Robert Estrin - piano expert

Performing VS Practicing

Do you know the difference between them?

In this video, Robert analyzes the differences between performing and practicing with very interesting concepts you don't want to miss.

Released on March 3, 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 and this is Today the subject is performing versus practicing. Boy, these are two entirely different experiences and all too often students will confuse which one they're doing or just not be clear. You want to know are you performing or are you practicing? And there is a drastic difference. They are polar opposites in the approach. So that's what we're going to discuss today. Now there is a whole other end of this which is practicing, performing, which I'll get to at the end of this. But first of all, what is the fundamental difference between performing and practicing? Because after all, if you're practicing, don't you want to play through your music?

Well, sure you do. Well, the thing is though, when you're practicing you want to fix any mistakes. So if you're playing through something and something either goes wrong or you're not sure if it's right or it just feels insecure even if it sounds okay, that's a signal to stop, take out the score and figure out what's going on and spend the time with it. So the lesson for practicing is whenever there's a problem you must stop and fix it and take that time. It's vitally important to do that. You don't gloss over it.

Now, performing is just the opposite. It doesn't matter how devastating a mistake you might make, the show must go on. You got to just keep moving forward. Nobody wants to hear you practice during a performance. And you might think that you want to show the audience that you know you made a mistake so you want to go back and correct it to show them you can play it. They don't want to hear it. Believe me. They'd rather you let the mistake go by the wayside and they're already anticipating the next part of it. They don't want to hear a repeat of what they just heard and losing the continuity of the performance is actually the worst thing you could ever do. No matter how screwed up you might become at a performance, keep moving forward. That's the lesson. Do not stop. Do not correct. Now that's hard to do.

Why is it hard to do? Because I just said in your practice, you must always stop when you have a problem and correct it. So how do you alleviate that in your performance? I mentioned at the beginning I'd be bringing this up, which is you must practice performing and you can practice performing in a number of ways. In the earliest stages before you're comfortable playing for anyone, you just sit down at the piano and say, "Okay, this is a practice performance and I'm not going to stop no matter what. I just want to see what level this is at and if I can get through it without stopping." And come hell or high water, keep going. And no matter what happens, get through it, you'll learn a lot from that experience.

First of all, you're going to know where to zero in on your practice. It'll be very obvious the parts that need the work. Better to discover that in your practice then when you're in an actual performance. Secondly, you get in the habit of just moving forward no matter what even if things do inevitably go wrong which they do for everyone at some point or another no matter what level you are on. Now, later you can actually practice performing in other ways by set up a device and record yourself and press that record button. Once you do, don't think, "Oh, I messed up. I'm going to press the record button again." No, no, no, no, no. You're going to go through and even if the beginning is a disaster, all the better. It gives you that opportunity to try out recovering when you don't have an audience in front of you to see how well you can do it.

Then you could always press that record button a second time to have the gratification of doing a better performance. Then of course you can play for friends or family. And even though once again they're going to forgive you if you go, "Oh, I can do this better." You start off and something messes up. "Oh, I want to start over." Don't do that. Say use them as Guinea pigs and explain to them what you're doing. Say, "You know, I can play this perfectly but when I play for people, I sometimes screw up but I want to learn to keep going so even if I screw up, I'm going to keep going and maybe I'll play for you again to see if I can play it better the second time but I'm not going to stop no matter what." And so they'll forgive you. They're your friends or your family.

Explain that to them and then stick to it. Don't miss out the opportunity to utilize them as this resource to practice you're performing. Eventually you can play for groups of people here. There's a party. There's a piano there and say, "Hey, you know, I've been working on this piece. I'd love to play it for you if you want to hear it." And a lot of times people will get, "Yeah", especially if there's a piano there, people be wondering, is anybody going to play this thing? And once again even though they might be a supportive, wonderful crowd, keep going so you get comfortable going from the beginning to the end of a piece without stopping. So eventually when you're playing a public performance, if you ever do that, you will be at home. You'll know you can get through it for better or for worse and have a performance, not somebody watching you practice.

So those are the extremes. In practice generally unless you're practicing a run through or practicing a performance, you stop when there's something that is not accurate or something that doesn't even feel comfortable and you check the score and you work it out in innumerable practice techniques until you can pass that point. But in performance, you keep going no matter what. And that is the answer. They're polar opposites. Make sure you're clear as to which one you're doing in your practice so you don't fall into the trap of doing something that's kind of in between. It's sort of a performance, it's sort of practicing. When you do that, you're actually not developing good performance habits and it's not good practice habits either. So you want to eliminate that ambiguity.

All right, once again, Robert Estrin here at, your online piano resource. My Patreon is available for those of you who want to have a closer connection and be able to ask questions for future videos. Thanks again to all your subscribers here on YouTube. We'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Cheryl * VSM MEMBER * on March 3, 2021 @11:49 am PST
How do you recommend to practice sight-reading.....
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on March 3, 2021 @3:21 pm PST
Hi Cheryl and thank you for your inquiry. You can check out the following videos about sight-reading that Robert made a while ago:

I hope this helps!

All the best,
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