Practice vs Performance

A lot of people don't seem to realize that there is a great difference between practice and performance. They also don't realize that while it's important to practice, it's also important to practice your performance.


For me, practice is where I work out things, like technical details, logistics, body mechanics, and everything else associated with making the music work. 

It's important to get the notes down and to get down how to make those notes. As a percussionist, touch is of utmost importance. Even slight variations of how we touch the instruments with our mallets/sticks can bring about a great variation in the resulting sound/tone/timbre. Within a phrase or passage, it's important to have a consistency of sound. 

I also find it important to work out the logistics of moving around a large multiple percussion set up. I need to be able to easily go from one instrument to another. I also need to be able to change mallets without interrupting the flow of things. I work a lot on making sure everything is in a convenient place, and that I can move around freely. I also make sure that I instinctively know where everything is.

Try to negotiate this without knowing your way around it.

Along with this, I work on my body mechanics and movement. I have instruments above my head, below my waist, horizontal on stands and vertical on a table. I am reaching and stretching, twisting and turning, and bending. I stand in the middle of my setup with instruments surrounding me. It's fairly compact and there's not a lot of room to move around in, so I need to be aware of where I am in the midst of everything at all times.

And most importantly, I need to be making music at all times. So I practice all of this. I take my time. I go over things again and again. I revise and refine everything I do. And if something isn't right, I stop and figure out how to make it right.

Practicing Performance

While practicing is good, it's not performing. You can practice all you want, but when you get on stage, it's a whole different thing. That's why I also practice performing. By this I mean running down an actual performance in my practice studio. 

The idea here is to simulate an actual performance. I start at the beginning and keep going until the very last note. I play through all mistakes (if I've practiced well, there should be very few or none), equipment problems, and anything else that happens (like sheet music falling off your stand or mallets falling on the floor). 

When you are on stage, there are no re-dos, no stopping to fix something, and no magical helpers appearing from nowhere. You have to learn to deal with whatever happens and keep things moving forward.

I have seen some of the biggest name drummers break heads on stage, have drums fall over, have sticks/mallets break, drop things they need later, and all sorts of calamities. And what did they do? They all kept going, adjusting if necessary, and kept playing until the finish. Sometimes it's not pretty, but you have to learn to keep going and get to the finish line.

So spend a lot of time practicing, but don't forget to practice performing.

~ MB

Deconstruct Yourself™


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