Preparing for Your Recital

We all want to acquit ourselves honorably at our performances. Not only is the performance a source of stress, but so is the preparation. Here are some ideas.

Music Preparation

During your practice, practice. DO NOT PERFORM.

Practice at home before the recital should consist of:

I want to discuss the follow pre-recital practice technique as more than a bullet point. Think of different ways to play your piece so you circumvent "muscle memory" and force yourself to think about each and every note, each and every change in hand/wrist/arm position. Some ideas to help you disrupt patterns you have built in:

Other distractions: play with your tongue sticking out; recite the alphabet. Obviously, this won't work really well for long pieces, but, hey!, the concept is worth a chuckle (and my child students think this is a hoot). Or, have two people carry on a conversation in the same room as the piano; or sing; or walk around. (Adults, your children will be superb at these tasks! But ask them specifically and let them know you want them to do this for a reason, or you might be inviting such behavior on a regular basis!)

Don't perform unless someone is there to listen. The cat doesn't count. You may perform at home only under the following circumstances:

Another critically-important piece of info:

When you practice, DO NOT STOP if you make an error. Whatever happens, do not stop! If you make a mistake, welcome it. These are opportunities to gain experience in working yourself out of a jam. If you never have to actually work your way out of a jam, what will happen on stage when you must do this? You must practice how to extricate yourself from the problem. Or will you just back up and re-start at the place where the error was?

And of course mistakes are indicators of trouble spots you should work on.

On Recital Day

On the day of the recital, do not perform for anyone - - not even the tape recorder. It will be a great temptation to play through your piece(s), but do not do it!!


Occupy yourself with something else during the day and try to avoid thinking about the performance later. Last-minute cramming will not help at all and will only make you more nervous.

Adults, don't do anything that produces deadline anxiety, such as driving kids to ballgames or preparing meals. Let someone else cook and chauffeur.

Do not hassle with the kids; let your spouse run interference. You relax. Find something in which to engross yourself: a book, a hobby, and so on.

Do not use knives or sharp tools!

Meals. Eat a normal breakfast on recital day, staying away from fats and spicy foods. If you feel you might be hungry before the recital ends, you might find either a banana or a baked potato (easy on the butter or sour cream) soothing. DO NOT CONSUME:

You want to be in full possession and control of your faculties!

Women: I recommend avoiding salty foods for two or three days prior to the recital because water retention may make your hands and fingers feel "stiff". Stay away from sausage, ham, salted popcorn, soy sauce, prepared foods, and meals at restaurants.


Your teacher will advise you about walking onto the stage, bowing, and other recital procedures.

If you have never performed in a recital before, make sure you and your teacher rehearse this! Don't leave anything to chance. Your teacher might assume you know these things already, just by watching other people do it.

In the event you need some information, see my file on this.


Your teacher also will advise you about proper attire.

If you receive no guidance in this area (you did ask, right?), see this file for some suggestions.

See also the file on visualization as a technique to reduce nervousness.
copyright 2002, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me about reprint permission.

Piano Home Page | Consumer Topics | Home Page