Posts about performing music, recitals, concerts. Topics could cover stage fright, how to have a good recital, etc.

How we think about musical mistakes has a huge impact on how we practice, how we learn, how we perform.

One student told me that when she makes a mistake, it’s like falling off a bicycle. Another said it’s like finding herself down the wrong path in the woods. Still another says it’s like tripping on a tree root while hiking. Or like hitting the wrong floor button in an elevator.

Or is it like dropping tomato sauce on a white sleeve, or dropping the wrong ingredient in a recipe? Maybe it’s like saying the wrong word in the middle of a speech, or like missing a fly you’re trying to swat.

Choosing a response

Each of these possible ways to think of musical mistakes implies a completely different response. It may well be that each of your students thinks of mistakes a very different way and therefore responds differently to them.

Do you want a student to feel derailed by a mistake and have to start over, hoping to get it right the next time? Or should they catch themselves after tripping and keep hiking?

Is a musical mistake sometimes equivalent to having taken the wrong trail, and if so, do we start over, or go back 20 feet, or do we go back to a meaningful fork in the trail and choose the right path?

If we hit the wrong button on the elevator, are we humiliated, get out and wait for another elevator, or do we hit the correct button without thinking twice? Is making a mistake like a stain we can’t clean, or a wrong ingredient that ruins the flavor of a recipe–or is it a mispronounced word that is forgotten as the flow of ideas moves forward?

The Donut or the Hole?

Some students seem so worried about hitting the wrong note or making a bad sound that they sound like they are tiptoeing through the music, afraid of being mugged by a mistake. Since there are always going to be mistakes,  [···]

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What is the atmosphere of your recitals? Is it a constructive experience for students?

When I was 5, I played in my first recital. The academy of music where I took piano lessons required several recitals a year from every student. One or two of them were more informal, in the huge attic of the very large house that served as the academy’s home, and then there was the end-of-year recital, which seemed enormous to a kid. It was held at a church, with lots of players and a big audience, and a scary walk to the piano–but there were printed programs with our names and pieces in them, and we got to be called up individually to receive our annual pins, showing how many years we’d been studying.

My own students do their own kind of “recitals” which I will explain, but I’ve also been to recitals as a parent of kids taking music lessons–some recitals have been well put together, and some not so well done.

Let’s look at a few kinds of recitals and what seemed to make them work or not work–for me, anyway. Hopefully this will jog your thoughts and perhaps you might think of ideas for freshening up your own studio recitals in some way. As always, we all appreciate comments added to these posts, which shed some light on your thoughts and experiences in putting on recitals.

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Would you say playing (or singing) music is more mental or more physical? Student (and teacher) perceptions of this can color how we practice and play an instrument (including the vocal chords).

Do we mentally make fingers do what they need to do, or physically drill them so they do the work for us? How we balance the ebb and flow between mental and physical tells a lot about how we and our students practice and learn.

[Before we discuss this, I want to invite you to review teacher comments by Sherie, Chris, and an extensive response from Toby, all on Payments & Cancellation Policies; from Betty on How to Get Connected; and a controversy presented by Jeff commenting on Finding Students For You, with explanations by two online companies represented by Brian and Steve.]

Below are some student examples, and maybe a surprise conclusion, which I hope provide food for thought. I don’t have scientific answers about the balance of mental and physical in playing music, but by thinking about this, we certainly can benefit in terms of practical ideas for learning and teaching.


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