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How best to organize music
#2712581 02/08/18 09:46 AM
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I recently got a 10.2 inch notepad and the MobileSheets music app. I take piano lessons and am wondering how best to organize categories of music and looking for suggestions.

Some pieces are memorized, and of these some I can play fairly well but some still need work.

The same goes for pieces that are not memorized.

Plus, there are usually a couple of pieces that I can play that I am working on memorizing.

Some pieces are items that I am currently working on that are assigned by my piano teacher with whom I meet weekly. In addition to regular pieces, these can also include exercises such as Hanon. (I also have Czerny exercises, but I'm not going to bother scanning these into the app.)

Of pieces that I can play, they need to be played every so often (maybe weekly?) so that they stay fresh. (Maybe a day of the week category (Monday, Tuesday...) with such pieces divided into those days?)

There are other pieces that interest me that I haven't started on yet, or did start on once upon a time but put aside meaning to revisit sometime. Perhaps these should also be grouped together.

Just wondering if anyone else has had this kind of an issue and has any suggestions.

Last edited by RVDowning; 02/08/18 10:01 AM.
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Re: How best to organize music
RVDowning #2712589 02/08/18 10:19 AM
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I personally use Dropbox, and I have folders.....Classical, Jazz, Rock, Lessons. Within each, I organize with the composer, then name the piece...eg "Liszt.Consolation.3.pdf". I do not have them organized by practice date, but it keeps them easy to find.

However, the pieces I'm actively working on, I print and place in a nice leather three ring binder, with protective sheets from office depot, and they are placed in order in which I'm learning them, also however, by composer so they are easy to find. I have about 15-20 pieces in this binder and work on 3-4 per day. These are printed on high quality paper for better readability.


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Re: How best to organize music
RVDowning #2712590 02/08/18 10:38 AM
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I got MobileSheets precisely for the reason to get rid of books and binders. It is so much nicer to be able to read the music from the 10.2 inch notepad and to use a foot pedal for page turning. The software already has a zillion ways to organize the music, i.e. by name, composer, key, albums, genres, etc, etc. But I was looking for a more personalized grouping according to the way I am actually accessing the music.

Re: How best to organize music
RVDowning #2712612 02/08/18 11:36 AM
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Sorry, I'm not familiar with the app. I wonder if you can flag pieces? Or create a folder of "active pieces" within the software? Or create a fake genre called "Active" or "Practice"?

Otherwise, making a list as you mentioned might work. Someone in another thread mentioned using Popsicle sticks with the names of keys (eg A maj, Bbmaj....etc), rotating through them for practicing their scales; another person wrote these on small stones. I have used business cards with the names of pieces on which I want to work, rotating through these, to keep them fresh but unfortunately, don't utilize them as I should.

Good luck and let's hear what others say...


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Re: How best to organize music
RVDowning #2712705 02/08/18 03:54 PM
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Since I'm using Mobilesheets too, I can share my rather simple system:

First, I co-opted the 5 star rating system for my own purpose: Instead of using it to mark how much I like each piece (as it is intended, I believe), I use it to mark how well I play each piece:

0 stars = pieces I never worked on (except maybe a quick sight reading attempt)
1 star = a piece that I selected to work on, that is still in the very early stages
2 stars = a piece I work on that has proceeded a bit but is still kind of rough
3 stars = a piece I work on where I have come far enough to play it through reasonably well and with enjoyment, but that I still have problems with. I might be comfortable enough to play this for close family or friends.
4 stars = for "finished" pieces. If I had a teacher, that would be for pieces that the teacher passes me on. Since I don't have one, I just try to imagine what a teacher would say. For example if I am able to make a recording that I'm willing to share on the internet, then I know I've reached this level. Or if I feel that I would be comfortable to play it for friends and acquaintances in an informal setting.
5 stars = I reserved this for "polished" pieces that I play so well that I would be willing to play them in a formal recital or similar, even for strangers.

So this star rating is one way that I use to categorize, filter and search my pieces.

In addition to that, you are probably aware that the app allows you to add lots of tags to the pieces in the database. I'm actually only using three of those, to organize my collection: Two are Composers and Genres, which allow me to do the obvious filtering and searching. Other than that I only use the Categories tag. For this, I have created only two categories: "Under progress" and "Repertoire":

A piece without a category means, that I never worked on that piece (similar to the 0 star rating above). Once I start working on a piece I put it into the "under progress" category. Once I finish it (usually when it gets the 4 star rating) I switch it over into "repertoire".

That allows me to easily filter the collection to see only the pieces I currently work on (for practice) or the pieces I already finished (if I want to play for pleasure) or both (if I'm not sure what I want smile).

