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Posted By: spartan928 Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 02:51 PM
My teacher had his annual Christmas recital and I had two pieces; Bach Prelude in C major and a fairly short arrangement of Christmas Waltz by Phillip Keverin. So bach goes perfect. I start the waltz and it completely falls apart after half a page. I mean total panic and breakdown. Thing is I had this piece solid at home, played it hundreds of time at tempo and achingly slow to solidify the memory. There were about 80 people socially distanced in this big church so I was nervous to begin with being the only adult student and numerous teenagers that were crushing it up there with Chopin, etc. My question is, has anyone had this kind of mental breakdown and what have you done to stay in a steady state of mind so you can play relaxed and just "let it happen" without your mind telling your hands ....sorry no can do, recital over.
Posted By: bennevis Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 03:37 PM
Firstly - are you obliged to play from memory? If not, don't. (Obviously, if you play from the score, you must also rehearse playing from it so that you don't lose your place when you look down at your hands occasionally.)

If you do have to play from memory, make sure you have several 'jumping off' points in your pieces that you can re-start from, if you do lose your place. Practice starting off from each of them regularly when practicing at home. In fact, when practicing, never play any of your pieces from the beginning until you've already practiced all the tricky sections in your pieces starting from those 'jumping off' points. (If you only keep practicing all your pieces from the beginning, you'll be totally stuck if your mind suddenly goes blank in the middle because your memory is predicated on starting from only one spot - the beginning of the piece.) The more secure you are when starting from any of those points, the more secure you'll feel when performing; and confidence begets assurance that if the worse comes to the worse and your mind goes blank, you can immediately jump to another point with no obvious break in your rhythm. Confidence that you can always get yourself out of tight spots greatly reduces the risk you'll get into them in the first place. (I've had more memory lapses in my monthly recitals over the years than I care to remember, but each time, hardly anyone noticed anything amiss, simply because I never stopped playing and there were no 'stutters' or obvious gaps in timing or sound.)

BTW, my performance anxiety never left me even after nearly a decade of regular performing from memory, but I've gotten better over the years at covering up memory lapses (which can come even when I'm not feeling stressed), including improvising for a few seconds when required, to smooth over the cracks.....but previous to that (mainly in lecture-recitals), I performed from the score. The only reason I play from memory in my current recitals is because I have no page-turner, and most of my pieces do not allow for a free hand at the numerous page turns.
Posted By: wouter79 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 04:13 PM
Never had complete crash and burn, I think I'm lucky in that.

I have seen it happen with an adult. Adults seem too conscious about it and then screw up completely where they could have just jumped ahead to the next section or so. Children are much more relaxed in screwing parts and still going on.

I can imagine your nervousness. It does not help if there are several kids playing much better than you, nor that you are older than them (which raises the expectations...). Worst is when these better kids play before you. It's much more 'relaxing' if most kids are playing simple stuff so that the expectations are not too high.

For me, crash*burn happens at home, even when I think I have the piece down.

The major factor triggering this is a change of the context: different piano with different feel and sound, slightly heavier pedal, different height of the bench, other lighting, music at a different height, slightly different speed, different acoustics, the public looking at you, etc. But playing from memory at fast speed for prolonged times also can induce it.

It helps a lot if you can test-run your piece at a slow speed at the performance place, possibly with already some public in it. Often there is no such possibility

The way to fix crash&burn (for me) is to get the sheet music and play the broken part a few times slowly. Often it takes a minute just to find the spot where I crashed.... Not something you want to do while in a recital...

Regarding performing from memory, I agree with bennevis it's easier to pick up the next section if you have the sheet music in front of you. But you probably had played it so often from memory and without sheet music in front of you that you had no doubts about it. In that case sheet music just would have been another change of context factor that could trigger the crash and burn, rather than prevent it
Posted By: wouter79 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 04:17 PM
@bennevis

Usually there is some suited place to turn the page, somewhere halfway a page.

I then make a copy of that page and stick it to the next page.

That way I can already turn the page at the suited place

If you find it hard to remember to turn there: you can make 2 copies, then cut each of them so that each contains only the notes to be played on that page.
Posted By: ShiroKuro Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 04:27 PM
Sorry to hear about your crash and burn, spartan928!

I had a huge crash and burn at a recital, about 15 years now. It was an all-adult recital, but I was scheduled to go very close to last because I was one of the more advanced ones, so that made it worse. I was so upset afterwards, I was upset for about two weeks actually. In the end, I changed a lot about my playing and practicing, and esp. changed the way I prepare for performances as well.

I should see if I can find my original posts about it here... if only the search function actually worked...

