Dear musicians, please don’t cram an important performance

Ways to recover from a memory slipMusic students raved about my personal techniques on cramming for a music performance, which I shared a while ago, and decorated it with the most fitting gifs.

I’m a great crammer but I’m here to tell you it’s not worth it. Cramming is for emergencies only.

When under pressure and stress (i.e. performance conditions) you will rely on muscle memory and it will take 100% of your focus to not mess up. If you’ve crammed, you will have little muscle memory to draw from, which unfortunately makes your mind more likely to blank.

My cramming techniques worked for my performance, but it wasn’t failproof.

A camera flash, for example, would throw me off.

You will find time to prepare for what matters most. I’ve passed the stage of my life where music practice consumed a considerable chunk of my time, but I still enjoy the occasional performance. Once you reach a certain level of Classical musicianship, the focus shifts to please a certain level of standard and perfection, and no longer is it about your own enjoyment of the music and how you want to produce music.

So, as a PSA to music students and anyone about to perform, I’m about to be hypocritical and tell you that you shouldn’t cram your music performances; the extra hour of coding or Netflix or painting your nails, in exchange for nerves onstage and mind-blanks and playing the same section B three times because you forgot the transition to section C, is not worth it.

If you never feel like practicing, shrink your practice window…

There is nothing wrong with dedicating a smaller portion of time to music, but being able to give it 100% during this window.

If you can’t stay focused during practice, it is probably time to shrink this window of practice or change your routine, because you are probably not productive when distracted. Practice music in chunks, for example, to perfect small sections at a time without mindlessly repeating what you’ve already mastered.

Or play something interesting.

Maybe you’re bored because your repertoire is boring.

If you like mathematically challenging rhythms, take a look at Brian Crain’s music. He writes out what’s traditionally taken as rubato, and so the rhythm appears complex (all the more fun) at first glance.

I recently came across Lynette Sawatsky’s music, which tend to focus on one or two skills at a time, for example, a certain triplet motif or a sixteenth note pattern throughout the piece, meaning it’s more pedagogical. Her music is great for honing in on specific skills.

Janet Gieck is a Canadian composer I discovered years ago; her music is more decorative in general, with rhythmic changes, accidentals, and whatnot.

These three composers are featured in the first exclusive Piano Circle cycle, which we are super excited about.

If you find yourself cramming for music performances too often, something needs to changewhether it be your music or your routine. You’ll be happier having done it, I promise.

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