How many pieces do you work on at a time?

Greetings, fellow classical guitarists!

I hope this post finds each one of you deeply immersed in the world of notes and strings, as always. Today, I thought of starting a conversation around an aspect of our practice routines that often divides opinion and generates great insights – the number of pieces we work on simultaneously.

As a classical guitarist, balancing our repertoire is an essential part of our journey. But the question remains: how many pieces should we delve into at once?

Advantages of Focusing on One Piece:

  1. Depth of Learning: Dedicating all your practice time to a single composition allows you to gain a deeper understanding of its intricacies and nuances.
  2. Consistency: You can achieve a consistent tone, technique, and interpretation when your focus remains undivided.
  3. Performance Readiness: Preparing for a recital or a performance becomes streamlined as all attention goes into perfecting one masterpiece.

Benefits of Juggling Multiple Pieces:

  1. Variety: Working on various pieces can keep the learning process fresh and exciting. It ensures that monotony doesn’t creep into our practice sessions.
  2. Skill Diversification: Different compositions often require unique techniques. By learning multiple pieces, you get the opportunity to hone a diverse set of skills.
  3. Mental Flexibility: Transitioning between pieces can also train the mind to adapt quickly, fostering a versatile musical mindset.

But how do we strike the right balance?

Many guitarists believe in the 'Three-Piece Rule'. They maintain:

  1. One piece that's well within their comfort zone for warm-ups or relaxation.
  2. A second that challenges them technically and musically, pushing boundaries.
  3. The third, usually a newer addition, keeps the excitement alive and keeps them looking forward.

However, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. The ideal number might differ based on our goals, stage of learning, and individual preferences.

Let’s Open the Floor!

  1. How many pieces do you currently have in your rotation?
  2. Have you found an ideal number that works for you?
  3. Do you have any strategies to manage multiple pieces, or tips for those who prefer to focus on one?

Eager to hear your thoughts and experiences. Let’s learn from one another and continue to support our community's growth.

Keep strumming and stay inspired!

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    • martinTeam
    • LIVE
    • martin.3
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I have a somewhat larger back catalog of duo pieces that I keep somewhat ready for performances with my guitar duo. Usually, I am actively working on 2-5 pieces at a time, depending on the scale and complexity of the piece!

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    • Carlo Martins
    • A scientist with a passion for the study of proteins
    • Carlo_Martins
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    This is a great topic! Thank you @martin.3 for the insights.

    Personally, as a hobbyist, recently starting here at level 7-8, I am focusing on one performance piece and one study. Sometimes I add a third new piece which I find to be easier, or a piece that I already play, just to keep motivated.

    But then, for how long usually people train a piece before they leave it aside and start another one? Is there a goal?

    Thanks all!

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    • Matt Hall
    • Matt_Hall
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Great question, it'll be interesting to see the range of responses!

     

    I like to work on about 3, and usually think of them in terms of how long I've been working on them as much as how difficult they are. One newish one, one that more of an old friend/adversary, and one that's easier and quick to pick up?  I also enjoy doing my own arrangements, so frequently one of them will also be something I'm arranging.

     

    I also slot different pieces in and out so that I might have one or two which are "resting" for a short time. Sometimes I get very into a single piece for a while and rest the rest then bring them back later. Keeps things fresh!

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  • Hello tonebase members, 

    I'm a newbie here, I have touched the guitar for 12 years, but only now I'm trying to learn it properly. In the past, I learnt any pieces that sounded lovely to me, but now I only want to learn as slowly as possible. I started to learn the guitar again from zero. 

    Now I'm working on two pieces, Etude op. 60 no. 3 by Carcassi and Etude op 6 no. 11 by Sor. I found that they have the same triplet pattern though the Etude op. 6 no. 11 has some barrets (bar 13, 14) that are more difficult for me than the first one (and it's much longer :p)

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    • Immanuel
    • Immanuel
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Great topic and tricky to answer. I have around a dozen flute/guitar pieces I apply a bit of polish to each week. I have 2 new solo repertoire pieces I am working on. There are about 6 solo pieces I can play but not completely performance ready that I am polishing. Lots of juggling here, the new solo pieces tend to be what is neglected as they need a lot f time which I don't have. This is my plan right now. If a lot of these pieces become performance ready I will probably be doing something different. 

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  • For me, I break up my 3-hour daily routine as follows:

    1. 30 minutes of warm and technical exercises from Carlevaro's Cuadernos series.

    2. 60 minutes (two 30-minute sets) working on 1 composition that is still challenging, and in which I may have been working on for a month as a new composition (see item 4).

    3. 60 minutes (two 30-minute sets) working through 3-4 compositions in which I am comfortable playing and have memorized.  

    4. 30 minutes on 1 new composition.

    At the end of each month, I try to rotate the composition in the first category into the comfortable group (maybe rotate one out), move the new composition up to the 60-minute sets and add another new composition.  Of course, this gets interrupted with all the excellent challenges that martin keeps adding.  Therefore, flexibility is always called for.  

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    • Cliff Main
    • Cliff_Main
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I have about 10 short pieces or etudes that I play, all to different levels of success. I work more on the 2 newest and play the others with the intent on improving them but also to have fun. I add one or two new pieces once I am comfortable with the new ones. It does take me a long time to learn a new song and that's fine. I enjoy the process and each piece challenges me with different skills. As for the ideal number, I think 2 new pieces works for me. If I learn one faster I can always start another.

