This post is going to be a loooong one! But I make no apologies for it. I have found that this list of tips to improve a performance has been an invaluable way to help my students through their “block”. So listed below are 50 tips to use, they are listed under each of the 6 Concepts of Music, plus there are some tips for stage skills. Don’t forget to like the post if you find it helpful!
- Ensure that you have the correct tuning for the piece that you will perform, get in the habit of checking your tuning before every piece you play
- Rehearse technical scales every day!!!!
- Play scales and warm up exercises before you rehearse your pieces
- Know the key that you are performing in
- Make sure that the melody is always easily heard in the piece
- Be careful with phrasing—use the phrasing to your advantage, is it where you take a breath/bow differently/change performance technique?
- Make sure you sustain the end note of phrases for their full value and try adding something to colour the note—vibrato? dynamic?
- Repeated notes in a melody should always be treated differently—think about how you can achieve this—dynamics, length of note change, staccato/legato?
- Pay attention to the moments when there are changes in pitch in your piece– this may be an opportunity to change tempo? Dynamics? Texture?
- Know your accompanying music inside out and back to front—make a recording of the ensemble without your part and rehearse with it
- Be careful about the balance between melody and accompaniment
- Ensure that all parts of the ensemble are at the same standard as you
- Find the tempo that is right for you, when you find it record yourself playing it so you can refer back to it
- Make sure that every rhythmic motive is played consistently throughout your performance
- Rehearse pieces that rhythmically challenge you to help you improve your technical skills
- Try using rubato in a piece, if works keep it , if doesn’t that’s ok too
- Make decisions about where in your piece you need a definite and string beat, and in other sections it could be more subtle or smooth
- When performing in a homophonic texture the rule is—melody strongest, bass line clear and the other instruments slightly quieter
- If performing a polyphonic texture, the main part at it’s introduction should be the loudest and clearest
- Think about ways to vary your texture—should there be changes in the number of layers? Could there be changes of the roles of the instruments performing?
- Ensure you have a very clear and definite order of instrument entry in the piece—you need to be the leader and should take charge of the ensemble
Dynamics & Expressive Techniques
- Always exaggerate dynamic contrast in a piece—try not to stay at the same level all the way through the piece!
- Make sure you have a clear plan of what dynamic level each section is to be performed—let your ensemble know what this is
- Rehearse the hardest parts to play to make sure you have consistency—make the sift parts all still very clear and defined, and the loud parts don’t have to be fast!!
- Be aware of how dynamic changes make you and your instrument sound—vocalists don’t want to get loud and flat at the same time!!! Work on intonation and tempo
- Ensure that you create contrasting sections in technique— BUT only if appropriate!
- Always have a clear plan of the structure of your piece
- Mark changes in sections on your music—and make sure your ensemble knows what these are as well
- Think about ways that you can use structure to your advantage—repeating some sections that you are good at, removing parts that you are not so good at!
- Always tune before each piece
- Make sure you have good posture and a strong stance/seated position in performance
- Check the balance before you begin the piece—make sure you can be heard and are not being drowned out
- Choose pieces carefully—make sure they suit both your performance level and instrument
- Make sure your part in the ensemble is the most interesting part! Be the star in the piece and not the background
- If the piece does not suit your range—change the key to suit you
- Be careful to overuse a particular technique— only strumming basic chords on a guitar for example, or only singing in your chest voice, try some variations even if it means not staying true to the original version of the song
- If you play the guitar—try using effects pedals or different techniques for different sections of the music
- Make a clear plan of the techniques and changes you will use on your music and rehearse with these ideas in mind so that it becomes second nature to you
- Rehearse in the space you will be doing your exam in as often as you can
- Rehearse with the equipment you will be using in the exam, in the space, as often as possible
- Rehearse your body movement before a performance so that you are comfortable during the performance and it is second nature to you
- Know exactly where each of the ensemble and yourself will stand in the space
- Try to perform from memory without music in front of you
- Present yourself in appropriate clothing— nothing too revealing, too tight or restrictive; clothes that are without holes, hair brushed, shoes clean, etc…—make a good impression
- Tune properly before each performance and check the sound levels of the ensemble for balance
- Warm up before the performance, do not play the pieces over and over before the exam—you want to be fresh
- During the performance don’t forget to interact with your ensemble and the audience
- Don’t stress over little mistakes—we all make them in a performance
- Remember that if you look like you are enjoying the performance, your audience will too!
- Have fun!
If you would like, you can purchase this set of 50 Tips, along with some really helpful exercises, for $3 at my TPT store.
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Until next time
Julia from Jooya