One need not be a concert pianist to take the time and effort to develop a substantial repertoire. What does “repertoire” mean anyway? In short, the repertoire is a body of works or songs that forms the pianist’s core or foundation. (Technically, a “song” has lyrics while a “work” or “piece” has no lyrics. The word “song” is often misused.)
Many pianists believe that one must keep all pieces “under the fingers” or readily playable at all times and that this constitutes one’s repertoire. I believe, however, that repertoire implies something more all-encompassing. Let us now examine the term and explore the most efficient ways to develop, expand, and nurture it:
5 Golden Rules of Building a Substantial Piano Repertoire
1. Practice, practice, practice
2. Micro-cycle works you are currently practicing
3. Macro-cycle works throughout your life
4. Consider that no work is ever “finished.”
5. Constantly add books and sheet music to your library
The first rule of practicing hardly needs explaining. To become better and more proficient at anything, one must do it, do it often, and love doing it with all one’s heart and soul. Tiger Woods did not become a great golfer by nibbling on snacks and watching TV. The world’s best surgeons did not get there by hanging out in bars and drinking beer.
Likewise, an aspiring pianist wishing to have fun and success playing hundreds of songs or works will never get there by neglecting to practice regularly. Ideally, one should practice not out of obligation but rather out of the love of music and heart-burning desire to improve Web Posting Mart.
The second rule of micro-cycling works constitutes the pianist’s short-term plan, which may range anywhere from a few weeks to several months or perhaps a year at the most. This is what most people imply with the word “repertoire” since it is the timeframe in which one could sit down at any time and play (preferably from memory) a set number of works. I have found the best results for micro-cycling by focusing on about five works at a time.
For example, I will often spend an entire week practicing exclusively one work (like a Joplin rag), the next week exclusively another work (like a Mozart sonata), and the next week exclusively another work (like a Liszt étude). Then, I may not even touch them at all for two months and, upon returning to one of them, it feels like “meeting an old friend,” which accelerates its re-learning phase.
What once took a week to accomplish now takes only a couple of days. Ideally, the pianist should strive to learn, forget, and relearn weekly and daily cycles. This is the eternal and never-ending plan I follow when practicing and preparing for my YouTube videos.
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The third rule of macro-cycling works constitutes the pianist’s long-term plan, ranging from one to ten years. A thirteen-year-old just starting usually does not realize that what is learned in these formative years sets his/her musical foundation for life. Writing this article at the age of 47 and having begun piano at the young age of 6, I am constantly amazed at just how resilient and powerful the human brain really is.
For example, I began practicing Mendelssohn’s “Rondo Capriccioso” this week after being dormant and totally untouched for 27 years. I was shocked when it came back to me memorized again in only three days. What took as long as three months to learn well at the age of 20 took me only three days to relearn as well or better at 47. This is one of the intriguingly satisfying aspects of music and piano repertoire.
All music ultimately remains in your conscience and forms your “musical identity” until the day you leave this earth. It is never too late to learn piano, develop a repertoire, and tap into the power of one’s musical memories. After I work on the “Rondo Capriccioso” for a week and record it for YouTube, I will most likely not touch it again for several years.