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Active Repertoire • Start Here

The Active Repertoire Challenge continues to help piano players around the world build fluency in their playing and the confidence to share their music with others…

What Can You Play?

Here’s a question which too often 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!

I have received feedback from players all over the world identifying with this phenomenon, and recognising that they (or their pupils) couldn’t just sit down and play for others without prior warning.

One of the main reasons for the prevalence of this problem is shallow learning, which can result from an emphasis on quantity rather than quality.

Deeper learning involves fully engaging with, living with, interpreting, internalising and memorising music. It means so much more than simply reading and playing through lots of music, ticking off dozens of new pieces each year, or jumping through exam assessment hoops.

Professional players will have a large Active Repertoire of music ready to perform. And whether gigging jazzers or touring recitalists, they will understand the importance of balancing the new with the familiar. How odd that in music education we so rarely emulate the behaviours and practices of top musicians!

Active Repertoire

And so through the Active Repertoire Challenge I have been encouraging players to develop an Active Repertoire of initially just three pieces they have deeply learnt and can truly play, with freedom, expression and confidence.

Modelled on the practices of successful performers worldwide, and built on the fundamental pedagogic values espoused by the greatest educators right up to the present day, the Challenge offers an approach which aims to foster a lifelong love of music by developing intrinsic motivation, rather than the extrinsic motivation that underpins grades, competitions and tick-box progress sheets.

The Active Repertoire Challenge aims to encourage piano players from around the world to develop their own Active Repertoire of three pieces which can be played any time, any place:

• Without Notice
• Without Notation, and
• Without Embarrassment

The project is a free, non-commercial resource available to pianists and teachers internationally. It is equally suitable for enthusiastic players enjoying the piano alone, or students learning with a teacher. And it can be used alongside any other programme of study or as a positive alternative in its own right.

Wherever you are on your piano journey, I hope that you will find and make many opportunities to perform your pieces to family, friends and in piano events near you. And if you would like my professional advice on any of your Active Repertoire pieces, remember you can access Pianodao’s innovative Video Feedback Service any time.

Start Easy and Develop Gradually!

Develop a list of the pieces which can be your initial Active Repertoire. These need to be pieces you can play well today, and if you don’t have three, then your initial project is to address that by learning or revising pieces which you really love, and will enjoy playing.

If you are working towards a grade exam, performance or competition, chances are that the pieces you select to be your Active Repertoire will be those that you are preparing with that goal. Otherwise, simply choose the pieces which you most enjoy playing.

While the Active Repertoire Challenge will fit naturally alongside exam preparation, I have found that having an Active Repertoire can be even more helpful for those not following the exam route. The Challenge gives us all a helpful musical goal, something positive to work towards.

And it provides a focus for perfecting a few pieces for performance, rather than simply skim-reading lots of pieces, but not learning any of them really well.

Write the titles of your three pieces on the sheet and commit to:

  1. Play them regularly – if possible, daily.
    For most players this should only take a few minutes.
  2. See if you can memorise them over time.
    Unless you have a specific performance deadline, let the memorisation process be as natural and unforced as possible.
  3. Play your Active Repertoire pieces to others –
    whenever you get the chance, and preferably informally at first.

Developing your Active Repertoire

Over the coming months, as you learn new pieces, you will want to refresh your list of Active Repertoire rather than continuing to play the same three pieces. The Active Repertoire Challenge is refreshed each quarter, so remember to subscribe to Pianodao for your regular updated sheets. To do this, simply add your email at the bottom of this page.

Through the year, reflect on your progress and update your choice of Active Repertoire pieces. Try to include something you have newly learnt or revisited during the previous season/quarter.

Spaces are also provided for listing the pieces that you aspire to play, and for a variety of other music that you enjoy as a listener or player. These sections are varied each quarter to stimulate the imagination, inspire creative curiosity!

Browse the full Pianodao Music Library for ideas of new repertoire that is suitable for your level.

Through the Year

Here are the steps you can continue to take as the months go by:

  1. Stay up to date with the latest Active Repertoire Challenge sheets.
  2. Update your list of Active Repertoire pieces in the spaces provided.
  3. Remember to keep a list of pieces which you aspire to play too, and discuss their suitability with your teacher or mentor.
  4. Not every piece learnt should be added, only those that you particularly love.

Active Repertoire Project founder and Pianodao owner Andrew Eales offers expert advice, a flexible range of online and in-person support, and a constructive feedback service to help you develop your playing:

Having Active Repertoire enables us to develop a better balance between working at the piano and actually playing the piano.

Always keep at least three pieces of Active Repertoire that you can play without notice, without notation, and without embarrassment.

Some Tips for Teachers

Encouraging your students to develop their Active Repertoire may lead to some radical changes in your own teaching patterns, and in their learning.

I have found that pupils who develop an Active Repertoire:

  • Become more positive, engaged learners
  • Are able to better recognise and enjoy their progress
  • Are more confident in lessons
  • Are more willing performers
  • Learn to balance working at the piano and actually playing
  • And are more like to stick with their piano journey

In order to ensure that your students make the most of developing their Active Repertoire:

  • Print off copies of the quarterly Active Repertoire Challenge sheets for all your students, and carefully explain how you want them to use them
  • The player should choose their own Active Repertoire pieces
  • Ask pupils to bring their Active Repertoire Challenge sheet to every lesson; as time permits, pick a piece from the list for them to play at the start of the lesson
  • Encourage students to explore the Pianodao Music Library to discover new music and inspiration!

And always remember…

Your Active Repertoire is at the heart of your piano journey!

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