Robert Estrin - piano expert

How Do You Maintain a Musical Repertoire?

Learn how to create your own "permanent" repertoire

In this video, Robert talks about building a repertoire and maintain it for long term success.

Released on June 29, 2016

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, this is Robert Estrin with and with a viewer question. How do you maintain a repertoire? This is an excellent question. I'm so glad it was asked, and there is a lot to this. Think about it. You could study the piano or any other instrument for years and years, and if you only are working on the pieces that you're currently studying, you'll forget the old pieces. You'll never have very much music to play. On the other hand, if you try to play through and keep fresh everything you've ever studied, it's impossible. You can't possibly, you couldn't get through your practice session. There's too much.

So, you have to select certain pieces that you really want as part of your, almost your permanent repertoire. One important step, there are three really components to this, number one, play through the pieces that you want to remember. Play through them on a periodic basis, regularly. That way, they'll never get too far gone. But of course, the inevitable happens, and mistakes will creep in, or inaccuracies.

None of us has perfect memories, so it's essential, number two, to refer back to the score. The score is, after all, the gospel of music, and you must refer to it often to refresh your memory. Not only that, you're going to find, when you revisit the score, playing slowly with the music, on the piano, do it without the pedals. You can really hear every note. You'll always discover small things you didn't see before, exactly how long a note lasts, for example. Or dynamic markings or phrasing markings that maybe you didn't quite get an express mark the first time around, or didn't remember where exactly it was, or where does it crescendo or decrescendo, start and end. That's why it's essential to go back and refer to the score.

The last thing I want to leave with you is something I found personally rewarding, which is this. Pieces which you have restudied and performed again and again tend to become just kind of emblazoned in your brain. So you take a piece that you played, and you've dropped, and you've restudied it and played again, and dropped, and maybe you've restudied again. Boy, you get a solidity to the memory.

So, to recap, the three things are, first of all, just play through your pieces as much as you can, the ones you really, really want to have in your repertoire, so they don't get too far gone. Number two, refer back to the score, playing slowly to check your work, and reinforce the memory. And last, restudy pieces that you really enjoy playing, and when you've restudied a number of times, it too will become part of your permanent memory in your repertoire.

Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Li-Chun * VSM MEMBER * on October 11, 2018 @9:03 pm PST
The tips are really useful to many of us. Thank you for reminding.
Robert Estrin - host, on October 12, 2018 @4:57 pm PST
Remembering to practice is half the battle!
Heidrun Kath * VSM MEMBER * on June 30, 2016 @5:30 pm PST
Very good lecture. I have observed two of my children only ever practising 2-3 pieces for exams or the Eisteddfod, then drop them as soon as the exam is over never to play those pieces again.
I have a problem: whenever asked to "just play something" nothing whatsoever comes to my mind. Any solutions? Thank you for your lectures!
Heidrun Kath
Robert Estrin on July 3, 2016 @2:09 pm PST
The secret is to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Don't just practice the piano - play for yourself and friends on a regular basis. That way, you will maintain more pieces in your repertoire. Not only that, but you will develop more strength and fluency on the piano.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on June 29, 2016 @5:40 pm PST
And also the fingers seem to have their own memory! I can go back to something I played very well as a teenager, not played it for decades, and pick it up as if I have been playing it all the time! It can be funny, sometimes my fingers can go at the correct speed, but my brain has troubles reading it at that speed!
Robert Estrin on July 3, 2016 @2:11 pm PST
You will always be able to play pieces from memory more easily than reading music. However, referring back to the score playing slowly with no pedal will reinforce the memory so you don't rely solely on tactile memory.
Milla Gotlib on June 29, 2016 @11:03 am PST
I would like to create a repertory. Is it better to work on one piece at a time or start several pieces at once and learn a part of each at every practice?
Robert Estrin - host, on June 30, 2016 @11:30 am PST
How many pieces to work on depends upon your level and how much time you have to practice. Generally, when studying a new piece, you want to continue working on recent review pieces to keep them fresh and solidify them.

Here are several articles and videos which go into depth about selecting repertoire:

How Do You Maintain A Musical Repertoire?

Selecting A Meaningful Music Repertoire

Picking The Right Musical Repertoire For Your Skill Level
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