This is a question which for too many pianists leads to such answers as:
- I’m working on Allegro, but it’s not yet ready to play;
- I finished learning Andante last month, but I’ve forgotten it now;
- I don’t have my music books with me, so …
What a pity!
The reality is that too many of us can’t sit down at the piano – without notice, without notation, and without embarrassment – and simply play something!
One of the main reasons for this is the phenomenon of shallow learning, which can result from:
- poor learning foundations, leading to weakness in one of the key areas of musical learning (essence, technique, understanding).
- an emphasis on quantity rather than quality (how many pieces can be learnt, rather than how well they can be played);
- an approach that is driven by jumping from one exam grade to the next, without effective consolidation, and at the cost of a rich and varied curriculum;
- compartmentalised learning, or a lack of a holistic, connected musical understanding;
When I first wrote about this last year, there was a huge response, with players all over the world identifying with this phenomenon, and recognising that they (or their pupils) couldn’t simply play for others without warning.
And so I started the Active Repertoire project here, through which I have been challenging players to develop an Active Repertoire of three pieces they have deeply learnt and can truly play.
You can read more about Active Repertoire here, including loads of advice for players and teachers:
A Fresh Challenge
At the start of this new academic year, I am now issuing a fresh challenge – and a brand new format for the Sheets.
If you are new to the idea of Active Repertoire – welcome aboard! This is an exciting concept which will hopefully help you to change your piano playing and teaching for the better!
For those who have used the previous sheets, however, there may by now be a recognition that playing the same three Active Repertoire pieces is not enough to satisfy our desire for ongoing progress.
The newly designed Active Repertoire Challenge Sheets therefore issue a challenge to reconsider and refresh the selection of three Active Repertoire pieces every quarter – while also deeply learning up to four new pieces each quarter as potential replacements.
Remember – encouraging deeper learning means much more than simply reading and playing through lots of music, ticking off dozens of new pieces each year, or jumping through assessment hoops.
Deeper learning involves fully engaging with, living with, interpreting, internalising and memorising music.
Crucially, deeper learning must engage all three treasures of musical learning: musical essence, technique and understanding.
A Free Download
Over the last three to four months I have piloted the new sheets with more than a dozen of my own students, refining the language until all were able to fully grasp the challenge without further explanation.
An excellent additional benefit here is that, over the course of the year, the Active Repertoire Sheet will also offer a complete overview of real progress at the piano – a celebration of deeper musical learning!
Here again is the brand new Active Repertoire Challenge 2018-19 Sheet, which you can download, use yourself, and freely share with students and friends:
If you have any questions, or would like to share your experiences developing an Active Repertoire, please leave a comment below!
And GOOD LUCK with the 2018-19 Challenge!
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