It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of an upcoming performance. Practice sessions can be in danger of becoming a series of “play throughs” with very little in-depth work on improving the details. Here are three practice strategies which will help you prepare a performance. You will slow down your practice sessions and do significant work even in the days right before you take the stage.
- Choose the top 3-5 places in your piece which still give you concern or which don’t feel quite as solid. Dedicate a full 15 minutes to each segment per practice session. Usually a weaker moment in the piece is simply suffering from being several paces behind the rest of the piece in readiness. There are always places which require more work than others. As the performance date gets closer, it often gets harder to dedicate significant amounts of time to one passage when a greater focus on the overall preparation for the performance comes into play.
- Overlap bowing is a really great technique for improving intonation. This means playing a note, repeating the note, slurring it to the next note, repeating that note, and then slurring it to the next one. However, if you are ever unsatisfied with the intonation of the second note in the slur, repeat the note and backtrack to the preceding note. Repeat the preceding note and slur it again to the previously out-of-tune note, hopefully, this time placing the finger correctly. If you are happy with the note, play it again and slur it to the next note. This practice method removes the rhythm, phrasing, and articulation. It removes all the temptation to play through musically. It’s another way to slow down practice and move your intonation forward in a big way.
- Metronome practice at a tempo much slower than the performance tempo provides your brain time to recall all the necessary elements for perfect execution. You can also reverse this technique and practice the piece at a tempo which is faster than performance tempo. Fast practice will show you where there might still be weaknesses. These spots can then be targeted for the longer practice sessions suggested in number one.