\"\"
Piano Forum logo


Piano Street's Top Picks of 2021

We wish you a Happy New Year with a list of highly recommended reading from Piano Street. These are the 16 most read, discussed or shared articles of 2021. /The Piano Street Team Read more >>

Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces? (Read 8659 times)

Offline davidjosepha

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 890
Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
« on: July 12, 2012, 12:51:54 AM »
Lately, I've realized that if someone asked me to a play a piano piece for them, I really couldn't do it. I have the music I'm working on right now, which isn't in good enough shape to perform, and I have pieces that I got ready to perform and sounded very polished, but I no longer know how to play. As soon as I get a piece to performance level, I just move on to something else, and as a result, the only time I could play a piece for someone at performance level is if they get very lucky and ask just as I'm finishing off a piece.

So, is it worth it for me to go back and re-learn old pieces, or am I just wasting my time? It seems like it would take a lot of time and energy to keep all these pieces at performance level, and that's time I could spend working on new pieces, but on the other hand, it's kinda saddening that I've played piano for 12 years and I couldn't just sit down and play someone a piece.

Offline schubertiad

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 223
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #1 on: July 12, 2012, 01:30:13 AM »
Good question.
I would say the answer is a resounding yes. First consider the reasons for learning piano in the first place. Fairly high up on the list for most people is the ability to share beautiful music, and their ideas about it with others. To that end, I always try to find an opportunity to perform every piece that I learn. It may be a formal concert, an informal play through for friends and family, or a recording. This gives focus to your practice and also provides you with a tangible goal.

For the same reason, it is essential to keep old pieces in a performable state. You have said that it would take a lot of effort to resurrect old pieces, but there are a few things worth noting:

1) No matter how completely, utterly forgotten you think a piece is, it takes a mere fraction of the time to relearn it than it would a fresh piece. A piece which takes me a month of hard graft the first time round is usually perfected in under a week. This is true whether it is a piece I learned a few months ago or several years ago.

2) Things not only come back much faster, but to a much higher level. Technical problems you once faced often just melt away, and you can often gain a much better understanding of the "big picture" of the piece the second time.

3) Relearned pieces stay in the memory longer than freshly learned ones. I often forget new pieces as soon as I move on to something else, but the same isn't true of old pieces. In some cases, after returning to a piece for the third or fourth time, I am able to retain it for good.

In short, relearning old pieces is not only important, it is also far easier and far more enjoyable than you may imagine.

Ben
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” Leonard Bernstein

Offline musicalpoet23

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 8
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #2 on: July 12, 2012, 01:37:30 AM »
Hello!

My answer-YES! It really isn't as much work as you think. Why? Because old pieces are actually in our memory; we just have to get them again, which takes a small fraction of time usually. It will actually help you in your playing; when you go over a old piece, you hear and play your older interpretation of it; you realize how better you've gotten! And you can even add your ideas to the piece  :)

Not only will it help you in your abilities, but it will be of great help when you want to play for people, whether they be the audience at a formal concert or for your friends and family!

Not only is it NOT a waste of time to relearn old pieces-- it's encouraged!

Hope I was of help!

Offline davidjosepha

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 890
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #3 on: July 12, 2012, 02:20:35 AM »
Good question.
I would say the answer is a resounding yes. First consider the reasons for learning piano in the first place. Fairly high up on the list for most people is the ability to share beautiful music, and their ideas about it with others. To that end, I always try to find an opportunity to perform every piece that I learn. It may be a formal concert, an informal play through for friends and family, or a recording. This gives focus to your practice and also provides you with a tangible goal.
That's very true. I have terrible stage-fright and have trouble performing especially on a stage (I have fewer problems in an informal setting), but that is true. Maybe I'd be more comfortable performing if I had pieces that had stuck around with me for a while to play for people instead of something at the peak of my ability level.

