The Playground

The Simply Music blog

The 5 P’s of Performing

Found in: Coaching

Performing is at the heart of the musical experience for most budding musicians. There are few better feelings than the joy of sharing a favorite song with an audience, especially when you hear that applause! Even if you don’t want to become the next superstar, performing is one of the best learning experiences you can have. You’ll come away from each and every performance a better musician.

As your teacher has no doubt told you many times, preparation is the most crucial step in ensuring the best performance.

Once your piece is memorised with all the details in place, you might be feeling pretty confident, but Leila Viss has some further valuable advice for ensuring the peak performance experience. Here she shares the first of her three essential elements to performing. Check her website to learn about her other two performance tips!

music musical musician key keys stops stop play perform entertain entertainment tune pianist main hall theatre concert concert hall performing public performance public performances show shows concerts concert halls light lighting illumination illuminated


Prepare to Perform

Group lessons are the perfect opportunity for peers to test the readiness of an upcoming performance. Besides each pianist playing a well-rehearsed piece, all follow and help each other memorise these components surrounding the performance. The routine encourages students to enter into the desired “performance zone” with a simple ritual. Here’s how I explain it to future performers:

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-01   Posture

Check the bench: If it’s too close or too far, stand up and move it to the position that allows for your feet to remain flat on the floor and within a close range of the pedal if needed. A good way to position yourself correctly is to stretch your fists to the fall board with straightened arms.

Look for the pedal: It’s SO frustrating when half way through a performance you realize you’re pressing the wrong pedal. Feel free to tip your head to locate the damper pedal with your eyes. Never assume the ball of your foot will find the correct pedal by itself.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-02   Prepare

Locate the correct keys: Use middle C as a marker to help locate the correct placement of hands.

Check in with the minds ear: Imagining the sound of the beginning of the piece will help you set the correct tempo.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-03   Perform

Get in the zone: Beginning a performance with these first two “P’s” should help you feel at ease and remain confident on the bench despite the pressure of the performance. In addition, this is a good time to remember to get yourself into the “zone”.

Camera ready: What is this “zone”? It’s hard to explain, but it’s about getting your mind into a state where you’re really focused on the task. Perhaps the best way for you to experience it is by recording several run-throughs of a piece with a camera. Taking a video closely simulates the pressure of a live audience and can help you find the focus needed to move through a performance successfully.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-04   Pride

Smile: Playing a musical instrument is an achievement. Performing on a musical instrument in front of others is a major feat that should make you beam with pride. This is not the time for a stern face or even a show of disappointment despite a possible less than perfect performance. Forgive yourself of any biffs and enjoy YOUR moment.

Recover: Making mistakes is human but recovering from them with grace qualifies as a stellar performance. In addition, no one in the room could have played it better than you!  A warm smile exuding your pride in what you shared at the keys is a gift to your audience and yourself.

Playground_#Icons_60x60px-05   Polite

Take a bow: It’s a natural response for an audience to show appreciation for a performance with applause. The dazzle of bright lights and deafening cheers may rattle you some. Be ready to receive your glowing support by being polite and acknowledging the applause with a bow.

Cut yourself in half with an arm, or place your hand on the nearby piano, bend over and slowly say “hippopotamus” while looking down at your toes, then return to your normal stance. THEN stand up tall and retrieve any books from the piano rack.