It’s wonderful to see many people taking up the piano or returning to it as amateurs. However, despite approaching their pianistic endeavours with significant energy and enthusiasm, many amateurs limit their playing to themselves at home. They often shy away from playing in front of others, anxious about making mistakes and imagining all manner of judgements from their audience. Although this is perfectly understandable, it is a great shame as it means missing out on sharing something that you are passionate about with others who will appreciate it and support you!
Benefits of Performing
Performing and practising are very different activities. In performance we need a feeling of abandon and spontaneity, of creativity and going with the punches, whereas practising relies on thoughtful, analytic procedures in which we are constantly evaluating, repeating and refining our results. Not only can performing be an incredibly rewarding experience but it will help you take your musical development to a new level beyond simply playing for yourself.
Practice like it means everything in the world to you. Perform like you don’t give a damn.Jascha Heifetz
Contrary to what you imagine your audience are thinking, they will not be there waiting for you to slip up. Other pianists know exactly what it’s like to be on the spot and you’re most likely to have their support and encouragement. It may seem dauting and many are nervous to begin with, but it’s common to see anxiety turn to sheer delight and enthusiasm once the ice is broken. This level of energy comes only from sharing with a group.
It’s also easy to become demotivated when playing for oneself. Having goals and dates to work towards, even if they are informal performances, is a great way to avoid getting stuck in a rut. This creates a virtuous cycle in which making consistent progress makes it easier to continue to be motivated.
While not all formats or events offer feedback, it can sometimes be useful to participate in an event such as a masterclass or course where it is offered. This can be particularly useful if you feel there are things holding you back or standing in the way of your musical intentions.
How to approach performing?
The best way to approach performing is just to take the plunge! Like most other things in life, the more we do something, the easier and more familiar it becomes. Thankfully there are now so many opportunities ranging from informal meet-up groups (online and offline!) through to masterclasses, courses and examinations.
As a starting point, choose something that feels like a challenge but not too far out of your comfort zone. You could start by recording yourself performing, playing for a teacher in a lesson or for a friend. Then when you’re feeling more confident, perhaps try an informal meet-up group in your area or online if there aren’t any.
There is a natural attainment gap between what one can achieve within the comfort of one’s home and in public (click here for a blog post on this). Therefore, it is essential to be as well prepared as possible laying good foundations from the start and engaging various forms of memory (not just muscle memory) when learning a piece. Closer to the performance, it’s also important to make the shift from a practising mindset to a performing one by practising a performance (more on this is available here and here).
Resources & opportunities
The following are some further resources and ideas to get you started:
- Join one of our performance opportunities! We offer various formats that provide a chance to perform and get feedback on your playing, including in-person and online performance workshops. Our online workshops also offer you the option to pre-record your performance as a gentle way to start the performance journey and to obtain feedback. Click here to view our events calendar or click here to join our mailing list for notifications of upcoming events.
- Piano groups – There are many piano groups which offer a variety of formats for sharing your playing, both online and offline. We’ve started compiling a list of groups which can be viewed here.
- Free articles on performing – Click here to view a listing of articles on our blog relating to performing and preparing for a performance.
- Learning materials – We have many resources to help you learn pieces including a free email course and an in-depth workshop on deep learning techniques for greater security and confidence in performance.
Do you run a piano-themed group or event?
We’re in the process of building an online directory of resources for amateur pianists, including a listing of opportunities to play for and listen to others. If you run or organise piano-themed groups or events then we’d love to include your group in our listing! Please click here to tell us a bit more about your group.
Are you looking for opportunities to share your playing?
Click here to sign-up to our mailing list and receive a free video on dealing with performance anxiety by Graham Fitch in addition to several other resources that will help you deliver performances that are fulfilling to both you and your listeners!