Post by: Summer Lusk
Getting ready for a recital can sometimes be a frustrating and downright nerve-wracking experience, but fortunately it does not have to be if you know how to set yourself up for success. There are a number of tools that you can utilize to help you get through the experience relatively stress-free. Here is a bit of a checklist designed to help you adequately prepare for any performances you may have in the future.
1. LEARN YOUR MUSIC WELL IN ADVANCE
Two to three weeks out from the recital, you should be able to play through your music fluidly with very few technical mistakes. If you know you will be playing with accompaniment, ensure you are familiar with that as well (enough that you can hum/sing the supporting line) and make it a point to frequently rehearse your recital repertoire with accompaniment in your music lessons — the more acquainted you are with your music, especially while playing with someone else, the less chances there are for uncomfortable surprises on stage.
Similarly, the more you play your pieces, the more comfortable you will be when it comes time to perform. If you can manage to set aside the time, one thing in particular that I highly recommend is to play through all your recital repertoire every hour, on the hour the day of the performance, beginning from the time you wake up. This might seem overwhelming at first, but after playing through the music such a significant number of times, you will feel a lot more secure about getting up on stage.
3. DIFFICULT PASSAGES
While you should be working on playing through your recital pieces from start to finish consistently, do not neglect to isolate and drill any passages that are giving you trouble. Oftentimes practicing the music backward — starting at the very end and working your way back towards to the beginning — is a good way of drawing attention to those spots that need a bit more care. Play slowly and deliberately whenever you are about to face something technically-difficult; I would also suggest doing some work with a metronome to ensure absolute rhythmic integrity.
4. SCORE STUDY
Another way to ensure that you are completely prepared for an upcoming recitals to study the music closely and intently in the days leading up to the performance. Search for some good recordings of your pieces, and as you listen to them, have your music in hand and follow along! Make sure you are acutely aware of such things like your starting pitch, what key you are playing in (is it major or minor?), how fast the tempo should be at the beginning, important fingerings/bowings/articulations, etc. If you happen to have any questions regarding the music, be as proactive as you can in bringing those to the attention of your music instructor.
5. LISTEN TO YOURSELF
As you practice and prepare for the recital, record yourself playing a few times. Audio recording is just fine, but seeing, as well as hearing yourself is an added benefit, so definitely try to record yourself on video too. This is actually one of the best ways of informing yourself on the kind of sound you should ultimately be producing, any tendencies you might have towards physical tension, as well as highlighting the areas that might not be working out as well as you thought. But on the flip side, you can also clearly identify the parts that have gotten better over time, which is always a grand feeling. Take care not to neglect this crucial step in recital preparation, as it is likely what you will learn from the most.
6. CASUAL PERFORMANCES
Before you get on stage for real, I think it is good idea to experience playing in front of an audience in a less formal setting. This way you will get the opportunity to navigate being nervous/performance anxiety, off-stage distractions, and other potential situations that might arise during a performance. I suggest finding some time to play your recital pieces for family and friends — invite some friends over after school for an impromptu concert, participate in an open-mic at your favorite local coffee shop, volunteer to play at church for the prelude or offertory, etc. All in all, there are a multitude of casual performance opportunities you can take advantage of; do not shy away from any possibilities if you desire to be fully prepared on stage.
7. INSTRUMENT MAINTENANCE (for string players only)
In the weeks leading up to the recital, make sure that you are completely caught up with all instrument maintenance — most importantly, check to see if the bow hair is black/sticky/overly thin towards the lower half of the bow and if so, arrange to get it rehaired at a luthier; also change any heavily-worn strings and try to keep an extra set of strings on hand as well. Doing this will ensure a great sound from your instrument, but minimal effort on your part!
8. FINAL TIPS
Lastly, besides practicing your recital music every hour, on the hour on the day of the performance, what else can you do to ensure you are absolutely ready? Well, first of all, please make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep the night before. This is more important than you might realize. You will need to be rested. Also try to gather all of your music and instrument accessories (mutes, rosin, shoulder rests, etc.) the evening before so you do not have to rush or search for anything on the way to the recital.
On the day of, consume mostly high-protein foods (they are fuel for your brain), but be careful not to eat a whole lot — an overly full belly in conjunction with anxiety/nervousness can be a recipe for disaster. Genuinely make time to do something that relaxes you and brings you joy. Arrive in good time and overall, do your absolute best to think positively. Realize that people are coming to the recital to support you, not critique you or judge you in any way. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, remember to enjoy yourself and have fun!