Below is an index of the tools I wrote about in “Diary of a Return,” along with a couple that I didn’t mention. I hope it will be useful to you and your students. Obviously, some items belong in more than one category. I felt like I had to choose one category per item, because otherwise this entry would never end. Before I launch into them, I want to thank you for reading, and thank pianopedagogy.org for allowing me to follow this project through to the end! It’s been good for me.
Learning the music, improving the interpretation
· Speed-memorizing: away from the piano, and without the music first time we touch the piece
· Concocting stories for the music
· Following a composer’s directions to get close to music we don’t relate to at first
· Challenge of changing tempo to truly practice slowly
· Slow practice is easier when we play expressively
· Recording ourselves a lot, starting early in the process – especially the sequence of recording, listening, practicing in changes, and then recording again. I don’t expect you to check out all these entries! (And there are more that I didn’t include!) I just wanted to emphasize how much recording I do – and, the fact that I learned something important about my playing from every recording I made: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.
· Research about the music: listening to Janáček played on harmonium on YouTube, reading about Janáček on articles in JSTOR, Howat and Helffer edition of Debussy, Paul Roberts’s Images: the Piano Music of Claude Debussy. I didn’t mention Sandra P. Rosenblum’s Performance Practices in Classic Piano Music or Lewis Lockwood’s Beethoven: The Music and the Life because I read them at an earlier stage. It’s also fun to read Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, and I’m looking forward to reading Elements of Sonata Theory by Darcy and Hepokoski.
· Listening to recordings can be like taking a lesson with the performer.
· Awareness of the hierarchy of note values and other rhythmic/metric considerations
· Setting an internal alarm to notice little hesitations or inconsistencies in sound – the alarm keeps us from getting used to the way we play.
Practicing specifically to bring out the music in performance
· Goals for the last couple of weeks before a performance, so we give the music to the audience on a silver platter: show character of a piece, create a clear pulse, show them what to listen to
· Article from Time: Over-practicing makes perfect
· Practicing starts – taking time to feel connected to the piano, then starting in character, with steady pulse and desired sound from the first note. It’s one of the few things I practice the day of the recital, in a very particular way.
Setting ourselves up for success
First, two books:
· Dr. Bill Moore’s Playing Your Best When It Counts three-book series. The High Performance Journal contains practical steps for improving practice and performance, and is the one my students and I use the most (I mention these tools a lot, particularly the performance script). The practice journal is also invaluable. The High Performance Workbook is for going deep to improve performance skills.
· Dr. Don Greene’s book, Performance Success. I also mention this book a lot, particularly the pajama run-through (please be aware that this undignified term is my own and not Dr. Greene’s) and the site visit. We can even do a mental site visit.
· Importance of writing a strong finish into the performance script
· Mental practice the day before the recital
· Knowing my own story or image for every piece and every movement on the program. If I’m clear about my own story, people may not imagine my story, but the music will take them somewhere.
· TED talk: The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown
· New York Times article: Getting enough of the right kind of sleep
· TED talk: Your body language shapes who you are by Amy Cuddy
· Pledging to accept slips and commit to the music to improve mindset in performance
· Being aware of The “Letdown Phenomenon”
· Playing short performances for a group that meets specifically to keep up performing skills
· Remembering that each performance is a moment in time, not the definition of a performer
· Practicing enjoying the music: if we practice in fussing and worrying, that’s what we’ll do in performance! If we want to enjoy the music in performance, we probably have to practice that instead.
Mindset tools for the performance itself
· Using “let go/listen” to let go of unwanted thoughts in performance: this is how I have modified the meditation form to be useful for those who don’t practice that meditation.
· Remembering we do not have the perspective to judge our performances while they’re happening – not to mention that our minds should be elsewhere
· Thinking happy thoughts the day of a performance! Troubles can wait safely in place until after the performance.