Take a bow: how to behave at a concert

With my students’ concert less than two weeks away now, here are some tips on ‘concert etiquette’ to help make the experience as enjoyable as possible, for performers and audience.

It’s important to behave in the right way when you are taking part in a concert. How you walk on stage (‘body language’) and how you dress can be as important as how you play. Here are some helpful tips to think about ahead of our summer concert:

  1. Dress nicely. A concert is an occasion, and your clothing will help to make you and the audience feel special.
  2. Walk on stage, smile at the audience, bow: Take time to “greet” the audience, don’t rush to the piano without looking at them
  3. Body language: Use your body to tell the story of the music as well as the way you play it. So, a romantic, quiet piece needs quiet, soft hand movements; while more lively piece, with lots of staccato, for example, needs hand gestures to match.
  4. Poise: Don’t get flustered or laugh, or giggle nervously if something goes wrong in your performance. Take a deep breath and keep going.
  5. At the end of your piece: make sure you hold the last note for the right amount of time – too much is better than not enough. If you leave the last note too early, it sounds as if you can’t wait to leave the building! And don’t rush away from the piano. Stand, look at the audience, bow, and then walk back to your seat.
  6. Sit quietly while others are playing, don’t rustle your music or programme or chat to your friends. It can be distracting for the performer if the audience is noisy or unattentive.
  7. Applaud loudly and enthusiastically after each performance. Applause is the audience’s way of showing how much they have enjoyed the music!
  8. Finally, and most importantly – ENJOY yourself!

Special note to my students: as you know, we are very lucky to be borrowing a ‘spinet’ (baby harpsichord) from a friend of mine, who will also be performing in the concert. The spinet is a delicate instrument and needs to be treated with great care. Any students who would like to try the spinet should ask me in advance of the concert.

We will also have some guest performances given by friends of mine who are students at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, one of London’s top music colleges, as well as other friends who are pianists. I hope these performances will be both interesting and inspirational.

More about the concert, including ticketing and venue information here

Performing – just do it!

With my students’ concert fast approaching, this article, which I wrote for a colleague’s student concert programme, seems particularly apt…..

Never underestimate the value of performing, whether at home for family, friends and pets, or in a ‘proper’ concert venue on a really special grand piano. Performing for others, and the ability to just get up and do it, is an important life skill as it encourages confidence and self-reliance.

The rush of adrenaline that comes with performing often forces you to ‘raise your game’ and play better, and interesting things can happen to your music when played before an audience, which may not occur during practice. It is also important to experience the difference between practice and performance, and to put your music ‘out there’ and offer it up to other people. Performing endorses all those lonely hours we spend practising, and reminds us that music is for sharing.

It is important for students to hear each other perform too: if you have an opportunity to hear what other students in your teacher’s studio are working on, especially the more advanced students, you will feel inspired and keen to progress. It is also a means of sharing and discovering new repertoire: you may hear a piece you’ve never heard before and want to learn it.

Performing adds to one’s credibility. Whether a professional or an amateur, it is important to prove that you can actually do it, and, for the amateur pianist, the benefits of performing are immeasurable: you never really demonstrate your technique properly until you can demonstrate it in a performance. Music and technique are inseparable, and if you perform successfully, it proves you have practised correctly and thoughtfully, instead of simply note-bashing. This works conversely too, for if you are properly prepared, you should have nothing to fear when you perform. The benefits for younger students are even greater: preparing music for performance teaches them to complete a real task and to understand what is meant by “music making”. It encourages students to “play through”, glossing over errors rather than being bothered by them, instead of stop-start playing which prevents proper flow. It also teaches students to communicate a sense of the music, to “tell the story”, and to understand what the composer is trying to say. And if you haven’t performed a piece, how can you say it is truly “finished”?

The auditorium at London's Wigmore Hall