Robert Estrin - piano expert

Musical Stress Test

Useful tips for all musicians

In this video, Robert gives you straightforward tips to test yourself and get prepared the right way before a concert, an audition, a performance, or just a lesson.

Released on November 24, 2021

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin. This is livingpianos.com. Your online piano resource. Today, I'm going to discuss a musical stress test. What am I talking about? Well, a lot of times you practice, you practice, you practice. You wonder, do you know this music? How do you know if you know this music? Are you ready for a performance? Are you ready for a lesson? Are you ready to accompany somebody? And you're wondering, how could you know if you're ready? You don't want to wait until the moment of truth comes and then you find out worst case scenario, oh my gosh, you weren't prepared. How can you know? Because as you well know, you can play something by yourself in your home perfectly, and then you try to play it for somebody else, all haywire breaks loose. So what can you do to test things out? Kind of a musical stress test.

There's a lot of things you can do. You can try playing things faster to see if you can still hold it together. Because guess what? When you get nervous, one of the first things that happens is your physiology speeds up a little bit. Your heart rate, your breathing, all of that happens. And guess what happens to your playing? You'll go faster. You don't even think you're going faster. I'll never forget many, many, many years ago, listening to recordings of myself as a kid, as a child, playing in my dad's student recitals, and couldn't believe how fast I was going, faster than I ever played these pieces. It could be a disaster sometimes if you've never tried these pieces faster, and the first time it happens is during a performance. I've been clutching, keeping my fingers crossed, hearing students in recitals sometimes take these outrageous tempos they never tried before, hoping that they have some reserve in their playing.

What else can you do? A great thing you can do is to record yourself. Psych yourself up like it's an actual performance, set up a device, and go through it and make yourself a little bit nervous for the device. And the key is not to stop, even if you mess up right at the beginning, keep going. Because guess what? That can happen in a performance, and you don't want to start over. Nobody wants to hear you start over. First of all, it's as much as announcing to everybody that you've messed up, but more than that, it destroys the continuity of the performance for the audience. Speaking of which, there's no better way to create stress than to play for an audience. If you regularly play for people, play for more people. The more people you play for, the more nervous you're likely to get.

That's the ultimate stress test. And if you could withstand that, then you're ready for anything. What I recommend is ratcheting it up little by little. Start with recording for a device, then playing for a family member or a trusted friend, then larger and larger numbers of people until you're ready for an audience. And if you can withstand that and you can withstand playing faster than you usually play, and you could also try playing on different pianos as a musical stress test. Sit down cold. You've got somebody's piano you've never played, and play a piece you've never played on that piano, or maybe you've never even played that piano, and see what happens, right from the get go, without even trying the piano first. Boy, that [inaudible 00:03:41] some stress. And play on as many pianos as you can. It's a great way to improve your preparedness, because guess what?

You can't take your piano with you. Usually, you have to play whatever piano is wherever you are going. So playing on as many different instruments as possible is another way to be ready as a stress test for your performance, and make sure you're in the best shape possible to withstand anything in your playing. I hope this is interesting for you. Again, I'm Robert Estrin. This is livingpianos.com, your online piano resource. Thanks for all you subscribers. I really appreciate it. It's astounding to see hundreds of thousands of people around the world, between YouTube and livingpianos, and that's what keeps me motivated. So thank you for that. We'll see you next time.
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