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#1088961 - 09/07/04 11:44 AM How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
mr_bubb Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/21/04
Posts: 19
Loc: Cambridge, Massachusetts
I have a question about how long it should take to learn a new piece, i.e. the relationship between one's "level" and making progress with a piece.

While I'm planning and have even scheduled lessons with a teacher, for the next month or so I'm just learning on my own. As a teenager I had about two years of lessons.

Since taking up the piano again, I've worked on Bach minuets and a couple of little preludes. But even these little pieces can take me about two to three weeks each to learn (i.e. play at tempo, accurately, with expression). Is this too long? When looking for new things to play, can you determine from the first 8 bars if it's too hard?


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#1088962 - 09/07/04 12:10 PM Re: How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
mikhailoh Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 4288
Loc: Cincinnati

First, the disclaimer. I am an early 4th year adult piano student, not a teacher. I am, however, a kibbitzer extraordinaire, and seldom short on advice when asked. That having been said....

I think it is difficult to tell from looking if a piece is hard, unless you can see a lot of 4 note chords, 10ths, or difficult keys. I have had some that looked easy be quite difficult and some that looked hard be quite easy. Case in point being an arrangement of Claire De Lune. Looked easy enough, but wasn't easy at all to get right.
Had to play it so much that it is tatooed in my brain, never to be forgotten. (Which came in handy in my quest for a grand)

If you only took two years of lessons and are working on Bach minuets and preludes you must have gone pretty far pretty fast.

It might be helpful for you to go back through some of the last couple books you learned, assuming you used something on the order of the Alfred books and you have or can get them, and play through them. I would think that the techniques they are designed to teach might get you warmed up for lessons better than tryimg longer pieces, although the stuff you are working on is great.

For most pieces in the 3rd and 4th Alfred books, a week, maybe two, would be quite sufficient. The 5th book gets a bit harder. If you don't like the lesson books, maybe try the Alfred Classical books for the 4th level. Some nice stuff in there.


He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.'

#1088963 - 09/07/04 12:28 PM Re: How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
Mikester Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/17/04
Posts: 1254
Loc: Minneesooota
mr_bubb, it really depends on the piece. But, for the average student, it usually takes a month after memorization to get a piece up to recital quality. I guess, plan from one week up to several months to learn a piece, up to a month to memorize it, and up to another month to internalize a piece. Usually students work on 4 pieces simultaneously, so if you can internalize 12 to 16 pieces a year that's a good rate.

#1088964 - 09/07/04 02:39 PM Re: How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
it depends on pieces, definitely.

one thing you have to keep in mind is that Bach's music (no matter how easy it looks) may indeed take you longer to learn than the same level's music from most other composers, because most of his music are writen in polyphonic form (multi-voice). the little preludes, although looking simple enough, have at least 2-voice lines (on each hand), so that it is more difficult for especially beginners to play. any polyphonic music requires hand coordination and independence, and with 3 or more voice music, finger independence as well. so, don't be discouraged by that. once you get one such a piece done, 2nd one will be much easier to learn.

#1088965 - 09/07/04 07:41 PM Re: How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
Luckychwee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/30/04
Posts: 231
Loc: Singapore
Can I know is the Alfred book for adults as my daughter coming piano teacher told me that I can use the same books as will be used by my daughter.

Also anyone know how long will one learn to play this piece of music - Sound of silence ? Is this piece consider as pop or classical and I cant find the songsheet in the net, anyone can help ?

An apple a day keep the doctor away,
A smile a day chase your sadness away,
A chat a day drive all loneliness away,
And a prayer a day never keep our Jesus away
And let's praise our Lord, our King, our God all the way ....

#1088966 - 09/07/04 07:57 PM Re: How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
'sound of silence' seems a pop song or a film theme song. i remember hearing it from radio before.

#1088967 - 09/08/04 12:00 AM Re: How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
Roxane Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 932
Sound of Silence is by Simon and Garfunkel, which is pop. I believe it is still under copyright, so you would need to buy the music. How long it takes to learn it depends on the particular version of the piece you choose to buy.

#1088968 - 09/08/04 11:23 AM Re: How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
Cindysphinx Offline

Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Well, um . . .

How long does it take me to learn a piece?

Forever, it seems. ;\)

I started working on Mozart's K545, second movement. (You know, the really pretty slow part that comes after the ridiculously hard first movement.) In *February.* I have finally worked through the whole thing, it's just that I can't do it evenly without hitting rough spots. More work is required because I'd like to perform it (and the next movement) in January.

Why so slow? I was working on 3-4 other big performance pieces at the same time, and I selected a different one to play at the June recital, which meant I spent no time on the Mozart and focused on the other piece for a long time. Then I returned to the Mozart and another piece, and added yet another piece to work on. I finished one of the other pieces, and now Mozart is finally getting some real attention.

Nevertheless, I don't mind having made such hideously slow progress because I could have moved faster had I wanted to. I just prefer to have 3-4 performance pieces in progress rather than 1-2.
Vote For Cindy!!


#1088969 - 09/10/04 01:27 PM Re: How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece
mikewu99 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/03
Posts: 314
Loc: Audubon, PA
It depends on :
(1) The difficulty of the piece relative to your ability level
(2) The length of the piece
(3) How well you personally relate to the piece (I can finish romantic pieces much faster than equivalent grade level baroque pieces because the musicality of the romantic pieces is more accessible to me)

IMHO any piece (after you are done with the very basic beginner's pieces) that you can master in much less than a month is too easy - not challengin enough to stretch your ability (kind of like too light of a weight when exercising).

I generally like to be working on 2-3 pieces at a time, one big piece that may take me 4-6 months or more along with one or two that I should finish in 1-2 months.


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