Perform to your peak with words and music

You’ve put in the hard work with practice – playing or speaking your pieces over and over. Now comes the real test. What will others – your audience at a public performance or the person who auditions you  – think?

Time your arrival at a peak

Timing is essential. Sometimes we are puzzled that, in spite of enormous efforts, progress on a work goes backwards. If we labour over a piece for months on end, it may become tired and stale, resisting all efforts. Discuss with your teacher whether it has already reached and passed its peak. Is there time to let it rest for a few weeks before the performance? In dire circumstances, you and your teacher may decide to beat a tactical retreat. Choose a fresh piece with a new set of challenges. In the meantime, you will be refreshed by playing another piece. You will be surprised how the staleness falls away when you return to the first piece.

Success with recitals and exams
Pitfalls are lessened if you know the music thoroughly – both your part and, equally importantly, the accompaniment. Listen to recordings and live performances of the work. Practise from the full score so you can see how the parts interlock.

Before you rehearse with piano
Think before the first rehearsal: Where would you need an emergency breath in performance? Can you manage it all in one breath? (Or, for string players, a different bowing?) What works easily at home may be less comfortable in performance.
Where is each phrase heading? It’s got to have a direction! If you just mooch through the piece it will be dead boring.
Big picture work
Play through the whole piece several times without stopping so you see it as a whole and develop stamina.
Play dummy-runs to parents, friends, to Grandma who thinks you’re SO clever.
Success breeds more success. Enjoy!

10 tips to perform words or music

speakoutmediumThe moments before a performance are your launch pad. Then, you can make a crucial difference between maintaining calm control or succumbing to blind panic. You need to learn to slow down on your launch pad, to resist the impulse to rush on and tumble headlong into an incoherent performance.

Assemble your own check-list from these suggestions:

1. Sit comfortably, visualise transferring all your nervous energy away from the tense part of your body (e.g. the jaw or fingers) down into your toes. 

2. Think “toes, toes, toes” and your jaw/fingers relax. Give your hands about twenty vigorous shakes.

3. Sip some water or rinse your mouth. 

4. Think “I feel fine, my fingers and shoulders are relaxed, I am in good form. The audience will like me.”

5. Turn down the volume of those nagging voices in your head. Instead, focus on the outcome you desire – to inspire, to entertain, to win.

6. Warm your hands and fingers by relaxed movements, stretching or other gentle exercise. Limber up as athletes do, starting with easy, relaxed actions, then
increase the challenge as your muscles loosen up. Water and heat are excellent therapies.
Cold contracts muscles, causing tension. Remember how reluctantly limbs move when we play in draughty halls in winter?

When performing in northern Sweden, often above the Arctic Circle, I learned to thaw my cold fingers under the dressing-room hot taps, the warmth relaxing my muscles. Alternatively, bring gloves or a hot-water bottle.

7. Turn those fidgets to good use! Waiting backstage, many feel the urge to fidget. Perhaps we should adopt the Mediterranean habit of fiddling with worry beads – a more healthy distraction than a cigarette.

8. Stretch. Stand against a wall to ensure upright posture.

9. Imagine “I am the greatest”. Assume a confident, positive face. Smile.

10. Breathe. Slow down.

                         You’re on. Be the greatest you can. Have fun!

Excerpt from Speak Out – Don’t Freak Out by Ruth Bonetti Available on Kindle

Tips to ace exams & auditions

Recitals may seem confronting, but the presence of a live audience usually buoys us along. Subconsciously, even consciously, we respond to the interest and empathy from our listeners that may spur us on to play at even higher levels. But what of exams? And auditions for musicians and actors?


An audition or exam is often in a small room, where scribbling of comments seems painfully obvious. In our highly sensitised state, we often assume they’re writing “Mistake in bar 5” when they may be praising our great projection or fluent finger work!

Or a panel?

Auditions – the equivalent of a job interview – are a trial for both the musicians undergoing them and for the audition panel. Unfortunately, no better method has been found to assess talent, except occasionally a trial period, if a player’s background and reputation warrants. An audition can only artificially duplicate the atmosphere of a concert, as the specialised listeners are there solely to judge rather than to be entertained. But if they can be entertained in the process, so much the better; they are only human after all!

Who hears us?

On the one hand, the performer is keyed up and nervous, hoping to meet the highest standard on the day. On the other hand, the panel usually consists of hardened professionals who have heard it all before and hope that this one will be worth listening to when so many are not!

How to impress

Panellists do want to hear a good performance, one that will make them sit up and listen. They don’t want to be bored and embarrassed by your work. To the extent that you can hold their attention, you’ve got a chance of getting the job! They seek the best talent that they can engage and they are not concerned with your ego or belief that you should be the successful appointee. They will probably not be aware of the standard you are capable of reaching, though if their intuition suggests you could do better, they may ask you to repeat a passage or to try again at a later date.”

Keep trying

For eight months, Bette Midler auditioned for the same Broadway show, Fiddler on the Roof, every time there was a vacancy. Eventually she got a temporary place in the chorus, which gave her the advantage of knowing the production inside out when she auditioned for a star role successfully. From then, the sky was her limit.

Excerpt from Confident Music Performance 

         With solid preparation, positive attitude and a clear head, you can impress!