Tips on Preparing for a Performance
Do you have a recital or an audition coming up? Have you thought about how you plan on preparing for your performance? The aim of this post is to give you some tips to help with your preparation.
Preparing for a performance is one of the most important aspects of practicing, and all musicians must becoming intimately familiar with this process in order to succeed. Why? It’s simple. A lack of proper preparation leads to a subpar performance. So, what does proper preparation look like?
There are three phases that musicians need to go through in their preparation and each one helps to build a certain area of the performance. Before you start your preparation, take some time and figure out when you want to be hitting each of these phases. By doing that, you will help to prevent skipping over an important phase of your practicing.
Phase 1: Notes, Rhythms, Slurs
This phase is entirely built around creating musical accuracy and cleanliness, and when preparing for a performance, this phase is vital. The fact stands that no matter how musical a performance is it needs to be clean to be enjoyed. Your practice in this phase should include slow, methodical playing, and the most important tools to use are a metronome and a tuner. The effort that you put forth in your practicing should seem rather intense, and you should repeat musical passages often to help build muscle memory.
The drawbacks of not spending a proper amount of time here are fairly obvious. Inadequate time here leads to unclean performance and uneven technical passages. Also, musicians’ minds tend to drift when they perform, and by properly developing your muscle memory, this phase helps to prevent the mistakes that happen when your mind does drift.
Phase 2: Musical Interpretation
This phase of practicing is focused around dynamics, shaping of phrases, and stylistic nuances. Your practicing tends to get less physically intensive and gets more cerebral when focusing on musical interpretation. The main tool that should be used is an audio recorder, and your goal should be to produce recordings of perfectly shaped music. Use the “try, fail, adjust” method after you listen to your recordings, and focus on fixing anything that doesn’t sound like your most musical playing.
The benefits of spending time here is that you build confidence in your playing abilities. Why? This phase is where your music starts to sound really good, and you will definitely start to notice. Plus, you should have gotten past the point where the music is technically challenging.
Phase 3: Performance Preparation
This phase is probably the most neglected area for most musicians. Musicians tend to get so wrapped up in the technical side of practicing that they forget the performance aspect. This phase helps to create polish in your playing and also helps to develop endurance, both mentally and physically. Your practicing should include complete “run throughs” of your material, and your goal is for the run through to feel routine by the time the performance occurs.
The most important tool for this phase is your listener. Your goal should be to perform for as many people as you can so that by the time the performance or audition occurs, it is just another day. The practicing in this phase should be rather physically intense so that you can give a final push to the performance, but always be mindful of your fatigue levels. It is not helpful to go into a performance physically tired.
I had a teacher tell me once that when you perform, you lose the last 5% of whatever you practice. I have found that this concept has helped me in my preparation tremendously!
Think about it… If the last 5% of what you practice is Phase 1, then you will lose musical accuracy in your performance.
If the last 5% of what you practice is Phase 2, then you will lose confidence and have a musically flat performance.
If the last 5% of what you practice is Phase 3, then you only lose a layer of polish on your playing.
With that in mind…when preparing for a performance, how many layers of polish can you add to your playing?
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Photo by Kelley Mari. Used under Creative Commons License.