The Benefits of Doing “Practice Recitals” Before a Performance

by Cassie Winterhalter on December 4, 2014

Photo credit: MIKI Yoshihito

Photo credit: MIKI Yoshihito

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful no matter what you ended up doing! I stayed in the area and enjoyed a delicious feast with my in-laws. While I was grateful not to have to prepare the entire meal, I was happy to contribute by making apple and pumpkin pies from scratch. Yum!

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, here at Winterhalter Music, our winter recitals are right around the corner in less than two weeks! I can’t believe it. 🙂 As each of our students gets ready to perform soon, I very very strongly advocate that they do what I call “practice recitals” before the big day. A “practice recital” involves a student playing through their entire piece from start to finish including bowing and going on even if they make a mistake. I’ll sit across the room to simulate the audience and sometimes we’ll invite parents or other family members in as well to listen.

For whatever reason, just pretending that the performance is a recital brings up things that don’t normally happen. All of my students do many of these with me in their lessons, and I also encourage them to do more during the week on their own. Doing these are so incredibly important and helpful prior to the recital day.

Here’s why:

  • You can get cozy with your thoughts and feelings

When you perform, even if it’s not the real performance– just a practice run, all kinds of thoughts and feelings pop up that don’t pop up when you’re practicing or playing in your lesson. You might feel nervous, scared, excited, pumped up, etc. just to name a few. You might also have thoughts enter your head like, “what if I make a mistake”, “I’m so nervous”, and so on.

If you’re not used to feeling these feelings or having the wild thoughts run through your mind, it might alarm you and distract you from what you’re doing. This distraction might cause you to make mistakes you don’t normally make.

When you do “practice recitals” you have the chance to get used to these feelings and thoughts and recognize that they are a normal part of the performing process. They will come every time to some degree. If you can get comfortable just noticing them, but not letting them bother you, they likely won’t bother you when the performance comes around.

  • You can get comfortable with your body’s reactions

Just like strange feelings and thoughts can pop up suddenly, so can bizarre bodily reactions. Personally just before a performance and often during, I feel butterflies in my stomach. I feel jittery all over. I feel like I can’t breathe as well, and I feel like I suddenly have to use the bathroom even if I just did. These types of bodily feelings among many others are completely normal. Just like getting used to the thoughts and feelings, getting used to the body reactions ahead of time will help to not let them scare you when they come up during the actual performance.

  • You can get your mistakes out of the way

I find that if I make mistakes on certain things in a “practice recital”, I generally don’t make those mistakes in a performance. I learn from my mistakes and go over any sections or passages that I had trouble with. Sometimes it’s a place I didn’t even know could cause me an issue. While I am embarrassed making these mistakes in front of my teacher or peers during the “practice recital”, it’s much much less embarrassing to get them out of the way and not make them in front of the entire audience watching me perform in the real performance.

  • Everything is amplified in a performance

The thoughts, feelings, bodily reactions, etc. are all amplified in a performance. That means they are stronger and more present. If you get used to everything that comes up on a lesser level, when it comes up on a greater level during the performance, it’s much more manageable.

Now I want to hear from you. Do you think doing “practice recitals” has helped you perform better in a live performance? If so, why? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. If you haven’t already, subscribe to the newsletter list and “like us” on Facebook. Have a wonderful December day!



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