1) No matter how completely, utterly forgotten you think a piece is, it takes a mere fraction of the time to relearn it than it would a fresh piece. A piece which takes me a month of hard graft the first time round is usually perfected in under a week. This is true whether it is a piece I learned a few months ago or several years ago.
I actually sat down for about an hour after posting this topic, without waiting for any responses, to try to relearn 3 older pieces (Brahms' two rhapsodies, op. 79 and Rach's Prelude no. 5, op. 23). I wasn't really planning on relearning them at the time, I just wanted to play through them each once to see how much I remembered. To my surprise, I played both of the rhapsodies with almost no errors, and I think I played them much more musically than I did the first time around. The few errors I had in them were a couple wrong notes, but mostly just things I did the first time I learned the pieces that I realize now I should have done better (notes coming a split second too early, poor voicing, or the hands not perfectly together). Upon a second play-through, almost all those problems disappeared! I couldn't believe it. Twenty minutes and two times through and I was already playing the pieces better than I used to, when I practiced them every day. I was also shocked by how much I still had memorized from the first rhapsody, but I guess that's what happens when you spend 6 months on one piece and had it memorized after 1 month.

The Rachmaninoff Prelude? Didn't go quite as well. It still didn't go badly, but I wish it had gone better. The middle section though, I definitely played much better than I used to. This time, I actually played it pianissimo as marked and really brought out the tops and the counterpoint. I still had this one completely memorized, although it was only a few months ago that I played it. I am going to slow this one down though and work on it and see what I can come up with.

2) Things not only come back much faster, but to a much higher level. Technical problems you once faced often just melt away, and you can often gain a much better understanding of the "big picture" of the piece the second time.

See above! You are absolutely correct!

3) Relearned pieces stay in the memory longer than freshly learned ones. I often forget new pieces as soon as I move on to something else, but the same isn't true of old pieces. In some cases, after returning to a piece for the third or fourth time, I am able to retain it for good.

In short, relearning old pieces is not only important, it is also far easier and far more enjoyable than you may imagine.

Ben

Well, I've definitely found it easier than I imagined! I'm going to spend a bit more time on these and see how good I can get them. Thanks for the inspiration. Also, I do hope these stay in my memory for a long time. That would be nice. My dream is to be able to just sit down at a piano in public at any time and play an hour of beautiful music. Maybe, if I can re-memorize these pieces easily enough and keep them that way, that dream will come true.

Hello!

My answer-YES! It really isn't as much work as you think. Why? Because old pieces are actually in our memory; we just have to get them again, which takes a small fraction of time usually. It will actually help you in your playing; when you go over a old piece, you hear and play your older interpretation of it; you realize how better you've gotten! And you can even add your ideas to the piece  :)

Not only will it help you in your abilities, but it will be of great help when you want to play for people, whether they be the audience at a formal concert or for your friends and family!

Not only is it NOT a waste of time to relearn old pieces-- it's encouraged!

Hope I was of help!

Definitely of help! Thanks to both of you. I'm also starting to appreciate how smart my piano teacher was when he told me I should always right in fingerings, even if I knew them in my head. With fingerings, I don't have to go through all the work I went through the first time to figure out the optimal way to do things. Thanks so much guys. I might even try recording some of these pieces if the relearning continues to go well.

Offline werq34ac

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 720
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #4 on: July 12, 2012, 02:23:22 PM »
I agree with everything said.

Just adding, there will obviously be some things missing as the piece will definitely be "rusty" but most of the issues (if you didn't have them before) will be gone by the end of the week.

However, if you had a certain issue with a piece that never got resolved, it may stay unresolved, or you might find yourself having no problem with it anymore. However, you will most certainly find the issue somewhat easier to deal with.
Ravel Jeux D'eau
Brahms 118/2
Liszt Concerto 1
Rachmaninoff/Kreisler Liebesleid

Offline wbl24

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 10
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #5 on: July 12, 2012, 09:57:26 PM »
I agree with everything said.

Just adding, there will obviously be some things missing as the piece will definitely be "rusty" but most of the issues (if you didn't have them before) will be gone by the end of the week.

