Music Competition Preparation Ultimate Guide: What To Bring and How To Win

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Rose Park   03/14/21 updated 11/29/21 • 4 min read

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The quality of a performance varies depending on the quality of preparation. In this article, I will introduce some of the must-have items for musicians when they prepare for music competitions and auditions. It also includes practical mental tips which will help you feel less anxious about the performance.

Music Competition Preparation Guide - Rose Park - Lesson With You

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Before The Music Competition

1.Eat and sleep well
A live performance requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus. You also need to prepare for an adrenaline rush at climax in the performance. The longer the program is, the more energy you need to go through. This is why your body should be physically ready for a good performance.

A sufficient amount of sleep reduces tiredness and gives you strength to live through the day. If you have a brief time for a nap or a rest hours before the performance (but not right before the performance!). Try it and see if it works for you. 

Eat well and keep hydrated. Avoid eating foods or drinking water too much though, because you don’t want to visit the bathroom and feel drowsy before the performance.

It’s very hard to make yourself eat and sleep well when you know there is a live performance coming up. But believe me, you will get used to being nervous as you do more competitions and auditions. Everyone has different levels of tolerating anxiety, so I can’t guarantee how long it will take for you to get used stage-fright. But it will improve as long as you try and go for the challenge. I’m certain of it.

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At The Music Competition

2. Music Score
This is the first thing to check on your list. The score is the only source you can rely on checking and reviewing the musical details. But don’t try to look at the score too much, otherwise you won’t have enough time to get mentally prepared for the performance.

Tip: Make sure you bring the right music.

3. Handkerchief
Handkerchief is a must-have item. It absorbs the sweat off of the hands and the instrument.

Tip: 100% Cotton handkerchief is the best. Towels don’t absorb sweat well.
Tip: For pianists, take your time swiping away sweat from the keyboard on the stage (along with adjusting the bench.)

4. Water
Keep hydrated. It regulates your body temperatures and improves your mood. Constant stage-fright will tire you out even before the performance. You will also experience a hand shake, dry mouth and dizziness if you aren’t well hydrated.

5. Metronome
Metronome is a tool that provides a regular pulse. Make sure to check the tempo of the pieces before you enter the audition room or stage. Stage-fright tends to make heartbeats go fast which could cause some major problems for fast pieces. A successful performance requires a full control in pulses from the beginning.

Tip: Check the tempo often if the piece is relatively new.

6. Earphones
This is a supplemental item. Stage-fright can disturb your focus on remembering melodies and harmonies of the piece you’ve prepared. In this case, listen to a recording of the piece or a lesson you had with a teacher.

Tip: Use the earphones. Let’s not disturb others around you.

7. Hand warmer
One of the scariest moments for any musicians (except singers) is when your body doesn’t move the way you want due to coldness. It’s especially frustrating for pianists, violinists and woodwind players since their hands need to move quickly for pieces with fast techniques. If you can manage to get a hand warmer or even a blanket to warm your hands, that’d be great.

Music Competition Preparation Guide - Rose Park - Lesson With You

8. Snacks
Bring snacks you’re familiar with. As I mentioned before, you need enough energy to keep playing through. A brief snack time will relax your mind and forget about the performance for a bit.

Tip: Sweets are fine but it may not work for you if you easily experience sugar-rush.
Tip: Drinking coffee before the performance isn’t a bad thing but it doesn’t work well for every musician. 

9. Family
It is highly recommended for those who are new to performing in music competitions and auditions that they are accompanied and supported by a family member.

If your child is participating in a competition, try to make time to go and support them. It’s very important that your child feels supported by their parents because what they’re going to face on the stage is completely new to them.

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After The Music Competition

10. Relax and enjoy the achievement
First, be proud of what you did. Don’t worry about the result and take a day-off from practice. This is a perfect time to rest your body and mind for a fresh start. Spend time with your family and friends and celebrate your performance. 

11. Review your performance
When you resume practicing after the performance, take a moment to read music you’d played. Try to remember what you actually did in the performance. Did you miss or ignore any musical details? How did you feel in particular spots in the music? Were you able to keep a regular pulse throughout the piece?

Need Help with Preparing for Competitions?

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