The Three P’s: Practice, Play and Perform

Each of these elements is an important part of the learning process. When you begin a piece of music you practice to learn the notes, rhythms, articulations, dynamics, etc. It takes time and concentration to be able to consistently execute each of these elements. However, once you master the notes, the rhythm is easier to achieve. Once the notes and rhythms are secure it is even less work to add articulations, dynamics, ritards, etc. Eventually the parts become a whole and you can play the piece without having to work so hard. You can really listen and enjoy the sound of the music. You may even experiment with different variations of what you practiced. At this point you know the piece quite well but what you haven’t experienced is the presence of an audience. Playing for yourself is a wonderful experience but sharing the experience can be equally, if not more, rewarding. To prepare to perform you need  as many ears as you can get. Play for the mailman, the church choir director, the school music teacher, your cousins, your friends–anyone you can think of. At first you may get nervous and miss some notes or lose concentration. After a while, though, you will become more comfortable and the listener will start to share in the feeling of the music with you and you will feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Still struggling with performing? Here are some more ideas…

  • Imagine yourself walking to the recital stage confidently, bowing and playing your very best
  • Practice playing through mistakes. Most people won’t know your music as well as you do so they probably won’t even notice if your mistakes if you keep playing.
  • Try jumping to different sections. You could start at the beginning then jump to the B section then to the CODA, etc.
  • Try playing the whole piece on a keyboard with no sound and hear the music in your head. You could even try playing on a table.
  • Listen to recordings of your piece
  • Record yourself playing and listen to it
  • Have a friend try to distract you while you play and work to maintain your focus. You could also try playing in a noisy environment–turn the TV up, turn the radio on, whatever!
  • Play the music in your head when you first wake up and right before you go to sleep (I practiced in my dream once while doing this!)
  • Pick out an outfit for the performance that you will feel confident in. Practice playing your song wearing the outfit.

– Jennifer Stadler, NCTM Piano Teacher Oklahoma City, Oklahoma