Performing in the Now

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal

Apr 22

The panicked questions arrived:

SOS!
I am 14, I and I will be taking my ABRSM Grade 8 exam on Thursday and I am very worried about it. My pieces are fine, my scales are o.k…
I am a very last minute person, yet a perfectionist which is what I absolutely hate about myself. I am terrible at sight reading and I did my Grade 5 Theory when I was 9 and got a Merit. However five years later, I can’t remember anything at all and it has affected my Aural Training where I am required to recognize Cadences and Modulations. I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this but I’ve resolved to Google to try and solve my problems because I am in absolute desperation. My teacher is quite pleased with my work and everyone keeps telling me that my exam will be fine but I keep doubting myself and I really don’t know what will happen.

My question now is, How can I “get into the music” when I’m playing? When i play I stand up stiff as ever, occasionally I sway and my eyes are always closed but I just don’t know how to feel the music… Any suggestions?

There are many resources to help us relax and focus while performing. Yoga, meditation and breathing practice as well as jogging are helpful. A good diet, and avoidance of caffeine also help. Avoid eating just before performing. A light meal 3 or 4 hours before works well for me. Books such as The Inner Game of Music and A Soprano on Her Head are worth reading.

Learning how to practice correctly is HUGE. Last minute is not the right approach. When you’re on stage, what you are playing should be comfortable in every sense of the word. Avoid performance situations that are likely to go wrong. Yes, take chances on stage, but make them sensible. Practice only so long as you getting results and feeling focussed.

Go deep in the music you select. Choose pieces than inspire you. Learn a lot about the composer and his world.

Beyond that, I hear a lot of stress in this violinist’s question. As a musician, are you willing to accept where you are now? To be OK with what you’ve accomplished to date, and have faith that others will enjoy what you alone can share musically? It’s *you* that must be pleased with your work. Release any attachment to how you think you should be playing and go with the way things are NOW. Fighting with the present only makes the present worse.

Your teacher should help you select music that is appropriate for your current level of technique and musical maturity. Go on stage ready to enjoy the performance, and just let the music happen. In short, play what you can play well, and be happy.

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