- Know your piece well – Sounds like common sense I know, but if you are still learning notes when you go to perform your piece you will not be able to do it justice at all. You need to know not only the notes but also the dynamics (louds and softs) and the phrasing. These are the things that help the piece sound like music and not just note on the page. Each note is important and how it relates to the previous notes and the notes ahead needs to be considered. Memorizing your piece is a great idea to help you know it better.
- Practise performing – Practising involves stopping during a piece to correct various aspects of playing. Performing invovles playing the piece from beginning to end with NO stops, putting in all the dynamics, phrasing and feeling to make it a piece of music. If you always stop at a certain point because of some difficulty, you need to practise it more so that you can play past that without stopping.
- Get plenty of rest beforehand – Someone once asked the famous violinist and conductor Andre Rieu what he did to prepare for a performance. He said he had a sleep! He travels a lot with his orchestra and, along with all the other stage items, he takes a couch so he can sleep. He says when he wakes up he is refreshed and ready to enjoy the performance.
- Concentrate on the piece not the audience – This is a little harder to do in a competition because to some extent you are thinking about what the adjudicator will think of you! However, if you are thinking about playing beautiful music you will not be nearly so concerned about what he (or anyone else) is thinking.
- Perform pieces you enjoy playing – You are more likely to play better if you play things you like. After all, you practise them more often because you enjoy them!
- Relax beforehand – Do something to help you relax before your performance. Read a book, have a snooze, eat something, have a drink. Whatever you do, don’t practise the piece 25 times before you go on stage. This is a performance and if you are not ready for it by now you should not be doing it.
I hope you find these ideas helpful I’m looking forward to hearing some more wonderful performances at the next concert. Remember, playing music is supposed to be fun so let’s make it that way