PracticePrompt Blog

Pondering Repertoire Building and Maintenance

Posted in Repertoire Building and Maintenance by elwynrees on July 3, 2009

Balancing act

Balancing act

Since returning to the piano I’ve found it to be a careful balancing act between investing time learning new pieces, studying technique and just playing for fun.    Generally, I keep picking pieces beyond my ability.  So they take several months or more to get to a level I’m relatively happy with.   Gradually I get more engrossed and obsessed and eventually start recording & final polshing.  

Problem: during this learning phase I find myself gradually forgetting previously learned pieces.   Two thoughts then.  Firstly should I cap the time spent on learning a new piece? Secondly how to plan and manage a rotation through previously learnt material.   Thinking about the latter first and relearning previously completed pieces .

I asked a question on repertoire maintenance over on the Piano World Forums. In particular  How long to relearn a piece? 

I had many useful answers and it does appear that its good news since most indicated that the second time through its a lot quicker than the first.

But thinking about this further, is there a pattern of cyclical review that we can adopt that will facilitate both maintaining and growing repertoire? 

We could just play pieces everyday, but I’d be concerned that I’d soon tire and get bored.    Is there an advantage  perceived or otherwise to actively aiming to have such a long gap between reviews  that the piece is forgotten and has to be relearnt? That is, rather than trying to prop them up before they slip from memory, to accept they are going to be forgotten and then relearn them.

Here’s an image of four possible review patterns for a single piece orignally studied at R0 (review 0):

Weekly Review Strategies

Weekly Review Strategies

In the first one, a piece  is cycled every-other week. In the second every-three weeks. In the last two the cycling increases each time (you can figure out how!).

With the two linear models its easy to predict how many pieces have to be covered in each Review/Gap cycle, but this is more complex in the exponential models.    The exponential models may be useful in gradually increasing the gaps so that there is an increasing probability that the piece will start to be forgotten and weaknesses revealed – but you have a weeks practice to get them back into shape…. 

Food for thought.

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