Prefer video? Scroll down to catch the replay!
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
How do you know when you are ready to perform your piano music?
Today I want to share ideas for piano practice heading ‘straight for the goal.’ (From The Art of Piano Playing by Neuhaus)
These tips have worked for me and thousands of my piano and music students. Even if you don't want to perform for others, these tips will be helpful for you toward getting a deeper level of piano practice and musical mastery under your fingers.
Let's get started. How do you know when you are ready to perform your piano music?
Boundaries create a platform for important work.
Work toward mastering very small chunks of your music from the moment you begin learning it. Start by making things manageable for your brain and body.
Think micro-level. Break things down into the simplest form so you grasp them well.
When I say work toward mastering the music, what do I mean by mastery? First, learn it well on the page. As soon as possible, commit it to memory.
This requires a much deeper level of concentrated piano practice.
It’s the opposite of spending lots of time repeatedly running through larger chunks or an entire music selection.
Instead, you’re going to the micro-level and working on small bits of music material that you can fully dissect, comprehend, and then commit to memory.
USE TRANSITIONS FOR LEARNING & MEMORIZING MUSIC
As you work on this, I recommend doing transition work.
Recently one of our members, Tommy Doyle, shared (under the Saturday Share for piano experts post inside the New and Returning Piano Learners Facebook group) a link to his tutorial on how to practice in chunks or divide and conquer.
He explains how he uses small sections of music material to focus on in a practice session. But he also links that small section of music to a short, transitional part of the next section. Alternatively or in addition, he suggests linking a snippet from the musical section preceding the main practice material.
I've pinned that Saturday Share post to the Featured section at the top of our group where Tommy shared a link to his video on this topic if you'd like to check that out.
ADD SOMETHING JUST BEFORE OR AFTER TO THE MIX
I agree with this idea. Once you’ve mastered a little piece of music, it’s a good idea to work on what’s coming right before it and what’s happening right after it.
This is also a good way to do memorization work.
After you’ve memorized a little bit of the music material see if you can go to the next beat, measure, or section.
Or see if you can start at the beat or measure or section just before what you’ve just memorized.
Starting at different places within the music helps you think in more detail. Simultaneously, it helps you get a bigger picture of the full musical composition.
This process not only helps you understand the music better, but ingrains it more fully in your memory.
PRACTICE ON THE MICRO-LEVEL
You can also practice on a micro-level of detail. Try recalling the music in your mind in great detail away from the keyboard.
This is what I call audiation. You can spend quite a bit of time audiating music from memory.
WAYS TO AUDIATE AT THE PIANO:
Start at the piano by using your practice time to audiate individual melodic lines, the parts of RH, LH, and both hands together.
WAYS TO AUDIATE AWAY FROM THE PIANO:
Away from the piano, try recalling (audiating) the sound of the melodic lines, bass lines, any inner voice leading, and the chord progression.
Practice recalling from memory what the notation looks like in your mind. You can practice remembering the melodic phrasing, chord progression, or the form of the whole piece.
Prefer video? Click below to catch the replay!
GET THE BIG PICTURE WITH RECORDINGS
Listen to great performances of the music you want to perform. This adds another layer to your memory while training your ears to listen for an accurate and musically expressive aural picture of the music. It’s having an aspirational aural vision of what you want to achieve in your performance.
GET USED TO DISTRACTIONS
Practice performing your music with a lot of distraction. You can do this simply by creating recordings as if you’re performing. Other ways to add distraction to your practice include performing it while the television is on, for your pet or your family member, or creating a video for this group
Learning to hone your focus on the music itself despite distractions in your peripheral vision outside your piano playing effort is a good way to desensitize yourself to the performance arena.
GO BIG! WORK ON THE MACRO-LEVEL
Envision your performance on a macro-level. Meditate and imagine the details of your performance going well.
Imagine the global view of your musical performance. In other words, rather than focusing on musical specifics, broaden your attention to the feeling of performing it well.
USE YOUR IMAGINATION
Practice envisioning how the room looks and feels. Imagine the smells, sights, and sounds of the audience.
Imagine a positive audience reception, how confident you feel, how much you’re enjoying the music, and how much the audience is enjoying it.
You can practice playing it from memory while using this envisioning tactic to feel as if you are performing it during your practice.
Imagine that you’re in the performance scenario while you’re playing it. Using imagery, meditating, and envisioning your performance are all research-proven by athletes to be incredibly effective toward successfully reaching a goal or strong performance.
THE PRACTICE OF PERFORMING NEEDS FREQUENCY
Frequency. Aim to perform as often as you possibly can.
This is simply the practice of performing.
The more you practice something, the better you get.
Break it into as many chunks of opportunities as possible:
If you have any performance anxiety, simply doing something frequently will, by default, desensitize you to that anxiety. And it will improve your skills as a performer.
How do you know you’re ready to perform?
Ask yourself if you’ve done the work. Remember that mindless repetition of music repertoire is not solid preparation for performance.
THE #1 MOST IMPACTFUL THING IS PREPARING WELL
You will be ready to perform if you have prepared yourself well. Through meticulous, consistent practice, and regularly employing the tips shared today, you will have a solid foundation for playing through your pieces with growing confidence.
TAKE THE PLUNGE
(OR STICK YOUR TOE IN THE WATER)
Most people never really feel ready to perform because nerves are normal.
I suggest you take the plunge after you have thoroughly prepared well. You will gain tremendous insight into any areas needing more attention. Preparing for and practicing piano performance chips away at any anxiety, deepens your confidence, and improves your performance ability.
What do you think? Questions? Concerns? More tips on this topic?
Please let me know in the comments below if this is helpful to you or if you have further questions. Share your tips, too.
See you next Tuesday from 1pm ET (inside the New and Returning Piano Learners Facebook group) when I share ideas for composing at the piano.
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In my PIANO blogs, you'll find ways to overcome boredom, get past musical and mental blocks, explore the creative process with piano, and improve musical progress through piano teacher recommended best practices and effective piano practice tips.