Recital-ready? 20 Tips for Your Best Performance

play violin

Recitals can be fun, exciting, and scary experiences - all at once! They are a wonderful opportunity to develop your performance skills and share your musical expertise with friends and family.

Follow these twenty tips to be fully-prepared for your next on-stage performance!

1. Divide and conquer: With help from your teacher, divide your song up into different sections to tackle. Organize these sections as goals on a calendar, and check off the goals off as you meet them. Be sure to cushion the calendar with extra time at the end for additional and unexpected practice needs.

2. Memorize: Work on fully memorizing and really mastering the difficult points and the transitions. Put the music away for a couple of days so you can be sure you have it down pat. Then your printed music will feel like a cheat sheet!

3. Illustrate your song: One unusual but helpful memory-hack is to create a visual representation of your song. This is called elaboration. Sit down with the score and illustrate it! Draw scenes, people, animals, and actions for the different parts. Then you’ll have this added memory device. Alternately, try “loci” - a method of giving physical assignments to different parts of the song. Link the song to a familiar routine or route, such as getting ready for bed or walking to the park. Visualize each part of the song linked to a different part of your route, and you’ve created a mapped memory of it!

4. Practice being “on”: Prepare for being in front of people as much as you can. It’s a different sensation than just playing for yourself. Play your song for family and friends, and record yourself performing and then watch it. This will highlight spots where you are uncomfortable or nervous, and you can practice accordingly. And, come performance day, It won’t feel as strange to play for a live audience.

5. Be okay with mistakes: Don’t expect perfection from yourself. The point of performing is to share your music with others. Your parents and the audience don’t expect perfection from you - they want you to have fun! The real accomplishment is that you worked hard and did it. Use any mistakes to strategize for your next performance.

6. Check out other takes: Listen to other recordings of your song. You might be surprised and inspired by different takes on the same music! And you’ll come to understand your piece better.

7. Mix it up: Practice starting at different points in the song. This will allow you to gain a better mastery of the song.

8. Safeguard your performance: Establish rescue and re-entry points in your song in case you get lost while performing. Ask your teacher to help you do so if needed. Practice starting at those points so you’re ready for any memory slips!

9. Practice with accompaniment: If you’re playing along with someone else, or to a track, be sure to practice the song in that context! If there’s not a lot of opportunity to get together, consider getting an accompaniment app such as Metronaut or Appcompanist.

10. Move around: Try to practice in different rooms and locations, at different times and on different days. Get used to different seats, lighting, acoustics and environments. Try playing first thing in the morning, right after school, before bed, and so forth. This will develop your ability to adapt and still play your best!

11. Throw yourself off: Prepare for the worst by playing through tricky circumstances. Play your piece in a poorly lit room, next to a blaring tv or radio, or in an uncomfortable chair. Develop coping strategies that you can use if something goes wrong on recital day.

12. Experiment: Play around with your song’s rhythm, tempo, phrasing, and so on. This will not only help you get familiar with the song, but will allow you to develop your own signature take on the piece.

13. Ask questions: If you’re worried about playing on stage, ask your teacher about what it’s like. Maybe they’ll have tips for you! They can also explain what it feels like and how to deliver your best performance.

14. Anchor your music: Laminate your music sheets or lock them into a notebook so you’re sure they’ll stay put. Have extra copies on hand just in case, even if they’re on a phone.

15. Deep-dive: Practice intensely in the final couple of weeks leading up to the performance. Try to play your piece multiple times a day so that it’s stuck in your head! Make mastery the goal.

16. Map out your day: Know the recital location and parking options. Allow yourself time to be a little early, and plenty of time to get ready beforehand. If possible, visit the space in advance so you know what it’s like.

17. Outfit prep: Pick out your outfit and shoes ahead of time and make sure you’re comfortable wearing them. Don’t leave those big decisions to the last minute and create undue stress.

18. Deep breaths: Understand that nerves and anxiety are normal and felt by almost everyone. Have a set of strategies to cope with that so you’re not caught off guard such as deep breathing, focusing, and proper posture. These will help you regain your composure and inner peace.

19. Engage your audience: Remember that the audience is not there to judge you, but to be a part of the musical experience. You are providing them with a special performance. Smile and give off positive energy. As long as you give it your best and try to have fun, they will enjoy it!

20. Support others: Make it a point to applaud the performances of others. The more of a friendly vibe you create, the better off everyone will be! You’re all in it together.

With these twenty tips we hope you feel prepared for your best performance yet! If you have your own surefire tactics for recital preparation, please leave them in the comments below - we’d love to hear them!

recital play music

Content Credit: John Kline Piano