Performing for a live audience is an exciting and exhilarating experience, but even seasoned pianists can feel anxious before taking the stage. Anxiety is not a bad thing. In fact it’s an important element that drives us to prepare and succeed. But if we let our nerves get the better of us, we fail to reach the level of fulfillment we truly desire. If you would like to perform for audiences and want the confidence of a professional pianist, keep reading.
As a piano pedagogue specializing in classical piano repertoire, I regularly prepare my students for performances and competitions. When I was completing my master’s program, I participated in performance classes with my colleagues so we could hone our performing skills.
Recently, one of our students was performing in a class and it was obvious how nervous he was. The student was playing then all of sudden had a major memory slip and stopped. This is a pianist’s worst nightmare. The student was devastated and said he never wanted to play that piece again.
I consoled him and said, “I know how you feel. Many pianists have experienced this including myself”. I told him, it’s not the piece that created the memory slip. I discovered a method that enhanced my memory of pieces and prevented me from forgetting parts during performances. After sharing the method with the student, he began implementing the strategies. Soon his confidence and performance level took off.
The key to confidently performing is how effective you can memorize and internalize a piece of music.
Playing the piano requires both “playing with your heart” and “playing with your brain“. “Playing with the heart” emphasizes feeling the flow and power of the music and immersing yourself in the music; “Playing with the brain” is to rationally understand the structure, form, and harmony of the music, and have a clear blueprint in your mind. Therefore, when performing on stage, one should not be blindly indulging in the music, but also partly be awake. The combination of rationality and sensibility can present the audience with the performance closest to perfection.
There are many ways to memorize music but only implementing one method is not sufficient. Successful memorization requires a combination of many forms. Here are 4 methods to help you confidently perform for audiences:
Muscle memory is the most commonly used method for all pianists. Practicing sections of music in repetitions is essential to increase your memory of a piece and perform with confidence. Repetitive practice must be done with a high level of accuracy in order for muscle memory to take effect. If your practice is done correctly in this way, you are able to play an entire piece of music smoothly with limited mental exertion and indulge in the wonderful music you are creating.
While repetitive practice is essential, it must be combined with other forms of memory to ensure a solid performance.
Most highly proficient pianists form visual memories after practicing a piece repeatedly for extended periods of time. Visual memory can be established by reading the music notation thoroughly and developing a photographic memory of it. Visual memory can also be developed by watching your hand movements closely. I was once asked by my piano teacher to imagine the position of the keyboard on the table and play out my music in its entirety. This is a way to train visual memory that I found highly effective.
It seems obvious but sometimes we just need to listen to a recording of the music several times to enhance our memory of it. Too many times I find that students who struggle with remembering the music have not taken the time to truly listen to themselves play the piece or listen to a recording of the piece. Auditory memory is extremely effective in helping us remember melody parts, chord progressions, the form and mood of the piece. Once we truly become familiar with the sound of the music, we can play it more fluently.
If we want to memorize a piece of music thoroughly, we must have a deep understanding of the structure of the piece. For example, knowing the form and composer’s intention? What is the theme/subject of the piece? How many sections are there? How many phrases are there in each section? After fully analyzing and memorizing the structure, a player should be able to start playing anywhere in the piece.
In addition, it is necessary to understand the music theory behind the piece.
The study of form and harmony not only builds the strongest memory, but also aids musicality.
Implementing these 4 keys to mastering music will allow you to perform with confidence, musicality and captivate your audience.
At Music Lessons Arizona, we specialize in piano performance for young children and help them win piano competitions. As a result, they feel proud and confident that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.
If you would like to learn more about how we can help you or your child become a confident performer, visit our contact form for a free consultation by clicking the button below.