Sometimes you have to focus your practice on a few select songs rather than your whole practice list. This might be for things like recitals, exams, or competitions. Or, remember what I said about playing vs. practicing? All of us should be taking time to play what we like rather than just practicing. Making setlists of songs you play for your own enjoyment can be helpful in finding your sense of self and style as a musician. Here are 5 ways to use music setlists in practice.
You may have an upcoming performance and need to separate your performance items from your lesson items. As the date gets nearer, you'll probably want to focus in on those performance pieces and not want your practice list muddled with the everyday assignments. Create a setlist for these events (e.g. your upcoming recital) and put your items of focus in it.
2. Your “personal enjoyment” Repertoire
You have your regular assignments from lessons, but then there are all those other songs you like to play for fun. Keep them listed and organized so you don’t forget all that you can play! This can be setlists of your favorite artists’ songs, songs that make you happy, songs you and your family like to jam out to, etc.
3. Warmups and Special Exercises
Better Practice’s review engine puts all of your assignments, including technical exercises, into a smart practice list to ensure that you’re spending time to practice the areas that you need to practice most. But there are times where you may want to focus primarily on technical skills such as for warmups. Let’s say you have 5 different warmups that you like to do depending on the your mood, simply create setlists for these exercises (or anything else you'd want separated from the "regular" practice) and you can access them separately there.
Many musicians study different styles to become a more versatile player. By creating setlists for your favorite songs to practice in certain styles, you can easily choose which style to focus on for the day - and all of your songs and materials like sheet music/videos/backing tracks are all there, ready to use.
This is probably the most common way I use setlists. Gigging musicians can have back-to-back gigs for two completely different things. I've had to run from a pop/hip-hop performance to a jazz gig, or from a classical recital to a pit orchestra for a musical. To keep myself sane during practice, I create setlists for each event and name it by date and what it is. That way, I know immediately which ones are more urgent and upcoming and can mentally prioritize practice.