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Top 10 Tips for Successful Music Recitals – Stress-Free!

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Would you like to be able to play successfully on music recitals, stress-free? Do memories of your early music recitals evoke feelings of warmth from sharing music you love with a supportive audience, or perhaps a sense of celebration of your accomplishment? Or perhaps you have some memories that you’d rather not revisit such as the stress of performance anxiety or even memory lapses? You can help ensure that your future performances and/or those of your child are rewarding experiences that create memories that you’ll find a pleasure to recall over the years here. We encourage all students to perform as often as possible to share your musical progress and celebrate your accomplishments. Here are the Top 10 Tips we have assembled from our Academy teachers to help you experience a successful, stress-free recital experience.

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10. Choose a Well-Prepared Selection: preferably at least 5 pieces back from your latest piece, one that you have been practicing on for many weeks. Many young students are really excited about the latest piece they have been learning and it is natural in their enthusiasm to want to choose to share it. Encourage them to play it on an informal “home concert” for family members or a friend in your own home, while selecting a more “seasoned” piece for the school recital. If a piece is mostlywell-prepared except for an isolated section, you might consider cutting that section for now. You can always include it on a future performance.

9. Listen to an artist recording of the piece daily. It’s best to set the volume fairly soft to avoid “burning out” on the listening. What’s more important is how many times the piece is heard versus how loud it is. Hearing the professional version repeatedly helps in solidifying rhythm, pitch, phrasing, and even memory.

8. Choose practice spots to polish. Each week identify and bracket off one or more small practice spots to polish with several reps per day from memory. Each week you can rotate through previous trouble spots to maintain them.

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7. Play through the entire piece 5 times per day. Try varying metronome settings and without the metronome. If you are a pianist: also play each hand separately 5 times each. The last 2-3 days before the recital: practice at slightly slower tempos than your performance speed. Your adrenaline will usually bump the tempo back up to your top speed, and you will be more solid and make fewer mistakes.

6. When in doubt: shorten. Ask your teacher which repeats you can leave out. Leave your audience wanting more.

5. Practice a 3-part bow each day before and after you practice your piece. Unless you will be singing or playing the piano, do this holding your instrument. A 3-part bow consists of: 1. Smile – show your teeth! And give direct eye contact to the friendliest looking person in the audience. 2. Bow – keep your arms at your side, bend completely from the waist and look down at your feet. Count to 3 while doing this (or say: Pepperoni Pizza.) 3. Repeat the smile and eye contact. If you do this everyday, before and after playing through your piece, it will feel natural to you to walk up on stage and do the same thing. This will help put you at ease. For young children we call this the “Ice Cream Sandwich” bow: 1. The bottom cookie (the smile) 2. The ice cream in the middle (the bow) 3. Another cookie on top!

4. Practice at home wearing your recital clothing. It can feel very different to play wearing dress clothes and shoes than it does in jeans, flip-flops or whatever you wear when you practice at home. You want to make sure you are comfortable in the clothing you wish to wear to the recital. Make sure you adjust a violin shoulder rest to fit a suit that may have shoulder pads, for example, or that you can adjust to maneuvering the piano pedals while wearing high heels. If you are uncomfortable in a garment, you might consider wearing something else.

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3. Take good care of yourself:
A. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein and whole grains; several meals and balance snacks per day. Include good-quality fats.
This is a good regimen to maintain metabolic balance, optimum energy, alertness and health for everyday, but also important for the performance day. After the performance you can splurge and celebrate with a treat!

B. Get plenty of sleep and R&R time. Busy students will be able to practice more effectively if they can wind down and get plenty of sleep. When there is lots of homework, this is a challenge. Try to find ways to incorporate breaks and downtime in a schedule packed with activities and homework so that you are well rested.

2. Visualize yourself giving a successful performance of the piece. Do this while you are feeling relaxed. Keep a positive attitude and focus on the things you are doing particularly well. Musical progress is a journey and every student has his or her own particular strengths to enjoy and share with others along the way.

1. Arrive a bit early on recital day to tune and set up any equipment you might need. Try out the piano bench and footstool and note the heights, plug in guitar amps, etc. Pianists will need to have elbows and wrists at proper height when seated with no dangling legs for young pianists for optimum comfort. If you know how to tune your instrument, check the tuning again 5-10 minutes after you have gotten it out of the case as the tuning can change once the instrument has been out in new surroundings. If needed, have a teacher tune it.

Once you’ve arrived and have everything ready, relax and enjoy listening to each of the performers as well as performing your own selection. Know that everyone in the audience appreciates your effort and is there to support and applaud your accomplishment. Try our Top 10 Tips for Successful Music Recitals – they will help you enjoy a Stress-Free experience where you’ll enjoy sharing your music with others.