How long does it take you to learn a new piece

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doralikesmath
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How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by doralikesmath » Wed Jun 14, 2017 2:12 pm

I'm just curious to learn how long it would take one to learn a new piece. Understandably, it depends on may factors, but let's make it simple by categorize by grade (UK 1-8). On average, how long it would take you to completely learn a new piece (i.e, be able to play smoothly may be with some errors)? Thanks in advanced.
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Steve Kutzer
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by Steve Kutzer » Wed Jun 14, 2017 2:24 pm

There probably isn't any one answer, but I will recount my learning experience of the hardest piece in my limited repertoire - Gismonti's Agua y Vinho. I did the learning backwards method. It's 49 measures, not counting repeats. I learned measure 49 first, then 48 and so on. Some measure took only a few days. Some took 2 weeks. It was about at the 4 month mark that I could play the whole piece. It took another few months to smooth out some rough spots and to begin on phrasing, coloring and dynamics.

So half a year. But learning backwards really worked for this. It gave me the patience to work on a measure or two during most practice sessions. I only worked on this piece for 15-30 minutes per session. And by the time I was able to play the whole thing, the last measure were the ones that I had played the most, so I was playing into strength.

I would contrast this to my more typical play through the whole piece from the beginning. That approach no longer works for me. But when working through studies, or the little pieces in the Sagreras method, I find a week will get me playing it competently and another week will have it sounding good.
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HomerB
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by HomerB » Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:34 pm

I have long found it to be a mystery why some pieces "stick," and other pieces are more elusive. I have been able to memorize some pieces after playing through them a few times. Other pieces, including ones I like a lot, I have had great difficulty memorizing. It does not seem to be an issue of the number of notes, or even of the difficulty of the piece. I would appreciate your thoughts or insights.
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Kenbobpdx
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by Kenbobpdx » Wed Jun 14, 2017 8:28 pm

HomerB wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:34 pm
I have long found it to be a mystery why some pieces "stick," and other pieces are more elusive. I have been able to memorize some pieces after playing through them a few times. Other pieces, including ones I like a lot, I have had great difficulty memorizing. It does not seem to be an issue of the number of notes, or even of the difficulty of the piece. I would appreciate your thoughts or insights.
I, too, find the memorization process a mystery. Some pieces stick right away. Others can be confoundingly resistant to memorization. There is one Scarlatti piece that took me some 25 years of working on, dropping, returning to, dropping, and returning to before I finally memorized it. No particular reason that I can discern. It just didn't want to stick until it finally did.

As one of my New Year's resolution I decided that I was going to consume digital media less and read more. To date I have read a dozen novels this year, including a few 800+ pagers. I have found my ability to absorb and memorize new CG pieces seems to have increased with this decision. I have a theory about this. Basically, I think the act of focused reading activates important neural networks that are also needed to memorize musical pieces before they are stored in the "musical memory" portions of the brain (This is a fascinating topic on its own. According to some reasearch, music appears to be stored in a different area of the brain than other memories). Consuming digital media frequently requires considerably less mental focus and possibly dulls the very networks that increase our ability to focus and memorize complex physical, auditory, and mental inputs.
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BugDog
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by BugDog » Thu Jun 15, 2017 5:22 pm

I've only recently started documenting when I start something, and certain milestones in the learning process so I don't have much data.

That said, I started Napolean Coste Etude 1 opus 38, which is 43 bars and Delcamp D05, on 12/10/16. Had it fingered by 3/22/17. Just about got it memorized now. I might get it close to your definition of 'learned" in another 6 - 12 months. I generally don't practice more than an hour a day and might not spend more than 5 - 15 minutes on it per practice.

D05 is about where my comfort level is now days.
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William Gregg
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by William Gregg » Sat Jun 17, 2017 2:08 pm

It usually takes me 3 to 6 months to learn a new work. That is, to explore the work until I can perform it with grace, beauty, precision and expression. Just accomplishing the finger movements and memorizing doesn't count as "learning" for me. That being said, sometimes I go back to a piece I haven't played in years, only to discover new possibilities in performing it. In that sense, I never completely learn a piece. I only familiarize myself with the music well enough that I can continue to enjoy exploring it. (3 to 6 months, no matter the level of difficulty!)

wchymeus
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by wchymeus » Sat Jun 17, 2017 3:36 pm

1 to 1 1/2 year

Say grade 8 will take me 1 to 3 months to be "happy" with it and play it to friends. Then another 3 months if I really enjoy it still. Then 6 months to forget it. And another 3 months to truly interiorize it and agree with myself that it is part of my repertoire :-)
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spanishguitarmusic
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by spanishguitarmusic » Sun Jun 18, 2017 12:20 am

I am really a beginner, so it depends on the level of the piece that I am trying to learn. Although, for me, it usually takes a few months for sure, but maybe longer.

hesson11
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by hesson11 » Sun Jun 18, 2017 12:35 am

I hate to be vague, but I would say, roughly speaking—forever!
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jgreenwd
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by jgreenwd » Sun Jun 18, 2017 4:18 am

doralikesmath wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2017 2:12 pm
I'm just curious to learn how long it would take one to learn a new piece.
When you say "learn," do you mean memorized? I come from a horn background. So, I often define "learned" as being able to play through with no mistakes, musical interpretations locked in, and knowing where my part fits in with the other musicians. I can reach that point with grade 5 stuff within an hour or 2. Harder stuff takes longer.

From my perspective, memorization is a separate skill. That said, it really only adds another 10-20% to the timeline.

Peskyendeavour
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by Peskyendeavour » Mon Jun 19, 2017 4:26 pm

Define learn... :D
So to memorise the tune and the chords and being able to sing back to you top middle and bottom lines, about an hour.
For tricky fingering few bars on easy pieces with first position up to maybe third position stuff - a week.
Tricky pieces that involve jumping up and down the neck maybe two weeks, to memorise it.

However, to learn it to a state where I think it's complete smooth clean and beautifully interpreted musically, about 3 months - but with nerves and stage fright, I would say in reality - it's never!

hoppy
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Re: How long does it take you to learn a new piece

Post by hoppy » Tue Jun 20, 2017 5:10 pm

My own observations about my learning curve:
1) I memorise guitaristic pieces that are based on familiar shapes relatively quickly (eg. Villa-Lobos preludes)
2) if I've heard a piece a ton before I will learn it more quickly (e.g. Villa-Lobos preludes )
3) Baroque pieces tend to take me longer to learn even at the same grade level (Bach, De Visee)
4) 2) doesn't apply to Baroque pieces.
5) If I don't play a piece for a few months I magically seem to get better at playing it in musical terms

Memorising a piece quickly in 1) means that I can 'learn' it much more quickly as I can get the muscle memory functioning and can focus more on musicality than getting my fingers to behave. I balance efficiency with some enjoyment - I like to play through pieces from start to finish and intersperse that with dedicated focus on phrases and complicated passages. If I just do dedicated practice it lowers my enjoyment. I have got better at playing slow in the early stages which does pay off for me in terms of learning.

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