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Author Topic: Performance Skills  (Read 20353 times)

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Chris Brimley

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Performance Skills
« on: September 11, 2017, 02:21:08 PM »

I was interested in the comments of those who responded to the recent thread about 'Practicing'. 

For several years I've been running an Open Mic stage at Woodfest, in NT Hatfield Forest, near Stansted, and it has struck me how excellent all performers (of all kinds of instrument and voice) seem to have become over that period, in presenting their music to audiences.  I'd like to understand more about what techniques box players use to practise their stuff so that it can be up to a high performance standard.  Unless I'm playing with a solid band that I know, I confess to lots of fluffs.

Does anyone else recognise this as an important issue to consider, when rehearsing?  If so, what's your take on it?
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Joan Kureczka

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2017, 02:48:41 PM »

Learning to get past fluffs with aplomb is one of the most valuable lessons I'm learning. We play almost weekly (myself and husband on 12-string guitar) in a Sunday afternoon slot at a tiny cafe that sponsors lots of live music. Sometimes it goes very well, other times.....  But it has certainly helped to make my playing better, as much as all the living room practice does if not more.
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2017, 02:55:19 PM »

Chris, you've asked an incredibly good question and one that I've often wondered about - how to organise and improve my practicing.
I need to hone my practicing skills, so will lurk on here and try and pick up tips.

My basic approach is a folder of 'tunes to learn' and a list of tunes that have been learnt. I find if I concentrate on a new tune for a length of time then my tunes already learnt need a good buff up.
I also recognise that I will often move on from a tune that's not quite committed to memory. Sometimes I find it is 'digested' whilst I move onto other things, and coming back fresh will give a learning spurt. It could be that in the mean time I've learnt and improved my playing skills that means a 'tune too far' is now in reach. At times just slogging away and getting nowhere I find offputting and depressing, so best leave it and come back later....
It also prevents me from getting too stale with a tune, and returning to it makes it seem fresh again.
I have seen Bob's comments on the other thread, but having to work seems to get in the way of such a good and regular practice regime!
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Steve_freereeder

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2017, 03:06:04 PM »

We all make mistakes when performing. I certainly do, and I've even seen John Kirkpatrick on stage crumble into a cascade of bum notes. He stopped, apologised: "Whoops! I'll just start that again" and then proceeded to give a faultless performance.  (:)

Mistakes don't really matter too much; it's how you recover from them and incorporate them into the overall flow of your music that is important. In my Sheffield orchestra, a former respected conductor used to say to us in the green room immediately prior to a concert performance 'Whatever happens, it will be right'. And there is a lot of truth in that.

So - don't get too strung up about making mistakes; mostly it will 'be right' one way or another. And if the performance really starts to go totally belly up, feel free to emulate JK and start again. No-one will mind. It will demonstrate you're human and not a machine.
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2017, 03:20:24 PM »

I find mistakes are far less conspicuous in a band situation than they are solo, you can just pause briefly,  then pick up at the next phrase, unless the others stop to see why you've gone quiet (which used to happen every time, at first)   :(
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Greg Smith
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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2017, 03:21:53 PM »

We all make mistakes when performing. I certainly do, and I've even seen John Kirkpatrick on stage crumble into a cascade of bum notes. He stopped, apologised: "Whoops! I'll just start that again" and then proceeded to give a faultless performance.  (:)

Isn't that now an expected part of his performance?

Apart from how you play which is clearly important there is also the business of relating to the audience as a person. That includes how you speak, smile, use gestures, chat and banter and generally make the audience feel they are having a good time. The best entertainers make this look relaxed and spontaneous, but for most I'm sure it is a well honed skill.
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george garside

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2017, 03:30:55 PM »

its also important to always remember that you are there for 'them' rather than them for ''you''. That applies whether 'them' are a hall full of dancers or a seated audience or whatever!

george
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2017, 04:07:54 PM »

I raised this because I've noticed how incredibly good at performing many of today's musicians have become - and I think that to do that has become natural to some people, for reasons I don't really understand.  Sure, it's good to have techniques to overcome the fluffs, but there's obviously something about a good performer's mind-set that allows them to be highly consistent.  Maybe it's some sort of quiet self-discipline, that can be learnt?
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2017, 04:10:18 PM »

Just to add, I've noticed that I can easily mess up a tune I have known for a very long time, so for me it's not really about practice time, it's about attitude, I think.

And after our frenetic weekend of running a music stage, many of us went on in the evening to a nicely-chilled session nearby.  I managed to play a tricky piece near-perfectly, despite (or maybe because of?) being completely exhausted.  I've had this experience before - now what's that all about?
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 04:13:58 PM by Chris Brimley »
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Steve_freereeder

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2017, 04:17:38 PM »

I raised this because I've noticed how incredibly good at performing many of today's musicians have become - and I think that to do that has become natural to some people, for reasons I don't really understand.  Sure, it's good to have techniques to overcome the fluffs, but there's obviously something about a good performer's mind-set that allows them to be highly consistent.  Maybe it's some sort of quiet self-discipline, that can be learnt?