Anyway, one thing I did after that was to do a lot of reading about practicing and performing. These are the three books that really made a huge difference for me:

https://www.amazon.com/Inner-Game-M...oding=UTF8&qid=1610900650&sr=8-1

https://www.amazon.com/Soprano-Her-Head-Right-Side-Up-Performances/dp/0911226214/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1R2ZJ5EQDMQN3&dchild=1&keywords=a+soprano+on+her+head+by+eloise+ristad&qid=1610900683&sprefix=a+soprano+%2Caps%2C175&sr=8-1

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Practicing-Guide-Making-Music/dp/0609801775/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1DP2B7V1XGCAG&dchild=1&keywords=madeline+bruser&qid=1610900633&sprefix=madeline+brus%2Caps%2C178&sr=8-1

The only other thing I will say is to be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up about this, it does indeed happen to the best of us, and now that you've experienced it, you can start making some adjustments.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 04:42 PM
If it's any consolation, almost every major pianist has had some major memory lapses. A long time ago, I read an article by Misha Dichter who claimed to have found a way to completely avoid memory lapses. A while later, I heard him play at Carnegie Hall and he had a big memory lapse.
Posted By: wouter79 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 04:48 PM
>and what have you done to stay in a steady state of mind so you can play relaxed and just "let it happen" without your mind telling your hands


First of all, get used to the triggers that potentially CAUSE this
Before the recital I change the context deliberately.
First, change chair height, performance speed, lighting, etc.

If that all works fine, play the piece in a library, a friend's place, a bar. Preferably a place with low expectations, where you can just pick the sheet music and fix a problem on the spot.

Then, as bennevis said, be able to start at regular intervals in the piece, eg immediately after the hard parts.
Posted By: bennevis Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 04:52 PM
Originally Posted by wouter79
@bennevis

Usually there is some suited place to turn the page, somewhere halfway a page.

I then make a copy of that page and stick it to the next page.

That way I can already turn the page at the suited place

If you find it hard to remember to turn there: you can make 2 copies, then cut each of them so that each contains only the notes to be played on that page.
I used to do something similar with my exam pieces (which I never played from memory). Sometimes with spread sheets of up to five.

That's fine if you're playing fairly short pieces, but impractical for pieces that are over 10 pages long with constant - and rapid - movement in both hands, which are the kind of pieces I perform these days.

Of course, an iPad with foot pedal will solve the issue (and I've been struck by how many concert pianists are using them nowadays - especially in their lockdown concerts playing to empty halls) but when I once tried it, I found it too difficult to read from, especially if there's reflection from lights.
Posted By: bennevis Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 05:03 PM
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
If it's any consolation, almost every major pianist has had some major memory lapses. A long time ago, I read an article by Misha Dichter who claimed to have found a way to completely avoid memory lapses. A while later, I heard him play at Carnegie Hall and he had a big memory lapse.
All the greatest pianists have had memory lapses, usually fairly small ones but sometimes quite major.

Once, Pollini didn't come in on his piano entry in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.1 - there was a dead silence after the orchestral tutti that led up to the piano's powerful arpeggiated entry. He suddenly remembered about a second later, and a flurry of notes followed, somewhat faster than what had gone before, as if he felt he had to 'catch up' with the beat.

Zimerman once lost his place in Beethoven's Pathetique but he covered it so successfully that unless you knew the piece very well, you probably wouldn't have known what happened.
Posted By: Serge88 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 05:04 PM
Yes, it happens to me at my teacher's last recital before the lockdown. I had to play 4 pieces all from memory and I also had a few jumping points like Bennevis said. I was nervous and I played too fast, I made mistake after mistake and I became more nervous and at the 3rd piece I went blank for 3 seconds I could not remember anything, I was in a state of shock. I jumped at the end of the piece and for the last one I played from the sheet music.

At the end of the recital, friends ask me, "Did you make a mistake in the third piece ? " They never noticed all the mistakes I did. For me the solution is to do it again and again and become used to play in front of an audience.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 05:35 PM
It's so easy to use the sheet music. Teachers should allow this and they'd probably keep more students. At a teacher's recital one can always find a page turner. Even if there's no one to turn pages, there's usually a place near the end of a page where one can turn the page by oneself. Sometimes this would involve memorizing a tiny portion, like a few measures. I mark and practice any difficult page turns and sometimes leave out a few notes or copy and paste a few measures in small print on the next page.

For most but not all people, I think anything is better than memorizing. For amateurs, studying the piano should be mostly pleasurable and as free from anxiety as possible. I cringe when I read posts where intermediate amateurs list the endless things they do to try and prevent memory problems. So much wasted time and so much less repertoire learned or technical practice omitted for lack of time.

