Is there anything I should do after the performance?

Review your performance and use the reflection points for next time.

As soon as you finished your recital, write down in detail the good points and things to be improved by the next opportunity. As time passes, your thoughts become blurred, so do this as soon as possible. It’s good to talk about the things you’ve noticed with your teacher or co-performers, too.

This is the first step to your growth. Whether you can climb up to the top as a performer depends on how fast you can shorten the distance between yourself and your ideal performer.

What should I be careful about at the recital?

Keep in mind that you are performing for the audience and be appreciative of it.

Your performance starts as soon as you appear on stage. Please try to avoid facial expressions that give your audience discomfort.

If you look pale because of nervousness or illness, it’s good to put on pink blush or lipstick to give a better complexion even if you are a child. In fact, when you put a bit of make-up on little kids, they get excited about it and relax more before their performance (But make sure to keep it light, just to give a better complexion).

Sometimes I see a female performer with very vivid nail colors. Although this is just a personal opinion, it is not very pleasurable for some to see, so please keep that in mind, too.

You should bow slowly and politely.

Also, I recommend deciding your standing position in advance and mark it with a piece of tape, etc. The distance from the piano and whether you can see the pianist are very important. It’s not very smart to check these points at the actual performance, so make sure to do it before it starts.

When you make mistakes during your performance, try not to show it on your face. Playing at a recital is a completely different situation from practicing at home when you are relaxed. If you don’t practice playing the music through (full rehearsal), you tend to panic at the recital when you make a mistake and it could be the cause of ruining the rest of the performance.

If you must stop playing for some reason, like strings snapped, stop playing promptly. Then, say “Excuse me.” first to the pianist and then to the audience calmly with a smile, if possible, and slowly go back to the stage wing.

When strings are fixed, go back on the stage with a smile, bow, and restart your performance. When you change the strings, make sure to talk to the pianist and decide where to pick up.

When your performance is finished, line up with your co-performers, bow slowly and go back to the stage wing.

What are the checkpoints at a dress rehearsal?

Decide on the standing position and adjust how you play.

First, you need to decide the position to be standing in. Pick a place where you can contact your co-performers on time, and put on a piece of tape there. If you have someone who can sound check from audience seats, it helps to accurately check the sound balance.

In the meantime, check the acoustics of the stage. Use open strings and check how the sound strengthens and weakens. Depending on the stage, you might have to play very loudly or quietly to avoid sound distortion. Or, you might have to play very clearly because the sound disappears if you don’t. They are called “well reverberating” halls or “non-reverberating” halls.

You can’t of course change halls, so listen with your own ears and ask for advice from the person who’s sound checking, and adjust how you play by playing each sound longer or shorter, change the strength of your bow pressure, etc.

One of the important abilities as a performer is swiftly adjust how you play depending on where you play.

What is an appropriate outfit for a performance?

Consider comfort and the balance with the music.

1. Female

To make the arm and hand movements look beautiful, avoid puff sleeves. Also, avoid dresses that interfere with your performance. You should avoid high-heels since they could potentially make you lose your balance and concentration. Also, if you have audience, you need to avoid sneakers just because they feel safe. Some say the rubber on sneakers stop sound vibration (though it’s just a theory). But more than anything, they are too casual and do not look good. 

You should wear something that you can easily put your whole weight on both heels, and the soles should be anti-slip and hard like leather to help a smooth flow of sounds. Also, don’t forget to carry a handkerchief.

 

2. Male

Unless specified by the organizer of a competition, I don’t recommend wearing a tie that throttles your neck or shirts with hard collars. In the orchestra I belong to, wearing collarless shirts, polo-shirts, T-shirts or sneakers are prohibited when performing at concerts with a dress code of smart casual. When you need to dress formal, wearing a collar shirt that doesn’t interfere with your performance would be the best. Please choose something that is comfortable to play in, but not too casual.
This reminds me of the time when I organized a recital at a venue with a very strict dress code. Even the audience was prohibited from wearing shorts, jeans, sneakers, T-shirts, etc. I didn’t know about this and didn’t inform the audience beforehand, so many of them were refused entry. It was a very regretful experience for me.

This also reminds me of the story of a boy I know. He was only about 5 years old and he wore shorts to a competition. One of the judges wrote a comment saying “wearing shorts is not appropriate” and it surprised his parents. It’s good to keep in mind that things like this do happen so it’s important to always carefully read the outline of the contest. (Perhaps, it’s safer to always wear pants, just in case.)

Just like I said for females, don’t forget to carry a handkerchief.

What kind of preparation do I need before the recital?

Finish changing bow hair by 2 weeks prior to the recital. Also, prepare a set of spare strings that are ready to be used in case a string snaps during your performance.

It is not rare that strings snap during or right before a performance. This is due to various reasons, including a difference in humidity. In case of an emergency like this, have a spare set of comparatively new and well stretched strings in your instrument case in addition to a set of new strings.

I always change all the strings two weeks before the recital, use them for 3-4 days and then replace them all with new ones once more, so that I can bring a spare set of strings that are ready to go. You never know what will happen at the recital, so be as well prepared as possible.

What does “singing inside of the head” mean?

The most important thing at a recital is the music. It is not about how well you play or if you can play without an error. What’s important is fully expressing the music you practice daily and think about to the audience. In order to do this, you need to start singing the music in your head without stopping from the time of full rehearsals; even on your bad days. If the music in your head doesn’t stop, the music you play will keep flowing even if your hands accidentally stopped for some reason. In contrast, if your hands kept moving but the music in your head stopped, music won’t flow. Moving your finger by itself is nothing more than physical exercise. Just like astronauts go through a lot of simulation trainings, sing the music in your head the way you want to express it when you practice. Singing in your head takes a lot of training and it’s not something you can do suddenly at the recital.

What is a full rehearsal?

It is to sing the entire piece through in your head.

The purpose of this training is to develop a skill to play through even when you hit the wrong note or get bowing wrong. At the time of practice, it is very common to stop playing every time you make a mistake, focus on the part you made a mistake in, and then go on to play the rest. But if you keep practicing like this, you are likely to develop a habit of stopping, and you will get distracted by many things at the time of your recital. To prevent a situation like this, you need to practice to not stop no matter what happens and play through. Trying this at a different time of the day is very effective, such as the end and/or beginning of your daily practice, or at the exact same time frame as your scheduled performance, etc.

Another important tip is to never get down or start wondering why you made a mistake during a full rehearsal. What’s important is how quickly you recover from your mistakes. Don’t ruin the rest of your performance by dwelling on the errors. This is one of the essential points in mental practice.

To make full rehearsals even more effective, have someone listen to your performance or record yourself. Training yourself to be able to sing the entire piece in your head anytime anywhere is also very important.