If you’re looking to improve your skills and push yourself, participating in a music competition is a great idea. You can learn a lot, and you may be able to advance or win the whole thing.
But if you want even a slight chance of that, you need to know how to prepare for the competition. Then, you can keep from wasting time and not giving the best performance or recording possible.
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It sounds obvious, but you should make sure you can compete before you start preparing for a music competition. Some competitions limit entries to students, people in a certain age group, or by other factors.
If you’re looking at a general music competition (not for a specific instrument), you should also make sure there’s a category for whatever you play. That way, you can put in the work and, potentially, advance to the finals or even win.
A good competition will include all of these details on either the competition website or a flyer or graphic they post on social media. You should also figure out if you need to be a member of an organization, like the National Flute Association (NFA).
Review the Repertoire
Another excellent step in how to prepare for a music competition is to look at the required repertoire. The requirements could be as vague as a flute solo that’s less than 10 minutes. Or they may be as specific as the Barenreiter edition of the Bach Sonata in B minor.
As you look at the repertoire requirements, consider a few things. First, consider if you can already play that piece (and if you know the edition required). Then, you can save a lot of time leading up to the competition.
You can also determine if you have access to a pianist or if you’ll need to find someone. If you don’t know a pianist, you may want to choose a music competition that allows for unaccompanied rep.
Look for Overlaps
If you want to participate in more than one music competition at a time, consider if you can find competitions with similar requirements. Then, you can use one or more pieces for both competitions.
This is great if you don’t have a ton of time to practice or learn new music. You can spend more of your time working on a few pieces. Then, you may be able to learn them better and have a better chance advancing.
For example, maybe you find one competition you want to enter. As you look at other competitions, you can see how similar the rep is. If it’s vastly different, you can enter those other competitions in the future.
Save Up for the Entry Fee
Most music competitions I’ve seen have some sort of entry fee. The fee may be as small as $20 or $30, or it could be closer to $100. If you don’t have a ton of money in your bank account, start saving up now.
Then, by the time the entry deadline rolls around, you may have the money you need. However, don’t forget about what you may need to pay a pianist, a recording engineer, or even your private teacher for extra lessons.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to cover those fees, you have options. You can look for a competition with unaccompanied rep. Or you can record the audio yourself. If you’re a student, ask your teacher about adding the competition costs to your cost of attendance to ask for more student aid.
I haven’t done that for competitions. But I have heard of musicians increasing their cost of attendance to get money for a new instrument.
Make Time to Practice
Of course, you need to practice for the music competition. Include time for your competition rep in your general practice routine. If you’re learning music for the first time, you’ll need a lot of time to learn it.
And if you’ve played the music before, you may still need time to relearn it. Then, you can bring all of the rep up to a performance tempo. When you’re ready to record your entry, you can be more confident in your performance.
If you have a lot of rep to learn, you’ll need more time to practice. You may need to put off learning other works to focus on your competition. Either way, don’t let the competition consume your life and keep you from resting and eating well.
Find a Pianist
If any of your competition rep requires a piano player, you should start looking for one early. When you’re in school, you can most likely ask the person who already works with you on your jury or recital pieces.
But if you’re out of school, you may need to search a bit. You can ask music teachers in the area if they know anyone who works as a collaborative pianist. If you took piano lessons in high school and are in your home town, your former teacher may either do it or refer you to someone who can.
Of course, not every music competition requires a pianist. If you’re a pianist, you may not need to play with someone else. But if you do need one, you should start searching as soon as you can to book enough rehearsal time with them.
Schedule Your Recording Session
You also need to figure out when you will record your music competition entry. If you’re doing it yourself, you can set a time whenever. But I’d recommend recording at least a week before the entry deadline. Then, you’ll have a few days to record everything again if something goes wrong.
If you want to work with a recording engineer, book a session as soon as you can. Their schedule may fill up fast if a lot of people are entering competitions around the same time.
You don’t want to record too early before you have a chance to learn the piece. But if you wait too long, you may not get to redo something. Find a balance, and don’t be afraid to book a couple of sessions so that you have time to work on everything.
Good Luck on Your Next Music Competition
Participating in a music competition can help you grow as a musician. You can learn a lot about yourself, and you can discover new music that you wouldn’t learn otherwise.
Be sure to give yourself time, choose the right repertoire, and enjoy the process. And if you need help practicing efficiently, I have plenty of guides in the Flute Files Shop to help you!