On March 24, 2017 I posted a blog entitled, “How to tell if your child is practicing effectively” stating that there is more than one type of practice. To simplify, there is the kind of practice that you do to learn new skills (discussed in that previous blog) and the kind that you do to build your music performance skills.
When you are preparing for a recital or other performance it is important to adjust your practice routine accordingly. It isn’t that you should abandon your entire normal regimen but rather that you add a new routine for the piece that you will be performing.
All of the things you have been doing in practice have lead you to this point. You have been working on your pieces and isolated the one that you will be performing. This post applies to the piece that you are going to perform at your recital. It is important to understand that perfection is not the goal for your performance but gaining confidence and reducing stress are. Both will make your performance more enjoyable for you and your audience.
With that in mind here are some general guidelines and a time line for June recitals. Your performance piece should be one that your already know how to play through, not a brand new one. It’s okay if there are still a couple of troublesome areas that need some work. You will continue to work on those spots with your teacher and practice through them as you have been doing.
One of the surest ways to build confidence and eliminate some stress is to know your piece really well. So, whether your teacher expects you to perform your piece with sheet music or without, it is a good idea to work on memorization. Then if your teacher allows, your memorized sheet music can be right there in front of you at your recital but you will find that the familiarity you’ve gained through the memorization process will help build confidence and reassurance.
Memorization can be approached in different ways. All require listening and repetition. Visual memory would mean memorizing with your eyes, being able to recall the actual notes on the page or finger motions on your instrument. Auditory memory would mean remembering how the piece sounds.
Motor memory comes from repetition and results in your fingers knowing where to go on autopilot. Beware, this type of memory alone is dangerous as nerves can have a detrimental effect on it.
The best kind of memorization involves understanding the music. Your teacher is there to help you recognize the key of the music, hand positions and intervals. Knowing the music in chunks allows the security of knowing where you are going and so being able to move on if you should get stuck along the way. The importance of being able to start from parts other than the beginning cannot be overstated. Be sure to practice that.
The importance of listening is another task that cannot be overstated. Listen to professional recordings and record and listen to yourself as well!
Practicing your piece at this time involves playing it over and over again. Always begin slowly, focusing on accuracy, tempo, dynamics, phrasing, and general musicality. Your repetitions should include varying the tempo as you go to provide security. Count out loud to aid in focusing. Practice in sections and when you can play a section three times without making a mistake you are ready to move on to the next section.
Four weeks before your recital is an ideal time to aim to have your piece committed to memory. There is no need to stress over a couple of mistakes at that point. If you spend the next two weeks ironing out any memory lapses you should have your piece reliably memorized two weeks before your recital.
You should now be able to play your piece without your sheet music and mistakes if any should be easy to recover from. This will be a great time to find family and friends that you can perform for. This is the only way to prepare for the normal pressures and associated nervousness of performance.
Nerves are our biggest enemy in any performance situation. They plague professionals and amateurs alike. They can strike even the most prepared performer. We suggest that you actually practice playing while nervous. Visualize playing in front of an audience when none is available and obviously create one as often as possible. Recording yourself playing is another way to add a bit of nervousness. The point of course is to learn to play well despite your emotions.
One week before the recital is the time to relax. You should know your piece. Keep playing, pay attention and enjoy listening to yourself. Your enjoyment will be conveyed to the audience. On the day of the actual recital the most important thing to do is to plan ahead. Arrive early to eliminate the stress related to worrying about being late.
You have worked hard on your recital piece so take this opportunity to show off your hard work and enjoy the performance. Remember that everyone in the audience is on your side and wants to hear you succeed, so have fun.
During all stages of this process finding time to play for a live audience can provide a very valuable experience. As it turns out we have a perfect opportunity for you. Call today to sign up to perform at the next nursing home event.