The Federation Success Secret

Contributed by Chelsea Smith

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Have you ever heard “Practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect”? Well, therein lies the Federation secret. It’s all in how you practice the whole time, but especially how you practice at the END. Here I have some last week strategies that will throw you into perfect shape for federation success.

Strategy #1: Tempo Mastery

The last week or two of playing is ALL about tempo. It’s about finding that perfect tempo to match your playing ability or skill level within the options listed on the piece. To rush through the pieces and call it practicing is like telling yourself that you’re ready for a marathon after running a mile. What’s important is a steady tempo that keeps you from mistakes. The perfect tempo is the one at which you can play the piece successfully.

Strategy #2: Practice Intentionally

This strategy is one of my favorites. Pull your little trouble section out and intentionally play it correctly. Say to yourself “I will play this perfectly correctly, even if it’s severely under tempo.” You will be amazed at how quickly you fix the blemish, and how much quicker you can put it back in context at tempo. You can also grab a metronome and work it back up to speed. Accuracy is highly graded and associated with preparedness for Federation. Don’t overlook this detail.

Strategy #3: X on the Dynamic Duos 

Every judge is obviously looking for dynamics. But when I read dynamics, I always take out the “mezzo”. If you’re cramming dynamics at the last minute, take out all the “mezzo’s” and exaggerate the piano’s and forte’s.  If your dynamics are good, judges give you points for it and are more willing to overlook playing mistakes.

Strategy #4: Rubato Hesitation

You want to win a judge over? Set the mood. If there is a ritardando at the end, I always tell my students to hesitate right before playing the last note.  People make assessments on how they feel, play into your judges senses!

P.S. Double that fermata note value too! It’s the perfect timing!

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