Tips for Choosing Piano Pieces

Many pianists tend to choose piano pieces that they feel drawn to playing, but how does one know whether these pieces are right for you? Is the piece at a suitable level of difficulty for your ability and available practice time? How will the piece support your musical development? Given the vastness of the piano repertoire, are you also perhaps missing out on other works which might be a better fit?

In this post we share some tips and ideas to help you avoid common pitfalls and select piano pieces that help you get the most out of your playing!

choosing piano pieces

Consider easier pieces

Pianists often hanker after the most challenging pieces in the repertoire at the expense of building a broad base of repertoire that includes easier pieces that offer more immediate gratification. Quick studies can be an excellent way to increase your active repertoire, improve your ability to learn music faster and expose you to new styles.

Fill the gaps

By primarily choosing pieces we’re drawn to, we often overlook how our pieces might aid in our musical and technical development. Perhaps consider selecting some pieces based on technical or musical gaps that you wish to address e.g. an area of technique you wish to improve or a style that is unfamiliar to you.  

Finding the right level

To avoid being bogged down by pieces that are too difficult and losing motivation, assess the difficulty of a piece you’re planning on learning by doing a read through and identifying trouble spots from the outset. If you find too many of these that feel daunting then the piece might possibly be a step too far. You may even consider tackling some of these “quarantine spots” upfront (a great way to start if you do end up learning the piece!).

Once you’ve started learning the piece, do review how long it is taking you to learn and whether you’re making steady progress. If you find that you’re not making much progress despite regular, consistent practising then you may wish to reconsider your choice.

To select pieces that are broadly the right level, you might want to use examination syllabuses as a guideline or researching comments on the difficulty of pieces in discussion forums. Even if you’re not taking an examination, the syllabuses offer a graded set of possibilities and the often the chance to discover some exciting new works!

Try something new

Being exposed to a wider variety of pieces aids your overall development as a musician. Try choosing pieces by composers that you haven’t played before or possibly works in keys you haven’t played in often. Not only will this help you improve as a pianist, but you might also discover new things that you like!

Mix it up

It’s ideal to aim for a balance of projects at different levels. This would include challenging projects that might stretch you a bit and perhaps include aspirational pieces that you’ve always wanted to play. However, it’s important to learn others that are easier, offering more immediate gratification and the opportunity to assimilate what you can already do.

Further information & resources

If you’d like some repertoire ideas and inspiration then our online workshops on 4th February might be just what you’re looking for! Graham Fitch will be presented a a bouquet of pieces at different levels, including popular works and hidden gems. Click here to find out more or to book your place.

You will also find many ideas and resources for the piano repertoire in our library and if you’re embarking upon a new piece, we have several other initiatives to support you along the way here.

Repertoire Ideas & Interpretation – Save 20%!

Save 20% by purchasing a combined ticket for both our 14th of January workshop on creating personal interpretations and the full set of repertoire ideas workshops on the 4th of February. Click here to take advantage of this offer and obtain access to these events and the recordings for £80 (£48 for Online Academy subscribers)!

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