I think the only pianists who should be forced to memorize are conservatory students since that is just the expectation for young professional pianists right now.
Posted By: Serge88 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 06:15 PM
I prefer to play from memory, all I have to do is practise over and over and over with sheet music and one day I remove it and I play from memory. For me what is worse than a memory lapse is someone asking me to play and I say: "No I don't have my sheet music."
Posted By: bennevis Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 07:06 PM
Originally Posted by Serge88
I prefer to play from memory, all I have to do is practise over and over and over with sheet music and one day I remove it and I play from memory. For me what is worse than a memory lapse is someone asking me to play and I say: "No I don't have my sheet music."
No problem - if you want to Be Prepared (Scout motto), just memorize a few pieces so you can always play something from memory.

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 .

These days, I have some thirty pieces in my memory, ranging from Baroque to Contemporary, from sad to happy, from very slow to very fast, from very soft to very loud, from very short to very long. Something for every eventuality.
And I've never been a Scout.......
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/17/21 07:08 PM
Originally Posted by Serge88
I prefer to play from memory, all I have to do is practise over and over and over with sheet music and one day I remove it and I play from memory. For me what is worse than a memory lapse is someone asking me to play and I say: "No I don't have my sheet music."
You can solve that by just memorizing a couple of pieces. If you have played quite a bit and are never nervous about memory lapses and have never had one you are lucky and the exception. And you may not have played very complex pieces. I think professionals who are forced/required to play from memory generally do a lot more than you do to make sure as best is possible that their pieces are securely memorized.
Posted By: Pathbreaker Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 01:42 AM
Oh yes. I'm sure you'll hear lots of horror stories on this one. I have at least a few of my own. Usually it's just me playing poorly due to nerves or lots of mistakes. On rare occasion I'm no stranger to total memory lapse. When this happens I have to go back to the start of that phrase if I'm really lost. That seems the kindest option. I think maybe one time I got stuck in the same spot again and had to go forward to the next phrase.

Many years ago I heard a professional in an all Beethoven recital play such a fabulous program. She had a memory lapse in the last movement on the Appassionata, the last movement of the recital. It took her at most 2 seconds to decide to backtrack a bit and go at it again. I felt bad for her but it really didn't detract from the overall experience. GREAT recital!
Posted By: MH1963 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 03:27 AM
I had a complete crash and burn. I started over, and crashed again. I was unable to finish. It was a horrible experience and I completely sympathize with you. I was well prepared but as an adult playing in public, the stage fright was absolutely traumatic. I could stand up and give a speech without notes, practically on demand. Public speaking is no problem at all, but piano playing in public is terrifying for me.

I don’t know if I’ll play in a recital again, covid saved me from the question, for this year, anyway.

For what it’s worth, I think I have since identified the problem that caused this.

I don’t have any advice for you, but you are not alone, and we’re all too tough on ourselves. Don’t give up.
Posted By: stemPianist Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 04:36 AM
I also much prefer to play from memory.
As much as muscle memory, I try to understand the structure of the piece. The key, the chord progressions, where the melody is going.
When I try to play with music to perform, there is just too much going on for my brain to handle it. I need simplicity.
Posted By: navindra Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 06:32 AM
I don't have enough +1s to give.

I had the same crash and burn experience for Xmas 2019, which was also the year I first started taking lessons. It was absolutely devastating and demoralizing.

My teacher had encouraged me to play from sheet music for the performance, and this had never been an issue during practice. However, as stemPianist also discovered, I completely lost any ability to read from sheet music during the performance, with all my focus being on the music.

And since I hadn't worked on memorizing the music sufficiently, at some point everything broke down. I repeated bars and then I just gave up.

My teacher called out for me to take it from a certain bar since the audience had been singing along, but I was unable to comply -- not being able to read music in the moment and not being able to recover psychologically from the failure. I froze and it wasn't pretty.

Oh, the embarrassment and disappointment.

My way of recovering from this was to go back home and create my own do-over:



COVID-19 has saved me from any further live performances since that failure, but I've kept recording. Even so, recording has been extremely difficult.

I've come to realize that if I ever had to perform live again, I would fail in exactly the same way unless:

  • I'm already able to record the piece easily.
  • I can play in some public setting already.
  • I've completely and thoroughly memorized the piece.


These requirements are quite the burden and none of them are particularly easy for me, on top of all the demands of learning a new piece.

Despite this, I will still welcome the challenge of performing live if that ever becomes a thing again.
Posted By: malkin Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 02:30 PM
A couple years ago I had a memory lapse in my teacher's spring recital.

