The Secrets to Building (and Playing) a Worry-Free Repertoire

This is the fourth in a series of posts focused on how to set - and achieve - goals. Be sure to check out the prior posts, Why Being a Better Harpist Isn't Good Enough, Three Disciplines of a Trustworthy Technique, The Most Important Piece You Aren’t Practicing and read on to the end of this post for a special invitation.

In case building a repertoire is on your must-do list for this year, in this post I share the three biggest mistakes I see harpists make and how to avoid them.

If I could go back in time and talk to my young harpist self, I would impress upon myself the importance of building a repertoire. When I was young, learning music was so exciting. There was - and still is - so much wonderful music to learn, and I was eager to get on to the next piece. It was as if there was an endless buffet of different dishes before me and I wanted to taste them all.

There was a particular challenge, though, that I remember very clearly.  Once I was immersed in the new piece, I quickly forgot the previous one. I didn’t have a system for building a repertoire, my own buffet of music that was continually in my fingers, ready to play. I was just learning a lot of pieces. 

This is not much different from the biggest complaint I hear now from harp students of any age, who feel they don’t have any music they can play despite much dedicated practice. Sometimes this is due to the same problem that plagued me: not having a system for building a repertoire. Other times it may be the “smorgasbord” syndrome of sampling music without ever working a piece to completion. And still other harpists spend so much time trying to perfect a piece that they never have a chance to grow a repertoire to include more than that single piece. 

I believe that having a repertoire, even just three or four pieces, that you can play well and comfortably at any time perhaps the most satisfying result of studying music. All your practicing and training is designed solely for this purpose: to enable you to play the music you want to play the way you want to play it and for the people with whom you want to share it. Why else would you practice?

If you haven’t started building a repertoire yet or if you aren’t sure how to start, let me help you by showing you how to avoid three critical and very common mistakes. If you can avoid these mistakes, you will be on your way to creating a repertoire you will be proud to play. 


Your music should be exactly that: YOUR music. Don’t feel that your repertoire needs to impress anyone with its difficulty level. It should be music you love to play and that you play well. That is the music that will please any listener.


A repertoire isn’t static. You can’t create it once and then have it forever. Whether you have four pieces in your fingers or forty, if you don’t have a system of regular review, those pieces won’t stay in your fingers very long. Once you’ve learned a piece, be sure that you play through it often along with the other pieces in your repertoire. Also, don’t worry too much about the review system you use. Just don’t let your pieces gather dust - play them.


Preparing your piece can quickly become over-preparing. It is likely that you will never feel your piece is ready to play until after you have played it a few times. The polishing phase requires some actual performance to be effective. When you perform a piece, you find out what works better than you expected and what needs a little more attention. Don’t be afraid of this stage. Waiting for perfection will keep you from ever sharing your music. 

Are you ready to create your repertoire or add to it or finally test it out in performance? If so, read on...


I understand that setting goals can be difficult and that actually achieving the goals you set can be even harder.In order to help you with this process, I’m capping off this blog post series with a free online workshop called “Don’t Abandon Your Goals - Achieve Them! This is no ordinary webinar. This special online workshop will give you the chance to have me help you design your strategy, decide on your tactics and create a day-by-day working plan. By the end of the workshop you will know exactly what to do and how to do it to make your harp goals happen.

The workshop is scheduled for Saturday, February 1 at 1pm EST and will be the most interactive online event I’ve ever held. It’s about you, your goals and your harp happiness! Don’t miss it. Register now for the workshop.


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