Have you ever sat down to play the keys and feel as if you are totally inept? I have been playing the piano for 4/5 of my life and yet I have those days periodically. Why does this happen to us? It can be frustrating and if it happens to be performance or exam day, it can be devastating. With festival and exams just around the corner, you may be interested in the following.
Anyone who attended the church service I played at yesterday may have noticed sharps where there shouldn’t have been and the odd funky chord that just didn’t belong. It was “just one of those days”. I knew all of the hymns I played. I have played them countless times. I CAN read music, this I know for sure. So what was up?
*lack of focus – it had been a hectic morning getting everyone ready for church and prepping food for an afternoon family function. In fact, as I sat down at the piano that morning I did a mental checklist to be sure everyone had hair combed and teeth brushed and that I did in fact have matching socks. I was definitely not focused on the task at hand
*lack of sleep – instead of getting the 8hrs of shut-eye everyone knows is necessary for a productive day, I had stayed up later than usual to watch a movie with my kids the night before. tsk tsk…lack of sleep = difficulty concentrating.
*environmental factors – yesterday during the service we learned that our priest would be leaving in the summer. Not the news we were hoping to hear anytime soon. In addition,for some reason, a crying child was also vying for my attention – something I normally can block out…..but not that day.
So bad days can happen at the bench, however, there are some ways you can avoid them.
- Practice. Have your music well prepared.
- Get enough sleep, eat well and remember to drink sips of water. Drinking water means more oxygen for your brain which leads to better concentration.
- When practicing, sometimes create a noisy environment for yourself (turn the TV on, or play while there are other people talking in the room). This will desensitize you to distractions.
- Try to avoid stressful situations prior to a performance. If you have to travel to the venue, leave yourself lots of time so you don’t feel rushed. Have your books and outfit ready to go well ahead of time. Listen to some calming music or read a book. Do some stretches. Try to stay relaxed.
- Just before the performance take some deep breaths and try to be conscious of what you are doing. Say the rhythm in your head or hum the tune so that you are thinking of nothing but the music.
- Having a story for your pieces (like a movie running in your head) can help you to block out environmental distractions…it also helps you to memorize.
If, despite all of these preventative measures, you still find yourself playing less than your best it is important to forgive yourself. Realize that this is just an “off” day. Your next performance will be better. Of course, if every day is an off day, maybe you should consider more practice. : )
Happy music making!!
Music Box – Zurich, Ontario -music lessons