However, if you had a certain issue with a piece that never got resolved, it may stay unresolved, or you might find yourself having no problem with it anymore. However, you will most certainly find the issue somewhat easier to deal with.

I completely agree - if you leave a piece to "rust" for a little while you may find that some of the "burnt in" errors you had when you were perfecting the piece becomes looser and more amenable to changing. It's one of the reasons why if you've been playing the same piece repeatedly for a few weeks, it might be a good idea to switch material and play something else and then come back to it.

This topic is particularly interesting for me because I've recently started to seriously relearn pieces and "expand" the repertoire, as they say. I began with relearning the Grieg piano concerto mvt one to see how well I remembered it. Looked like the "burning it into memory" phase a month before the concert really paid off, as it only took about three weeks of somewhat irregular practice to return it to an "informal run through" stage. Last time it was performed was three years ago. Equally for pieces that were half-learnt and left they were a lot easier to get going and finish. Talk about strength of memory :)

My suggestion is that an easy way to expand repertoire rapidly is to relearn some of your old material. We're so focused on attaining grades and diplomas these days that it often feels like cheating to return to old pieces to perform to a crowd. These pieces are quickly retired, never to be played again. But, as someone already mentions, this misses the point of music. Maybe it's time to dust off some of those old books and polish up those pieces again?

And as a final bit of advice, treat these old pieces as "new material" as much as you can. I noticed that the maturity jump between 18 and 21 was phenomenal - slightly more dexterity and control in finger movement compared to being a child, more musicality (you know what you want and how you're gonna get it) and most importantly more patience. At least for me anyway.

Offline danhuyle

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 498
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #6 on: July 13, 2012, 04:05:14 AM »
It depends on how much you enjoy playing the music. Assuming that we're not going for any diplomas or competitions, then yes it is worth learning if you see yourself playing it.

I still have some rusty spots in pieces I play, and when I re-learn it, I concentrate on those rusty spots until I'm satisfied.
Perfection itself is imperfection.

Currently practicing
Albeniz Triana
Scriabin Fantaisie Op28
Scriabin All Etudes Op8

Offline pianoplunker

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 792
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #7 on: July 13, 2012, 04:37:04 AM »
Lately, I've realized that if someone asked me to a play a piano piece for them, I really couldn't do it. I have the music I'm working on right now, which isn't in good enough shape to perform, and I have pieces that I got ready to perform and sounded very polished, but I no longer know how to play. As soon as I get a piece to performance level, I just move on to something else, and as a result, the only time I could play a piece for someone at performance level is if they get very lucky and ask just as I'm finishing off a piece.

So, is it worth it for me to go back and re-learn old pieces, or am I just wasting my time? It seems like it would take a lot of time and energy to keep all these pieces at performance level, and that's time I could spend working on new pieces, but on the other hand, it's kinda saddening that I've played piano for 12 years and I couldn't just sit down and play someone a piece.

This reminds me of me !   And yes I think re-learning old pieces is worth the effort especially if you love the music and maybe you have overcome some hurdles after the first time you learned it. For instance I opened up a book of sonatas that I have had for 30 years and I see a teacher's marking next to "Primo Tempo" that says "first tempo". At first I laugh at myself - I didnt know that ? But then I realize that was where I learned what that term means.  So now when I re-learn I have more knowledge and can focus on other things like just trying to play the Primo Tempo in the first place. If you really want to play on the spot for someone, just improvise. If you dont know how to improvise then practice improvising along with any pieces you want to play. I took my first lesson 42 years ago and still only know about four easy classical pieces and one hard one and half of a really hard one. But yet I have played hundreds if not thousands of tunes. Not bragging , just enjoying .

Offline pytheamateur

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 645
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #8 on: July 14, 2012, 09:52:19 PM »
I feel exactly the same!  This is a particular problem for me as an amateur as I do not have as much time to practise and learn more slowly compared with a professional.

