As recital season comes to a close for music students and teachers, it’s a great time to reflect on the processes and skills that lead to a successful performance. Depending on the difficulty of the piece, an eight week timeline usually provides an adequate span of time for successful recital preparation and to refine a piece that is consistent with the level at which the student is studying and playing. Of course, if a student would like to take a leap and attempt a piece that is a challenge, more time would be needed to prepare and work through it.
In this 8 week approach to recital preparation, certain landmarks should be hit every week with goals outlined by the teacher. For example, any student taking with lessons in your home may follow the plan below, though every teacher would modify this example in a slightly different way to meet the needs of each student individually.
Week 1 – Pick Your Recital Piece
The music teacher brings examples of good recital piece selections that you (the student) could play in an upcoming recital that is two months away. You go through the choices together and arrive at your favorite. The choice has been made, and together in the first week of preparation, you go through the piece and establish a way of sectioning it (choosing smaller areas to work on) for the next few weeks of lessons. The student’s responsibility before week 2 is to look through the piece and start familiarizing by identifying difficult passages and working on the first outlined section.
Week 2 – Working Through Your Recital Music
During this lesson, your teacher will check your progress and give feedback on work thus far. It is important to remember that the first week may have you thinking that the piece you selected is a bit difficult or extensive, but hang in there—this is a long term project. You will receive normal feedback from the teacher on how to proceed and work through tough areas, as well as a tempo goal to achieve by the performance date.
Week 3 – The Sections Are Coming Together Slowly
In week 3 you can play through your recital piece. You continue on much like week 2 with more sections of the recital piece being completed so they are fluent. By this week, the piece is coming together and any remaining sections should be worked through before week 4 so that continuity and tempo goals can be reached. We are talking about expression and what we’re trying to say while your playing your recital music. We are setting expectations and establishing sections that you should focus on.
Week 4 – Today We’re Working On Putting All The Sections Together
Your Private Music Teacher establishes a goal this week to be able to play through the entire recital piece by week 5, which is the half-way point in the preparation process. He tells you not to worry about small mistakes, but to concentrate on the overall idea of the piece. You’re reminded of musical goals, dynamics, and tempo.
Week 5 – Sounding Good You Can Hear The Progress
By this week, you are running through the piece and able to play through with only a few mistakes. The recital preparation is paying off. If the tempo needs to be increased, that can be a goal for the coming week. In our example, the teacher is very mindful of the end of the piece, rather than the beginning, as the start is most likely strong by week 5, though the end of the piece may not have the same fluency. Also, any small sections or mistakes will be explored by the teacher with the goal of “running through” the entire piece as it will be played in the recital by the next lesson.
Week 6 – The Mock Recital
The run-through! Your teacher has you do a mock-performance of your entire piece and provides more feedback. At this point, the piece is completely prepared with focus on playing without a warm-up being emphasized. Your teacher also encourages you to do more Mock Recital Preparation with frequent breaks to see how you approach the piece ‘cold’, which is the difficult part about recitals in general. You’re encouraged to invite people to watch you to create any pressures you’ll feel at the recital itself.
Week 7 – Release The Pressure
Your teacher wants to take some pressure out of the performance, and you work mostly on weekly assignments instead of too much of the recital piece, though you will play through it. You would keep practicing it as normal to continue to improve continuity, but it’s good to feel the change of pace in this week’s lesson and lighten the pressure.
Week 8 – Your Final Week Of Recital Preparation
The final lesson before the recital! Your teacher will practice the performance flow with you, including bowing, approaching and exiting the stage, and the piece itself. Also, as a final suggestion, your teacher recommends that you play the piece for as many people in your household as possible before the recital, as this is a different type of practice in itself and is the closest experience to the actual recital that can be created.
In Conclusion – It Takes Time To Prepare
Though I used the example of an 8 week recital preparation process, it is a procedure and timeline that can be expanded and spread out over longer periods of time as there’s many larger works that you’ll work on for more then 8 weeks. This is a time line for students in the late beginner period of time. The key point for both teachers and students is to have a solid plan and start working early. This ensures that the student has a solid amount of time to work on the selection and removes a lot of stress from the event.
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