Monday, May 12, 2014

Recital in Review

Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of presenting a recital at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale. While I haven't yet heard any recordings yet, I'm satisfied with my playing. It wasn't perfect, but I'm okay with that.

As I was preparing for this, I thought quite often about the "how" of the process. How many times should I run my entire program? How should I arrange the music on the program? How many programs should I print? I also began to think about what others thought of this process, so I asked. I created a survey and put it on my Twitter and asked you to share your perspective, and 38 people shared their opinions! Here's what I found, and I'll add my own thoughts as well. I do want to note that every question was multiple choice, so the results don't fall into neat percentages.

First, I wanted to know how repertoire is picked:
I pick music that I like.
67.57%
25

I try to pick music that my audience will enjoy.
45.95%
17

Anything, really.
24.32%
9

Always new music!
13.51%
5
Total Respondents: 37

I tend to go for a mix of all of these. For this recital, I picked works that I had been wanting to perform for a long time, some of which I thought would also be audience pleasers. There were also a couple works I chose because I felt they were important for me to perform as a musician and flutist. For example, I had never performed a work with extended techniques, so I programmed two contemporary works that I felt would be good for me as a first-timer.

When asked how early rehearsals start:
9-12 months - I start before I even know I want to do the recital!
2.63%
1

6-9 months - Lots of time!
47.37%
18

3-6 months - Not too much time, not too little!
47.37%
18

0-3 months - I like the pressure!
15.79%
6
Total Respondents: 38

I technically started preparing around 6-9 months ago, but my real work didn't happen until about the 4 month mark. I liked that I felt I had time to not be rushed, but also felt some pressure to not slack off. One work I intentionally waited to begin preparing (Piazzolla's Tango Etude #1) and I enjoyed having the extra pressure of less time for that work, especially since there were works that I had been practicing on-and-off for over a year.

How people prefer to prepare multiple works:
A little bit of everything!
15.79%
6

I focus on one work at a time. I have to feel comfortable before I'll move on to the next work.
5.26%
2

Somewhere between, it depends on which pieces I feel need the most work.
81.58%
31
Total Respondents: 38

Overall I worked on a little of everything, but sometimes you have to just focus on one or two works for a while to get them up to where you want them to be.

How much do you record yourself?
Never.
13.16%
5

Occasionally (1-3 times a month)
39.47%
15

Fairly regularly (1-2 times a week)
39.47%
15

Often (3-4 time a week)
5.26%
2

Always. The recorder is constantly on!
5.26%
2
Total Respondents: 38

I put myself in the "fairly regularly" category. I found that recording often was really helpful, but sometimes I just didn't have the time to listen between practice sessions. Whenever that happens, those recordings become old news really quickly.

What tools do you use in practice?
Metronome
94.59%
35

Pitch Drone
27.03%
10

Audio Recorder
59.46%
22

Video Recorder
21.62%
8
Total Respondents: 37
Several people added Tuner and Mirror in the comment section (I forgot to include those two!) I never made a video recording of myself but I think I really need to do that next time around. Here's a comment that I really liked:
"Skype for playing for people; email accountability group to share daily practice times; Music Journal app ; or chart. Lift app for tracking practice times, slow play times and motivating me."
I love the resourceful integration of technology, plus the tracking and sharing of daily practice times. 

Do you run the entire program in advance of the recital?
Yes
94.74%
36

No
5.26%
2
Total

I hadn't given a recital since 2010, so I was very worried about stamina and nerves. I ran the entire program every weekday the week before the recital, and it was probably the best thing I could have done. It assured me that I wouldn't wear out before the second half even started, and gave me a chance to remember what it was like to walk "on stage" and simply have to deliver no matter what happens.

How often do you run through the entire program?
Never.
0.00%
0

One week before the program
27.03%
10

2-3 weeks in advance
59.46%
22

4-6 weeks in advance
18.92%
7

7+ weeks in advance
2.70%
1
Total Respondents: 37

While I think that the way ran the program multiple times in the week preceding was extremely helpful, the people who voted for 2-3 weeks in advance hit the nail on the head. Starting run-throughs a little earlier would allow extra time to go back and re-hone some spots that I could never hit right on during a mock performance. By waiting until the last week, there were some unexpected rough spots that came up that I just couldn't give the time they needed.

What is your main instrument?
Woodwinds
57.89%
22

Brass
7.89%
3

Strings
18.42%
7

Piano
5.26%
2

Percussion
0.00%
0

Voice
10.53%
4
Total Respondents: 38

Here are some of my favorite tips that people gave:
- "Always be able to play through the recital twice, then it will be no problem to play through it once."
Amen! I'm adding this one to my plans for next time as well!

- "I think it's a good idea to have a balance between pieces that represent the style periods of art music (or genres, for those who play a wider repertoire)."

- "Practice in the shoes and or clothing you plan to perform in before hand in case you are not comfortable or have wardrobe malfunctions."
- "Run the full show three times prior to performance, including stage entrances and exits, cleaning the instrument, taking drinks, bowing, acknowledging composers, speaking to the audience, etc. while wearing any difficult components of performance attire (ie: shoes, jewelry)."

- This: "One can never be too prepared." And conversely: "Take it easy and do not over prepare pieces. Give yourself enough time to take breaks."
Both are very valid points. There are some things I wish I had prepared in a more efficient manner, but if I had worked on some that lit for another week I might have lost it.

- "I always practice slowly and isolate trouble spots. Also I listen to several recordings of each piece and score study them."
- "Imaging with the score, no instrument, in program order = most powerful tool the day before and day of, at the very least."
I sort of implemented some of both of these ideas. The night before I spot-checked each piece, but didn't do a run-through. The morning of the recital I listened to each work in concert order with the score, which was really great.

- "Slow practice is so important. Learn a piece slowly and correctly - speed will come much more organically."

- "Practice scales, technical exercises, ├ętudes all the time to help you learn repertoire more quickly. Being in good shape cuts down on recital prep time."

- "Think about the order the pieces will go in, try them in different orders. That's why I go through the program in order a couple times before the recital. Sometimes a piece that requires more stamina needs to be closer to the beginning, etc."

Special thank you to everyone who took the time to contribute to my survey!





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