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Preparing for a concert performance

Concert preparation for violinist and violists

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

The famous words of Benjamin Franklin sum up nicely the importance of solid preparation for violinists and violists in the lead up to a performance.

Yes, we’ve all heard the stories of great musicians who, having heard or seen a piece of music just once, were able to perform it flawlessly but for most of us that approach is more likely to lead to spontaneous combustion than performance perfection.

But what does concert preparation involve and is it the same for everyone?

In broad terms concert preparation essentially involves:

  • Developing technical mastery and muscle memory
  • Ensuring your musical interpretation is sound and the music is committed to memory
  • Mastering techniques for coping with nerves and the unexpected

There are some really dependable techniques that can help strengthen these aspects of performance preparation but each individual will also find their own additional aids. So, what can I work on for my next performance?

Muscle memory denotes those brain to muscle connections for certain movements that are so strong and familiar they happen almost automatically. Having the technical aspects of your pieces really under your control will increase your confidence especially when concert nerves kick in.

Even the technical mastery of Jascha Heifetz didn’t just arrive at birth: he worked hard to perfect his technique through scales, studies, and other exercises. There is no shortcut to developing this aspect of concert preparation.

But there is also a strange paradox in concert preparation: rest from practice is also critical. Sometimes a walk beside a river can be more beneficial than another hour’s grind at the instrument.

Time away from the instrument can also be a precious opportunity to play with visualisation or to simply enjoy singing your pieces while you dance under the trees. It might sound crazy but after all we do ‘play’ the violin or viola and taking a break from the instrument can really help you develop your interpretation.

Nerves affect even the greatest of musicians but that nervous energy can also breathe life into your performance. The key to coping with nerves is learning to harness that energy.

Knowing your pieces and your violin or viola so well that they feel an intimate part of you is another important step to overcoming nerves but body awareness tools such as breathing meditation, Tai Chi, the Alexander Technique can also help channel your mental energy to where it needs to go.

Whether you are an adult beginner violinist, a viola teacher looking to help your students, an advanced amateur violinist, or a professional violin or viola player Pro-Am Strings free live online class, ‘How to practice for a performance’ will give you some real world tools to help you share the joy of music making in your next performance.

Join us as Henriette de Vrijer, your online violin/viola teacher, shares some priceless tried and tested tools for enhancing your performance preparation.