by Rob Ward
New York Studio of Music and Art
As our upcoming student concert approaches, it’s high time to practice and prepare the piece you are going to perform! Getting into concert shape means more than just playing the correct notes, and listed below are some things to think about as you get ready.
1. Memorization & Knowing Your Music Inside Out
Learning isn’t always easy, and sometimes merely playing the notes of a song without making a mistake feels like a massive victory! However, if you want to take your playing to the next level, having the music memorized will free your mind and eyes from staring at a music stand on stage which will allow you to focus your energy on playing the piece more musically.
Internalizing your music with memorization will enable you to look at your hands, focus on technique, bring out phrasing and dynamics, and can even give you a free moment to wink and smile at that cute girl, boy, mom and/or dad in the audience… ’cause hey, after all, we are in the entertainment business. Got to keep it real.
Granted, sometimes a piece of music may be too difficult for a student to memorize, but with enough practice you can surely learn it well enough to lessen your dependence on those little black dots which will ultimately improve your level of playing.
2. Use Techniques
After going through the task of learning the notes, start practicing techniques! The beauty of the guitar is brought out by using vibrato, bends, slides, etc. If you use these devices in appropriate spots, you’ll find the music coming to life!
3. Explore the Sounds of the Guitar
If you play electric guitar, those knobs and switches actually do something! Of course, I’m sure you knew that, but do you know how to get the most out of using different pickup and knob settings? By the time you step on stage, you should already know how your guitar should be set… and that requires more than just turning your volume to ten and flicking the toggle switch to a random pickup. Use your ears and find the settings that please your ear for that particular song. Odds are that if the sound pleases you, it will please others as well.
If you play acoustic guitar, you can explore the many different tones of the guitar by experimenting with the placement of your picking hand. Play closer to the bridge for brighter sound, above the soundhole for more balance, and closer or above the neck to add some nice dark/rich tones.
Every great guitar player has great tone, and the only person who can control the way you sound is you, the player. It’s all in the hands and in your approach to sound. The sooner you start exploring the guitars tonal capabilities, the better!
4. Stage Preparation
What does stage preparation mean? It means having your guitar tuned, and having anything that you need on stage during your performance ready before you step on stage. Are you playing a song with a capo? Better make sure you packed it in your guitar case before you leave the house! You’re still students, so until you have roadies and guitar techs like The Rolling Stones or Metallica who take care of these things for you, you have to be responsible and learn to be ready. Once you step on stage, it’s go time!
5. Have Fun
Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun while your on stage. After studying guitar for some time, chances are that you now realize that mastering the instrument is more difficult than you may have originally thought. It takes years of practice and hard work. In the process of preparing your music, you may find yourself stressed out and worrying too much about delivering a perfect performance. Before you get on stage, you have to do your best to turn any fears and/or stress into positive energy. Do you remember why you started playing? It was to have fun, and if you have fun while playing in front of people, they will have fun watching you… and that is the perfect performance.