Competition/Big Performance Preparation

  • Participant
    unknown-user on #146831

    If you’re interested in the topic that is the subject header for this post (and you probably are since you clicked it), you’d likely be interested in following my new blog, http://theharpwriter.wordpress.com/

    The blog, in short, focuses on preparing performers for competitions and important concerts. I’ve made a bit more of an investment in the competition aspect here, but all the same principles apply for important performances.

    I would please ask you to browse my site before commenting here or there (though commenting here would be nice, since that would keep the thread on the homepage and let my blog be visible longer to anyone who might be interested). You can read some of the posts that I’ve already made, read the “Why Compete?” section, or take a look at the “about the blog” or “about the author” sections.

    I update weekly.

    I hope you enjoy!
    ~Sam

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146832

    There are many things worth commenting on there. The most important aspect of preparation, apart from practicing and memorizing, and developing a real interpretation would be practice performing a sufficient number of times. When that is not possible, there are a few additional ways I have devised to help make one’s performance indestructible:

    Playing with many distractions going on

    Playing in the dark

    Playing with your eyes closed

    Playing in odd clothing and shoes

    Playing naked

    Playing on videotape for scrutiny

    Playing for sound recording

    Playing pieces backwards

    Developing a visual memory of each piece

    As to why compete, I don’t know. It really distorts your life. Are the prizes worth it? Is losing worth it? It is good experience for performing and competing. It can also be destructive. My teacher always held it was best to simply perform recitals, preferably where one can get reviewed. Competitions do not seem to support artistry. Having something to say, something worth saying, in a compelling way is necessary to merit an audience’s interest. I think any jury would be relieved to hear greatly musical playing as opposed to yet another technical whirlwind. Get beyond the notes.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #146833

    Saul,
    I agree completely that the most important aspect of preparing for any important performance is performing the repertoire beforehand. At some point I will write a post or two about substitutes for an actual performance, just like the list you came up with. Personally, I have found that some of those do absolutely nothing for me, while others work in some specific instances only. I also have several techniques beyond yours that work well for me – it’s all individual preference and exploration.

    I’m essentially writing about the steps as one might come to them, so for instance I’ll discuss the creation of the audition CD in depth when its almost time to actually time to start thinking seriously about how it will be made. Likewise, I’ll spend most of the spring discussing performance practice, as you went over, since that’s when most people will be concentrating on that aspect. This is all with the assumption that a reader would be competing/performing this coming summer, although the advice certainly isn’t restricted to any particular season or month!

    With regards to why someone might choose to compete, it sounds like you might not have read the short article that I published on my blog. You can find a link for it under the right hand side of the banner image. Competing is certainly not for everyone, but many of the people that frequent competitions do so because it is an environment in which they thrive, and you can’t contest that competitions would be good in those instances, can you?

    With regards to artistry, I agree with you. Artistry, though it is of the utmost importance, is not the only aspect of playing. Much of my music education has focused on developing my musicality, and I’ve very grateful for this, but I also think that I’m somewhat lacking in technical solidity and control, aspects that competition rewards. Competition should be by no means the focal point of one’s musical education, but if it’s going to help push the student, and he enjoys it, then he should consider doing them. If it will be destructive, then don’t. It’s a simple, personal choice, and my blog tries to give a picture of what competing is like in order to aid the decision making process for those that haven’t competed.

    The advice I give should be useful to any performer, however, and as we are all musicians, the advice should prove universal. Any professional musician will be faced with auditions at some point in his career as well, and so the advice is equally applicable there.

    ~Sam

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146834

    That is the problem with competitions. Rewarding technical ability over artistry is and has been destructive to classical music for a long time now. Performing is about artistry, not accomplishment, and if artistic talents don’t thrive in competitions, then we need a different format altogether.

