The Performance Game Plan

When performing solo for any type of events, do you ever have a musical game plan? Do you know what tunes you are going to plan and in which order? Do you play it safe and go with tunes you have performed for years or would you play new, slightly more complex tunes? Do you always stick to the game plan?


When your musical game plan feels like that on the spot – time to panic?


Last night I performed for a posh dinner function on a military base. I’ve played there before. I’m comfortable performing although I was slightly nervous as it’s been a while. I was asked to play a solo piece after the dinner, as it had been two pipers and a side drummer at the beginning of the night to pipe for guests. I had in my mind that I’d play a medley of tunes in my solo piece, and I had originally intended to begin with Castle Dangerous and break into Old Adam, and then from there pick something that came to mind – most likely a few Hornpipes or Jigs. Did I stick to the game plan this time around ? No.


I went in and picked a completely different set and what happened was, I ended up going into a Hornpipe I hadn’t played for a little while and that I was less confident playing. It all went pretty downhill from there. Mistakes happening and then a total breakdown (with a bit of grace I might add!) in the third part. Terrible. Luckily, I have no real worry here so I struck back up and played another set of jigs which my band play so I was more comfortable with them. That ended well which I guess made up for it. Pipes were sounding good anyhow so I’m hoping there was not really much bad to remember by the guests. This got me thinking and inspired my blog.




How do pipers out there handle each gig they do solo? Do they prepare music before hand or pick from tunes on the spot? Do you learn new music specifically to perform for these nights or do you play it safe? After last night it made me start questioning my very easy going approach to these things. Perhaps it’s time I got a list of tunes together and practiced those very tunes the week or so before and stuck to the plan. I wouldn’t be the first. I’ve been to a few recitals and seen some fantastic players reading and playing from a pre-selected list. I myself enjoy being relaxed about the whole thing. I enjoy being able to just read a situation on the spot and pick tunes accordingly. To be honest, I am probably going to stick to my guns and carry on using my approach as we all have bad nights, but perhaps I just need to tighten up a bit and at least know which tunes I’m picking from.


One of the points I touched on above was that we all have bad days/nights. I can usually feel when either the nerves are up or whether my pipes are not precisely how I want them to sound and what  I might do from now on, is play the safe card when this happens. Safe tunes is not necessarily a bad thing. You can still demonstrate a great sound and effect playing standard parade tunes. Ok, so you don’t get the whole WOW factor like you’d get letting people hear the Clumsy Lover for the first time, but a great performance of tunes that people probably recognize and enjoy is just as fulfilling.