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I just had this happen on a smaller scale during my 2nd piano lesson. My teacher gave me 6 small pieces/ practice exercises for the week and after days of playing them perfectly (to my untrained ear) when it came time to play for the teacher over Zoom it was a very different experience, lol. Suddenly I'm playing some measures with the wrong hand and notes that I thought I could read and play like that back of my hand were brief mysteries to be solved. I'm sure I'll quickly get used to playing with my teacher, but getting up in front of a group like that to play? I just know I'd be in the same boat.


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Just to be clear, "crash and burn" means a total blackout, you stop playing and you have no idea where to continue. Except for maybe taking a break or getting the sheet music.

So this goes beyond simple "memory lapse" or a 3 second silence.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
No-one will ever ask you to play an impromptu recital lasting half an hour (though Schubert's D899 does last about 30 minutes) - they just want to hear you play something. Even Minuet in G flat will do wink .

Well I remember this story of a concert pianist that had studied a different piece for the piano concert. She (I think it was a woman) played the concert anyway, from memory


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I have to play 99% from memory anyway. Let's say my playing is at level 8 or so but my reading at level 3. If i have to look a split second on the keyboard (sometimes a large jump is too important to screw up, or too fast) I will often not even find back where I was. Trying to read sheet music that differs from what you are actually playing is even more difficult...

I even think playing (mostly) from memory is essential to get a good sounding performance.


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Thanks so much for the responses. The suggestions are very good, and perhaps more comforting are the experiences shared helping me to understand that I'm not alone. certainly, part of the issue has been Covid as it was a year ago since our last formal recital

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Thanks so much for the responses. The suggestions are very good, and perhaps more comforting are the experiences shared helping me to understand that I'm not alone. certainly, part of the issue has been Covid as it was a year ago since our last formal recital
Originally Posted by wouter79
Just to be clear, "crash and burn" means a total blackout, you stop playing and you have no idea where to continue. Except for maybe taking a break or getting the sheet music.

So this goes beyond simple "memory lapse" or a 3 second silence.


Actually, the crash is the total memory lapse and the burn is when you decide to keep going anyway and it comes out like some demented avant gard piece. Stopping would have so much better in my case.

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Oh dear, you have just brought back memories of my teacher's Dec 2020 recital. We weren't even together live, but all playing over Zoom. I froze up about a third of the way into my three page piece, tried to restart, didn't work, jumped to around the final page, struggled to the end and finished on the wrong chord.

Next lesson, all my teacher said was, maybe next time we will pick a shorter piece!

Last edited by SoundThumb; 01/18/21 09:13 PM.

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Originally Posted by SoundThumb
Oh dear, you have just brought back memories of my teacher's Dec 2020 recital. We weren't even together live, but all playing over Zoom. I froze up about a third of the way into my three page piece, tried to restart, didn't work, jumped to around the final page, struggled to the end and finished on the wrong chord.

Next lesson, all my teacher said was, maybe next time we will pick a shorter piece!
Am I correct in assuming your problem was with memory? If so, just tell your teacher you want to play with the score. All the time trying to memorize the piece can be spent much more productively learning more music. It's so easy to avoid the anxiety and unpleasant experience of memory slips.

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It's a cruel fact one has to make mistakes in order to learn how to recover. Then hopefully enough performance time would be accumulated to understand, if one knows how to deal with mistakes, said mistakes seem to be fewer and fewer. It should be no big deal. I used to play for nursing home residents. They are both greatful and forgiving. I miss them terribly.


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I'm glad to see other players have memory lapses. I thought I was the only one and was wondering about selling the piano and taking up basket weaving!

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by SoundThumb
Oh dear, you have just brought back memories of my teacher's Dec 2020 recital. We weren't even together live, but all playing over Zoom. I froze up about a third of the way into my three page piece, tried to restart, didn't work, jumped to around the final page, struggled to the end and finished on the wrong chord.

Next lesson, all my teacher said was, maybe next time we will pick a shorter piece!
Am I correct in assuming your problem was with memory? If so, just tell your teacher you want to play with the score. All the time trying to memorize the piece can be spent much more productively learning more music. It's so easy to avoid the anxiety and unpleasant experience of memory slips.

I wish it were that simple. No I had the music in front of me, but I can't read fast enough to play smoothly. I have to memorize anything that I want to try to play for someone else. So why do I even attempt the recitals? Well, I am stubborn, but also sitting in the recital room waiting my turn, I find myself identifying with the kids, not the parents and grandparents. It makes me feel 60 years younger. There is nothing else quite like it.


