Month: September 2010

Preparing For A Performance or An Exam (Part II)


The first thing you have to consider seriously is the selection of the piece(s) in your program. i.e. repertoire. Certainly you should choose what you love to play according to our ability. Students should play the early works of a composer first before tackling those late compositions. By this we can understand the stylistic development of that composer better and thus build up our skills on both technical and musical aspects gradually. Teachers should also expose their students to the lesser-known masterpieces but not just bound to those frequently played ones. Works like those by Rameau, Couperin, Hummel, Dussek and John Field are only handful ones of the vast field of the rarely-performed yet precious masterworks.

For the works you play in the concert or a diploma level exam, a clear and structural planning for that every particular piece should be worked out as early as possible. This should include the division of each section, the places for breathing, the ways of phrasing, the dynamic and emotional contrast, the specific fingering and so on. This helps to better understand the meaning in the music and improve your memorization too.

Daily technical exercises are extremely crucial as they form the technical basis of any single composition. Students should thus include some basic exercises to warm up well before they practice the pieces. The most basic ones can be scales, arpeggios and octaves; particular études like Chopin’s embrace both technical and musical demands. You can also make up some exercises from the pieces you are working on as well. These surely are useful for students to firmly establish their techniques for what they are going to perform in a recital or an exam.

Another aspect of being well prepared refers to solving the problem of memorization that most students are worried about. Many are afraid of memory slip during a concert or an exam. To avoid such problem, the way to memorize a piece is of utmost importance. Of course some of you are more gifted in memorizing a composition naturally, but still there are means to improve your memory. Some students are used to play a piece hundreds to even thousands of times to confirm that they know it really well, but this may not be enough. Studying the score visually without playing on the instrument is one way to affirm your memory of that piece. In fact, this not only helps with your memorization, but also other aspects of the music such as the dynamic contrast, the color or the tone of a particular phrase, the overall structure of the piece etc. Another way is to be able to listen to the whole piece from the beginning to the end play back in your head only without actually playing on the piano. This can definitely ensure the security of your memorization of the piece.

Preparing For A Performance or An Exam (Part III)

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Preparing For A Performance or An Exam (Part I)


You feel anxious when it is your turn to perform, in an exam or a recital. This is perfectly normal, but have you thought about the reasons why you are so nervous? And what can you do to ease the tension mentally and physically?

According to Barry Green and Timothy Gallwey, the authors of the popular book “The Inner Game of Music”, “The basic truth is that our performance of any task depends as much on the extent to which we interfere with our abilities as it does on those abilities themselves.” (p.23) An equation derived from this statement is:


with P referring to performance, p to potential, and i interference.

What they suggest here is that you can perform better if the interference is much reduced, to the greatest extent that your performance will finally equal to the potential you have. To give advice on the aspect of performance, the authors suggest that musicians should identify their self-interference, i.e. what makes us nervous during performance, such as doubting their ability, fearing loss of control, or being afraid of not practicing enough, etc., and the clues to indicate such interference. There are two different aspects of the symbols, one aspect is that responsible for physical problems, like sweaty hands, loss of breath, stiff bodily movement. The other aspect is for mental problems, like loss of concentration, feeling of distraction, and loss of memory. These problems that interfere your potential are usually caused by your Self 1, that tells you what you should or should not do, and that predicts your failure; whereas Self 2 is the self that expresses your potential and lets your true ability and musicality to express themselves in a relaxing, unthinking, yet aware state. Thus, if you can ignore the voice of Self 1, you can eliminate your own doubts and fears and then their physical and mental effects. Certainly, all of these need time to be practiced and thought thoroughly before they come into play. What the authors stress in the whole book is to feel easy and be self-confident in your own playing, e.g. to think of what you have done to prepare for your recital, to be just consciously aware of the process of your playing without critical judgement (Conscious Awareness), and to concentrate relaxingly (Relaxed Concentration). Any of you who are interested in such idea and the exercises behind it should read the book for better grasp of its philosophy.

The above opinion I have raised from this book seems not so relevant to the eleventh hour before one’s recital. Surely it is not. In my point of view, performers should be well prepared long before any performance or exam arises. And when you are in full preparation, you will be more confident to perform in front of people.

Then, what is the definition of “full preparation”?

Preparing For A Performance or An Exam (Part II)

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Clive Ngai: Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 101, First Movement

[anti-rclick]Clive Ngai plays Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op.101, first movement.

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Also watch Clive Ngai plays Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A Major, Op.101, 4th movement, “Allegro”

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