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#2049219 - 03/16/13 04:36 PM Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn
decibel101 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/28/01
Posts: 284
Loc: Manhattan
Hi All,

I just wanted to take a quick poll of the group here:

If you're a dedicated amateur/music lover out there that has a full-time day job and an hour or two to practice on weekdays and maybe three to four hours on weekends... How long do you think it would take you to learn the Goldberg Variations? I understand that everyone is different and there are a whole host of factors that may affect how quickly one learns. I just wanted to get a pulse out there for what people thought.

Thanks!
_________________________
Visit my Website to learn more about me, pieces I am currently working on, and videos of performances.

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#2049223 - 03/16/13 04:49 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
A lifetime. One is never finished learning the GBVs. Playing the notes is another thing. Much easier. Too many variables to tell how it takes to learn.

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#2049226 - 03/16/13 04:56 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7776
Loc: New York City
May I ask what is the point of this question?

And even if it were the most intelligent question ever asked, I couldn't answer it because I've never learned them and I never know how long it will take to learn a piece (well, mind you) until I try it.
_________________________
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Polyphonist

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#2049234 - 03/16/13 05:10 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19640
Loc: New York City
Without knowing your present level, I don't see how one can give an answer. Maybe 99%(or even much more)of pianists will never be able to learn the notes up to speed for the Goldberg Variations due to their extreme technical difficulty and length.

If one cannot learn a piece in a reasonable amount of time then I think it is a bad idea to attempt that piece. Even if one could theoretically learn the notes up to speed for the GV with the number of hours per day you mentioned in two years I think that is a bad use of one's time.

As great as this piece is and as much as you may love it(I assume your asking because you want to learn it), I bet you can find many other pieces(actually hundreds of them) that you would enjoy playing as much but would take a reasonable amount of time.




Edited by pianoloverus (03/16/13 05:49 PM)

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#2049243 - 03/16/13 05:24 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: pianoloverus]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Without knowing your present level, I don't see how one can give an answer. Maybe 99%(or even much less) of pianists will never be able to learn the notes up to speed for the Goldberg Variations due to their extreme technical difficulty and length.

If one cannot learn a piece in a reasonable amount of time then I think it is a bad idea to attempt that piece. Even if one could theoretically learn the notes up to speed for the GV with the number of hours per day you mentioned in two years I think that is a bad use of one's time.

As great as this piece is and as much as you may love it(I assume your asking because you want to learn it), I bet you can find many other pieces(actually hundreds of them) that you would enjoy playing as much but would take a reasonable amount of time.




I sort of disagree. If you want to perform the piece, think carefully about the commitment. If you want to lean the piece, take all the time you have. Just don't spend all your time on that single work.

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#2049244 - 03/16/13 05:24 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: pianoloverus]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7776
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Maybe 99%(or even much less) of pianists will never be able to learn the notes...


Maybe you meant or even much more? wink

Or 1% instead of 99.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2049252 - 03/16/13 05:49 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: Polyphonist]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19640
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Maybe 99%(or even much less) of pianists will never be able to learn the notes...


Maybe you meant or even much more? wink

Or 1% instead of 99.
Thanks, I edited my post.

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#2049434 - 03/17/13 12:21 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
MathGuy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/09
Posts: 232
Loc: California
I once worked on the Goldbergs pretty steadily for about six months, at which point I had the Aria and 21 of the 30 variations under pretty good control. Of course, the ten that weren't up to snuff included the really tough ones like 20 and 23! Getting the whole cycle performance-ready was never my goal, but if it had been, I was maybe a quarter of the way there. So to answer the OP's question: I'd estimate two years to feel comfortable performing the cycle - with the score, I should add. And, as was mentioned, it would take forever to really learn it.

For me, the biggest technical challenge with the Goldbergs is the hand crossings. Each hand individually tends be pretty reasonable, but put them together and it can be like a game of Twister. For that reason, I'd love to try the "arabesque" variations, especially 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, and 26, on a two-manual harpsichord. If I had one of those at my disposal, I might even be able to cut a few months from that two-year estimate.

