When I was doing Music 1 during my HSC, I knew from the start that my best option for success was to do as many performances as possible! It definitely wasn’t easy, and involved a lot of hard work, but in the end, the effort paid off! I achieved an overall mark of 99 and a state ranking in HSC Music 1, as well as a nomination for Encore 2014 – and I’m here to explain how you can achieve a perfect HSC Music Performance mark as well! 

Choosing Your Performance Pieces

Confidence over Complexity

While this might sound obvious, pick a piece that you’re confident and comfortable with. Don’t be tempted to pick a piece that is extremely technical and impressive, pick something that you could play in your sleep. Choose a piece that shows off your fundamental strengths as a musician.

Remember: a complicated piece does not mean a better performance or higher mark in the HSC!

Start Early!

Ideally, you will be beginning to build your repertoire and start shortlisting HSC Music performance pieces at the beginning of Year 11. This gives you plenty of time to practice pieces you’re considering and find out if they work for you. This means if you want to change your choices, you will still be far out enough from the performance date to ensure you can practice enough!

Think About Accompaniment

Choosing your HSC repertoire also involves consideration of what accompaniment you want for your performance. Obviously this is largely dependent on your instrument and topics you’re studying, but, it’s important to consider what accompaniment you need to organise before your exam.

For example, because I was performing as a vocalist, I needed to organise accompaniment for all four of my pieces. All up, I had to coordinate and rely on 10 people to learn my pieces, come to rehearsals, practice at home and show up on the day of my HSC Performance Exam and play their best! That’s a really tough thing to do, so make sure you’re on the ball and organise any accompaniment early on!

Pro tip: ask other students in your class if they can accompany you. It makes it 100 times easier to organise them to rehearse and be at your performance exam!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Practice in Exam Conditions

Practice is a very prominent feature in every musician’s life. However, for HSC Music, it is so important not only to practice, but to practice in conditions as similar to the HSC examination as possible.

You don’t jump into a HSC English Paper without ever writing a timed essay, so don’t jump into your Music Performance without practicing under exam conditions.

Practicing in exam conditions means:

  • Rehearsing in the actual space you will be performing in (preferably with the accompanists that will be there on the day!)
  • Blocking the performance to make sure you know where you and your accompanists will be on the stage – this includes their music stands!
  • Strictly adhering to the time limits for your performance piece. This will allow you to change your arrangement if your performance doesn’t meet the requirements.

On The Day!

You’ve made it – it’s the day of your HSC Music Performance Exam. Trust me when I say that all of your hard work will pay off today. You may be feeling like a jumbled mess of nerves and excitement, but remember that you’ve put in the effort, and now it’s time to show off your skills!

Sound Check

It is crucial that you sound check before your performance. If you don’t check to make sure that both those on-stage and, more importantly, your examiners can hear your performance, it doesn’t matter if you’re the next Mozart – your performance is not going to go well.

Ideally you will be able to do a sound check in your examination venue prior to your actual HSC Music performance. If you are able to do so, make sure you note down your levels for each piece, so you don’t have to waste time fiddling with them when you’re onstage (and in front of the examiners!).

A thorough pre-performance sound check should include…

  • Line checks – this means making sure any equipment that you’re putting through the PA is actually sending a signal through to the mixer
  • Volume Setting – play through your piece to set volume levels for the actual performance
  • Monitor Setting – if you have a floor monitors, make sure you and your accompanists are able to hear them properly
  • Tuning – tune any instruments before and between pieces

Doing a proper sound check prior to your performance ensures that you will be sounding your best when you get up there for real! If you’re unsure or need help sound checking your performance, ask your music teacher sooner rather than later.

Warm Up

As a vocalist, I know first hand the extreme importance of warming up my vocal cords before a performance. However warming up is important no matter what instrument you play! Taking time to warm up before your performance gives you time to focus on your instrument and your music.

A perfect performance doesn’t only require exceptional musicianship, but also a real appreciation of your instrument and the pieces that you are playing.

Pro tip for vocalists: don’t push your voice on the day of your performance. Make sure you do gentle warm ups such as humming, steam your voice and avoid eating dairy or large, diaphragm squishing meals before your performance!

Show Off Your Hard Work!

My top tip, and what I believe is the most important point to take from this whole article, is to remember that you have worked incredibly hard to get where you are, and your effort and commitment will pay off onstage!

Looking for a tutor to support you while you ace your HSC Music Performance Exam?

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We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a large variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today! 

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at info@artofsmart.com.au or check us out on Facebook!

Isabella Hanley loves science. She loves it so much she’s making it her career. While completing a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of Sydney, Isabella is also a Coach, Team Leader and the Social Media Manager at Art of Smart. She is super passionate about sharing her knowledge on surviving the HSC since completing the HSC herself in 2014, complete with a state ranking in Music 1. In her downtime she enjoys re-watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, singing in the shower and baking cakes that are almost as tall as she is.