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For me it is difficult to find the right balance between practicing new stuff and maintaining excisting repertoire. In my younger years I was always practicing new pieces, and was hardly ever able to play anything well before I got frustrated and moved on to a new piece - often more difficult than the one I had to give up. Lately I have tried a different strategy and chosen some pieces for a "core repertoire". The intention was that I should be able to play any of these pieces at any time without too many annoying (for the audience) mistakes. My experience with this is that I have to spend almost time available with this repertoire and still I'm not really satisfied with the outcome.

Maybe I'm trying to maintain too many and too difficult pieces. I would really like to spend some time on new stuff too as well as going back to some pieces I practiced a lot, but had to give up.

Whatever I do I actually perfer to play short and easy pieces well than making poor performances of long and difficult ones.

Do anyone have any thoughts about this?

Last edited by Ganddalf; 11/13/17 04:34 PM.
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Originally Posted by Ganddalf

Do anyone have any thoughts about this?


I, too, think that it would be sensible to maintain a "core" repertoire, but when I try, I find as well that it's hard to maintain that and continue with new pieces.


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Ganddalf, do you have a concept of pieces moving from "learning" to "maintaining"? If so, do the pieces feel properly "learnt" when you first put them into "maintaining"?

What do you do to maintain a piece? Is this different from what you do to learn the piece?


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I get quite frustrated when pieces don't come together quickly enough and practise gets tiresome. I learn three pieces each week, one for that week only, one spread over four weeks and one spread over twelve or more weeks, though not more than four consecutive weeks at a time. A piece that takes me that long does better if it's tackled in short sections and given time to assimilate between bursts.

However hard it may be to maintain existing pieces, my practise simply wouldn't continue if I couldn't sit down on a Sunday afternoon and breeze through an hour or two of music with an empty rack and a lazy view over the garden. Also long term pieces need quite a different set of skills and practise techniques than pieces being learnt the first time.

I have two sets of pieces I work on, those in long term memory that I've picked as being my pieces for the current year and a second set that are mostly the last twelve pieces I've finished and need to get into long term memory. The former group includes pieces that I can rattle off one a day and consider the job done, others in the collection need a week on each of three to five sections. They're well memorised but they always need more work done when I get back to them.

The second group I do as four groups of three and vary the amount done on them each day. One might have a lot of work done one day and none the next while others might just be played through just to keep them current and without much work done at all. I tend to refresh my memory of them on a Sunday evening and get quite familiar with them by the end of the week. Most of my recital pieces fall into this category. They need to to be kept current and very familiar so a recording session will be relaxed but they also need to be kept fresh so that I can keep the performance enthusiastic and enjoyable not wearisome.


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Here is an entire thread devoted to that exact question .....

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...you-work-on-at-one-time.html#Post2686692


Last edited by dmd; 11/13/17 05:58 PM.

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If you can perfect a piece (or at least get it to a point where you're happy with it, and feel like it needs no further technical work) then you could set it aside and practice one a week or once a fortnight, just to keep it under your fingers. There's one passage in a Beethoven sonata that I learnt so well, I'm sure I could play it 100% perfectly if I didn't practice it for years. There are other things which need frequent repetition to stay in shape. So every 1-2 weeks (or as frequently as you feel you need), you could have a practice session which is based on reviewing already learnt pieces.

When you are still actively learning a piece (either the notes, or interpretation, or memorising), you should be practicing it at (almost) every practice session. Only once you are happy with the final product should you shelve it for review every couple of weeks.


At the moment, I've just started one new piece, I'm finishing learning one, I'm perfecting 2 others, and I have 2 that I've just put into the "review occasionally" category. Everyone's repertoire will look different, this is just my experience with this.

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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Ganddalf, do you have a concept of pieces moving from "learning" to "maintaining"? If so, do the pieces feel properly "learnt" when you first put them into "maintaining"?

What do you do to maintain a piece? Is this different from what you do to learn the piece?


Well, I have occasionally made public performances (not great concert halls, but for a paying audience) and on such occasions I have practiced a lot beforehand and been able to play reasonably well, although not at a "professional" level. And during the later years I have prepared pieces for the e-citals here and been able to make a few recordings at acceptable amateur level. I think it is too bad to put all these pieces aside after making the public performance or the recording, therefore I'm interested in keeping them alive. This is what I mean by "maintenance". What I try to do is to play the pieces at regular intervals to avoid forgetting them. But as the list of pieces is growing this becomes more and more difficult.

I made a list today of pieces that I have worked quite a lot on and would really like to include in the core repertoire. Just playing through these pieces would take a lot of time, and I usually have 30 - 45 minutes every day to practice.

