Exercises or Repertoire

For the last couple weeks I’ve been focussing on playing challenging octave passages and trills in 3rds. A couple of techniques that I’ve not really had to deal with in the time I’ve been playing. It just so happens that both these techniques are in the repertoire I’m working on.

Of course, I can’t decide if that’s because I may have run a mile and changed my choice of repertoire in the past. Or, if I’ve decided to face up to these challenges to help me grow as a pianist.

There’s an argument as old as time itself about using exercises to develop technique, or to just use repertoire. There are up and down sides to both.

Exercises are generally boring. You can try to spice them up but at the end of the day they’re not musical. I can even hear a low level groan when I mention exercises. The up side to using exercises is that you’re prepared for technical challenges when you come across them.

When you go the other route and use repertoire to develop technique, it’s a lot nicer on the ear. It’s also not as monotonous. It also means you won’t learn some techniques that you may never use like you would if you just use exercises.

There is a middle ground though. Studies written by famous composers like Chopin, Czerny, Brahms and Burgmuller. These are lovely pieces of repertoire that focus on particular techniques but also try to keep a musical aspect to them.

However you decide to learn new techniques is really up to you. The end results are the same. It probably boils down to your personality. If you’re the sort of person that can see the bigger picture and realise that exercises are a means to an end, that’s great. If you don’t like mind numbing exercises then reportoire is for you.

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