I'd like to play for others too.  However, I have a small repertoire, less than 30 minutes of performable music.  Lately, I have been having fantasies of myself playing in a full 90-minute concert.  Given my level of playing, the likely audience will be my non-pianist friends and acquaintances, many of whom do not regularly listen to classical music.

The more I think about it, the more I start to realise that it is a rather stupid idea.  It seems doubtful those people will have the attention span and concentration to sit through even 30 minutes to listen to an average performance. Afterall, I have been asked many times in the past to play some piece on an informal occasion, and more than once, some people wandered off halfway during a performance.

So, depending on your level and your audience, perhaps you only need to polish 2 or 3 pieces.

Beethoven - Sonata in C sharp minor, Op 27 No 12
Chopin - Fantasie Impromptu, Nocturn in C sharp minor, Op post
Brahms - Op 118, Nos 2 & 3

Offline asuhayda

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 285
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #9 on: July 19, 2012, 03:58:10 PM »
Absolutely YES!

I find it's easier and faster to re-learn a piece.  I usually play it better the second go around as well.  Helps your sight reading too (I think) because you've already got a little bit of a push start.
~ if you want to know what I'm working on.. just ask me!

Offline danielekstrom

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 46
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #10 on: July 19, 2012, 06:44:50 PM »
Of course it's worth. Especially if you like the piece.
“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed . . . equally well.”
― Johann Sebastian Bach

Offline pianoman53

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1179
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #11 on: July 19, 2012, 07:45:17 PM »
If it's a piece worth re-learning, and feel like you can do it better, it's worth it. Just to have something to play for your friends? Mah, maybe not argument enough...

Offline perprocrastinate

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 612
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #12 on: July 19, 2012, 08:11:10 PM »
I'm having the same problem (almost). I tried to relearn Chopin's Nocturne in C#m after a three week vacation, and it was horrendous. I got frustrated because my trills couldn't sound right, and I was swearing after 15 minutes. I then tried to recall a couple Mozart pieces, but the same frustration popped up.

My tolerance for practicing drops dramatically when relearning old pieces? I dunno. Maybe it would be useful to wait half a year or more to relearn old pieces. Still, it's saddening at the amount of pieces that I've learned then just can't play/perform them without cringing at the rustiness.

Offline scherzo123

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 481
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #13 on: July 19, 2012, 08:48:54 PM »
Yes. You wouldn't want all that time and effort spent on your old pieces to be wasted, right?
Bach Prelude and Fugue BWV848
Beethoven Piano Sonata Op.13
Chopin Etude Op.10 No.4
Chopin Scherzo Op.31
Mussorgsky "The Great Gate of Kiev" from Pictures at an Exhibition

Offline davidjosepha

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 890
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #14 on: July 19, 2012, 09:31:01 PM »
Yes. You wouldn't want all that time and effort spent on your old pieces to be wasted, right?

Time enjoyed is never time wasted!

That is to say, it's great if you can relearn the piece quickly the second time, but I don't think I would feel even a little regret if I couldn't relearn old pieces. I enjoyed learning them. I didn't learn them just so I could play them at performance level (in fact, that's the reason I'm in this situation!)

Offline iansinclair

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1472
Re: Is it worth it to re-learn old pieces?
«Reply #15 on: July 19, 2012, 11:19:39 PM »
Oh absolutely!  Although I do try to keep old pieces at least vaguely playable (after all, I learned them because I enjoy them!).  The best part of picking up something old, though is finding that as my technique has improved that there are often passages which I did well enough -- but which now I have much better technical skills and can make them much cleaner and better.  Granted that while doing this what was presentable becomes horrible for a while while I unlearn the old way and learn the new, but that's enjoyable too -- and the end result is always worth the effort.
Ian



Piano Street's Top Picks of 2021

We wish you a Happy New Year with a list of highly recommended reading from Piano Street. These are the 16 most read, discussed or shared articles of 2021. /The Piano Street Team Read more >>