Guest Post by Joni Hawkes
The recent articles on Active Repertoire on Pianodao have struck a chord with me … quite literally.
As an adult beginner into my third year of lessons, I have often found myself avoiding situations where I might be asked to play something, because I simply couldn’t play anything spontaneously without my trusty sheet music to hand.
The more pieces that I learned, the more they were becoming just a growing collection of stuff I couldn’t play.
The concept of Active Repertoire (always having 3 pieces that I enjoy playing, without notice, without embarrassment and without notation) has completely changed my approach to playing.
I now start every practice session by playing my 3 favourite pieces, and whilst I still have the book in front of me, I’m finding that with each session I’m increasingly looking away from the music as I play.
In addition to the benefit of having 3 pieces I can play with confidence, the fact that I’m hearing myself play something good at the start of each practice session gives me a more positive “can-do” attitude toward the new pieces I need to tackle.
Previously, I might do a quick bit of warm up, then go straight into the tedious process of learning something new, which would absorb my entire practice session, so I never heard myself play anything to a decent standard.
On occasion – to make myself feel better – I might bring out a piece that I once knew but then found I couldn’t play it either, which was terribly disheartening and made me wonder if I should just give it all up.
Because I now like what I hear when I play (thanks to Active Repertoire), I’m devoting more time to practice and, for whatever psychological reason (probably just feeling more liberated and less self-doubting), I’m learning new pieces more quickly and experimenting more with playing by ear (ad-libbing chords and such).
I still have a long way to go before I will be stepping up to a public piano to play, but I can now see that as a real possibility in this exciting phase of my piano journey.
Joni took up piano around a couple of years ago. She enjoys a wide range of music in a variety of styles, and has lessons with Andrew Eales. She is married to singer-songwriter John Hawkes.