Easy for me to say, I’m Trinity’s Rock & Pop Czar, but ’relax‘.
Now let’s review some lesson planning for your performance in the exam: common sense tips for playing and stage presence.
Two weeks before your exam performance you should be polishing your technique, performance and stagecraft. This is what pros do before the tour begins, checking that all parts of the performance are ready for the first tour date. Do I know the music, is my set list ready (the three pieces you will perform and the order), and is my gear ready: strings, sticks, picks, voice? Am I ‘in the zone’ – the mindset that this is a stage performance and not just another lesson? Do I look and feel like I’m ready for the stage, the exam?
During these last weeks of practice, focus on sound check and knowing your levels. Understand that you are playing within the band (on the backing track) and make sure you get the levels right for your playing. You (and your teacher if you have one) should go through this process during lesson time to make sure your music gets heard and you begin to understand the importance of balance in the monitors. Take charge – it’s your stage. As musicians, if we don’t hear the music, the backing tracks, with the balance we have practised, we don’t play as well – it’s that simple. You have to understand the sound check and know the balance you want to hear in your ears and mind.
Hit the stage, the exam room, with conviction and real stage presence. Know the exam and what’s going to happen. Plan your set list (the order you will play), and end your exam with your best music. Practice and perform your play list, in the order of performance you have set out, for the last 2+ weeks before your exam. Song 1, Song 2, Song 3, Session Skill (Playback or Improvising). This is the layout of your performance. Know it!!! Take charge – it’s your stage.
Have your teacher video your performance and watch it together. Look at how you stand, play, and communicate your cover songs, and find your stage persona. Take charge – it’s your stage. This is your performance, so remember you are not in lesson mode, you’re in performance mode, on stage, rockin’ mode. Show it, perform it. The whole performance must keep this level of energy and should stimulate the audience/examiner.
Double-check your Session Skills parameters for Playback or Improvising. Know what styles will be asked in Improvising or the notation level you will be expected to perform in Playback. Check this link: http://www.trinityrock.com/exams/syllabus. Each grade has guidelines for what you must know for Playback and Improvising.
So stop freaking out!! Keep practicing, don’t miss your lessons, get your performance slick and cool, and know your Session Skill guidelines. If you do all of this, you will have a great gig!
Tyler Smith, Trinity Rock & Pop Czar