How to practise performing for your exam
Practising for a performance is very different from practising for a lesson. When you take your practising head into the performance, you are more likely to stop and correct as you go along, when what you want is to let go and play, trusting all the work you have put in. When you practise performing, you give yourself the experience of performing so it becomes much more normal. You know much more what to expect and you are less likely to be nervous. So, let’s explore the steps towards this.
Plan in advance with your teacher when you are going to be ready for your exam. Make sure it is quite a few days before your performance or exam and put that date in the diary. That is when you want your pieces and scales to be ready.
Find opportunities to run your pieces through (and your scales) frequently between that date until the exam. It might be a mock exam with your teacher, a run through for your parents or friends, or just playing through without stopping to correct, in your practice room.
Be the observer on your own mock-performance: Review what went well and what didn’t go well so you can improve on those things in your practice. Above all, how do you feel? Did the run through make you nervous? If it did, then you can practise managing those nerves in advance and they won’t surprise you when it comes to the exam.
Use visualization. If you can’t play in the venue beforehand, you can do a lot with your imagination that can help. Imagine where you are going to be playing and create the feel of the exam room as much as you can. You can also practise walking tall as you go into the imaginary exam venue and practise smiling at the imaginary examiner. Then get yourself settled at the music stand or at the piano, and take a long, slow breath before you start, to calm and prepare yourself.
Testing out these things in advance, even if it’s just in your imagination, can give you enormous confidence. You will feel you know what you are dealing with and you will give yourself the very best chance of giving a good exam.