Instrumental & Vocal - Accuracy of Performance

We have all attended a live performance by an instrumentalist or an ensemble, or a performance of the school orchestra and we all hope that the performance will not be a disaster. Yes, accidents happen at performances. We have all in our time attended performances where things don't go to plan, and performed concerts where everything was not up to scratch. Recordings produced under controlled conditions can spoil us listeners when we go to live performances. The recording engineers and producers can edit together an artificially perfect performance from many different takes of the same passage. You should always aim for a clean and accurate performance, but no audience will count the mistakes. We are all human!

Action

To be successful

Advice or tips to help you

1

· Pitch

· Consider your starting note (mainly for wind / brass instruments)

· If playing unaccompanied in a performance, you will need to think and prepare the note before you start performing. Holding/pressing the correct key/valve is not all you need to think about as you may need to consider the air/pressure required.

· The best way is to play the starting note on your instrument off stage before the performance.

· Ensure that you are in tune

· It is important when rehearsing to play as a soloist or ensemble without any accompaniment. The overtones of certain instruments, especially the piano, can make it more difficult to 'tune in' to the pitch.

· Ensure that you are playing the correct pitch

· Always follow a score and ask for support if you are unsure whether you are playing the correct pitch in a piece. Listening to a recording is not always the best option as there could be more than one version or a specific interpretation.

2

· Rhythm

· Ensure you know when to come in

· Whether playing unaccompanied or with instruments, you will require a count in. This should give you three or four beats to prepare (for woodwind/brass instruments breathe) before entering on the first phrase. You may need to count in more than once during a piece depending on the number of entry points. The count in may be a hand line/cue by another person, verbal count or even a percussion/instrumental cue.

· Keep playing the correct rhythm

· Always follow a score and ask for support if you are unsure of a specific rhythm in a piece. Listening to a recording is not always the best option as there could be more than one version or a specific interpretation.

· Decide for how long you should hold the last note of a phrase

· A score will always indicate the length and beat value of a note. But you may need to alter the length of the note in your interpretation. When playing with others, the main focus is to hold the notes at the end of phrases for the same length and work with each other.

3

· Tonality

· Ensure you are not playing "off key" (for string / woodwind / brass instruments)

· Going off pitch when playing is also called going "off key", and it means that you play a slightly different note than you intended to. Usually, you end up playing a note that's a little bit higher or lower than what you were aiming for. Focus on the following to improve:

o Your breath support, (woodwind/brass instruments)

o Lazy ears, or not listening to your pitches enough

o Unnecessary tension and straining to hit high notes (woodwind/brass instruments)

o Tension when pressing with your fingers or bow on the strings.

· Ensure you are not playing "off key" when performing with others

· When playing an independent part in a piece with others, it is much harder to keep to your notes. Always rehearse on your own first with a score or a recording of your own part before attempting to play with the other parts. Focus on your notes and rehearse specific phrases at a slower pace.

· Check that your tonality is not poor when playing high or low notes

· When playing a particular high or low note, the tonality may be poor due to your breath control (woodwind / brass) or the tension (string) as your technique hasn't yet developed. With regular rehearsal, and correct breathing / use of tension you will find that your tonality will improve on higher and lower notes.

4

· Tempo

· Determine whether you are playing too quickly/slowly

· The majority of notated pieces include a tempo or metronome marking at the beginning and during the piece. You should aim to follow these marks as accurately as possible. Playing a piece too quickly or slowly can affect your breath control, articulation, tonality and attention to detail.

· Ensure you know when and where to change the tempo

· A score will always indicate changes in tempo. Study the score in detail for any change in metronome markings or use of Italian terms, i.e. accelerando (gradually getting faster) or rallentando (gradually getting slower).

· Follow the tempo marks on the score

· Some pieces have very detailed tempo markings and may include numerous changes during the piece. Highlight all the changes in tempo on your score and ask your teacher or read up on any unfamiliar Italian terms you may find. You may decide to add your own interpretation to a specific piece and will need to rehearse these changes with your accompanist before a performance.

5

· Dynamics

· Decide whether you are playing too loudly or too quietly

· When performing your piece in a small room, the dynamic range will vary to performing the piece in a large theatre.

· Ensure you know when to get louder or quieter

· The majority of notated pieces include dynamic markings at the beginning and during the piece. You should aim to follow these marks as accurately as possible. However, some scores do not indicate the dynamic markings and therefore you will be required to interpret your own dynamic. The most important thing to remember is to study the piece in detail before deciding on you dynamic marks.

· Follow the dynamic markings on the score

· Pieces that include dynamic markings may have very detailed markings and may include numerous dramatic changes during the piece. Highlight all the changes on your score and ask your teacher or read up on any unfamiliar Italian terms you may find. You may decide to add your own interpretation to a specific piece and will need to rehearse these changes with your accompanist/s before a performance.

6

· Fluency of performance

· Create a musical phrase

· Creating musical phrases that are appealing and fit the style can only be acquired gradually. Listening to recordings of other performers is one way. Good breath control (woodwind and brass instruments) opens up many additional possibilities in phrasing, as does developing a strong sense of rhythm and pitch accuracy.

· Ensure your performance is fluent

· The fluency of a performance depends heavily on how well you know the material before the performance. If you are uncertain of any of the rhythms or pitch, this will affect the fluency of the performance. Take plenty of time to rehearse and record yourself playing, and appraise your own work.

· Know the piece without a copy

· In preparation for any performance, you should memorise your piece in plenty of time. This will come through regular practice and reading/internalizing the notes, rhythms and other important markings on the score. Don't leave it until the last minute!