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Originally Posted by SoundThumb
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by SoundThumb
Oh dear, you have just brought back memories of my teacher's Dec 2020 recital. We weren't even together live, but all playing over Zoom. I froze up about a third of the way into my three page piece, tried to restart, didn't work, jumped to around the final page, struggled to the end and finished on the wrong chord.

Next lesson, all my teacher said was, maybe next time we will pick a shorter piece!
Am I correct in assuming your problem was with memory? If so, just tell your teacher you want to play with the score. All the time trying to memorize the piece can be spent much more productively learning more music. It's so easy to avoid the anxiety and unpleasant experience of memory slips.

I wish it were that simple. No I had the music in front of me, but I can't read fast enough to play smoothly. I have to memorize anything that I want to try to play for someone else. So why do I even attempt the recitals? Well, I am stubborn, but also sitting in the recital room waiting my turn, I find myself identifying with the kids, not the parents and grandparents. It makes me feel 60 years younger. There is nothing else quite like it.
If you can't read music for piece you've played many times, that indicates a major problem to work on. When playing for yourself can you read the music fast enough so having the score is useful?

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It was Maria Joao Pires with Mozarts Concerto.

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In my case, I identified these two problems:

1) in the lesson prior to the recital, the teacher told me that it sounded great but could be just a tiny bit faster. I should have stuck with my slightly slower speed, rather than trying to speed it up just a bit. I had several days of practice between the lesson and the recital, but I think that shifted my focus from getting it right to getting it faster. The lesson there is ‘play it like I rehearsed it, even if it’s not perfect.’

2) This was the real problem. I was playing from sheet music, and the piece had quite a few big jumps in the left. Big enough I had to look down, and then when I looked up, a couple pages in, I had lost my place, even though I’m a very good music reader. My teacher had never pressed me to avoid looking down, and I have become quite dependent on being able to do that. That was okay (mostly) until recently, when I moved into some pieces where taking time to look really causes a problem. So now I’m working on trying not to look. This bad habit should have been stomped out a while back.

I never especially wanted to play in public, and really don’t know if I ever will. I have a hard time even practicing if there’s a person in the house other than my spouse. I know this is extreme and I’d like to get over it, though I don’t know where I’d play in public, anyway. This is admittedly bizarre, because as I mentioned previously, I can stand up and give a talk about something without notes, with almost no preparation. I don’t know why I have stage fright for music but not for public speaking, which is many people’s worst nightmare.

The really annoying thing about this is that outside of a recital, chances are good that I’d be the only piano player in the room, so I shouldn’t be nervous, but logic doesn’t always rule.


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Originally Posted by MH1963
2) This was the real problem. I was playing from sheet music, and the piece had quite a few big jumps in the left. Big enough I had to look down, and then when I looked up, a couple pages in, I had lost my place, even though I’m a very good music reader. My teacher had never pressed me to avoid looking down, and I have become quite dependent on being able to do that. That was okay (mostly) until recently, when I moved into some pieces where taking time to look really causes a problem. So now I’m working on trying not to look. This bad habit should have been stomped out a while back.
You're taking a seriously wrong approach. You need to learn to look at the keyboard sometimes without losing your place in the score. You need to practice that. All pianists, including the best in the world, do that when playing with the score unless, perhaps, if they're playing a piece far below their level. Of course, you shouldn't have to be looking at your hands endlessly.

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My teacher holds regular "Salons". We all expect to make mistakes while hoping we won't! But the nicest thing is all the support we offer each other and our teacher's wonderful reassurance that it usually takes many performances before one can play with a greater degree of confidence. Even then, "stuff" happens. I think it helps greatly to play for people who cheer you on no matter what. In our Salons we get to try again the next time if we like, and one time we had a 4 day marathon-very interesting to see improvements ..or in my case I actually got worse before I got better! (This is all via Zoom...).
I really liked one comment from one of our group-he said Bach sounds great at any speed. That was a nice counter to my expectations that I "should" play something up to speed (whatever that is), when clearly I can't, at the stage I'm at with a particular piece.

