How long do you spend learning a piece?

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How long do you spend learning a piece?

Postby hreichgott » Fri Nov 15, 2013 2:44 pm

Just curious :)

I can usually get a piece into playable condition within 2-3 months. Then after another 4 months or so I start to feel that it is really learned and ready to perform. Now that I'm back in lessons my excellent teacher often finds things to improve for an additional couple of months after I feel that something is ready. I tend to work on a few pieces at a time. Right now I have more working pieces than usual (six) and several are multi-movement but some are not very difficult note-wise so the learning time is about the same.

I do have the best performing experiences with pieces that are deeply internalized from multiple years of playing, and the pieces I love most are the ones that still have new things to discover even after multiple years. Hey, I can now say "decades" about some pieces I still play :)

There are exceptions; I do learn much easier pieces much more quickly, if I want to play something new for church one week for example. But then even though the piece is easy I often feel like I'm only scratching the surface. Pieces that are very long or very difficult either technically or artistically can take me much longer than 6 months.

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Re: How long do you spend learning a piece?

Postby noambenhamou » Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:36 am

Interesting question. At first when I read it I was thinking "IT ALL DEPENDS" but then you wrote about learning a piece you like, much more quickly...

1st of all, it really all depends on the difficulty of the piece
2nd - your experience level. Do you just have to learn the notes? Or do you have to develop special technique you do not have as of yet.
3rd - I'm not going to get technical with you. "Playable" I get it :) good enough so you, yourself can enjoy the music, and your friends who don't know any better will still think you are some sort of Jedi on the piano hahaha
4th - It could take you 2 years to learn a simple chopin nocturne if you only practiced 2 minutes per day right? So how many days, or months should really be asked - how many hours of practice?
5th - to slightly negate the above. I find it that when practicing something then "sleeping on it", the next morning, that's when things improve. I don't know if I'm working things out in my sleep or what, but I'm certain other's are noticing this as well.

Ever just totally get inspired by a piece? I've always known of Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No.1 heard it many many times. Never played it.
About 2 weeks ago I work up with it playing in my ear. I was like "I gotta play this!!!". I devoured it in 2 days - 4 hours total. Start to finish, memorized.

Give me a Scriabin etude? Pay me $10,000 to learn it, probably will take me a few years, IF I ever finish it :) hahaha

Playing something that inspires you is important.
A concert pianist must play what is required. And they must play it as if they "feel" something. Maybe they do. If a piece does not make me "feel" anything, I won't play it. Benefits of being a hobbyist :)

Sorry I cannot give you an exact figure as to how long something should take to learn. My suggestion is to practice at night right before you go to sleep. I have a suspicion that alot of "learning" happens in your sleep.

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Re: How long do you spend learning a piece?

Postby stevenarmstrong » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:57 am

A lifetime :)

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Re: How long do you spend learning a piece?

Postby hreichgott » Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:25 am

I love both these answers :)

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Re: How long do you spend learning a piece?

Postby StuKautsch » Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:28 pm

Sorry I had not replied to this earlier, Heather.
A few months - pretty much what you reported.
Now that my music is mostly geared to my recording hobby, I just practice several new pieces until I think I have as much material as I can record before the piano loses its next tuning (it keeps tuned for a few weeks). This can be as much as six months, since recording sessions also have to be fit in with my other activities. (I.e., I need a 2-week period in which I'll be free to record as much as I need.)

Doing this exclusively for the mic also introduces other interesting problems related to page turning. More often than not, there's nowhere in the piece with a silence long enough to change the music on the stand and then go back and erase that noise in the recording. So, part of the piece has to be memorized, then a little extra practice because playing music from memory while there's different music on the stand is distracting and takes a little extra effort.

OT: I find I cannot put more than 4 pages across the stand. Even if I could, my old eyes would not be able to read the pages at the end. So there's no way to avoid memorization even if you've gone completely "studio".
stu kautsch

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