Preparing to Perform Effectively
by Sean Stone-Ashe

Performing your music is one of the most special and rewarding parts of learning a musical instrument.
However, performances can be a source of stress, and every time you play for an audience there is a risk that it
might not go as well as you hope.

The following advice is intended to help students be as prepared and confident as possible when the day of the
performance arrives.

1. Daily Practice

In order to ensure that your performance goes well, it is imperative that you are practicing every day leading up
to the performance. Ideally, a music student should adhere to a daily practice schedule year-round. But, if you
are normally more relaxed about practicing, it’s time to get serious and work daily to be ready.

I would recommend that you not take any days off from practice for at least two weeks prior to a performance to
make sure it goes well. The key to a successful performance is that you feel confident and routine about the piece
or pieces you have to play. Nothing achieves these feelings more effectively than daily practice.

2. Don’t Just Practice - Practice Performing

Nothing prepares you for a performance better than performing itself. I find that each new piece I learn will
need to be performed a number of times before I truly feel comfortable playing it for a live audience at the level I
strive for.

Hence, I always recommend doing as many practice performances as possible leading up to a recital or other
large performance. If you practice at home, then it is convenient to ask a family member to listen to you once
you complete your practice. I would recommend doing this every day for a week leading up to a performance for
best results.

By the end of that week, performing will feel routine, and you will invariably feel more natural when the
important performance happens.

3. Change Your Practice Habits, Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

It is important to understand and respect that a performance feels very different from practice. This is true not
only because there is more pressure, but the exact context in which you play is different from practice at home.
Whenever I have a performance coming up, I try to acknowledge the performance by changing how I practice, in
a way that will acclimate me to the demands of performance.

One practice strategy I employ in the week leading up to the performance is to change where I practice often. At
home, we usually have our comfortable practice space, but when you perform, you will not have such familiar
surroundings. It is important to learn how to concentrate on your music while in an uncomfortable setting.

Therefore, I like to move to different rooms of my home, or different spaces within a particular room so that I
always feel like I’m in a new setting as I play my music. Then, when I get up to do my performance, I don’t feel
so out of place.

Additionally, when you perform, there is usually some amount of time where you have to sit still without
practicing. Then all of a sudden, it’s time to perform even if you are not the most warmed up.

To prepare for this, I like to take more frequent breaks as I practice when preparing for a performance. It’s
amazing if you can play your very best after an hour straight of practice, but you won’t have an hour to warm up
once the concert has begun.

Try getting up for fifteen minutes from your practice, and see how comfortable it feels to play when you return.
If that strategy isn’t successful at first, trust that within a few days of practicing this way, you will adapt to that
style of playing.


Performances can be a stressful endeavor, but performing always brings out the best in students. You should
always treat a performance as both a celebration of your hard work, but also as a learning experience for future

So much of our success or failure in performance is owed to our preparation. So, when you have to perform,
make sure that you do prepare, and as you do, employ effective strategies that yield positive results.