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    • David Krupka
    • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
    • David_Krupka
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I don't have anything that approaches a regular practice routine. When I do play, I mostly just sight read for an hour or two. I normally choose a particular publication (this week it's been Pierre Attaingnant's 'Dix-huits basses dances' for lute) and stick with it for several days. I play through each piece two or three times, and select several (half a dozen or more if they're short) to work on just enough to play at tempo and more or less error-free. I rarely bother to memorize anything, although some pieces seem to remain in the fingers, if not in the conscious mind. Typically, over the course of a week, if I'm playing regularly (not always the case!) I suppose I look at several dozen individual pieces. Obviously, it's not what anyone should do if their aim is to present something in performance, but for those whose goal is simply to acquaint themselves with their instrument's repertoire, it works well. I'll add that I'm not rigid in my approach: if I hear something on YouTube (or from my fellow ToneBuddies) that I find interesting, I'll look at it as well, if I can get my hands on the music. So I certainly appreciate those of you (shout-out to Eric and Jack, among others!) who regularly provide links to the scores you are performing!

    Like 1
    • Debbie
    • Debbie
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I practice 3-6 hours a day depending on what other projects I’ve got going on. This gives me enough time to practice sight reading, warm ups, and technique. Then I work on repertoire and I have about a dozen pieces that I rotate to keep them fresh. For learning new repertoire I like to work on a concert piece and a study and when I’m almost finished with the concert piece then I’ll start a new one so that will then be two pieces - polishing one, learning a new one, and the study I’m working on. Then I add the polished concert piece to the  review rotation. It works for me! 

    Like 2
  • Hi all, I play in an acoustic guitar  vocal duo, usually perform once per month. I have many set lists, non classical, blues to Beatles and much more. With classical like most I have around 3-4 on the go, including my go to warm up which currently is a Gary Ryan tune Golden days in drop D, an etude currently  HVL Etude No 1one and another which I’m drawn to currently Angela Mair Nowhere. Every now and then I pick out pieces that I have not touched for weeks, which is a challenge in itself. 

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      • Ronnull
      • Ron.3
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Jacques farmer Like your choice of warm up pieces. I used to play Joie de Vivre which is in the same book as Golden Days. Thanks for mentioning Angela Mair's Nowhere - I hadn't come across her before so I had a listen - lovely piece.

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  • My skill level is close to 5.  And also am not a young player. I have to pay close attention to pain. 
    I usually stick to a single piece until am satisfied with the efforts.  Then I move on to the next piece and so on.  However I do go back to the previous pieces to become more fluent.  I focus on three pieces, it’s not three pieces in day or a week. After two weeks I move on.  I don’t want my progress to stall. 

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  • As a hobbyist, practicing probably half hour most days of the week and at an early intermediate stage (Level 5), I try to do 2 pieces at a time and not all classical, but even the non-classical with arpeggios.  Right now I am trying to refine Lagrima from Ty's two week intensive while trying to pick up part 2 of Romanze or Jeux Interdits which has been long pending.  But usually 2 pieces it is for my session as I feel the half hour is well spent that way.  When a technical difficulty comes by I try to find an exercise for that.  Would love feedback from the experts in this group and martin considering my constraint of a half hour each day. 

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    • Ronnull
    • Ron.3
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    I try to fit in an hours practice every day and sometimes 2 if I can. I have a plan for each week and I recently divided the pieces I choose to work on into 5 categories:

    - Unfinished business (prompted by a recent community challenge!)

    - Challenge pieces - something related to the current community challenge

    - Pieces to revive - revisiting stuff I've played before

    - Keep fresh - current or recent repertoire

    - New pieces

    I choose 1 piece in each category each week (sometimes it will be the same piece for several weeks!) and try to set achievable but stretching goals for each piece.

    I also try to have a mix of pieces - some which I find easy, some reasonably comfortable and others challenging.

    While I find there's never enough time to practice everything I'd like, this feels like a productive and enjoyable use of practice time.

    In the way I practice I also attempt to incorporate as many ideas as I can from what I learn from livestreams, lessons, community challenges, TWIs etc. -  e.g. preparation, trouble spots, voicing and many more!

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    • Ron 

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    • Ron it seems like a well structured approach to me, good use of the time available. 

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    • don
    • don.2
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Normally 2 pieces at a time. As I'm still learning the guitar in a classical sense as in I have weekly lesson and have a piece that I worked with my teacher. There is a issue of burning out and maintaining motivation to consider so we don't work on any pieces for more than 2 months. 

     

    Then there is some pet projects that I will work on for months on and off. These are pieces that are beyond my level but I'll work on them still on and off. 

     

    Once in a while, when there is compatible tonebase challenges then I'll take out pieces that I've learn to polish them. 

     

    But lately as I improves, the pieces that I worked with my teacher also becomes more challenging so I get less time to work on pet projects or revisit old piece. Like now I'm learning my first Bach piece the Prelude from the first cello suite, it is relentless and takes too much to memorize. It takes up almost all my time just to drill the finger in muscle memory. 

     

    I suspect this will go on until I reach a certain technical comfort before I can go back to working on 2-3 pieces at a time. 

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    • don I have a similar approach to pieces out with my current ability, I use the difficult parts as practice exercises, once I have got it as clean as I can, I will then attempt to put the whole piece together. 

      Like 1
  • I find that several pieces 3-4. If I get tied over one piece or getting frustrated I will take a brake by playing another piece for a few times and go back to the first one . I am surprised that little change helped me in correcting my trouble with the first piece. I have to be careful of over doing it because I sometimes loose my self and forget to go back to the problem piece or run out of time. 

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