Working on the Goldbergs is an incredibly rewarding project, both pianistically and spiritually. By spiritually, I don't mean it's a religious experience (although it might be, for those who are so inclined), but it just makes me feel good about the world and its potential. Many of the variations seem just like dear old friends to me, and it's a wonder to know these friends are immortal. What an incredible gift from Bach to humanity...

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#2049439 - 03/17/13 12:45 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: MathGuy]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3836
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: MathGuy
For me, the biggest technical challenge with the Goldbergs is the hand crossings. Each hand individually tends be pretty reasonable, but put them together and it can be like a game of Twister.

For what it's worth: my teacher (a much respected and beloved teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music) is a big fan of playing lots of hand-crossed passages, including a lot in the Goldbergs, with the hands switched and uncrossed.

-J
_________________________
Schubert Immersion: Bb Impromptu; C# minor and Ab Moments Musicaux; accompanying four songs (Suleika II, Rastlose Liebe, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Im Fruhling); listening intensely to Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise

Chopin: first Ballade; Mozart: D minor concerto;

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#2049444 - 03/17/13 01:09 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: beet31425]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: beet31425
[quote=MathGuy]For what it's worth: my teacher (a much respected and beloved teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music) is a big fan of playing lots of hand-crossed passages, including a lot in the Goldbergs, with the hands switched and uncrossed. -J


Now that's interesting. I often find crossed hands difficult because of, er, two chest height anatomical obstructions. Whenever possible, I do the same thing as long as it doesn't negatively effect the sound.
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Deborah

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#2049445 - 03/17/13 01:13 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: gooddog]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3836
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Originally Posted By: beet31425
For what it's worth: my teacher (a much respected and beloved teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music) is a big fan of playing lots of hand-crossed passages, including a lot in the Goldbergs, with the hands switched and uncrossed. -J


Now that's interesting. I often find crossed hands difficult because of, er, two chest height anatomical obstructions. Whenever possible, I do the same thing.


My teacher mentioned that reason specifically for generally recommending (most of her students are female) to uncross hands at the end of the first movement of Beethoven's op.57. smile

-J
_________________________
Schubert Immersion: Bb Impromptu; C# minor and Ab Moments Musicaux; accompanying four songs (Suleika II, Rastlose Liebe, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Im Fruhling); listening intensely to Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise

Chopin: first Ballade; Mozart: D minor concerto;

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#2049449 - 03/17/13 01:37 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: beet31425]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Originally Posted By: gooddog
Originally Posted By: beet31425
For what it's worth: my teacher (a much respected and beloved teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music) is a big fan of playing lots of hand-crossed passages, including a lot in the Goldbergs, with the hands switched and uncrossed. -J


Now that's interesting. I often find crossed hands difficult because of, er, two chest height anatomical obstructions. Whenever possible, I do the same thing.


My teacher mentioned that reason specifically for generally recommending (most of her students are female) to uncross hands at the end of the first movement of Beethoven's op.57. smile

-J
I found the first movement of Beethoven's Pathetique to be particularly "inconvenient" because of the speed of the arms crossing and uncrossing. When "things" get in the way it's difficult to do it quickly. blush
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2049510 - 03/17/13 06:14 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6648
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
I played the Goldbergs for my senior recital nearly 30 years ago. I'm still learning them.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#2049608 - 03/17/13 11:02 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2392
Loc: San Jose, CA
You'll never finish it, probably, but don't let that stop you!

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#2049717 - 03/17/13 02:12 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Just depends on the quality of practicing and how well things stick in your brain. Could be never, could be 5-6 months.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#2049997 - 03/18/13 01:01 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
Ferdinand Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 945
Loc: California
The circumstances outlined in the first post happen to fit my case so I'll take part in the poll. If dedicating most of my practice time to the project, I'd need 6 to 8 months. That means to get the notes under my fingers, not to have the piece performance-ready.

My technique and sight reading are intermediate level. I do play a lot of Bach.

