Do you have a playing quiz coming up? Here’s a checklist I recommend to help organize your practicing.
1. Check for accuracy.
This means double-checking notes, rhythms, and articulations. Are you playing all the right fingerings? Have you tried using a metronome to help you count? Why not play it in slow motion and make sure you’re tonguing where you need to and slurring where you’re supposed to?
2. How’s your style?
Make sure you’re emphasizing the dynamics and bringing out any accent markings. Remember that a difference that sounds big to you might not be as clear to a listener standing a few feet away. If you feel like you’re overdoing it, you’re probably doing it just enough!
3. How many times have you played it?
Remember that music isn’t something we understand in our minds – it’s something we do with our whole bodies. Just knowing how to play a piece doesn’t mean you can do it reliably each time. As a general rule, I’d play each excerpt at least 10 times a day for a week – then you’ll know you’ve really got it down!
4. Practice playing for an audience.
Find a human being and play the excerpts for them. This can be a parent, a friend, a neighbor… just someone that will give you some experience playing for a listener.
5. Visualize it going well – and then trust yourself in the moment.
When you’ve done all this preparation, you’re in a great position to do well! Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking – especially when you use visualization as a kind of mental practice that teaches you to feel calm in a performance situation.
6. Consider taking lessons.
Well, this might not be on my checklist exactly, but it’s a good idea to think about! One of the tricky things about playing tests is that they ask you to learn something new and then perform it in a situation where you’re getting a grade. But lessons will help you develop your technique to a level that whatever’s in a new piece isn’t new to you. If you’d like to take lessons with me, here’s how to get in touch!