While I was sitting there with a blank mind, I heard two things from the audience. The first was a kid saying to his mom, "See, that's what I'm afraid of." The second was my teacher saying, "Start over" which I did and everything was fine after that.
Posted By: loydb Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 02:55 PM
Originally Posted by malkin
The first was a kid saying to his mom, "See, that's what I'm afraid of."

I love this quote. If you can't be a good example, be a bad one smile


I never had it happen to me with piano as a kid, but it happened to me on stage as an adult bassist a couple of times. The one that still haunts me was an outdoor show in April (usually safe in Austin) that was way colder than expected. First, my fingers stopped moving with any speed as they began to freeze. Then, as I frantically tried to simplify my parts on the fly, it all came apart and flew out of my memory. I ended up spending the rest of the gig watching the keyboardist's left hand and playing whole notes on the root.
Posted By: Schwa Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 03:15 PM
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.
Posted By: wouter79 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 05:40 PM
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.
Posted By: wouter79 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 05:55 PM
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
Posted By: wouter79 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 06:04 PM
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.
Posted By: spartan928 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 10:56 PM
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
Posted By: spartan928 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/18/21 11:10 PM
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.
Posted By: SoundThumb Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/19/21 01:13 AM
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!
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/19/21 01:34 AM
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.
Posted By: Farmerjones Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/19/21 03:04 AM
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.
Posted By: Remila Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/19/21 03:59 AM
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!
Posted By: SoundThumb Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/19/21 06:50 PM
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.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/19/21 08:11 PM
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?
Posted By: Walkman Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/19/21 08:59 PM
It was Maria Joao Pires with Mozarts Concerto.
Posted By: MH1963 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/20/21 03:47 AM
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.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/20/21 11:07 AM
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.
Posted By: harpsichorder Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/20/21 11:35 AM
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.
Posted By: TheophilusCarter Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/20/21 08:52 PM
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!
Posted By: ErfurtBob Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/20/21 09:46 PM
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 ;-)
Posted By: Sidokar Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/20/21 10:24 PM
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.
Posted By: wouter79 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/25/21 07:01 PM
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?
Posted By: bennevis Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/25/21 08:32 PM
Originally Posted by wouter79
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 you're sight-reading at performance speed, that's exactly what you're doing. It's not that remarkable a skill to have: I've been doing it regularly since I was a student, including in a live concert while accompanying singers. Obviously, that's only possible if the music is well within your technical level (so you don't need to practise any tricky bits) and your sight-reading ability is up to it. For example, most advanced pianists would be able to easily sight-read a Clementi sonatina accurately at tempo, and with musicality, even if they've never heard the music before.

Lots of classical musicians have to sight-read fairly advanced stuff daily for their living - and all the required nuances etc are present & correct during their sight-reading.

It stands to reason, therefore, that they can easily read all the notes that they've already practiced, while playing at performance speed during performance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PAFzEnJ6NU
Posted By: SoundThumb Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/25/21 10:22 PM
Originally Posted by bennevis
It's not that remarkable a skill to have: I've been doing it regularly since I was a student, including in a live concert while accompanying singers.

What is and isn't remarkable would seem to be relative. I find how well you play to be remarkable and the way the accompanist in your attached video to be reading and playing almost beyond remarkable. Don't underrate yourself. You have developed a skill that people like me can only dream of achieving.

SoundThumb
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/26/21 12:38 AM
Originally Posted by wouter79
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?
Your missing the point by focusing on "fast enough". If you cannot do what I described it's very important to practice to improve your reading skill. If one has played a piece many one should be able to read it fast enough to use the score while playing the piece. Of course, one is not necessarily reading every note because one has played the piece many times but one is still using the score.

In your last paragraph you're talking about sight reading a score which is a different although related skill vs. using the score after one has learned the notes. If you continue to memorize a piece as you are learning the notes and don't practice your reading, you will not improve in this vital area. Unless one is blind and has no other choice than to memorize everything one plays, the inability to play from the score(not meaning sight read at speed perfectly) will be a huge impediment to playing piano. You should practice using the score but playing more slowly than performance speed or using the score but playing easier pieces.
Posted By: Sidokar Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/26/21 09:09 AM
Originally Posted by SoundThumb
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.

I think that anyway the issue is not whether you can sight read fast enough. For some people, even if you did have the ability ro read the score, the problem would still be there in another form. The root cause is the paralysing stress that one needs to be able to control.
Posted By: Kepijapa Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/26/21 10:20 AM
I am not going to give any advice here, I almost never perform in public. Last time I couldnt even find middle C, just because the keys had a little bit of a different yellowish color (you see I exactly know what the problem was). When I am drunk I am less nervous, but then I cant find the keys either. Anyway, there is great advice in this thread.

