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Play it Forward

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Playlist Management

As you know we are counting on your Playlist showing up every week in class. while early Levels can easily play through their entire playlist in a matter of minutes, as you move on to higher levels, with accompaniment songs, arrangements , new foundation pieces and special projects, one starts to worry that an hour session is required each day in order to keep up.The way that students are able to continually expand their playlists without continually expanding their daily practice time is by practicing their older pieces less and less frequently over time. Indeed, that's the only way to accomplish this dual goal. The "Play It Forward" approach I've occasionally talked about in class works with just that idea, and it works no matter which Playlist you may be using.

Here is a link to an article that my friend Mark wrote explaining the process.

Below the link is his own experience, using this method with his daughter.

If playlist management is getting you in a tizzy, take a look at this resource.

Having a healthy playlist is one of the beauties of Simply Music. It means that you can easily, happily and confidently play your instrument at any time or place.

Before using this, my daughter used to practice anywhere from 10-20 repertoire pieces a day in addition to current projects, probably playing any given piece at least once every week or, at most, two weeks. That's what we did to make sure things were staying in good shape. But I soon realized that this almost certainly meant she was playing most pieces more often than she really needed to.

After starting Play It Forward, my daughter has been able to maintain her playlist by playing an average of just 5-10 repertoire pieces a day on top of current projects, over the course of more than three years of using this approach, while her playlist has continually expanded over those more than three years to several times the size it was back then. She has several songs with play-it-forward scores of between 50 and 100, i.e., where she can wait to play them only every 50-100 days. That average figure of 5-10 per day has stayed very consistent over the entire 3+ years as her playlist has vastly expanded in size, so at this point I have every reason to believe it can stay consistent no matter how big a playlist might grow, and every reason to believe that every student will find a similar stable amount for themselves that will probably be much lower than what they'd otherwise end up doing without this system. Those other students of mine who use this system almost invariably have stronger repertoires than those who don't.

When it comes to the 1-5 or other scale-based systems I've heard talked about, anything other than the best score basically means it needs to stay a current project, so knowing differences in those scores doesn't give any difference in action. Knowing that a piece is at the best score, though, doesn't ever provide any clue about whether that piece is strong enough in a performer's memory to wait 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months before having to play it again to keep it in good shape. So the best score, too, doesn't provide any actionable information about the one most important thing you need to know for every in-good-shape repertoire piece, which is how long you can afford to wait to play it again while keeping it in good shape. That one piece of information is all that's needed to drive Play It Forward.

Use that one piece of information, and you're able to spend the least amount of work possible for keeping the entire playlist in good shape. Practice any given song too often, that's extra work, by definition. Practice any song not often enough, it falls into disrepair and then needs extra effort to rework, which inevitably means more total work than if the song had just been kept in good shape in the first place. Counterintuitively, then, practice too much or too little, either you end up working too much. Find the sweet spot for each song and keep pushing it less and less frequent, gradually over time, and you end up with the least possibly amount of daily practice time, less guesswork about how often to practice every individual piece, and you maintain a strong repertoire no matter how big it gets. It's win-win all the way around. And, again, there's nothing stopping anyone from using it with either the standard Playlist or the Enhanced one.


Mark S. Meritt

Red Hook, NY, USA

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Playlist Planning

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