Prepare for a Performance Like a Pro – Adult Students Getting Into Performance: Part Three

This is the third in a series of blog posts designed to give some tips and a helping hand to adult students who are relatively new to performance

As with anything that is worth doing in life, I am afraid that there is no one secret answer to preparing for a performance. It’s about putting the right amount of work in leading up to the performance and following some relatively simple steps in the day or two prior up to the gig.

In the weeks leading up to the performance….

Practicing is the key tip here, and regular, sensible practice is the key. A little bit every day will do you much more good than one or two big fat practice sessions per week.

Sensible practice means don’t spend hours bashing through your pieces aimlessly. Plan out which are the more complex sticking points in our pieces and work the knots out of them. This kind of practice ensures that your hands and fingers are really on top of technical issues, and allows you to focus your attention on making music out of the notes.

Practicing in this way also acts to programme the music into your hands and fingers, using your body’s muscle memory. This gives your hands a kind of “auto pilot” when you’re performing – they’ve made the movements a hundred times or more so will be second nature when it comes to performance day.

Practice performing

Make sure you work performance practice into your practice sessions. Although it is not recommended to just play aimlessly through your piece or pieces, do run whole pieces or your whole programme with full musicallity and expression throughout, just as if you were performing them to an audience.

If you’re playing a selection of piece, or you’re playing a longer piece, this approach allows you to build stamina and pace yourself through a performance. It also allows you to understand where you may have to particularly concentrate.

Putting a piece back together, and playing all the way through once you’ve been working on more complicated sections gives you an appreciation of the works overall structure, and where the main climaxes and anti-climaxes are.

Where are you performing?

If you’re able to try and rehearse in the venue of your performance. This will enable you to hear how the guitar will sound in the space – I’ll bet it sounds quite a bit different to your bedroom or loungeroom.

This is not an essential, as it may not always be possible, but it just allows you to hear what your guitar and playing will sound like in the space, so you know exactly what it will sound like come performance time.

The day before the performance

This is the time to relax (or at least try too!). You’ve done all the hard work and practice. You can be rest assured that the body and brain has absorbed all the good work you’ve been putting in.

In the day before the performance, my top tips are:

  • Don’t practice too much; perhaps just run over one or two technical exercises, and more complex sections in the piece/s
  • The things that you do play, play them through things nice and slowly; don’t play up to tempo
  • Make sure you’re eating well – it’s hard to concentrate if you’ve not eaten enough (we’ve all seen the Snickers ads and we don’t want that to happen to us!)
  • Try and avoid too much caffeine – a nice camomile tea or similar before you go to bed that evening is good for settling you down
  • Rest well and go to bed nice and early


 Performance day

 Repeat the steps above! Plus:

  • Don’t have a drink from the bar until after the performance – adrenaline and alcohol are not the greatest of combinations. Same with caffeine really.
  • Have a good play and warm up about an hour or so before the performance is scheduled (but don’t play through the pieces; save your performance mojo!); then have a wee rest and give a quick 5-10mins final warm up.
  • If the place is cold keep your hands nice and warm – try mittens or gloves, a bowl of (not too) hot water, or I’ve even seen someone use a hairdryer on their hands!

Most importantly of all – do try and go about your normal preparation activities, as if you were just cracking out the guitar for a bit a strum at home. Which is essentially what you’re doing, just in a different location.



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