Sometimes, if I later want to remind myself to play a finished piece again more often, to keep it from slipping, I add it back into the "under progress" category, so that it is then in both categories.


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Re: How best to organize music
RVDowning #2712711 02/08/18 04:21 PM
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The star thing is clever. I hadn't even planned to use them, but this is a good idea. I guess I still need to divvy up pieces into some type of calendar collections (or setlists) so that I have a regular schedule for playing pieces to keep them fresh.

Re: How best to organize music
RVDowning #2712779 02/08/18 10:16 PM
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Hi RVDowning,

As your repertoire increases, keeping every polished piece fresh will at some point become an impossible goal no matter how focused you are.

Maybe think about how much polished repertoire you want to have in performable condition at a time. Half an hour? An hour? You could choose a group of pieces of that length and consider that your "concert" that you can play at any time. Play through some of your concert every day. As you start to get tired of certain pieces for the time being, you can substitute in another piece that you kinda miss playing.

The half-learned pieces -- it depends what you want to do with them. If you like the experience of playing them as is, you could rotate through them in a similar way. If you want to improve them I'd actually suggest just picking one at a time as a working piece, giving it focused practice every single day and persisting until it's polished, then it can move to your concert of polished repertoire. And then, at least in my experience and what I've seen with students, if a polished piece rotates off your practice regimen for a while, it's much easier to refurbish it later than it is to refurbish a piece that was only half-learned to begin with.

PS Memorized repertoire benefits from being "forgotten" and re-memorized several times over the years. Each time re-memorization is faster.

Last edited by hreichgott; 02/08/18 10:18 PM.

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Re: How best to organize music
hreichgott #2712782 02/08/18 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott

As your repertoire increases, keeping every polished piece fresh will at some point become an impossible goal no matter how focused you are.


Tough question (for me). How much do you have in your head that you can toss off without music?

This is relevant because I just took a trip where I thought--no chance of a piano so no need to take my tablet--and then there was a piano and I was told ... by my husband ... 'Of course you can play something'. And... I can't. Not without music. And I felt like crap. We cobbled something together with an iPad but it was really, really janky.

I do not memorize naturally at all--not even for pieces I have played 1,000 times. When I did memorize, as a child, it was really fragile muscle memory. I did memorize a couple pieces a few years ago... and... I did it. But the results were not really better in any way when I tried to play from memory. I had a little better structural understanding of the music but anxiety about memory lapses meant I couldn't play well.

So, what do/can you do (personally) and what would you recommend for someone where I am? Do you think this is fixable for me or should I just 'live where I am' for lack of a better expression.


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Re: How best to organize music
Whizbang #2712809 02/09/18 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Whizbang
So, what do/can you do (personally) and what would you recommend for someone where I am? Do you think this is fixable for me or should I just 'live where I am' for lack of a better expression.


I know JUST how you feel! But I’ve decided to stop worrying about not being able to memorise every piece that I love, and to spend my remaining years happily reading the music sheets which now fill my iPad.

For a start you can make sure that your husband understands that you play from the sheet music - not from memory - and either keep your iPad with you just in case, or ignore the piano in the room on your next trip laugh.


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Re: How best to organize music
RVDowning #2712840 02/09/18 07:05 AM
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What Marie describes is exactly how I do it. smile


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Re: How best to organize music
Whizbang #2712875 02/09/18 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Whizbang
Originally Posted by hreichgott

As your repertoire increases, keeping every polished piece fresh will at some point become an impossible goal no matter how focused you are.


Tough question (for me). How much do you have in your head that you can toss off without music?

This is relevant because I just took a trip where I thought--no chance of a piano so no need to take my tablet--and then there was a piano and I was told ... by my husband ... 'Of course you can play something'. And... I can't. Not without music. And I felt like crap. We cobbled something together with an iPad but it was really, really janky.

I do not memorize naturally at all--not even for pieces I have played 1,000 times. When I did memorize, as a child, it was really fragile muscle memory. I did memorize a couple pieces a few years ago... and... I did it. But the results were not really better in any way when I tried to play from memory. I had a little better structural understanding of the music but anxiety about memory lapses meant I couldn't play well.

So, what do/can you do (personally) and what would you recommend for someone where I am? Do you think this is fixable for me or should I just 'live where I am' for lack of a better expression.


A similar situation happened to me a while back as well. It's a little bit disconcerting. It's really annoying and embarrassing telling somebody that you've been praying for number of years, sitting down in front of a piano and not being able to play anything. I decided at that point that I was going to work on memorizing just a couple of pieces, so I can play something without excuses. Right now I'm working on the Bach Prelude in C. It's not really a long piece and it shouldn't take more than a few weeks, and at least I will have something I could do if I happen upon a piano. I also memorized my next recital piece; it's not my favorite but I memorized it accidentally as practicing it, and probably will keep it in repertoire as long as it's there already.

