Planning practice for a performance a long time out

April 19, 2019, 11:14 AM · My son has recently encountered several situations in which he has completed a piece but then needs to play it again several months down the road. For example, he completed and performed a concerto in early March and then was asked to perform it on a concert series in May. And last year, he soloed with orchestra after winning a competition and it was something like four months between the competition and the performance.

My question is how do people structure their practicing in these situations? In all cases, the piece is already at a high level before the intervening months. Do you put it away completely for awhile and then pull it out again a few weeks before the performance? Run through it weekly? Practice the hard spots a few times a week?

My son is a typical 8th grader with typical 8th grader executive functioning, so he needs help structuring over long periods of time.

Replies (7)

April 19, 2019, 12:09 PM · Has anything gone amiss in those second performances? If not I' recommend to leave well enough alone.
April 19, 2019, 12:14 PM · ask his teacher how they want him to manage it.
personally, I tend to put pieces away completely and then pull them back out but I have a very good grasp on how long it takes me to resurrect something.
April 19, 2019, 12:34 PM · In the old days, when I had a scheduled future solo performance of music I already had well in hand I would run through the piece every day as part of my practice routine. It also provided an opportunity to rethink (and perhaps "retool") some expressive details and approaches.

In my opinion, everything is "technique." All those beautiful phrases that non-musicians in an audience ascribe to "emotional playing" are the result of carefully thought out activity by both hands. Sometimes these can be changed "on the fly" but only if the performer already has developed and experimented with the techniques.

April 19, 2019, 12:47 PM · If you can get him some opportunities to perform the piece with a pianist leading up to the performance/any rehearsals with the orchestra, that would probably be helpful.

You can start with just for the family, church or something like that, and you can maybe put together a mini performance for a retirement community or something like that. The idea being to put the piece in a performance context and put him at ease. If that sounds like something that would only add pressure, or that he couldn't fit into his schedule without a bunch of rearranging stuff, then less might be more.

April 19, 2019, 1:56 PM · His teacher usually asks that he bring the piece back in to lessons about 2-4 weeks before the concert, depending on the piece and what type of performance it is. But what he does before that to get prepared is up to him. He usually likes to take a break, mostly because he's usually sick of the piece, but how long? He is definitely given ample opportunities for rehearsals with the accompanist and low-pressure performances (studio class, school recitals, etc.).
April 19, 2019, 4:29 PM · My teacher believes in letting a piece marinate for a while after the initial learning period. If the last performance went well and he felt comfortable going into it, then it sounds like there isn't really an issue here. If he found that he had forgotten a lot of it and getting it back either technically or in his memory was a problem in that span of time, then maybe he should start to bring it back a little earlier, provided that he can work on it away from the teacher without introducing bad habits or errors.

I'd say that if he profited well by the teacher's advice last time, then I would trust that. Eventually, he will probably develop his own routine for this kind of thing, that takes into account his tendencies.

April 20, 2019, 1:08 AM · Put it away for a time and resurrect it. My teacher talks about letting pieces deliberately decay, so you can do a little more rebuilding, more solidly. I find that this works well for me.

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