Performances, Practice, Teaching Piano

Practice Performing

Perhaps you are wondering why there is a picture of a bunch of stuffed animals for this post.  Haha, I’ll get to that in a moment!

My private students are preparing to play for the university’s Community Music School recital tomorrow!  There will be about 12 students performing, 4 of which are my students.  For last few weeks, we’ve been taking time during lessons to “practice performing.”  After all, what better way to prepare for a performance than to practice performing?  =)

For my students, this means we imagine being at the recital during the lesson.  The student “walks onstage” while the audience (me) is applauding wildly.  The student gives a deep bow and sits down.  Once the bench is checked, they take a deep breath and play.  Wild applause ensues once again at the end of the piece, and the student beams, bows, and trots “off stage.”

I also encourage my students to put on recitals at home for their parents or friends, or even to create an audience of stuffed animals.  The point is for the student to be mentally putting him-/her-self through the performance, imagining what it’s going to be like and imagining him-/her-self succeeding.  Students really enjoy using their imagination and pretending they are onstage, and I think it is really beneficial for them to have gone through the process mentally before the real thing!  (Especially when there is no dress rehearsal, as in this case.)

What kind of activities do you do with your students to help them “practice performing?”

Photo Credit: Jess1820 | CC 2.0

Performances, Practice

Dealing with Performance Anxiety

Your hands are cold and shaky, your heart is racing, and you find it hard to breath.  Are you sick?  Are you having a nightmare?  No, you’re about to play your instrument in a recital, and the symptoms you are experiencing are due to performance anxiety — better known as stage fright.

Performance anxiety affects us all, to some degree or another.  Here are some things you can try out to help deal with your performance anxiety:

  • Practice performing. Play your pieces for other people whenever you can. It’s one thing to practice your pieces, but it’s another thing to practice performing. Ask other people to come in the room to make you nervous, and see how well you can handle running through you pieces.
  • Envision yourself succeeding. Envisioning yourself performing your piece well is extremely helpful. Do it as your practicing, as you’re not practicing, and as you are performing.  Doing so keeps your outlook positive and sets you up for success. Continue reading “Dealing with Performance Anxiety”
Announcements, improving as a teacher, Resources, Reviews, Teaching Piano

Book Review: Soprano on Her Head

I just finished reading a marvelous book, called Soprano on Her HeadRight-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances, by Eloise Ristad.  My piano professor recommended I read this book during a lesson when we were discussing performance anxiety (which I experience frequently, I must admit).

In this easy-to-read, humorous book, Ristad shares her experiences and ideas gained through teaching/coaching musicians and leading performance anxiety workshops.  The book contains 16 chapters, each of which is self-contained (thus the chapters can be read in any order).  I would recommend this book to any music teacher or musician looking for light reading that is useful and humorous — especially to anyone seeking to become more knowledgeable in ways to deal with performance anxiety.

Some things that struck me the most  in this book:

  1. When musicians perform, they sometimes allow the “judges” in their head to talk and increase their nervousness.  Ristad discusses ways to get beyond these judges and perform with less anxiety.
  2. Ristad discusses the close connection between music and movement.  She also mentions how movement is much more adequate when describing music than words are.  Just think how much time and energy we could save during lessons if we used fewer words and more movement to communicate to the student!
  3. When it comes to practicing, quality beats quantity.  That is, it is more important that we as musicians practice effectively, with more awareness, than that we spend 6 hours a day locked up in a practice room.  Ristad mentions some specific ways how make practice time more effective.
  4. Ristad speaks of enjoying the journey, not just the destination.  I am so guilty of this.  The end performance isn’t everything.  The whole process of taking piano lessons would be SO much more enjoyable if I enjoyed the time spent learning my pieces too.  Besides, doing this makes it so that you’ve already “won”, whether or not the actual performance goes well or not.
  5. Once during a lesson with a student who had struggled with reading music for years, Ristad impulsively turned the music on its side, so the staff was vertical.  A light bulb turned on in the students mind, and suddenly everything her past teachers had told her about intervals and up/down on the keyboard made sense.  If you think about it, a vertical staff makes more sense because each line/space can easily be correlated with the piano keys when you glance down.  Interesting . . . I may have to try this on a few of my students sometime.
  6. Ristad discussed the value of visualizing.  It may be valuable to learn piano music away from the piano, by studying the score and visualize yourself playing it on the piano.  This is a good memorizing technique as well.
  7. I appreciated Ristad’s perspective upon technique.  It’s easy to become sold by a particular technique for playing the piano, especially after reading amazing conversion stories by influential musicians.  But is there really ONE correct way?  I prefer learning what I can from ALL the different techniques I encounter, and incorporating small bits of each one into my own methodology.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for fun ideas to use in private or group lessons, or to any fellow musician who experiences performance anxiety.  It was an incredibly enjoyable book to read.

My rating:  5 stars (out of 5 stars)