Reviving Old Repertoire

“Whenever you practice or perform a composition, celebrate its unique message.
Feel the excitement of listening to the music for the first time.”

The Musician’s Way, p. 74

All of us musicians learn and then set aside countless pieces.

Sometimes, we excitedly return to old favorites but then feel glum when we realize that music we once performed with ease is now surprisingly difficult.

With a discerning approach to practice, though, we can revive old repertoire and perform it better than ever before.

Here are 6 strategies for bringing rusty pieces up to stage-ready condition.

1. Rekindle Affection for a Piece
Ahead of practicing an old piece, it’s useful to rekindle our affection for it with questions such as these:

•  What originally drew me to the music?
•  What does it offer that no other music can?
•  Why do listeners enjoy hearing it?

2. Review in Detail
Often, we’ll want to run through an old composition at full speed, but it’s best to treat it like an unfamiliar piece and calmly practice it in small sections at moderate tempos.

3. Trust Your Practice Skills
The connections that form in our brains when we master compositions degrade when we don’t maintain them. Fortunately, those connections can re-form stronger than before provided that we build them up through deep practice. It’s vital, therefore, that we trust in our learning power as we practice, calmly solve problems, and don’t let frustration creep in.

4. Make Meaning
Every high-quality composition permeates with expressive potential. Rather than falling into our old interpretive patterns, we do well to try out new interpretive angles and otherwise make meaningful artistic gestures with every phrase.

5. Implement a Practice Routine
Our brains and bodies need time to consolidate what we learn (and relearn). Instead of cramming to bring an old piece up to tempo, it’s ideal if we work on it steadily and creatively within a regular practice routine.

6. Schedule Performances
If we’re keen to restore an old piece, few things boost our motivation to practice it more than a performance obligation.

See Part I of The Musician’s Way for inclusive practice guidelines. Thanks to my former student Ryan Layton for suggesting the topic of this post.

Related posts
Maintaining Repertoire
The Power of Specific Goals
Practicing Performance
The Ultimate Practice Shortcut

© 2012 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © David Rehner, licensed from Shutterstock.com

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