A performance tip from the Suzuki method

Here’s a simple tip to make performing a little easier for you:

Instead of playing the piece you’re currently practicing or have just learned, play something that you’ve been able to play well for a while.

While this may sound obvious, it’s not.

Piano students all over the world routinely get nervous before piano recitals in which they are about to play their “new” piece. College students learn Beethoven sonatas and Charlie Parker tunes for their recitals. And at family holiday gatherings, young kids are pressed by their parents to “play your new song for Aunt Gertie.”

It’s all good, of course, and sometimes you’re really ready to play that new piece in public. But often, a new piece needs time to “sink” in. And besides, don’t Paul McCartney and Chick Corea play music they’ve been playing for a while? Yes, of course they do! Every professional does.

I hadn’t thought of this until my kids began taking Suzuki violin lessons at age 3 or 4. They have private lessons and take group classes, and while preparing for their end-of-year recital, their teacher told them that they couldn’t perform the piece they were currently learning. They had to choose one of their “old” pieces.

I thought this was brilliant!

It took all the unnecessary pressure off them, and they could relax a bit, knowing that they could already play the piece vey well. Doing this freed them up to focus on performing, instead of barely getting through a new piece in front of an audience.

Please take this viewpoint in the spirit in which it is intended. I’m not saying to never perform your newest piece in public. Rather, take all of these thoughts into account when planning your next public performance and you’re sure to play better, be more confident, and have more fun than ever. Good luck!

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