Updated: Nov 11
I was listening to a podcast this week where they were discussing viable practice. Viable practice meaning adjusting the environment of where and what you practice. Changing the facing wall, the room, the audience, the instrument (a different piano for example) and even consideration such as headphones or clothing can all be factors to consider.
When we’re comfortable in one particular environment, we can be thrown in performance situations when that space differs. For instance the acoustics will be different, the available performance space, the audience and so forth.
It made me think of some advice I’d given a couple of piano students where I’d encouraged them to play on other pianos in preparation for an upcoming exam. Being accustomed to the touch of your own piano can really throw young performers when faced with the challenge of performing on another instrument. So, I’d encouraged these students to play the piano at school or take their music to family members homes and try out their pieces and scales elsewhere.
I’d suggested something similar to a singing student where I’d encouraged her to sing for her family at home. My teenage students (and some adults!) tell me they wait until the house is empty to practice. Maybe this provides them with the solidarity and focus to work on their skill but then when they are due to perform the only two people that have previously heard their performance is themselves and their teacher.
Having the courage to perform for family members and friends builds confidence and performance flexibility to react and adapt to the audience. Musicians often have to think fast and adapt to their surroundings. I know only last week I had to shuffle my set list during a gig because the energy felt a bit flat. I could sense I needed something with a bit of intensity to suit the crowd that I was performing to. Being flexible and adaptive should be something we incorporate into our practice as this will make us flexible and adaptive musicians. A skill needed at any level of musicianship when performing.
So how can you add in viable practice into your daily practice;
Change rooms - moving into a different rehearsal space will alter the acoustics. Simply facing a different wall will have an impact too
Add or take away headphones. Do you practice on an electric piano with your head phones in, then try and unplug! Alternatively a singer may want to try singing with headphones. Having the audio and voice coming through a set of phones could be beneficial practice if working towards a recording session.
Changing the audience. Performing for different people will cause you to adapt your sound and performance requirements to suit the environment.
For pianists, I really recommend trying out different pianos. Particularly if you are working towards a performance where you won’t have played on that particular instrument. Learning to adapt your playing to the instrument is an essential skill for any pianist.
Have a go at trying some of these in your next practice session and see what impact it has to your performance.
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