Sunday, October 21, 2007

Work Backwards

One thing I continually notice when adjudicating is that most performances tend to start out well, decline somewhat in the middle, and barely avoid disaster at the end. This is a sure sign that performers haven't been working on endings and second halves of works. I've already written about Making Endings Work and today I'll look at how we can put that into practice.

It goes without saying that we should always start our practice session at the beginning of a work. However, that approach means that a well though-out beginning can mask a poorly thought-out conclusion, since our attention naturally starts to wane midway through a practice session.

But whoever said we always had to start at the beginning when practicing? Try starting at the end first. Craft a satisfying conclusion to the piece, and then start to work backwards, phrase by phrase, section by section. You'll may immediately that you start to notice things that went by you previously in the work's second half. Keep on working and you just might get to the beginning of the work.

Try this approach for a few weeks in combination with working from beginning to end, and you will start to notice a sense of command and comfort in the second half of the piece, and you'll have enough reps of the ending under your belt that your performance won't fail when it comes down to the crunch.

Next: Non-Structured Practice Time


  1. My teachers told me that most errors happen at the end because onstage, our brain says, "Yippee! I'm done! I'm done!" but our brain does that one line too early and we lose focus.

    It's amazing how some students insist on practicing a song the exact same way from start to finish every single time. Or worse yet, they go back to the beginning each time they make a mistake.

    They are completely thrown through a loop when I ask them to play the ending first and try to coach them into choreographing their endings better. I take extra pleasure in throwing these particular students throw a loop. :-)