These days when I head out for my daily run, I’m usually plodding off into the dark after tucking our girls into their very warm and very snuggly beds. These runs once earned a higher place in my daily schedule and involved episodes of intense training, but they have now become a casual trot with a good audiobook in my ear.
Which is pleasant…
But I still miss the thrill of a race and the challenge of preparing to be my best. One day, I’ll be in race shape again, but for now I’m going to have to be content with helping your piano students enjoy the challenge of a performance and the preparation that it takes to deliver a memorable one.
A Runner’s Guide To The Perfect Piano Performance
Here are 6 tips from a seasoned runner… that apply quite well to a piano student in performance-prep mode:
1. Begin Training Well in Advance
Just as one month is not enough time to prepare for a 10K, beginning a piano piece one month before a recital will not make for a perfect performance. Given that your piano lessons should also involve composing, theme months, skill development and lead sheets, four piano lessons are not enough to fit everything in without turning the lessons into a major cram-fest and abandoning all the little extras that make lessons fun.
2. Don’t Go For Broke On Day 1
Diving full force into a performance piece will inevitably cause instant fatigue. It’s like the brand new runner in his bright white, brand new shoes with a fancy stopwatch who shows up to the track on the first day to plough through some serious interval training; come tomorrow he won’t be able to get off the couch. Instead, introduce a new piano piece in tidy little sections, making sure that the piece itself does not dominate the lesson.
3. Preparation Doesn’t Have To Involve The Piece
When I train for a 10K, I don’t run 10 kilometres every time I head out the door. Some days I go to the track, some days I run hillsprints, and other days I hit the trails and run just for fun. As your piano students build up to their performance date, include warm-ups and technical work that support their piece, play games that reinforce challenging concepts within the piece, and sometimes play an entirely different piano piece… just for fun!
4. Gradually Work Towards The Performance
Runners (especially marathoners) rarely run the entire race distance before their race… instead, week after week they work up to the race distance. And while piano students should definitely play their piece in its entirety prior to the performance (many times), they should still follow a pattern of building towards the recital… being sure that their motivation and excitement for the piece does not peak too early.
5. And While We’re Talking About Peaking Too Early…
Don’t be afraid to take a bit of a break from the performance piece a few weeks prior to the recital. Don’t avoid the piece altogether, but if you and your students are getting to the point where the performance piece is now taking up most of the piano lesson, cut back for a week. Give your piano students time to re-energize before the final kick towards the recital.
6. And Finally, Teach Mental Preparedness
Professional athletes will tell you that they still get the jitters before their big day, and you can bet each and every one of your piano students is going to be nervous on recital day. Help your students mentally prepare by helping them to visualize what the stage will look like… how they get on the stage, where the piano will be located, where in the performance their turn will fall etc. There will be enough to worry about on recital day as it is without having to be concerned about which set of steps should be ascended to reach the stage.
If Practice Fatigue Sets In…
Print out several activities from our resource Shhhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice and send a few home each week leading up to the recital. These exciting, zany, and quirky practice strategies will ensure your piano students are practicing each and every day!