Like me, you’ve probably had a performance where the beginning of your piece sounded great, but the middle was just okay.  Most musicians have experienced this situation, and it can be a bit unsettling while you’re on stage.

There are many reasons this situation occurs, including always practicing from the beginning of a piece, not having enough preparation time, and losing concentration during the performance.

You can overcome most of these difficulties by making sure everything in your music gets practiced equally.  This means breaking your music into sections and making sure each portion–including the middle–gets the same amount of practice time.

After all, most compositions are written in multiple sections, so we can use the form of the piece to guide us in deciding where each of our practice segments will be.

One reason practicing music in small bits is so successful has to do with the function of our brains.  Neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin argues that music is stored in our memories in small chunks.  Rather than an entire piece of music being stored as a single unit, our brains hold distinct sections of the music as separate, small memories.

This clearly influences how we memorize music.  Breaking up your piece into small bits as you practice will help you learn the piece better and aid your brain in creating these small memories.  Then, when you’re on stage, you are pulling up these individual memories, one after another, as you proceed through your performance.

This system of learning music eases the responsibility you feel while performing.  All you have to do on stage is complete the section you’re currently in, then pull up the next section and start playing it.  This process will continue until you’ve played the last note of the piece. 

Having multiple divisions in your music is easier than worrying about memorizing and playing an entire piece of music.  The middle sections, having been practiced just as much as any other portion, won’t seem different or more difficult than the beginning and the end.

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