practice performing – by performing. It’s as simple as that. The more you perform, the better you become at performing. The more you perform the more at ease with performing will you become. True, some people are natural performers, but I find that they are rare exceptions. Most people grow into themselves on stage over time.
After we returned from our first tour in 1990, we did a benefit concert in Santa Fe. Everyone in the band had lots of friends in the audience and we were excited and nervous. As a result we raced through 90 minutes of material in about an hour. Now, many years later the band seems to settle into a certain tempo for a song and that tempo doesn’t change much from performance to performance.
And remember: practicing is practicing and performing is performing. Do both!