Keeping up your repertoire

Just looking for advise on this subject. Possibly hear from Hayden or tuomo expert advise too.

When you have about 15 jazz standards or pieces you have learnt I’m finding when I go back to the odd one or two etc they are rusty or even in some cases I’ve forgotten a part section of the piece. Is this normal or do I have to play the whole 15 pieces everyday to make sure I don’t forget.
Which I think would be a little annoying.

So I’m looking for people’s thoughts on how they keep on top of pieces they have learnt to best help the memorisation process.
Is it something that needs revisiting once every week etc or not.
I like learning new songs but I’m wondering if this is just adding to the list of ones which could possibly become forgotten later down the line.

Appreciate your thoughts



Hi Karl :wave:

Great question here!

I feel that initially this depends on one’s goals. For gigging and touring musicians it’s much more important to have an extensive, well-memorised repertoire than for someone who plays for personal enjoyment.

In my seminars I often discuss the breadth vs depth of repertoire. For example see the 6th chapter here.

Both of these are important. By working on the breadth of our repertoire, ie. the number of tunes we have learnt, this exposes us to lots of different harmonic and melodic situations and also allows us to draw similarities between tunes, which overall makes them easier to remember.

In my opinion, the more tunes that we learn, the easier it becomes to learn the next ones, and also the easier it becomes to pick up any lead sheet and arrange it on the fly.

As a guess, I have perhaps covered 60 or 70 tunes in PianoGroove lessons and seminars. Can I play all of these arrangements perfectly from memory? Absolutely not, but I do have a working knowledge of the tunes and the harmonies should I wish to revisit them.

Now to discuss the depth of our repertoire. I have perhaps 10 or so tunes that I play on a regular basis, these are the tunes that I spend a lot of time listening to and transcribing from. They are my go-to tunes tunes when I want to try some improvisation or reharmonisation. For now this number of tunes keeps me busy and gives me enough material to explore jazz piano. I’m sure this number of ‘in depth tunes’ will expand in the future but for now it works great for me.

Personal and professional commitments can also be a big factor. For someone whose job is to play music, they naturally have more time and opportunities to practice and memorise tunes. In which case there is no problem to shoot for a vast repertoire.

For someone who has to balance learning music with family and work commitments, it’s perhaps better to focus on a smaller number of tunes and learn these to a high level.

In summary working on the breadth and the depth of your repertoire both have their advantages. I feel that exactly how you split this is based on your musical goals and this will be different for everyone and so there is no set-in-stone answer here in my opinion.

I hope that’s helpful!


Great comments Hayden. Out of curiousity, what are the ten songs that you play regularly?

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Great question Celia! Over the last 12 months, if I could roughly order my most played/practiced tunes, they would be:

  1. Misty
  2. Georgia On My Mind
  3. In A Sentimental Mood
  4. The Nearness Of You
  5. Blues, mainly the 8 bar blues
  6. There Will Never Be Another You
  7. Blue In Green
  8. Autumn Leaves
  9. Days Of Wine & Roses
  10. How High The Moon

This certainly correlates with the courses and seminars that I’ve been producing on PianoGroove over the last year as I usually have to study, transcribe, and practice the tunes during the course creation process. It’s difficult to say how this list would look if I wasn’t teaching on PianoGroove :thinking:

I play most of these tunes as ballads, but tunes 3,6,7,8,9,10 can also be played up tempo which I like as I can then play them solo piano and also with other musicians if the opportunity arises.

I’d like to compose something in the not too distant future, but that’s the topic of another thread! :grin:

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Thanks Hayden! You have several that are on my list. Of course, I absolutely love the ballads and the way your arrange them as well as explaining how some of our favorite artists arrange them. I have learned so much.

Composing? Would love to hear something that you create!

Thanks for all you do!