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  • Cassie Rumbough

Practice Tips: Practice Mode vs. Performance Mode

Updated: Jun 30

When practicing your pieces, do you stop and restart everytime you make a mistake? Or, do you keep going and come back to the mistake afterwards? If you stop and restart everytime you make a mistake, you are using what I like to call “practice mode.” This is what most students do almost all of the time, and it makes sense! Of course when we’re practicing we want to make sure we practice the song correctly. However, “performance mode,” where you run through the whole song without any stopping despite mistakes you make, can also be extremely helpful in practicing!

During a performance in a recital or a gig, you’d never stop and restart if you make a small mistake. Instead, if you move past the mistake and keep on going without showing it on your face, no one will notice that anything went wrong! However, this is very hard to do, because we have trained ourselves to make sure we are always playing correctly. Playing without stopping when you make a mistake is a skill that is very important to develop! Here is how I suggest running your practice sessions to make sure you are getting used to “performance mode!”

  1. Performance mode. Run through the song without any stopping or restarting before you do anything else. When you make a mistake, take a mental note of it so you can come back to it later. This can be very hard to do! Keep these things in mind while you run through the song:

  2. Make sure you are looking at your music! If you don’t look at your music and you make a mistake, it can be difficult to get back on track immediately. Reading the music while you play is the easiest way to make sure you can jump right back into it after a mistake.

  3. Have spots marked that are easy to start from. These spots can be where the melody starts a phrase, or where a new section of the song starts. If you mess up too much to recover and keep going, go back to one of these spots and keep forging ahead!

  4. Look ahead! Always be looking ahead so you can prepare for what is coming next. Especially if you have long notes, take a peek at the next measure to see what might be tricky coming up.

  5. Practice mode. Once you finish the whole song, go back into “practice mode” and practice small chunks that you made mistakes in until you feel comfortable that you won’t make the same mistake again.

  6. Repeat! Repeat this process until you are able to go through the song completely in performance mode without any hiccups. Switching between the two modes can help make sure you are fixing any mistakes you make, but still making sure you are prepared to run through the whole piece without stopping no matter what during a performance.

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