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Is there anything I should do after the performance?
Review your performance and use the reflection points for next time.
As soon as you finished your recital, write down in detail the good points and things to be improved by the next opportunity. As time passes, your thoughts become blurred, so do this as soon as possible. It’s good to talk about the things you’ve noticed with your teacher or co-performers, too.
This is the first step to your growth. Whether you can climb up to the top as a performer depends on how fast you can shorten the distance between yourself and your ideal performer.
What should I be careful about at the recital?
Keep in mind that you are performing for the audience and be appreciative of it.
Your performance starts as soon as you appear on stage. Please try to avoid facial expressions that give your audience discomfort.
If you look pale because of nervousness or illness, it’s good to put on pink blush or lipstick to give a better complexion even if you are a child. In fact, when you put a bit of make-up on little kids, they get excited about it and relax more before their performance (But make sure to keep it light, just to give a better complexion).
Sometimes I see a female performer with very vivid nail colors. Although this is just a personal opinion, it is not very pleasurable for some to see, so please keep that in mind, too.
You should bow slowly and politely.
Also, I recommend deciding your standing position in advance and mark it with a piece of tape, etc. The distance from the piano and whether you can see the pianist are very important. It’s not very smart to check these points at the actual performance, so make sure to do it before it starts.
When you make mistakes during your performance, try not to show it on your face. Playing at a recital is a completely different situation from practicing at home when you are relaxed. If you don’t practice playing the music through (full rehearsal), you tend to panic at the recital when you make a mistake and it could be the cause of ruining the rest of the performance.
If you must stop playing for some reason, like strings snapped, stop playing promptly. Then, say “Excuse me.” first to the pianist and then to the audience calmly with a smile, if possible, and slowly go back to the stage wing.
When strings are fixed, go back on the stage with a smile, bow, and restart your performance. When you change the strings, make sure to talk to the pianist and decide where to pick up.
When your performance is finished, line up with your co-performers, bow slowly and go back to the stage wing.
What are the checkpoints at a dress rehearsal?
Decide on the standing position and adjust how you play.
First, you need to decide the position to be standing in. Pick a place where you can contact your co-performers on time, and put on a piece of tape there. If you have someone who can sound check from audience seats, it helps to accurately check the sound balance.
In the meantime, check the acoustics of the stage. Use open strings and check how the sound strengthens and weakens. Depending on the stage, you might have to play very loudly or quietly to avoid sound distortion. Or, you might have to play very clearly because the sound disappears if you don’t. They are called “well reverberating” halls or “non-reverberating” halls.
You can’t of course change halls, so listen with your own ears and ask for advice from the person who’s sound checking, and adjust how you play by playing each sound longer or shorter, change the strength of your bow pressure, etc.
One of the important abilities as a performer is swiftly adjust how you play depending on where you play.
What is an appropriate outfit for a performance?
Consider comfort and the balance with the music.
To make the arm and hand movements look beautiful, avoid puff sleeves. Also, avoid dresses that interfere with your performance. You should avoid high-heels since they could potentially make you lose your balance and concentration. Also, if you have audience, you need to avoid sneakers just because they feel safe. Some say the rubber on sneakers stop sound vibration (though it’s just a theory). But more than anything, they are too casual and do not look good.
You should wear something that you can easily put your whole weight on both heels, and the soles should be anti-slip and hard like leather to help a smooth flow of sounds. Also, don’t forget to carry a handkerchief.
Unless specified by the organizer of a competition, I don’t recommend wearing a tie that throttles your neck or shirts with hard collars. In the orchestra I belong to, wearing collarless shirts, polo-shirts, T-shirts or sneakers are prohibited when performing at concerts with a dress code of smart casual. When you need to dress formal, wearing a collar shirt that doesn’t interfere with your performance would be the best. Please choose something that is comfortable to play in, but not too casual.
This reminds me of the time when I organized a recital at a venue with a very strict dress code. Even the audience was prohibited from wearing shorts, jeans, sneakers, T-shirts, etc. I didn’t know about this and didn’t inform the audience beforehand, so many of them were refused entry. It was a very regretful experience for me.
This also reminds me of the story of a boy I know. He was only about 5 years old and he wore shorts to a competition. One of the judges wrote a comment saying “wearing shorts is not appropriate” and it surprised his parents. It’s good to keep in mind that things like this do happen so it’s important to always carefully read the outline of the contest. (Perhaps, it’s safer to always wear pants, just in case.)
Just like I said for females, don’t forget to carry a handkerchief.
What kind of preparation do I need before the recital?
Finish changing bow hair by 2 weeks prior to the recital. Also, prepare a set of spare strings that are ready to be used in case a string snaps during your performance.
It is not rare that strings snap during or right before a performance. This is due to various reasons, including a difference in humidity. In case of an emergency like this, have a spare set of comparatively new and well stretched strings in your instrument case in addition to a set of new strings.
I always change all the strings two weeks before the recital, use them for 3-4 days and then replace them all with new ones once more, so that I can bring a spare set of strings that are ready to go. You never know what will happen at the recital, so be as well prepared as possible.
What does “singing inside of the head” mean?
