Our articles thus far have looked at where and how to do some preliminary searching for performance pieces. Now, I would like to address how to learn a piece. Notice, that I did not say “performance tips.” Once you have a piece in hand, there are some intermediate steps before you finally make the step into the circle itself. To take a turn on an old phrase: Familiarity does indeed breed content.
The very simple fact is that you can never really know a piece too well. The first thing to do when you get a new piece is to read it. Then, read it again. Then, read it yet again . . . and again . . . and again . . . And, just keep reading it until you know it. It really is best to familiarize rather than memorize. This can make the very real difference between a recitation that puts the circle to sleep, and a performance that engages them.
There are a number of old actor’s tricks that can come into play here. The first thing is to have multiple copies of your piece. Keep one on you, and go over it in your spare time. You be surprised how much free time you can catch a few minutes at a time – in the doctor’s lobby, waiting for a lunch or dinner date, when things get a little slow between calls at work. Keep a copy by your bedside to read each night before you go to sleep. Keep one in the “reading room” we all spend so much time in at home. Make a recording on a tape or CD and play it while you are driving in the car – sing or quote along with it. As you work your way through it over time, see how far you can make it through from memory. You will find that it is remarkable how quickly you can pick up a new piece this way.
One of the absolute best ways to learn a piece is to write it out – not by typing on a keyboard, but writing it out on paper – over and over again. Yes, it can be tedious, but it really is the best way I have found of learning the piece. Another recommendation I can make when doing this is to learn the piece backwards – I know it sounds odd, but it is an old actor’s trick. Divide your piece up into bite-sized sections or beats. If you are dealing with poetry or song, it will many times be already divided up into verses. If you are working with a story or dramatic speech, find the beats. Begin with the last verse, and write it until you know it. Then, move to the previous verse, and write both that and the last verse. Do the same with each of the verses until you are writing out the entire piece. This way when you perform, as you move through the piece, you will be moving into material that is more deeply ingrained. It can give you a stronger and more confident finish along with a greater impact on your audience.
These are all suggestions, and I do hope they will be of help. However, do keep in mind that no technique is automatic, and that in order to learn something, you will have to commit to learning it. Remember, the way to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice.
As for news bardic in the month of May, the Barony of the Namron will be selecting their title bard at Beltane. As will the Barony of the Steppes at Steppes Warlord and Baronial Investiture, and the Shire of Mendersham at their Defender.
Any questions or comments are certainly welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep well, and remember to make a joyful noise to your kingdom!