I think that for any sort of performance, be it music, acting, dancing, etc. there has to be an element of showmanship and exhibitionism (both of these in a good sense, and not blatant ego-centricity). You have to want to do it, even though you might (like me) get very nervous and suffer from stage fright. Training at music/drama/dance schools can help nurture and hone your performing skills, and even help you discover those which you never thought you had. But overall, you must have that want or need to perform, which comes from within. People who don't have this urge, want, need, will not go on to perform (even though they actually might technically be competent enough to do so).
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Steve
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playandteach

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2017, 04:30:41 PM »

And after our frenetic weekend of running a music stage, many of us went on in the evening to a nicely-chilled session nearby.  I managed to play a tricky piece near-perfectly, despite (or maybe because of?) being completely exhausted.  I've had this experience before - now what's that all about?
Sometimes when you're really worn out, the autopilot is more reliable because your brain doesn't keep 2nd guessing it.
In the days of heavy drinking brass players - not now a feature of modern orchestras, a violin player asked the principal trumpet (no names) how he plays so well when he's p***ed. He said, it's simple I practise when I'm p***sed.

As someone who doesn't want to play in public, I practise specifically to learn tunes well enough to record them. I don't allow myself any editing at all, but may only play the piece once through for the camera just in case the wheels come off the second time through.
I know a lot of people say that they don't know what happens to their playing when the red light is on, and there is of course some truth that you play worse with that pressure, but there's also the fact that sometimes it's just not ready - for example if I fumble and restart a phrase, I might actually start up with a fingering that I can't get to from the previous passage without a hiatus - so I think I can get it right second time, but I'm actually not using the difficult fingering that I have to learn. The recording makes sure that I spend time sorting it out properly.
Then there's the disappointment in the recording sounding less successful than it did in my head.
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2017, 06:29:38 PM »

Oooops, sorry Chris, misunderstood the thrust of your thread hence my original comment.
In terms of performance, speaking from a Morris perspective, we try and smile and make the most of any cock-up, even act like it was meant to be. It holds true for playing, as said.
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Rees

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2017, 09:46:43 PM »

Main bullet point: It's entertainment.
Try to keep that in mind at all times.
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Rees Wesson (accordion builder and mechanic)
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george garside

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2017, 10:53:55 PM »

seconded!

george ;)
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Winston Smith

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2017, 10:57:19 PM »

"It's entertainment"

I wholeheartedly agree with that, we're not sitting exams, neither are we getting loads of dosh (well, some of us obviously are, but not many I suspect!) for what we are doing. Let's just enjoy playing and performing, after all, most amateur dramatics aren't perfect, neither are most local folkies at the clubs, but they're still very enjoyable.

I'm at the time in my life where if I no longer enjoy doing something, I stop doing it! Life is too short to put in hours of arduous practice, or even practise! (Whatever, I no longer care.)
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 12:05:57 AM by Edward Jennings »
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2017, 11:17:52 PM »

"It's entertainment"

. Let's just enjoy playing and performing, after all, most amateur dramatics aren't perfect, neither are most local folkies at the clubs, but they're still very enjoyable.


I can heartily recommend playing the evil nasty bad person in  pantomime for helping you discover how to relate to an audience. Nothing at all to do with being word perfect, either. Doesn't half boost your confidence.
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Greg Smith
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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2017, 01:18:41 AM »

Another thing is this isn't the raceway were people are waiting for a crash ;)

My father told me remember that the audience wants you to do good, not always easy to do though.

It's always a good idea to have a couple of jokes to fall back on in a pinch.
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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2017, 08:33:10 AM »

My main bit of advice regards what happens when something goes wrong with your performance ... I see it time and again with people I teach ... the natural reaction is to stop and play that bit again.  This is what we tend to do when we practise to try and get that bit right ... but music performance doesn't work like that and it can be bad practice.

Keeping the tune in your head going at a steady tempo will allow you to re-join the tune in time after any fluff and the more you do this - the better and quicker you get at doing it until it can be pretty much invisible to all but the most attentive audience member.  Playing regularly for dancing where rhythm and continuity is more important than the right notes if you don't want everyone to grind to a halt is a great discipline that helps with this.

If you don't play for dancing then I would urge you to never stop mid-tune when practising it and only at the end should you pinpoint the bit you were having trouble with and go over that bit in detail.  Practice doesn't make perfect ... practice makes permanent ... and if you stop halfway through a tune and get out of rhythm then that is what your brain will learn to do!
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Winston Smith

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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2017, 08:43:38 AM »

"Practice doesn't make perfect ... practice makes permanent ... and if you stop halfway through a tune and get out of rhythm then that is what your brain will learn to do!"

That seems to be very logical (and so simple it's eminently missable!) it could explain lots of long-term stumbling blocks! Thank you, squeezy.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 10:57:12 AM by Edward Jennings »
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Re: Performance Skills
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2017, 09:19:16 AM »

You can have that for free Edward - life's too short not to share with others  ;-)
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Squeezy

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