    I don’t see why you are doing a blog. I never presumed to have advice for others until I finished studies. Gathering information that is helpful would make sense, but documenting your process seems like attention gathering. I wouldn’t spend time on it. The fact that you play as musically as you do is a great asset, a great compliment to your teachers who instilled that in you. Technical security comes from, in my experience, a teacher who knows how to give it, who gives you tools, a comprehensive understanding and vision of what a fine technique is, how it works, what it does, an understanding of the harpistic medium, and many, many hours of repetition and most importantly, exercises. That’s why it takes five hours of daily practice for several years to get there. And likely more to prepare a big repertoire list. Israel contestants I knew of did more like seven hours a day. I hope you will become a well-known performer when you are ready, because I think you have much of what you need to do that.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #146835

    Saul,
    I am not documenting my progress on my own personal projects. Besides, many people blog about their progress on a project in order to motivate them. Having a group of people following you is reason enough not to give up. That is a well documented effect, if you’d like to read up on it. However, I’m not doing that, and never meant to imply that.

    I think that anyone who is interested in knowing about how competitions work – be that someone who who would like to know the inner workings or the work required to prepare or someone who is considering competing and would like to know what they are getting into before entering – would enjoy reading what I have to say. My posts may be framed as advice articles, but one could certainly extract much other information if that’s what they choose. I may be wrong, but view counts will paint the true story there.

    As a student who is experiencing the things I discuss in “realtime,” so to speak, I think that I provide a unique and useful perspective. Good advice can come from anywhere, and assuming that those with established credentials will unarguably have good advice and that those without credentials will have none seems closed minded to me. Once I took a class with a well known harpist. Their advice made no sense to me and I decided to ignore it. However, I also checked with some other well known individuals, and they agreed with me. On the other hand, I was able to develop a unique technique for playing harmonics (for a passage in a Grandjany piece) at a suggestion of a nine year old girl, and I’ve gotten many compliments for this particular passage. You never know where the best advice will come from until you let yourself consider all sources.

    Please, Saul, make sure you understand what this blog is about before you start criticizing it. If after understanding what it is about, you don’t see the point or don’t like it, then you don’t need read it. Those that enjoy it and find it helpful or informative will.

    ~Sam

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #146836

    I am sorry if that came out harshly. I think my underlying point has been, it is hard to believe you have the time to do a blog while preparing, it may be a distraction from your real efforts. It is excellent to be thoughtful about what you are doing, and I recommend keeping a journal of one’s work, to be sure. There is something about the nature of making public one’s preparation for a competition that seems wrong to me somehow, perhaps just because it is customary that contestants appear as unknowns with unknown preparation when they compete, and that is part of the show and excitement of it all. Making one’s preparation public changes all that, it seems to me.

    Participant
    andy-b on #146837

    Hi, Sam: I did read through your blog and was quite impressed. Like many adult beginners, I’m not a competition level performer,

    Participant
    unknown-user on #146838

    Saul,
    Oh oops I guess you meant something a little different than what I thought! Yes, I agree with you that posting about someone’s progress would change the whole dynamic (maybe for the best, maybe for the worst), but I’m *not* going to find out the answer and so the blog isn’t about my personal projects. Competition preparation for any discipline is always private to a certain degree.

    I only post once a week, and each entry takes only about a half an hour – it definitely doesn’t drain my time. I think that if someone really maps out their plan and starts very early, they don’t have to put in an insane amount of time, though hours of practice every day would of course still be necessary for a big international competition like Israel or the USA.

    Andy,
    Thanks a bunch! I’m glad you enjoyed reading! I’m trying to keep the level of writing high (something I personally value) but since the blog is directed at a wide audience, I don’t want it to sound overly academic. I suppose I’m still finding my voice in that respect. Let me know if there’s a particular topic you’d like me to write about!

    ~Sam

    Participant
    niina on #146839

    I thought this exchange was very amusing.
    I have put my progress on youtube both for myself (although it was origianlly for my family in Japan to see) and, yes, a little for attention. Isn’t that part of what playing music is all about, for others to hear and for you to want to move them with your playing, not to mention to encourage people to book you (not me though, yet)?
    I think it’s unfair on judges to say that they only reward technical ability, of course they listen to the musicianship and how they felt about how a piece moved them.
    Entering a competition is not only about winning or losing, it shows you where you stand in the world of harp playing. It drives you on and gives you motivation to play better both technically and musically. If you are working and playing the same things every day every year, how can you judge yourself, or be critical of yourself to push you on to perform better for others (clients)?
    I’m all in favour of someone showing their progress and entering competitions.

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