The most important thing at a recital is the music. It is not about how well you play or if you can play without an error. What’s important is fully expressing the music you practice daily and think about to the audience. In order to do this, you need to start singing the music in your head without stopping from the time of full rehearsals; even on your bad days. If the music in your head doesn’t stop, the music you play will keep flowing even if your hands accidentally stopped for some reason. In contrast, if your hands kept moving but the music in your head stopped, music won’t flow. Moving your finger by itself is nothing more than physical exercise. Just like astronauts go through a lot of simulation trainings, sing the music in your head the way you want to express it when you practice. Singing in your head takes a lot of training and it’s not something you can do suddenly at the recital.
What is a full rehearsal?
It is to sing the entire piece through in your head.
The purpose of this training is to develop a skill to play through even when you hit the wrong note or get bowing wrong. At the time of practice, it is very common to stop playing every time you make a mistake, focus on the part you made a mistake in, and then go on to play the rest. But if you keep practicing like this, you are likely to develop a habit of stopping, and you will get distracted by many things at the time of your recital. To prevent a situation like this, you need to practice to not stop no matter what happens and play through. Trying this at a different time of the day is very effective, such as the end and/or beginning of your daily practice, or at the exact same time frame as your scheduled performance, etc.
Another important tip is to never get down or start wondering why you made a mistake during a full rehearsal. What’s important is how quickly you recover from your mistakes. Don’t ruin the rest of your performance by dwelling on the errors. This is one of the essential points in mental practice.
To make full rehearsals even more effective, have someone listen to your performance or record yourself. Training yourself to be able to sing the entire piece in your head anytime anywhere is also very important.
What should I do for practice right before my performance?
1. Record and check yourself during practice.
While you are playing, you are probably listening to your own music at around 60% of your full concentration, even if you think you are fully paying attention. When the day of your actual performance comes, your hearing ability lowers even more, so the rate will be down to around 40% at most.
So, you should record yourself during practice and strengthen the good points and improve the weak points by listening to your own performance. This allows you to be objective, which is a very crucial element. This is very similar to checking yourself in the mirror before you leave to school or work, or even going up on a stage. Even when you know you are appropriately dressed and your hair is combed, you would probably still check yourself in the mirror.
So, in order to listen to your performance objectively, I strongly recommend recording yourself when playing the entire piece etc. This is very effective for making improvement. I, of course, practice using recording devices too.
2. Mental Practice.
Unexpected things happen on stage, all the time actually. For instance, you are bound to experience discomforts such as the room being too hot / cold / loud, audience being too close, or the sound system being awful. The biggest problem in such situations is focusing on the surroundings so much that you can’t concentrate on your own performance. If you blame the surroundings, I’d have to say you haven’t matured as a performer yet, because a real performer doesn’t stop for anything until his or her performance is finished.
The important thing is not to expect a perfect environment for you to play in. It’s better to expect the worst environment possible, if you want your performance to be at its best at the recital. Practice being prepared for the worst. You need to cultivate the ability to concentrate and mental strength to complete your performance in any type of situation you may be in. Full rehearsals play an important role here, too.
How should I decide fingering?
Find the fingering that works for you.
Every player has different sized hands. For smaller children, it’s good to follow the fingering patterns indicated in music sheets, since it’s an important experience. However, it’s a different story if you are performing at a recital or contest. If you looked at it objectively, there may be such a thing as “ideal fingering”, but the most important thing is to choose the fingering that fits you the best.
Very often, the fingering that worked at practice doesn’t work at the actual performance. So, I suggest finding a different fingering pattern if you feel that your current fingering doesn’t suit you or feel very uncomfortable with it after 3 or 4 days of hard practice. Make sure to avoid interrupting a beautiful flow of music because of fingering. Try different fingering patterns and find the one that works for you.
How do I go about “part-by part practice”?
Have a clear goal. Don’t just repeat it recklessly.
Once you’ve decided the bowing and fingering patterns for the bracketed part to a certain degree (although you may change them later on), you need to practice the part until you are completely confident in yourself. If you feel that the bracketed part is no longer a problem for you, add a few bars preceding and following the part and make that into one phrase. Play the whole phrase through and see if you can still play the bracketed part without an error. It is a very common phenomenon to make the same errors in the exact same part again as soon as you add a few more bars.
If this happened to you, take a moment and ask yourself why. Is it your bowing pattern? Or is it your fingering? More often than not, you may be able to solve the problem you make with a small change. Here’s an important tip. When you make an error during practice, don’t panic. You need to think why it happened. It has an adverse effect if you keep practicing without thinking about the reasons for the errors: like you are practicing to make the same mistakes again and again.
If you don’t take the time to figure out the reasons, which takes only a very little bit of time, you may not be able to fix the problem even if you practice for tens of hours. So, get in a habit of putting the instrument down when you make a mistake, and think why you made the mistakes!
If you cannot figure out a reason for making errors, talk to your teacher and work together to find a solution. Once you found the reason and fixed the problem, play through the phrase that includes the bracketed part one more time. If you could play it without an error, play it more than 5 times and see if you can play it naturally without any errors. If you find no problems, go on to the next bracketed part and repeat the same procedure. After you finished all of the part-by-part practice, play the entire piece in a slower tempo again. If you find different sections that need to be bracketed, mark them and practice the same way. Have this practice repeatedly while you still have the time before your performance.
When you are trying to master a piece of music, make sure to follow this pattern: Play the entire piece through – part-by-part practice (practice bracketed parts) – Play the entire piece through again. Also, it is important to start your practice with a different bracketed part each time.