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#2050032 - 03/18/13 02:52 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
ahhsmurf Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/07/13
Posts: 48
Loc: Banned
I never know how long it will take to learn a piece

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#2050120 - 03/18/13 08:37 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
beeboss Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/09
Posts: 1219
Loc: uk south
One lifetime is not enough for normal mortals
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#2050135 - 03/18/13 09:02 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: Ferdinand]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19640
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
The circumstances outlined in the first post happen to fit my case so I'll take part in the poll. If dedicating most of my practice time to the project, I'd need 6 to 8 months. That means to get the notes under my fingers, not to have the piece performance-ready.

My technique and sight reading are intermediate level. I do play a lot of Bach.
I think that's like a golfer with a 25 handicap saying I'll play two rounds of golf every day and take a lesson every day and in 8 months I'll be shooting par.

I find the idea that some people think that anyone, no matter what their present level of skill, can learn the GV in some finite amount of time completely wrong.


Edited by pianoloverus (03/18/13 09:04 AM)

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#2050155 - 03/18/13 10:01 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: pianoloverus]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2789
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
The circumstances outlined in the first post happen to fit my case so I'll take part in the poll. If dedicating most of my practice time to the project, I'd need 6 to 8 months. That means to get the notes under my fingers, not to have the piece performance-ready.

My technique and sight reading are intermediate level. I do play a lot of Bach.
I think that's like a golfer with a 25 handicap saying I'll play two rounds of golf every day and take a lesson every day and in 8 months I'll be shooting par.

It seems the major issue with life is time. I'm a total hack as a golfer, but if I put in that much time and effort I'd be pretty darn good. I understand your criticism of this post but your example is quite extreme and would in fact lead to extreme results (or extreme injury).
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

I find the idea that some people think that anyone, no matter what their present level of skill, can learn the GV in some finite amount of time completely wrong.
Did you miss the comment that the time frame was simply to get the notes down? You're right a lifetime isn't enough to learn the piece for most mere mortals, and for me personally 6-8 months would not be sufficient to even get the notes down. It might also be helpful to define what "getting the notes down" means. I do think that some here have an almost reflexive contrariness that keeps up the entertainment level of this site. Thank you for that.

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#2050165 - 03/18/13 10:27 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19640
Loc: New York City
I think those that think just given enough time to practice and study they could:

1. shoot par golf
2. become a chess grandmaster or even just an international master
3. Acquire a forehand like Roger Federer
4. learn to play the Goldberg Variations notes at tempo

are being very unrealistic.


Edited by pianoloverus (03/18/13 10:29 AM)

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#2050176 - 03/18/13 10:51 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Back in my university days, many eons ago, I found that it took me 120 minutes of practice, on average, for each minute of music to reach performance level. All that meant though,was that I could play the pieces up to tempo with some musicality. I am still learning those pieces, as well as new rep 40 years later.

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#2050198 - 03/18/13 11:40 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: pianoloverus]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3836
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I think those that think just given enough time to practice and study they could:

...
4. learn to play the Goldberg Variations notes at tempo

are being very unrealistic.

I'm fortunate enough to have grown up with a father who is a fearless amateur pianist. His technique is below concert level, but that never stopped him from spending the time (whatever it took) to learn what he wanted. Whether it's a Brahms intermezzo or a simple Bach prelude, or else the Goldberg Variations, the Diabelli Variations, Beethoven op.106, or the Prokofiev 8th, he always does his pieces musical justice. (Only the Rach 3rd rebuffed his efforts.) I'm lucky to feel that the Goldberg Variations are not out of my reach, if I want them.

My answer to the OP's original question is: probably about a year.


-J
_________________________
Schubert Immersion: Bb Impromptu; C# minor and Ab Moments Musicaux; accompanying four songs (Suleika II, Rastlose Liebe, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Im Fruhling); listening intensely to Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise

Chopin: first Ballade; Mozart: D minor concerto;

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#2050205 - 03/18/13 11:59 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: pianoloverus]
riley80 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/03/08
Posts: 389
Loc: Florida
Me learning the Goldberg brings to mind those chimps eventually typing every word in the British Museum, or however that goes. In other words, nigh onto forever.

