Selecting the right music, for myself to learn or as material for my students, is an absolutely crucial element of my craft. The exercise of picking out a specific tune is not solely based on the level of difficulty or how many cool licks are in the intro. It is selected for the tune’s continued inspiration. By having the foresight to recognize that in all likelihood this selection will be a tune that I will be proud to add to the originals in my repertoire, I embrace each tune like a new friend and hope that my students will do the same.
At this point of my career when selecting something for myself, I try to vary the genres and will consider the difficulty of the music. My playing is vastly improved from when I was younger (I’m sure these days my audiences are thankful for that!) and I am less threatened by a potentially challenging technique within a piece. This doesn’t mean that I don’t need to spend time on a particular tricky part in order to absorb, develop, and expand the piece with all of the composer’s nuances. Because each tune will find a life long place in my tune list, I honor each piece by learning it the way the composer intended it to be played.
Somewhat of a selfish selector, as I explore a genre such as ragtime or blues, or the classical with J.S. Bach, I will often ignore an enormous amount of the available repertoire and only select the tune that really grabs me. I enjoy salvaging compositions by unknown players and also like revitalizing some pieces that appear to have become obscure or have been forgotten.
When guiding students I always try to balance techniques, fun and purposeful exercises, simple yet playable tunes, a bit of history and some music theory. History of the music and the composer is fun to share and brings a sense of reality and a depth to the songwriter. I try to convey to students that these composers are not super powers and although are often truly gifted in many cases, they are simply very hard working and dedicated individuals. By selecting those particular tunes to add to a repertoire, the student acknowledges that hard work and preserves the inspiration.
Originally posted 2010-11-29 18:01:10.