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Tips & Tricks: 8 Steps to Giving a Great Performance

playing the violinLast week I held my end of year student recital. I always play at my recital as I feel it is important for my students and their parents to see me perform too. I actually find playing for my students to be one of the most nerve-wracking performances that I do all year. Since both my students and I were getting ready to hit the stage, it got me thinking about how I prepare for a performance. Here are 8 tips to help you on your way to the stage:

    1. Practice a lot! I know this seems obvious, but the fact is that you will almost never perform as well on stage as you do at home, so you need to know the piece you are playing extremely well to give the best performance possible.
    2. Practice slowly. I usually practice slowly at two different points: when I am first learning the piece, and just before the performance. I practice slowly at first to work the kinks out and learn the notes properly. I then practice slowly right before the show because when you get nervous, you tend to play faster. If you can train yourself to play a little slower than you actually can play the piece, then when nerves hit, and you play faster, you will still be in control and able to give a good performance.
    3. Do a practice performance for a smaller audience. I have done this for violin exams at university, for auditions, and for concerts. I recently auditioned (and won a position) for Symphony NB, and as part of my preparation played my concerto for my high school students. By performing for a smaller group before a big show or audition, you get over some of the nerves. Once you have already performed and survived, it is not quite as terrifying the next time. You could even do a series of practice performances of various sizes: your parents/kids, a few friends, a local senior’s residence, your church…
    4. Try out your concert clothes before the day. Clothes can look great, but not be practical for playing the fiddle. Make sure to try both your clothes and shoes.
    5. Make sure that you have everything before you leave your house. Music, music stand, instrument, bow, rosin, spare strings, concert clothes, posters, CDs… Getting to the venue and realizing that you don’t have something important is always a bad start to your performance.
    6. Arrive to the venue early. Make sure that you get to your venue in plenty of time so that you can decompress and be fully focused on your performance. Your chance of a good performance is greatly decreased if you are still thinking about what was going on beforehand.
    7. Remember to breathe! This seems especially hard for string players since we don’t need air to play our instruments. A few good deep breaths will help to calm you before you play.
    8. Remember that the audience is there to have fun and take delight in your performance!

I hope that you enjoy your next performance and that these tips help you prepare!

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