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This article was automatically translated. ORIGINAL

The musician and the fear of judgement during a performance

The habits of memory

Roberta Gennuso

Classical Guitarist
11th January 2021

Being a musician requires constant exposure to criticism and judgement, as a good performance is the goal of all our efforts. This is why fear of the thoughts of others often results in unintentional decisions such as whether or not to play from memory.

The missed decision

Every musician memorises a piece of music at different times and in different ways, there are those who find the memorisation process simply spontaneous, those who have to devote a stressful phase of study to it, up to some cases where memory is the real element of insecurity. In the light of this, however, I am quite sure that most of those who feel they have this 'weakness' set themselves the obligation to play by heart without even considering the alternative. Yes, it's true, this is not a common topic, it's not often talked about and maybe never enough, but it's important to feel free from these conventions, especially when they are only counterproductive. Not feeling confident that you know the piece by heart can easily lead, during performance, to unpleasant moments of instability and distraction to the point of not being able to finish the piece.


Audience and cultural influence

The audience is not interested in hearing a performance by heart (or at least they shouldn't...) but in enjoying a unique experience. Think that the spectator is there to listen to music and nothing else matters, he could go for a walk, read a book, watch a movie and instead he is there to listen to a concert in presence and, mind you, not to watch the recording of a CD where everything is played as perfectly as possible.


The duty to play by heart is a concept engraved in our culture and has a clear historical root. During the nineteenth century, the virtuoso pianist Franz Liszt contributed significantly to the change in the conception of performance, he not only was the first to give an entire concert as a single musician, he also contributed to the spread of the idea that the musician performs 'an exceptional feat' - as the US newspaper New York Times described one of his performances in 1878 - in playing about 90 minutes of music by heart. However, playing by heart is not necessarily a guarantee of better music, and no one should feel at fault for playing concerts by reading.


Reading during a performance: how to prepare

Now that we have broken this taboo, here are some practical tips:


First of all, you must position the music stand as discreetly as possible so as not to deprive the audience of the pleasure of watching you play.


Don't study by heart and perform by reading, but if you decide to read, always read.


You could also try to read only a few points and not the whole piece, in which case make obvious coloured marks on the score so that the eye will fall in just the right place at just the right time.You could also try to read only a few points and not the whole piece, in which case make obvious coloured marks on the score so that the eye will fall in just the right place at just the right time.


If you want to read a piece that is several pages long, you will have to find the right moments that give you time to turn the page, or make smaller prints, cut them out and make the best use of expensive tape.If you want to read a piece that is several pages long, you will have to find the right moments that give you time to turn the page, or make smaller prints, cut them out and make the best use of expensive tape.If you want to read a piece that is several pages long, you will have to find the right moments that give you time to turn the page, or make smaller prints, cut them out and make the best use of expensive tape.


Finally, remember to put the pages on the score in order before you start!


Music is what counts

Being an artist means dedicating your life to realising and sharing the beauty inherent in art, but you have to do this in the most authentic way, without setting limits or being frightened by fears such as exposing yourself.


Remember that the only audience that can judge you harshly is the one in your head, for the rest, all that matters is the music alone.Remember that the only audience that can judge you harshly is the one in your head, for the rest, all that matters is the music alone.


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