Practice and Performance

In this page I have attempted to give some hints and tips to help you on the road to playing for others as well as for yourself. For many this is at first an anxious experience but it does not have to be. The first thing to acknowledge is that you owe it to your audience to prepare well for the occasion. Even playing alongside others in a pub session carries with it the responsibility to listen as well as to play, joining in only when you can do so at an acceptible standard. So - how do you prepare? Here is a check list which I hope will be helpful.

It is very tempting to play tunes through over and over until you have perfected your mistakes! Remember that you will need to give separate attention to difficult passages in order to arrive at a complete performance. Here is a possible strategy:

    1. When performing AND when practising, make sure that you have a good well balanced posture and that you are relaxed. Is there any tension in your neck, head, face, shoulders, arms? Stop practising if you have tensed up and do something about it. Some physical exercise and a deep breath in and out before you restart can help. A relaxed performace doesn't waste energy and sounds much more enjoyable to the listener.

    2. When learning a tune, sing it (aloud or to yourself) so that you have a good idea of it before you do detailed work on the instrument. Then listen to yourself when you are playing.

    3. Break a tune down into meaningful musical phrases (often 2 bars or 4 bars in length). NB Phrases often begin and end, not at a bar line, but a little before. If you are playing off the page, turn away and repeat the passage until you no longer need the dots as a prop.

    4. It is sometimes helpful to learn the end phrase of a section first. Then when you go on to learn the preceding phrase you will find it easier to extend it to its conclusion - you will know where it is heading and you will have already worked on the ending.

    5. Experiment with your interpretation e.g. by trying different bowings and dynamics and ornaments perhaps. Aim to make the tune your own so that your performance expresses your appreciation and enjoyment of the music.

    6. Aim to play without the barrier of a music stand. Once you know the tune, concentrate on each phrase as you come to it, playing it with your full concentration on the expression - on how you want it to sound. With that focus you won't need to worry about what comes next - you can leave that to your subconscious mind as long as you really do know the tune.

    7. Find opportunities to play for dancing which is an experience very different from playing in a concert or session. It can do a lot to improve your fiddling providing you watch the dancers closely and aim to shape and help the dancers' movements and expression through the way you play the music.

So much for ideas about working at fiddling. Don't forget that these considerations are meant to help you achieve the most important thing - sheer enjoyment of the music and the pleasure of making it all happen. Have fun!

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