Games to help practice performing

The best way to improve performance is to perform, the key is to practice performing. Essentially, the more you perform the better you get at coping with the additional stress you are under when playing to an audience. Take every opportunity to perform to others whether the audience is big or small. If you want to practice performing before you actually get out on the stage there are a couple of games you can play during practice that help you.

Moving pencil practice game

This game is very simple, but it gives you a quick and visual reference to how often you are making mistakes when you are playing. It also gives you a clear target to achieve.

Take a pencil and place it on the left hand side of your music stand or piano desk.
There are three possible positions for the pencil. Left hand side, middle and right hand side. When the pencil is moved off the desk you have won the game.

  • Choose a section, or a whole piece if you are feeling brave.
  • Play through.If you make a mistake the pencil stays where it is. If you play totally correctly the pencil moves to the middle
  • Play again. If you play totally correctly, it moves to the right. Incorrectly, it moves back down to the left.
  • Keep going until the pencil is moved off the stand. You will have played your piece or section four times in a row totally correctly when this happens.

What is 100% correct?

n this game you define what you need to achieve to move the pencil. In a totally new piece your target may be 100% correct notes. This may even mean you are allowed to stop and work out notes as you go with no penalty, as long as each one is correct. At a later stage you could be aiming for 100% correct notes and timing and finally when you practice performing before a concert you would have to have 100% correct notes, timing, dynamics, articulation and play at an appropriate tempo. You decide the target.

This game is useful for evaluating how near performance standard a piece is at any time. If the pencil keeps moving between the first and second positions it is clear you need to use some other practice method to learn the notes before moving on to this one. ,b>If the pencil keeps moving between second and third positions, it could be that you are losing focus because you are trying so hard to get it right at that point to win the game. Let go. Focus on one single aspect of your playing, other than the notes. Try listening carefully to the dynamics or tone of your instrument. If you keep finding you are moving between second and third positions ask your teacher about reading The Inner Game of Music which addresses many problems associated with problems of concentrating so hard on getting it right that it goes wrong. If the pencil is moving smoothly 1 - 2 - 3 - off your piece is ready as you are playing it correctly time after time. This is the position you need to be in before a performance. It means the piece is totally secure and it is less likely the extra performance nerves will affect it negatively.

This game doesn't have to be used to practice perfomorming only. It is also a great game to use to check if a piece or section is ready for your next lesson as there is also extra pressure on you in lessons that sometimes means you make mistakes which weren’t there in your practice!

Climb the ladder to practice performing

This game is a great way to evaluate your playing before a performance. It may be used to evaluate an entire piece or a section. Use this a couple of weeks before a performance so you have time to fix any issues it throws up!

  • Choose a piece or section of a piece that you need to practice performing.
  • On a sheet of paper draw a ladder with seven rungs and put a small piece of BluTak on the bottom rung. Play through the piece or section you are evaluating.
  • If you play 100% correctly you move up one rung, if not, you move down one. You never have to get off the bottom rung of the ladder entirely though!
  • Keep playing through the section, moving up one rung for 100% correct and down one for anything less.

You have to reach the top rung to win the game. You can pause the game any time to fix particular problems you are having and go back to the same position on the ladder.
Be very sure about the sections you practice performing like this before you start, and make sure you have plenty of time available to reach your target! This one isn’t for everyone... It can be VERY frustrating when you are on wrung six and suddenly end up back on the first rung again!
This happens because playing through when you are on rung six and about to finish is very different from playing through on rung one or two, especially if you have been up and down a few times and you are eager to reach the target. People tend to lose focus because they are concentrating so hard on getting it right that it goes wrong. Down to rung five. No problem... just HAVE to get it right this time... concentrate on getting it right... and of course it goes wrong again. Down to rung four. It is a very short trip to the first rung from there as you become frustrated with yourself and that interferes with your playing further...

When playing this game be sure to focus on the music, not the fact you have to get it right! The ladder game goes some way towards simulating the different pressures we are under during a performance so if useful to practice performing... but not if you end up breaking your instrument in frustration! Remember you can get off and practice a smaller section that is giving you difficulty at anytime and get back on in the same place. Just make sure you handle with care!

Expert Practice Secrets

practice makes perfect by simon horsey

Frustrated with your practice? Read Practice Makes Perfect and hack the 10,000 hour rule. Cut your practice time by up to 25%! Make faster progress, learn pieces and scales faster, memorize more easily, and much more. "If you play an instrument you need this book!"

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