How to Keep Your Review Pieces on Performance Level

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Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to keep your review pieces on performance level. I talk to so many people who wonder how they can learn new pieces without forgetting old pieces. People can end up studying the piano for years and still only have one piece they can play, the piece they’re working on that week! So, how do you keep old pieces in shape? How can you possibly have time to learn new pieces when you’re reviewing all your old pieces?

Of course the answer is, you can’t keep every piece you’ve ever played in your hands and in your head all the time. It becomes impossible! Once you amass a repertoire of five or six hours of music, you can’t possibly keep everything in shape. However, it is vitally important that you keep at least the last few pieces you’ve studied in your hands and in your head. Because there’s a pleasure and an ease you gain with music you’ve played for a long time. So, how do you do that without taking up all of your practice time?

The best, easiest, and most fun way of keeping your review pieces in shape is to play them!

Play your pieces all the time! play them every day! Why not? Obviously, if you have pieces like the Hammerklavier Sonata of Beethoven or the Bach Goldberg Variations, they’re going to take a while to play through. So, there are certain limitations depending upon the level you’re on. But certainly you should keep playing the pieces that you’ve studied within the past few weeks.

Let’s say you’re working on a brand new piece, and you have the piece you did at your last lesson. Well, it’s better to have the last few pieces, at least three to five pieces. Otherwise, as I said, you could be playing the piano for years and never have anything really secure. Because there’s nothing like the security of playing a piece that you’ve known for a long time. The ease and security you gain from living with music is tremendous. If you never review those pieces, everything is kind of tentative and you never have that pleasure.

Simply playing through your pieces, is that all you have to do?

Playing through your pieces isn’t all you have to do, but most of the time that’s enough. On a daily basis or at least every other day, play through your review pieces. Play through a bunch of them. It’s fun because they’re pieces you already know. What’s the purpose of all this practicing if you’re not going to have anything you can play? You should enjoy playing the piano, not just practicing. You put in all this tedious work of learning music and working out all the technical details. The reward at the end of the line is being able to play! So of course play them, and play them for people. You’ll get better at performing simply by playing for other people.

Now, if you keep playing your pieces over and over again for weeks on end and that’s all you do, they will deteriorate over time. Because there are slight changes that happen. Which is why you must go back to the score on a periodic basis with your music if it’s something you’ve memorized. Put the score up and play with your foot off the pedal so you can hear the underlying performance without the benefit of the pedal which can obscure things. Sometimes you should use a metronome to make sure you’re playing at a constant tempo. This is a great way to reinforce your playing. Playing with the score slowly to a metronome with no pedal reinforces everything that you’ve learned before. It’s a refresher. I recommend it highly for all of your review pieces. This is particularly helpful with pieces you’ve recently learned that you’re trying to get on that ultimate level. This is a terrific way of doing that. You can actually work at different speeds. Start very slowly with the score, because it’s hard to read something you’ve memorized, particularly if it’s a piece that’s above your reading level. You undoubtedly read through it when you first got it just to see what it was about, and then you got to work and learned it. Going back trying to read it is a tough task, but it’s also vitally important if you want to keep your performance on a high level. Otherwise, it’s like a game of telephone where the message gets so garbled it ends up being a whole new message. If you play your piece over and over enough times and never refer to the score, you can end up with a whole different piece! So, it’s incredibly important to reference the score.

Choose wisely which pieces you keep in your repertoire.

Definitely keep at least the last two or three pieces you’ve learned in your repertoire so you can really solidify them and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You might also select some choice pieces that you’ve learned that you never want to forget. Play them often enough that they don’t get too far gone. If you find that they’ve deteriorated to a great extent, go back to the score. You might have to practice some sections, but don’t let them get so far gone that you have to practically start all over to learn them again. But even if you do, you’ll find if you’ve really learned a piece of music and committed it to memory, relearning it is much faster than initially learning it. So, that’s the good news for any of you out there who haven’t done this. Go ahead and relearn some of those pieces. At first it’ll seem arduous, but then you’ll quickly assimilate the score once again.

There are pieces I’ve learned and relearned multiple times. They become cemented almost as a part of my permanent repertoire. There’s a number of pieces that I just have all the time. Even if I haven’t played them in years, they’re still there. But it takes a long time to get to that point. In the meantime, play through your pieces on a regular basis and have fun with your music! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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13 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Review Pieces on Performance Level”

  1. All of my students are required to play their 10 – 15 minute “dinner concert” every day (play it while mom’s fixing dinner or any other convenient time). Since everything is memorized and they are very young on the average, except for the older readers, checking scores would not be possible. However, on the first lesson of the month I listen to their concert and either give them a written note for improvement and praise on each piece or verbal comments as they go along. If a problem piece appears, we work on it and put it on the practice list for a week. I have been doing this for many years and have found it is WELL WORTH THE LESSON TIME. Occasionally a student is neglectful and they are in BIG TROUBLE! I let them know that I’ll be listening to them next week. That usually puts them back on track. When they are asked to play for visitors, they enjoy showing off a bit, LOL.

  2. What an uplifting video! Through all the technical work I’m doing right now, if you don’t play some music to reward yourself, what’s the use? Thank you!

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