The Benefits of Choosing More Accessible Literature – Part 1

It occurred to me recently that there seems to be a trend (likely influenced by social media and online performance videos) for students to select highly challenging solo literature, with the goal of surviving the performance with most of the notes recognizable and all their fingers still functioning. The key element missing in these performances is often the music. By that I don’t mean the notes or rhythms are wrong or the tempo isn’t consistent. Rather, the opportunity to put themselves into the performance, to bring those dots and lines on the page to life in a meaningful way is neglected because the difficulty of the printed requirements are maxing out their available technical facility and mental capacity.

In that light, through a series of three posts, I’d like to present my thoughts as to a few specific benefits of selecting, practicing, and performing more accessible literature. I strongly believe that music at an appropriate level of difficulty should facilitate opportunities for improved musicianship, stronger reading skills, exposure to a larger catalog of music, and successful preparation for lifelong music making.

The first benefit of selecting easier literature as I see it is the opportunity to fully develop individual musicianship. Most great musicians spend very little time learning notes and rhythms. Quite frankly, one reason for that is that great musicians are typically great sight-readers (this topic will be further addressed in the next post). Obviously these great musicians still practice their performance music, so if they aren’t working on notes and rhythms, the apparent reality is that they are spending that time working on making their music sound like music! Students that select pieces whose notes and rhythms can be efficiently learned have the opportunity to do likewise, to spend time considering and working out how to make the markings on that piece of paper sound like something that people will long to hear. Music is not simply notes and rhythms and musicianship must be developed through experience just like every other musical skill. Choosing accessible literature opens the door to that experience of being musical in practice and performance.

More on the other benefits to come in the next post!