As a quartet and in our individual performing experiences, we have learned that the most effective way to gear up for a big performance is to commit to the run-through mentality. This mindset was mentioned in our blog on audition preparation (check it out if you haven’t), and it directly applies to both solo and chamber performance! Here’s a more detailed look at our philosophy on preparation for the big day:
2 weeks before a performance:
By this point on your calendar, you should be able to play all music with technical comfort and convincing musicianship. Polish up small details and solve all musical problems. Decide who will cue entrances and releases, settle on tempos, and target tuning hazards.
Each day between then and the day of the performance:
Start your rehearsal by talking through goals for the performance run-through to focus your mind on the task at hand. Tune up, and dive in, just as you would in front of an audience! Record your performance and listen to it- I’ll bet it doesn’t sound the way you think it does!
We all believe in the power of the run-through. You must learn to switch your mentality to performance mode, because you have spent a large amount of time in rehearsal mode to work up the music. In performance mode, you don’t allow yourself to stop and fix mistakes- you have to recover and move on. You don’t allow yourself to go into auto-pilot- convince your imaginary audience of your skill and musicianship. In a chamber ensemble, diligently playing all the way through your repertoire without stopping will, over the span of a few days, help iron out all of the wrinkles you may experience in a performance- timing issues, balance concerns, nervous entrances, adrenaline-powered rushing of rhythm- the list goes on and on! Remember to treat it just like a real performance by practicing your stage presence.
Analyze your recording:
Be your own audience and decide what you like and do not like about your performance. Be critical, and write down your comments.
Rinse and repeat:
In your rehearsal the next day, read through your notes and talk through the performance from the previous day. Be sure to have your music out so you have a visual cue for which part in the music you are referencing as you discuss your notes. If you feel the need to rehearse a small section, do so! You want to make sure you fix any problems so you can execute more successfully in the next run-through. When you have finished, tune up, and dive in again. If you are like me, you take pride in checking off the day on a calendar to show that you completed your run-through!