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Tips For Young Musicians on How to Prepare for a Recital Performance

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Performing at a recital can be great fun, but it can also be very stressful. Good preparation can help reduce your stress and make your recital performance more enjoyable for both you and your audience. Here are some tips to help you get ready for your big day. The “Milestones” are what you want to be able to do at that time. The “Goals” are what you want to start working on.

8 Weeks Before the Recital
Milestones – You want to be able to play or sing through your entire piece with relatively few mistakes. It’s okay if at this point you cannot play the piece at full speed or if you don’t have your breathing and phrasing completely worked out.
Goals – The next four weeks you should work on memorizing your piece, getting it up to full speed, and focusing on the finer details like dynamics, phrasing, and general musicality. Work on mastering the difficult sections and connecting phrases between sections so that you can eliminate points where the tempo may drag or your concentration may waver.

4 Weeks Before the Recital
Milestones – You want to be able to play or sing your song from memory fairly well even if you sometimes make mistakes.
Goals – Lose the music stand and the sheet music, and use the next two weeks to iron out any memory issues. It is also useful to have a few points in the song where you can restart should things go wrong, or, if you are a singer, a few spots where you can jump back in. This will save you from having to start back at the beginning or, even worse, quit in the middle of the song.

2 Weeks Before the Recital
Milestones – You should now be able to play or sing your recital piece from memory reliably with few mistakes, and be able to recover from them quickly should they happen.
Goals – Find some people to perform your piece for. You could perform for friends, family, or wherever you can find a place with people. The only way to simulate the nerves and pressure of performance is to perform in front of real live people. Establish a consistent physical and mental performance routine so that on the day of your recital there are fewer chances for surprises.

1 Week Before the Performance
Milestones – If you’ve been keeping pace with the guidelines up to this point then you have reached the easiest portion. Just relax. You’ve got this! You know what you are doing and how to manage the odd disaster.
Goals – Just perform the song for fun and enjoy listening to yourself. If you are enjoying what you are performing so will others. The opposite can be true, too.

The Day of the Recital
Goals – Have your clothes clean and ready. Plan to get to the recital location early to give yourself enough time for traffic and other delays, plus any warm up time required. When you show up late it is not only very stressful for you, but is inconsiderate and distracting to those that are already performing.

One last piece of advice that is not musically related at all: figure out where the recital is being held and map out your route a few days before the performance. Recitals are often held at locations that you do not normally frequent so don’t rely on your (or your parent’s) GPS on the way to the recital. Remove this stress from the day of your performance ahead of time.
You have worked hard on your recital piece so take this opportunity to show off your hard work and enjoy the performance. Remember that everyone in the audience is on your side and wants to hear you succeed, so have fun.

By John Clark, Music Teacher, North Fulton School of Music – June 2nd 2014

John teaches piano, theory, and guitar at North Fulton School of Music in Alpharetta.

John plays keyboards in Band of Gold, the highest rated wedding band in Georgia. He specializes in rock and jazz styles, but also has a background in classical music. He has a passion for writing and loves to help students explore their creative side.  John has created music for a wide variety of projects including writing school chorus theme songs, arranging hymns in a jazz piano style, recording accompaniment tracks for singers, writing and recording children’s songs, and arranging for string ensembles. He is also well versed in MIDI, synthesizer programming, computer-based recording, and audio engineering.

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