Finally mastering a piece that you’ve been working on for a while can be really rewarding: our fingers seem like they’re moving more effortlessly, we don’t have to think so hard about what’s coming next in the music, and we achieve a flow and fluency that only comes with familiarity and hours of practice. However, we can sometimes be too quick to file away a piece as ‘finished’ in our eagerness to move on to something new, only to find weeks later when we revisit it that we’ve forgotten parts and lost some of that proficiency. (Nobody wants to end up in musical Groundhog Day having to learn the same piece over and over because they’ve forgotten it!)
The solution to this problem may seem obvious (continue to regularly play pieces you’ve learned), but it can be easy to forget to do this when we’re in the middle of tackling new challenges.
Here is an idea that may help.
‘Learned-It Lucky Dip’
This is really simple: whenever you get to a satisfactory state of completion with the piece you’ve been learning and are ready to move on, write the name of that piece down on a small piece of paper or card, fold it in half, then place it in a box, envelope, bowl, hat, or other vessel of your choosing. Keep this container handy in your practice space and add to it every time you ‘finish’ a piece.
Then, at the beginning or end of your practice session, dive into your lucky-dip bowl of learned pieces and play through whatever is written on the randomly selected card. Replace it when you’re done (and don’t forget to give the cards a shuffle so you don’t draw out the same pieces each time).
That’s it! As your repertoire grows, this tool can become really useful as a way to track pieces you’ve learned and keep them up to scratch. Another plus is that if you’re ever asked to perform, you have an instant potential set list of pieces to choose from. Try it out next time you practise!