Focus when performing - What do you think about while performing

Discuss the joys and pratfalls of performance

Postby Stretto » Wed Nov 30, 2005 5:02 pm

I've heard a lot of people who play the piano refer to things they think about while performing. Some of the things include hoping they don't make mistakes, worrying about what the audience thinks, hoping they don't have a memory lapse, or even letting their mind wander among others. I always tell myself I'm going to primarly concentrate on being expressive with the piece but when the moment of truth arrives, I start thinking more about some of the things listed above and by the end am happy I just made it through the piece with no major blunders let alone be expressive. I then walk away dissapointed that no one got to hear the expressive ideas I had for the piece. The last time I performed for others, I decided I was going to primarly focus on moving the audience emotionally above all else. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to impact an audience (maybe relieve some stress in someone's life listening to an expressive piece, for example). I gave the most relaxed, most enjoyable performance I've ever given.

To anyone playing the piano, whether novice or professional, what goes through your mind primarly while performing? I've always wanted to tap the mind of a concert pianist and find out what they focus on while performing just out of curiousity. Perhaps I could gain some valuable tips.

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Postby 108-1121887355 » Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:17 am

I seldom perform any more - just for my students and their families. I believe your last thought is the best. Play for the enjoyment of others, to share you gift, and you will be pleased. Perfection need not be the goal. Mistakes are part of life and learning. My often used thought - HAVE FUN!
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu Dec 01, 2005 12:51 pm

I don't think anybody--even great artists--can be totally immune from mind-wandering during a performance; it probably happens most when you've been repeating the same program in different places. One thing I have to be most careful about is mentally quitting just before the last cadence. It ain't over 'til it's over!

But at your best, you've learned to concentrate so deeply on the act of playing (even when not on stage) that the mind stays focussed on the music pretty consistently. You get involved and even exhilerated, as though you were telling an exciting story to people that builds to a high point and then resolves--something like that.

Performing a great work of chamber music like a Brahms trio or a Beethoven violin or cello sonata is a very special experience, too. You're constantly throwing the ball back and forth--now taking the lead, now dropping back to the background, now supporting another's melody, etc.--it's like a team sport, or maybe even more like ballet, where everybody fits into the choreography.

Bill L.
Technique is 90 per cent from the neck up.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Thu Dec 01, 2005 7:45 pm

I like your thoughts about playing a piece like telling an exciting story and building to a high point and then resolving. I have been using words in songs to help some of my students, who like to sing, get into the music.

Also going back in history and trying to compare art and literature. Found a great quote from an old book on piano teeaching by Hamilton: "All art is simply a formal method of presenting elevated thought". And another: "The poet, sculpter, painter and musician use parallel methods of the media in which they work."

I need to learn more about art and read more poerty so I can make comparisons. One of my students is very talented artistically and it would be interested to be able to help her see the similarities.

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