Totally the list includes more than 60 pieces ranging in duration from 1 to 15 minutes (the majority 3 - 5 minutes long). The difficulty ranges from "simple" to "nearly unplayable", most pieces being "average". I realise that I have to make a small selection from this list, and simply accept that I'll have to forget the rest. Most likely I'm going to cut down to about 15 pieces, including 3 - 5 longer ones. This is going to be painful.

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With 45-60 minutes to practice each day, and wanting to continue learning new pieces, and without adding more time to your practice, you are going to be constrained no matter how you dice it.

Can you further prioritize your 60 pieces to maybe half of that (maybe this is what your 'core' repertoire is?), and then rotate them in and out of your practice sessions, as I believe zrtf does? It is painful to put aside pieces we spent time learning and that we love, but keeping everything in tip-top condition, all of the time, just isn't possible with the time most of us have available.
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Lately I have tried a different strategy and chosen some pieces for a "core repertoire". The intention was that I should be able to play any of these pieces at any time without too many annoying (for the audience) mistakes. My experience with this is that I have to spend almost time available with this repertoire and still I'm not really satisfied with the outcome.


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I think with the New Year coming up soon I am going to invest in a separate diary and start scheduling what to do each day/week/month based on what my aims are. Maybe that approach would help you Ganddalf. So the first three weeks of the month, say, might see us practising and perfecting newer stuff with say, three days of the last week of the month, playing core repertoire, so many pieces per day and list them so they are mixed in length and style. And make those three (or however many) days every other day so that on the intervening days we don't lose momentum on the progress of the newer pieces. And yes maybe having that Sunday afternoon to just run through what pleases us or catch up with anything the week didnt allow because "life got in the way". I have just bought a theory book as I am weak on theory beyond just being able to read music and I need to revise the fairly basic this I learned age 11-13 at school when I had music theory lessons. So I am going to have to schedule that in too. The book has online examples to download and listen to, I think it will help me understand scales, chords and the overall structure and style of pieces and composers as well. I tend to work a lot with diaries and lists in my everyday life so my days dont just float. I am not rigid about it but it keeps me focussed. Even for gardening etc. good luck whatever you decide to do.


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Hi Ganddalf!

Maybe you could try putting the pieces that you've mastered on a sort of cycle. Choose 1 or 2 (depending on length) and include them in your daily practice for a week or however long it takes for them to feel comfortable again. After that point, treat them as entertainment for yourself, play them as long as you're enjoying them. When you get tired of them, put them down and take out the next 1 or 2.

Any piece is going to feel rusty when you first take it out after a period of rest. Having a library of 60 pieces that are beautifully polished and concert-ready at all times is unrealistic for most of us, unless the pieces are very easy. But a piece always comes back quicker than we think it will, especially if it's getting played every day for a little while. And then after we've taken a piece out and let it rest a few times, which will happen as you cycle through them, the pieces start coming back faster, to the point where we can even play them sort of passably for friends if we've got the score in front of us, even if we haven't looked at them lately.

For the pieces that aren't yet mastered, definitely keep those to no more than one longer or two shorter pieces at a time if your practice time is limited to 45-60 min. a day, and keep at that one piece or two pieces until it really is mastered. Having a lot of not-yet-mastered pieces is kind of frustrating and overwhelming.


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Originally Posted by hreichgott


Any piece is going to feel rusty when you first take it out after a period of rest. Having a library of 60 pieces that are beautifully polished and concert-ready at all times is unrealistic for most of us, unless the pieces are very easy. But a piece always comes back quicker than we think it will, especially if it's getting played every day for a little while. And then after we've taken a piece out and let it rest a few times, which will happen as you cycle through them, the pieces start coming back faster, to the point where we can even play them sort of passably for friends if we've got the score in front of us, even if we haven't looked at them lately.

For the pieces that aren't yet mastered, definitely keep those to no more than one longer or two shorter pieces at a time if your practice time is limited to 45-60 min. a day, and keep at that one piece or two pieces until it really is mastered. Having a lot of not-yet-mastered pieces is kind of frustrating and overwhelming.


Good to hear that I'm not the only person having problems mastering a large number of pieces at a time. Based on the advice I got here, I have decided to plan some sort of cycle. But still I'm going to cut down to a smaller number of pieces. 20 is perhaps more realistic than 60 in my case. Also I decided to skip the pieces I struggle the most with. Chopin' Rondo Op.5 has to go, as well as Etude Op.10/5 and Skriabin's Op.11/11. And rather than working with an entire Beethoven sonata, I'm going to select one of my favorite single movements. Hoping that I'll be able to play better the pieces I decide to continue with.

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I’ve been considering setting up a “Leitner box” to help me organize my stuff I want to keep in rotation.

There a lots of links about that system, and it sounds like it would be effective.


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