Preparing for a musical performance, whether instrumental or vocal, can be a daunting task. Not only do you have to know your performance piece perfectly, you need to have your nerves under control and be well rehearsed in the performance aspects of your piece, not only the technique and skill you require.
So how do you prepare for a musical performance? First, true preparation begins long before you even know you are going to perform. It involves the discipline of practicing the basics. Instrumental or vocal exercises and scales are a part of performance preparation that you cannot ignore. No matter how successful you become, you will still have to practice the basics.
If you are a performing as a part of an orchestra, choir or for a music exam you will probably not have a choice in what you perform. However, if you are performing as an individual you may well be able to choose your own music or song. If this is the case, your choice can play a big part in how your performance is accepted. Make sure your selection suits your voice and the tone of the evening. Don't choose heavy rock if the evening is classical. Get advice from people who have experience in performance and give them a few alternatives.
Once you know what composition or song you will be performing, you will also need to practice it. Some sections of the music will be more demanding than others and will need to be practiced more often. It can be very daunting trying to learn a new song or a new score as a complete piece. The learning process can be made easier if it is broken up into manageable chunks. However, you have to manage your time effectively for this to work well. Design a schedule that will allow you enough time after learning the piece it in its entirety as many times as necessary.
Often, the process of preparing for a musical performance can be eased by listening to someone else play or sing your selection. This is often discouraged by music and singing teachers as it can interfere with your own interpretation. However, if you listen to a number of different performances you can benefit from hearing the different nuances of others performances as well as gaining an insight into how you might approach your own performance.
If you will be accompanied by a pianist, try to get some practice time in with the accompanist. This is very valuable because how you work with an accompanist can be a function of both your experience and their experience. Don't trust that all pianists are equally experienced in responding to what a performer is doing. Be proactive and do what you can to practice with the same accompanist who will be performing with you.
An often unrecognized aspect of preparing to perform is that of physical, mental and emotional health. Performing can be very stressful and during the preparation period musicians and vocalists may be tempted to practice at the expense of diet, exercise and sleep. This is a mistake. You will be better served by taking care of your health and managing the preparation period wisely.
If nerves are a particular problem, avoid stimulants such as caffeine. Bach flower remedies, particularly Rescue Remedy, can be helpful in alleviating performance anxiety. Exposing yourself to a wide range of audiences by performing under different circumstances, receiving and responding to feedback, can help you get your nerves under control through practice. You will probably not get rid of them completely, but learning to manage them will aid you significantly in your major performance. If you want to become a good performer, you need to take every opportunity to perform. Don't just limit yourself to major events, be proactive and organize to sing at a range of venues in order to improve your performance presentation.
You've heard the story of the tortoise and the hare. If you manage your performance preparation like the tortoise, steady as she goes, instead of magnificent initial showing like the hare then burning yourself out, you will have the best chance of being well prepared for your musical performance.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of musicianhome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.