Here we will look at the psychological benefits of the warmup before a potentially stressful performance situation. A “pre-performance” warmup is somewhat different to a “normal” warmup in that it has an added function: in this special situation, not only do we want to warm up our body, but also now we will probably also want to cool down our head. The opposite situation – cold hands and a hot head – is a nightmare pre-performance scenario!
A relaxed, spacious, non-time-pressured warmup before a performance allows us to get comfortable with the instrument and to reassure ourselves (if we are suffering from pre-performance insecurity), that yes, we can play nicely, yes, we can make a beautiful sound etc. All this is of inestimable value in reducing possible stagefright and pre-concert tension.
Apart from this relaxed gentle warmup backstage, perhaps one of the best ways to avoid stagefright is to have some “no-stress” time on stage before actually playing. Warming up on stage in front of the audience is a luxury we are seldom allowed, but this is a shame as this is not just a physical warmup but also a psychological warmup: we now have time to mentally adjust to the situation, rather than having that moment of brutal transition as we walk from the dark, cosy, anonymity of backstage into the glaring lights and full attention to which we are exposed on stage.
In an ideal performance situation for nervous performers, the first 5 minutes of every performance would just be a spontaneous, relaxed improvisation!