I was recently preparing a piece to perform. I could play it well by myself, but I wanted to test it in front of an audience. When I played it for a friend of mine, I found out real quick where the spots were that I didn’t know as well as I thought I did. I then knew what I needed to work on.
One particular passage stood out to me. It was only a few measures long, but I realized I really didn’t know exactly what fingering I used when I played it. I just sort of played it, and it always seemed to work out. (Sound familiar?) But when I played it in front of my friend, it fell apart.
In my next practice session, I went back to hands alone, and used the fingering in the music. I re-learned the passage over several days, still hands alone to ingrain the specific fingering in my brain and in my hands. This was all done incredibly slow. Eventually I worked my way up to hands together slowly, but still slow enough so I was consciously aware of the precise fingering I was using on every single note. One week later I could just start to play the passage up to tempo, however, I continued to daily go back to hands alone slowly with conscious awareness of the exact fingering I was using.
Once I get comfortable with my new precise fingering, I will test the piece in front of an audience again. I will then find out if it’s performance ready, or if I need more practice on that passage.
Going through the same practice and performance process I ask my students to reminded me of the importance of having one precise fingering you use all the time. One fingering gives you predictability and therefore, security. When you have that, performing can be a lot of fun.
If you find difficult parts in your pieces, ask yourself if you are aware of the exact fingering you use. If you’re aren’t, just getting one fingering in your hands and brain can make all the difference. It may take a little time and effort, but the reward is great: You can play with ease and the worry is replaced with fun.