Defeating The Performance Time Boogie Man

So, you’re sitting at the BIG black monster – uh, piano – in front of a crowd of people. You’re playing your piece, and suddenly your brain goes on strike and you don’t know what notes to play. YIKES!!!

Most musicians have had this happen before, but what to do? These episodes seem to linger in  our performance memories for years and can be quite traumatic. I can still remember forgetting my piano piece in my second piano recital at age 6. It was so awful that my teacher had to finish the song for me! Well, piano students around the world need not fear this happening to them any longer. If during practice a certain phrase constantly escapes your student’s memory, this is a clue that some precautions must be put in place at performance time to combat any possible brain strike.

That’s where the blocks come in! One of my very young students was having trouble remembering the “fa la la la la” phrase in Deck the Halls. So, in a last-minute moment of inspiration, I grabbed some letter blocks and used them to spell out the notes of the phrase. We used them each time during the lessons leading to the performance so my student could get used to them being there. At the performance, the blocks were great because you couldn’t see them over the book stand like you would a book. My student was able to relax knowing that if he couldn’t remember his notes they were right there in front of him and the audience didn’t even know!

What precautions do you take to combat the inevitable performance time boogie man’s sabotage efforts?

4 thoughts on “Defeating The Performance Time Boogie Man

  1. Very nice creative way of dealing. I do have very bad memories of piano recitals. Never really learned to play, but I can play chords and have played keys in bands in later years. Took a long time to get over the fear of playing the thing in public!

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    • Just hearing the words “piano recital” stirs up those uncomfortable feelings for me. That’s why I don’t even call it that – I say “concert” – another coping mechanism I guess. How have you gathered your nerves to perform in spite of your piano recital memories?

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      • Fortunately, my real instrument is my voice and performing as a singer was never scary–I had control over it! Then when I was a worship leader, I practiced with the band sometimes when the keyboardist was gone and one Sunday she failed to show up for church. I didn’t have much choice–either step up and play or not have keys. We really needed it, so I did it. Scariest moment in front of an “audience” in my life!! But they were very gracious and I’ve played with several bands since then.

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      • Thanks for sharing! We must be musically related in a church sort of way – most of my public playing as a child was in church as a fill in without a choice too. There were a lot of times when I’d sneak out the back door and hide when I knew I was about to be drafted. I look back on those days and get tickled. I learned a lot from those experiences. Wonderful memories.

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