How to make a flawless performance
How to feel sure about the music we play, so we do not make mistakes.
We learn in different ways, absorbing information through various channels. The most obvious way to learn an instrument is to practise playing it. This involves more than just training your fingers to hit the keys. Consideration should be given to other aspects of musicianship for example: understanding the musical score, the intentions of the composer, the physicality of playing, refining listening skills.
So, if music is such a rich phenomenon there must be many ways to tackle all its challenges.
These are general concepts which will be developed in the following chapters.
- Be relaxed in both mind and body
- Warm up before beginning your repertoire pieces.
- Be aware of your posture at all times. Sit tall, keeping your back straight, shoulders relaxed, feet on the floor.
- Practise carefully and regularly. This is more about quality of practise over the length of time spent at the piano.
- Practise slowly especially when learning a new piece, practice at a slower tempo. This will allow you to master the score by assimilating all the details and subtleties of the composition.
- Practise hands separately, particularly in complex passages.
- Break down the piece into more manageable sections.
- Apply your theoretical knowledge to the piece you are learning. It gives you a better understanding of the music and therefore you will feel more confident whilst playing.
- Do not repeat mechanically. In every repetition you make, have a clear idea of the goal you want to achieve.
- Listen to your teacher very carefully. However, do not practise to make your teacher or parents happy, practise for you, because you want to learn and improve your playing.
- Be proactive. If your teacher gives you one page of a new piece to learn for next lesson try to read two. You can even try to learn the next piece in the book. Be ready with all you need for the lesson before hand: books, notebook, pencil, etc.
- Be your own teacher. Inevitably there will be stages in your life, for one reason or another, when your teacher will not be able to guide you. One of the most important lessons to learn is that of being an independent learner.
- Take regular breaks, during your practice. This will help you to refresh your mind and body. When tired or frustrated, do not give up, just take a rest and come back another time and try again.
- Allow a piece to mature. The learning process consolidates through time. You will not be a better pianist if you play relentlessly day and night. Your body and mind need periods of rest to assimilate what you have learnt during the practise time.
“Every time I spend practising my instrument I take steps towards my goal to be a better musician.”
- Enjoy the whole process. Each stage from selecting the piece, learning about the composer and bringing to life the music will provide the most well rounded, enjoyable experience.
- Believe in yourself. Always think “I can do it“. Keep a positive attitude and don’t give up. At times learning to play an instrument can be challenging and may seem that our efforts are in vain. However there are ways of tackling difficulties. This can include removing yourself from the piano and taking a break, leaving the piece and moving on to something that you are more familiar with, asking your teacher for help. Each day we increase our knowledge as we are always learning; today I will play better than yesterday but not as well as I will tomorrow. Just let’s keep working as best as we can and trust in yourself.
- Appreciate your work …and your life.
The other day I saw a big poster. It showed the face of a young woman with big eyes and a fearful expression. The wording read something like “She would like to move up the career ladder but she can only move her eyes. That person suffers from motor neuron disease which paralyses all her body except her eyes…”
It made me think about how, at times, I am so hard on myself trying to excel in music, that I lose perspective. I take my body and mind for granted. The poster reminded me to be grateful of the wonderful opportunity I have. Maybe one day I will not be able to even lift a finger to press a key.
A lot of importance is placed on results and we are disappointed if we do not achieve our goals. We should remember the hours of work and effort that has been put in during practise no matter if the result is not what we had hoped for. Love your work, love life, love music and they will love you back.
I remember what a teacher told me many years ago. “For me,” she said, “my repertoire pieces are like the plants of a garden and I am the gardener. Every day, I do my best to nourish them with everything they need to grow strong and beautiful. Then I patiently wait. Gradually they start to blossom and the garden becomes a delightful place to be”.
Trust in the natural process of life. Some days, we are going to be full of energy and enthusiasm. Others, we will struggle to get focus. Nevertheless, we always progress. Do the best you can, as the caring gardener, and let the universe do the rest.
However, if you can’t concentrate at all, it is time to do something different to clear your mind and renew your energy.