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#2050276 - 03/18/13 02:30 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
FWIW,

I think the Goldberg Variations are a lot easier than people think. There's a certain mystique surrounding them that's based mostly on their length, ingenuity, and Glenn Gould's recording of them, but when you get right down to it, none of the variations (taken by themselves) are any more difficult than most of the material in the WTC or Partitas.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#2050369 - 03/18/13 05:40 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: Kreisler]
MathGuy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/09
Posts: 232
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
I think the Goldberg Variations are a lot easier than people think. There's a certain mystique surrounding them that's based mostly on their length, ingenuity, and Glenn Gould's recording of them, but when you get right down to it, none of the variations (taken by themselves) are any more difficult than most of the material in the WTC or Partitas.
If you had said "only a few" instead of "none", I'd agree. However, some of the GVs, such as 20 and 23, strike me as being on a level all their own, at least when compared with the Partitas. (I don't know the WTC well enough to judge how they compare with it.) But quite a few of them - particularly the ones whose numbers give a remainder of 0 or 1 when divided by 3 (!) - are not bad at all, taken individually.

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#2050429 - 03/18/13 07:34 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: Kreisler]
Lemon Pledge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 353
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
I think the Goldberg Variations are a lot easier than people think. There's a certain mystique surrounding them that's based mostly on their length, ingenuity, and Glenn Gould's recording of them, but when you get right down to it, none of the variations (taken by themselves) are any more difficult than most of the material in the WTC or Partitas.


I had similar thoughts, before I learned the piece. smile "It's just a collection of 2- and 3-part inventions. How hard can it be?" Harder than I suspected, it turned out. The Goldbergs and the Partitas challenge in very different ways, imo. For one, many of the Goldbergs are about virtuoso display, even if played at sub-Gouldian tempi. The Partitas contain some occasional brilliant passagework and some very lively dances, but that's not the same thing. And if I say that the strictly independent and linear 3-part writing in the Goldberg canons has few parallels within the Partitas, someone will retort to cite the exceptions, or to point out the contrapuntal complexity of the Partitas in general, but that's not the same thing either.

The Goldbergs are more work than 2.5 - 3 partitas. (I'm trying for timelength-equivalence here). They are perhaps less work than 12-15 P&Fs, but very few people would perform the latter all at once.

The mystique that you mention does certainly exist, and it probably explains why so many young pianists feel that they absolutely need to play the Goldbergs, ready or not, as if no other Bach would be an adequate substitute. To the OP: this is not a healthy impulse. With so much wonderful Bach to choose from, why chase the mystique instead? A genuine attempt at the entire Goldbergs doesn't make a lot of sense until you have enough experience and technique to, say, prepare a French Suite in a week.

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#2050431 - 03/18/13 07:34 PM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: MathGuy]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3836
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: MathGuy
But quite a few of them - particularly the ones whose numbers give a remainder of 0 or 1 when divided by 3 (!) - are not bad at all, taken individually.


Yep, a lot of the 2 mod 3's are killers! smile

On Kreisler's point, it's quite possible that most of the individual Goldbergs are indeed on the level of the partitas, *and* that working up all 30 of them is just as hard as people think.

-J
_________________________
Schubert Immersion: Bb Impromptu; C# minor and Ab Moments Musicaux; accompanying four songs (Suleika II, Rastlose Liebe, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Im Fruhling); listening intensely to Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise

Chopin: first Ballade; Mozart: D minor concerto;

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#2052279 - 03/22/13 05:30 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: decibel101]
Julien Pierre Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/05/10
Posts: 44
Loc: Silicon Valley
As an adult student, I have been working on them for 12 years, and I still can't get the notes down on most of them. I hope to live to play them all.

I will likely never perform them. I have recorded a few, after many, many takes.

My youtube channel

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#2053229 - 03/24/13 12:15 AM Re: Goldberg Variations - Estimate your time to learn [Re: pianoloverus]
Ferdinand Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 945
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I think those that think just given enough time to practice and study they could:

1. shoot par golf
2. become a chess grandmaster or even just an international master
3. Acquire a forehand like Roger Federer
4. learn to play the Goldberg Variations notes at tempo

are being very unrealistic.

No argument. I said I thought I could learn the notes. Not play them up to tempo.

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