Do I remember correctly that you do a lot of ragtime? What about doing some jazz pieces that you can play with lead seeds, these are easy to memorize as all you need are the chords. You can improvise from there.

Btw, you're way ahead of me, so take these comments for what it's worth. Just suggestions.

Last edited by cmb13; 02/09/18 09:52 AM.

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Re: How best to organize music
Whizbang #2713033 02/09/18 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Whizbang
Originally Posted by hreichgott

As your repertoire increases, keeping every polished piece fresh will at some point become an impossible goal no matter how focused you are.


Tough question (for me). How much do you have in your head that you can toss off without music?

This is relevant because I just took a trip where I thought--no chance of a piano so no need to take my tablet--and then there was a piano and I was told ... by my husband ... 'Of course you can play something'. And... I can't. Not without music. And I felt like crap. We cobbled something together with an iPad but it was really, really janky.

I do not memorize naturally at all--not even for pieces I have played 1,000 times. When I did memorize, as a child, it was really fragile muscle memory. I did memorize a couple pieces a few years ago... and... I did it. But the results were not really better in any way when I tried to play from memory. I had a little better structural understanding of the music but anxiety about memory lapses meant I couldn't play well.

So, what do/can you do (personally) and what would you recommend for someone where I am? Do you think this is fixable for me or should I just 'live where I am' for lack of a better expression.

It's so nice to have even just one piece in memory at all times... in situations like this, people don't really want a full concert anyway wink

Maybe something short? The first section of one of those rags you like to play? Most rags I know are made of several sections and the first one can often stand on its own pretty easily.
And then maybe for these purposes it doesn't matter if you're playing it in its fully notated form? (unless it matters to you) -- if you know the melody, can sing the melody without the score, know the chord structure, and are familiar enough with typical ragtime LH patterns you might find it easier to just play melody + a LH pattern with the right chords, than to memorize every single note.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: How best to organize music
RVDowning #2713098 02/10/18 07:04 AM
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Originally Posted by RVDowning
Some pieces are memorized, and of these some I can play fairly well but some still need work.

All of my repertoire I can play fairly well but all of still needs work anyway.

I'm going slightly off topic here and dealing with a specific aspect alluded to by yourself and Whizbang.

Many that claim to play the piano actually just practise it. Once a piece has been learnt to a certain standard they move on to the next piece so they seldom have at their fingertips any pieces that they can actually perform. I find it important, for me, to actually have pieces that I'm learning and repertory pieces that I perform (that are memorised and that I've been playing for some time) as separate parts of my daily practise.

Originally Posted by Whizbang
How much do you have in your head that you can toss off without music?
I have about an hour's worth that I hardly ever practise and about two hour's worth that I need to refresh once or twice a year. I hardly ever practise this material at performance speed. What work I do on it is for improvement and aiming at perfection. That means I seldom play the whole piece through. Most of the time is on smaller fragments, the smaller the fragment, the slower I play. I have to go slow enough that I need to rely on deliberate memory, too slow for muscle memory. Individual phrases or fragments thereof can go down to 60 bpm, one note every four clicks for quarters, eighths or, for some pieces, sixteenths. No wasted movement, no unnecessary tension, both slow motion, like tai chi - with very few notes played fast enough to sound, and regular motion but freezing on downbeats, etc. I might work on contouring phrases or contouring sections.

If you want to play pieces without preparation and without music it's best to learn them specifically for playing as a performance.

The following is based on how I work on my repertoire pieces - not pieces I'm learning, per se, but pieces I'm learning for performance specifically.

Choose a piece you don't yet play, not a piece you've already been practising your normal way. Start by getting the piece memorised well enough that you can sing it to yourself in your head all the way through or at least the part you're about to work on - know it.

Break it into phrases and work one phrase at a time. Memorise as much as you can of the first phrase before you try it on the keyboard then play only as much as you can remember. If you're only working in part phrases, maybe bar and note or half bar plus note, do each fragment until you're playing it from memory before you move onto the next fragment but try to cover the whole phrase that day and none of it playing from the score. Separate out the reading, learning and memorising from the actual playing and play only from explicit memory or by ear (aural memory).

If you're slow at this repeat the process every day gradually building the fragment size until you're working the whole phrase as one unit. Your working memory will gradually increase as will your familiarity with the process. Finish each phrase, playing it comfortably from memory, before you move onto the next one but don't build the next one onto it. Either play that phrase as a separate part of your day's stint (I have separate practise stints for long term memorised music, recently memorised music, music being memorised, pieces only played from the score, pieces I'm learning to play from the score and pieces I'm just reading without learning) or drop it entirely until you get back to it on the next cycle.


Richard

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