Sight read vs memory for recital

Posted In: Performing

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    bettyblue16 on #232491

    I am hoping to do a bit of a christmas recital. Nothing big or a concert as such, just for a small group. Last time I performed I had the horrible experience of ‘blanking’ and freezing… ended up not finishing my song and exiting the stage! I’m prone to stage fright to say the least. I suppose this recital could be a bit of exposure therapy (!) with a very forgiving audience. The way I see it is that the harp is so lovely and its about bringing joy to others, not a focus on ‘me’.
    Out of curiosity, is it ‘easier’ to sight read of play from memory? Sight reading is not my strength, I tend to like getting lost in the music but reality is when I’m anxious my memory will freeze. Then again last time I was shaking so much I couldn’t focus on the sheet music in front of me.
    any advice would be much appreciated!

    Biagio on #232519

    I guess that is an individual thing. Speaking for myself, the less there is on stage the better and playing from memory at least lets me improvise when I freeze up!

    Tacye on #232522

    If you are going to play with the music – or indeed without – you might benefit from working on anchor points throughout the piece. As well as starting from the beginning, get used to starting from places throughout the piece, and know where they are in the music. When something happens you know where to pick up again at the start of a phrase or section. In reality of performance it doesn’t matter all that much if you pick up in the right place, just that you do! If you are using sheet music, you can even mark them in, I like coloured sticky page markers.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #232998

    If you are going to do any kind of recital, ideally, you memorize the music thoroughly. Then, if you play from the music, you can consult it rather than depend on it, and read it for its meaning rather than its necessity. If you get the music to that point, your anxiety will probably have disappeared long before. At this point, you need to finish learning by a month prior, and spend the next month making it secure. So pick something that seems fairly easy. No music is really easy.

    carl-swanson on #233247

    Dearest Bettyblue- This is just a matter of semantics, but sight reading refers to playing music that you have never seen before. You are playing it as you read it for the very first time. So what you were asking about is not “sight reading” to play a performance, but rather “using music” to play it.

    Concerning your upcoming performance: Do whatever you are most comfortable with.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #234889

    If you do decide to use sheet music, don’t forget to bring a stand light just in case the stage lighting is insufficient. If you are relying on the music and you can’t see it well enough to read easily, that could cause mishaps.

    wil-weten on #234921

    Hi bettyblue16, you may like the vast amount of free resources and the free newsletter of Noa Kageyama, a performance psychologist of the faculty of The Juilliard School at

    balfour-knight on #234941

    Great ideas, everyone! In addition, check out the late Dr. Carrol McLaughlin’s wonderful book POWER PERFORMANCE. It has some top-notch suggestions for dealing with stage-fright and improving your performance.

    Harp Hugs,

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