Choosing a new piece

The concert or the exam is coming soon, in a month time, looks like there is enough time to learn that new piece or pieces, but…as the performance day approaches  you feel nervous and insecure, it would be great if it gets postponed by another month or so…Is that situation familiar to you? Well we all fell in to that trap many times.

How did you end up there? Well, you chose that nice and difficult piece because you felt that it matches your technical abilities or simply because it’s time to play something new etc. Your guitar teacher for sure warned you that the time is not enough and it will be a good idea to choose something else, but you remember that math’s test that you studied only for three weeks and you got that high marks. That gives you confidence and you assure your teacher that you can make it…   regardless what are the reasons, let’s say the choice was made.

You were alone with that piece of music and started digging into it. On the way you enjoyed rediscovering its aesthetical and musical features. Throughout this exiting process you started to encounter a line of technical problems that you had to deal with. During your guitar lessons your teacher circled “so and so bars” to be practiced more at home… You, as a good student followed those instructions but after a few weeks you started realizing that the time is not enough and that it’s too late to change the piece. Left with no options you ware practicing as hell in order to deliver the piece on time. Pretty much that’s the scenario…

What is the result? We get poor marks in the exam or an average performance, if it is a concert. However the inner disappointment and the luck of satisfaction are pretty disturbing and destructive feelings that come out of such an approach.

Learning a new piece takes time and if it happens to be on the edge of your technical skills it will be difficult or almost impossible to setup a relevant time frame.

The good thing about classical guitar music is that it never goes “Out of fashion”, there are pieces that once you learn you can perform them for a life time. That said, ideally the process of learning a new piece or bringing a new piece into your existing repertoire, should be effortless and without pressure of time. That doesn’t mean you should not have plans or goals, of course not, I am far from that. On the contrary you should have plans and musical goals to work towards and develop yourself as a musician, that’s the point we will come to later.

Choosing the piece should involve serious selection and considerations. Here are a few things to take account of when choosing a new piece:

Why do you need that piece?

*It is for an upcoming concert where you are invited to perform. That’s great! In this case it is a bad idea to start a new piece, be wise and play well known old piece, the audience will enjoy it and you will feel comfortable playing it.

*Is it for an exam? That’s a different story; this is a situation where we have not much of a choice. However still there is a syllabus with too many pieces to choose from. If the time is short – choose the one that is easy to learn so you can concentrate on making music instead of wasting all the time available dealing with technicalities. Make sure for the next exam you manage your time better.

* You just like it, you love it, and you imagine yourself playing it before a big audience one day! I will say this is one of the best reasons to learn a new piece. Have fun practicing it! It may take a lot of time-months may be years, but guess what, this time won’t be wasted. On the way you will find your week points and work to improve yourself in order to be able to play that piece. Your teacher will help you with pleasure.

*Because someone is playing it and you want to be like them! That can be motivational and inspiring but all I can say here is: “Be yourself”, there are thousands of pieces that can allow you to express your musical abilities and talent.

*You want to develop certain skills with it!  That’s a good reason but you can consider doing some etudes or instructive materials that your teacher can pile you with for sure. Overall that’s more beneficial for you on a long run.

What is your skill level?

Having a real understanding where you are in terms of your technical skills is essential in choosing or accepting to learn a new piece. Knowing your level can allow you to set up relevant goals and the most important it can let you plan the things.

How much time can you invest in learning a new piece?

In my opinion this is a crucial point not only for learning a new piece but for your overall progress and growth as a musician in general. The amount of time that the one can afford to spend learning, practicing, maintaining the achieved level…etc determines to high extend the rate of progress , the quality and the amount of the new skills and knowledge that the one can take, this goes for anything not only for the guitar.

What does your guitar teacher think about it?

As I mentioned above your guitar teacher will have the best idea on what you can achieve in the given time frame. So he or she will be the one who can guide you the best. Share with them what are your intentions and expectations; be sure they will be happy to know what’s in your mind. In fact that can help them to make a plan for your development as a musician and to set up short term and long term goals for you.

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