Simplifying Playlist Management

Potluck Creative Arts Lesson LineSimply Music

As your repertoire grows, keeping all your songs alive takes more work. In addition to the practice habits that can help your playing stay in great shape, there are some things you can do with the actual Playlist itself to make it simpler to manage.

Color the Lines

How many times have you checked off the song in the row above or below the one you just practiced? Or maybe sometimes you’ve put your check under the day before or after the current day? As each month goes on and you’re marking your Playlist farther to the right side of the page, it can be difficult for your eyes to keep their focus on a particular song’s row. And especially with songs that aren’t practiced as frequently as others, it can be all too easy to hit the wrong day when you’ve moved across a big gap of white space since the last time you practiced a song. Students of any age can find these things difficult.

One solution is to color the rows. This could be as simple as using a highlighter to put a colorful stripe across every other row. If you prefer, use colored pencils. Whatever your medium of choice, if you feel like making a more elaborate pattern of colors, enjoy. Having different rows in different colors will make it much easier for your eye to scan from a song title across to a day even very late in the month, far over to the right on the page.

If you’re also having trouble getting the date right, you could use a pen or fine-point marker to make bolder the vertical lines that already separate the columns. With the backgrounds colored but only the vertical lines made bold, you should be able to easily find your spot in both directions.

Use the Computer

Tired of rewriting all the titles in your Playlist every single month, especially as it’s getting longer and longer? Consider using a spreadsheet program to type up your Playlist.

Make the first column wide enough for your song titles, and give it the column heading “Title” in the top row. Keep going across that top row, adding the S-M-T-W-T-F-S headings in the next 37 columns.

If you’re really slick, you might be able to use headers and footers to recreate the Month/Year spot at the top of the Playlist page and the Date / Lesson No. / No. of Songs spot at the bottom. You may even figure out how to have your spreadsheet program include the correct month and year automatically. If you like the ideas above about coloring the lines, you should be able to use highlighting and borders to do even that.

Now go ahead down the Title column and type up your current Playlist, one row at a time, just as if you were rewriting it. You’ll never have to write or type those titles again, or color those rows or columns ever again. Print your Playlist. Over the course of the month, handwrite all your checks as well as any new songs. At the end of each month, all you’ll have to do is type in the few new songs at the bottom of the list and maybe add some color for their rows and voila, the now up-to-date list is ready to print again.

Added bonus of managing your Playlist like this: you’ll save money by never having to buy another blank Playlist book ever again.

Combine Songs

Another way to simplify your Playlist is to combine pieces you’ve learned into longer ones. This is sometimes done formally, as when Honey Dew and its Dm variation are combined, or when Ode to Joy and its C Section are combined into the fuller “ABCB” version. There are also other opportunities to combine pieces. Fewer rows make the Playlist easier to handle while giving you the satisfaction of more substantial pieces to perform.

Because more and more possible combinations will become apparent farther along in the curriculum, combination suggestions will be kept on a special page called Playlist Combinations, where they can’t get lost in the chronologically ordered depths of the Lesson Line. Take a look at that page now for a preliminary set of combination ideas, and check back regularly for new ones.

If you have any other ideas on how to keep Playlist management simple, share them below with a comment!

Leave a comment below.

2 comments for “Simplifying Playlist Management

  1. 🙂

    Thanks for making the comment — I’m glad to have these kinds of discussions here where others can benefit from them.

    I certainly could make a really cool spreadsheet. Here are some buts:

    It’s rare that students/groups learn pieces in exactly the same order, because non-Foundation pieces get introduced at varying times and sometimes in varying order. Not having your songs ordered on the page based on how you yourself learned them adds more complexity back into managing your list.

    To the extent that students are interested in combining songs, that can only be done when each student is ready with the various component songs. Further, most of the combinations are flexible and optional. Both of these things create additional levels of Playlist variation from one student/group to the next.

    In principle, I’d be open to creating a single master Playlist, but I wouldn’t/couldn’t take on the work of customizing a list for each student/group on the basis of the differences I’ve just talked about, and I don’t think anyone could really expect me to. Want and hope, maybe, but not expect.

    Finally, there’s something to be said for students doing it themselves. Here’s a quote from teacher training materials about the evaluation forms that students complete at the end of each program: “It is both important and valuable for the student to experience writing out the names of every song learned in any given level.” I have to believe that this value shouldn’t be left to be found only every several months upon completing an evaluation form but also should be gained ongoingly as each student expands their Playlist, manifesting on paper their growing repertoire.

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