flute lying on a music score“Whenever you practice or perform a composition, celebrate its unique message. Feel the excitement of listening to the music for the first time.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 74

All of us musicians learn and then set aside countless pieces.

Sometimes, we excitedly return to old favorites but then feel glum when we realize that music we once performed with ease now seems surprisingly difficult.

With a discerning approach to practice, though, we can revive old repertoire and perform it better than ever before.

Here are 6 strategies for restoring rusty pieces to stage-ready condition.

6 Strategies to Practice & Revive Old Repertoire

1. Rekindle Affection for a Piece

Ahead of practicing an old piece, it’s useful to rekindle our affection for it with questions such as these:

•  What originally drew me to the music?
•  What does it offer that no other music can?
•  Why do listeners enjoy hearing it?

2. Review in Detail

Often, we’ll want to run through an old composition at full speed, but it’s best to treat it like an unfamiliar piece and calmly practice it in small sections at slow to moderate tempos.

3. Trust Your Practice Skills

The connections that form in our brains when we master compositions degrade when we don’t maintain them.

Fortunately, those connections can re-form stronger than before provided that we build them up through deep practice. It’s vital, therefore, that we trust in our learning power as we practice, solve problems as they arise, and don’t let frustration creep in.

“The connections that form in our brains when we master compositions degrade when we don’t maintain them.”

4. Make MeaningThe Musician's Way book cover

Every high-quality composition permeates with expressive potential.

Rather than falling into our old interpretive patterns, we do well to try out new interpretive angles and otherwise make meaningful artistic gestures with every phrase.

5. Implement a Practice Routine

Our brains and bodies need time to consolidate what we learn (and relearn).

Instead of cramming to bring an old piece up to tempo, it’s ideal if we work on it within a regular practice routine, gradually increasing tempo, and using varied, distributed and interleaved practice strategies.

6. Schedule Performances

If we’re keen to restore an old piece, and assuming that we regularly perform other music, few things boost our motivation to practice it more than a performance obligation.

See The Musician’s Way for inclusive practice and performance guidelines. Thanks to my former student Ryan Layton for suggesting the topic of this post.

Related posts
Maintaining Repertoire
The Power of Specific Goals
Practicing Performance
The Ultimate Practice Shortcut

© 2012 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © David Rehner, licensed from Shutterstock.com