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Just some "feels" for the OP. I don't have the guts to try a solo recital, so I really admire the courage it took to get up there in front of everyone. It's really hard taking up an instrument as an adult. I remember my saxophone recitals as a kid, and it was really different. For one thing, I was a little kid, so nobody expected that much from me! Also, it was a single-note-at-a-time instrument, playing with the help of a pianist accompanyist, so I wasn't trying to do anywhere near as much as a pianist, and not anywhere near as on my own. It's really different when you take up solo piano as an adult: there's no one else to depend on, and everyone expects you to be perfect!

Don't let any of that affect your enjoyment of the piano, though. There's no moral or legal imperative to give recitals! Feel free to focus on videos that you post to FB for your friends and family, or get yourself a home recording studio and record tunes in "studio conditions"; (i.e., with lots of takes, and lots of cutting and pasting! You're presumably not trying to make a living as a concert pianist, so be kind to yourself, and have fun!


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Okay, here is my story. I was about 6 years into my piano playing career, i was happy with my playing, and I volunteered to play Schubert, Impromptu Op 90 No 2 in E-flat major for a recital of my music school in a wonderful old little theater with about 200 spectators. I could play it pretty well at home, not perfect, but good enough.

The performance went quite bad for my own taste. Besides the usual stage fright, I was playing on an instrument with a very heavy touch, about 80 g, something that I'm not used to. It was an old August Förster grand. At times I was pressing keys and the sound did not come at all. This took my concentration completely away, and I made a lot of mistakes. I paused several times for a few seconds to get back into it, however I did not give up and just kept on playing. My girlfriend sat in the audience and overheard comments that I was considered "very sympathetic". Because I hadn't given up hope, probably.


After the performance I had two large beers and about 10 cigarettes to get rid of the frustration.

What did I learn:
- Next time, be there at least an hour in advance to try out the instrument
- For a performance, play something that is one or two levels below what you can play at home. There is a lot of beautiful music for all levels of playing
- Remain an amateur ;-)

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Originally Posted by MH1963
In my case, I identified these two problems:

1) in the lesson prior to the recital, the teacher told me that it sounded great but could be just a tiny bit faster. I should have stuck with my slightly slower speed, rather than trying to speed it up just a bit. I had several days of practice between the lesson and the recital, but I think that shifted my focus from getting it right to getting it faster. The lesson there is ‘play it like I rehearsed it, even if it’s not perfect.’

That is certainly a possible cause, it is usually better to stick to what has been precisely rehearsed and not introduce changes in the last minute. But that said i think most issues come from 2 main reasons:

1. Lack of practice playing in front of an audience. Some people are more sensitive to the presence of listeners, but regular practice can improve a lot and helps to develop the ability to deal with it.

2. People play pieces which are often too difficult. Not that they can not play them during practice, but to be really comfortable, one has to choose pieces at least 2 levels down. Pieces that are so easy that one can play them without any practice. With the added stress and the audience, various noises, different instrument, it makes even easy pieces just right at the limit of what a person can play without making some major mistakes.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by SoundThumb
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by SoundThumb
Oh dear, you have just brought back memories of my teacher's Dec 2020 recital. We weren't even together live, but all playing over Zoom. I froze up about a third of the way into my three page piece, tried to restart, didn't work, jumped to around the final page, struggled to the end and finished on the wrong chord.

Next lesson, all my teacher said was, maybe next time we will pick a shorter piece!
Am I correct in assuming your problem was with memory? If so, just tell your teacher you want to play with the score. All the time trying to memorize the piece can be spent much more productively learning more music. It's so easy to avoid the anxiety and unpleasant experience of memory slips.

I wish it were that simple. No I had the music in front of me, but I can't read fast enough to play smoothly. I have to memorize anything that I want to try to play for someone else. So why do I even attempt the recitals? Well, I am stubborn, but also sitting in the recital room waiting my turn, I find myself identifying with the kids, not the parents and grandparents. It makes me feel 60 years younger. There is nothing else quite like it.
If you can't read music for piece you've played many times, that indicates a major problem to work on. When playing for yourself can you read the music fast enough so having the score is useful?


That's not what SoundThumb is saying, he says he can't read it *fast enough*.
For me it's similar, I can just read a few of the actual notes, usually the melody note, but not the other notes, at performance speed. Alternatively I can read the first chord of the measure but not the rest.

I suppose that holds for almost everyone. If you can read this at speed right away, I would not even have to practice and could go straight to performance I guess ?

Aren't you just fooling yourself when you think you read all the notes? If your friend would alter a few notes in your piece that you already know, would you then play these wrong notes?


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