December 14, 2011

Repertoire building

Now that you’ve begun to develop the habits of warming up and cooling down (I know you have started building these habits and that you’re not waiting to start this as a set of New Year’s Resolutions!) you can move your focus to other parts of your practice and development. We practice to improve our ability to play and to develop our repertoire. You can never have enough repertoire – just when you think you have all the music you need ready to go, someone will book you for one half hour longer than you can go or you have so many tunes that you can’t possibly practice them every day…you’ll get to the point (if you haven’t already) that you can’t practice them each week. And if you don’t practice them – I promise you, they will desert you in your time of greatest need.

So you need to build your repertoire. And for this, as in all things, you should have some sort of plan. It can be a loose plan – but you still need some sort of plan. If you are studying regularly with a teacher, your plan may come down directly from your lessons. If you are not regularly studying with someone, you need to take more responsibility for planning. How many tunes do you want to learn this year? What types of tunes? What kind of set lists are you trying to build (are you working toward weddings? Parties? Stage sets? School presentations? Storytelling? Teaching? Therapeutic settings? Regardless of the venue and audience, you need to build a repertoire and you should also be adding to it over time. Even if you don’t play a regular gig, you need to keep your repertoire fresh so you can keep yourself fresh.

Write down your plan and your goals so you can refer to them.  You want to make sure you don't get off track. Be sure to check your progress. It’s ok if your goals are modest – most of us need to be reasonable. Use your overall plan to select the tunes you’re going to add to your repertoire. If you have limited time, focus on the music you “need” to fill holes you may have in putting a gig together. If you have unlimited time, learn what you like when you feel like it.

And of course, insert learning, refining, and perfecting your new tunes into your practice schedule (and goals) so that you make consistent progress toward your goals. This will help you build your repertoire so you can join the ranks of people that say, “I played for six hours before I had to go back to the beginning of my rep”! (just kidding!).

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