But Julian Bream speaks about it in this documentary; I think it is rather funny:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUdunh_wMCI

Starts at about 17:50. As a kid he was not bothered at all by these silly nerves. For him, his first ever performance was about as difficult as drinking a cup of Tea.
Posted By: wouter79 Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/27/21 06:55 PM
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by wouter79
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?


Your missing the point by focusing on "fast enough". If you cannot do what I described it's very important to practice to improve your reading skill. If one has played a piece many one should be able to read it fast enough to use the score while playing the piece. Of course, one is not necessarily reading every note because one has played the piece many times but one is still using the score.

In your last paragraph you're talking about sight reading a score which is a different although related skill vs. using the score after one has learned the notes. If you continue to memorize a piece as you are learning the notes and don't practice your reading, you will not improve in this vital area. Unless one is blind and has no other choice than to memorize everything one plays, the inability to play from the score(not meaning sight read at speed perfectly) will be a huge impediment to playing piano. You should practice using the score but playing more slowly than performance speed or using the score but playing easier pieces.


>Of course, one is not necessarily reading every note because one has played the piece many times but one is still using the score.

You say "of course" but this is very different from what you said before. This is not sight reading. Only using strategically chosen key features from the score while glossing over the rest that you have memorized anyway. This is exactly what I said how I use the score

Seems then that we agree on this after all on this point.

>Unless one is blind and has no other choice than to memorize everything one plays, the inability to play from the score(not meaning sight read at speed perfectly) will be a huge impediment to playing piano

I don't agree. Different people have different learning rates for reading. If bringing up your reading speed from 1 note per second to 2 notes per second would take you 20 years, while memorizing a piece takes you a day and will take you half a day next year, then I say it's a waste of time to even try reading faster and better focus your time on memorization. I'm of course exaggerating but you get the point.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Performance crash and burn - 01/27/21 09:32 PM
Originally Posted by wouter79
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by wouter79
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?


Your missing the point by focusing on "fast enough". If you cannot do what I described it's very important to practice to improve your reading skill. If one has played a piece many one should be able to read it fast enough to use the score while playing the piece. Of course, one is not necessarily reading every note because one has played the piece many times but one is still using the score.

In your last paragraph you're talking about sight reading a score which is a different although related skill vs. using the score after one has learned the notes. If you continue to memorize a piece as you are learning the notes and don't practice your reading, you will not improve in this vital area. Unless one is blind and has no other choice than to memorize everything one plays, the inability to play from the score(not meaning sight read at speed perfectly) will be a huge impediment to playing piano. You should practice using the score but playing more slowly than performance speed or using the score but playing easier pieces.


>Of course, one is not necessarily reading every note because one has played the piece many times but one is still using the score.


You say "of course" but this is very different from what you said before. This is not sight reading. Only using strategically chosen key features from the score while glossing over the rest that you have memorized anyway. This is exactly what I said how I use the score

Seems then that we agree on this after all on this point. {/quote]Not really. I never said what I described was sight reading(which means reading the score for the first time). In fact, I specifically said it wasn't sight reading. And what I said isn't necessarily "glossing over the score" either. If one is playing the piece for say the tenth time, one could be reading most of the notes but it just becomes easier(or should become easier) to read the score the tenth time. What Soundcloud described was his lack of improvement in reading the score. This was to such a degree that the score couldn't be used during a performance.

Originally Posted by wouter79
>Unless one is blind and has no other choice than to memorize everything one plays, the inability to play from the score(not meaning sight read at speed perfectly) will be a huge impediment to playing piano

I don't agree. Different people have different learning rates for reading. If bringing up your reading speed from 1 note per second to 2 notes per second would take you 20 years, while memorizing a piece takes you a day and will take you half a day next year, then I say it's a waste of time to even try reading faster and better focus your time on memorization. I'm of course exaggerating but you get the point.
Your exaggeration is so extreme as to be meaningless. Most people can improve their reading ability with proper and enough practice.

More importantly, you seem to miss the point of why it's so important to be able to use the score after practicing a piece. It's so much more than comparing the time it takes to learn a piece. If one cannot use the score while playing, the only pieces ones can play are what one has memorized. That, for most people, would be an incredibly small amount of music. If one is cannot use the score while playing, one is a poor reader and it will generally take that person much longer to learn the notes of a piece even if the goal is to memorize while learning the notes.

Finally, there is so much more marked in the score than just the notes. My guess is that most people who try to immediately memorize the score don't memorize a lot of the markings in the score besides the notes.
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