Trumpet Topics

Performance Preparation
(in retrospect)

High school solo contests will be coming up, auditions for entrance into a college music program may be coming up, and university "Jury Exams" could be just around the corner.  Perhaps now is an appropriate time to examine past performances to find clues which will help improve upcoming performances.

"What happened -- nerves?"

1. Over-prepare. The single most cause of anxiety is the lack of preparation. We must first be reassure "the little voice within our head" that we have no reason to be nervous.

2. Don't view your audience as an adversary. Remember, you are a performer; you're there to entertain and give musical pleasure to your audience.

"I played it better in the practice room."

1. Embouchure got cold waiting for the performance. Plan the warm-up so you're embouchure is optimally responsive at the downbeat. Have a practice mute handy to stay loose in case your performance time is delayed.

2. Intonation kept changing throughout the solo. Our pitch does tend to change, usually unpredictably, as we gradually tire throughout our performance. Pitch may go flat as air support diminishes. On the other hand, pitch may go sharp as the embouchure tires and we pinch to hit high notes. It's hard to predict what will happen to our pitch, so go on the assumption that your tuning slide is in the wrong place and constantly listen and adjust.

3. Unfamiliar with pacing requirements. Be sure to have daily "dress rehearsals" leading up to the performance.

4. Shallow breathing. Because of the inevitable performance tension, we always tend to take smaller breaths in performances than in practice. Always think to yourself: "breathe deeply".

5. Unsteady tempo. In the excitement of the performance, adrenaline tends to make the tempo rush. Think to yourself: "calm tempo".

6. Concentration lapse. Focus on your musical performance and block out extraneous distractions.

"How could I have prepared differently?"

Some suggestions for pre-performance preparation:

1. Develop a systematic practice routine with specific objectives for each segment.

2. Determine exactly what problems need practice in this piece: e.g. finger coordination, rhythm, embouchure set, etc.

3. Listen to recordings often. Saturate yourself with the sound of the musical flow of the work.

4. Try different methods of practicing the trouble spots: i.e. practice slowly to figure out strange patterns; practice short fragments up to tempo to feel the "flow"; start at the end of a passage and work backward, etc.

5. Record yourself. You can listen to the playback of a recording much more objectively than you can while you are actually playing.

6. Learn how to tune-up. You actually need to practice tuning up, just as you must practice the obvious technical hotspots.

7. Musicianship: The phrase should have constant direction, never a static dynamic. Practice maintaining a smooth, uninterrupted flow throughout your phrase.

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