How do you start learning a piece?

Discuss technical aspects of piano playing and recording.

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How do you start learning a piece?

Postby echoyjeff222 » Mon Sep 23, 2013 3:38 pm

Just curious about everyone's way of starting a piece ... do you listen to recordings beforehand, how much do you learn at one sitting, etc.?

For me, I tend to learn two to three lines (depending on the difficulty of the piece) each day. That keeps me motivated (setting goals) and keeps things manageable.

What about all of you?

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Re: How do you start learning a piece?

Postby hreichgott » Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:34 pm

Usually I listen to the piece a few times in recordings by different people until I can hear portions of it without the recording on, and have a general idea of the structure. Exceptions are music with no recordings or only one recording available (new music!) and pieces I learn with my current teacher who is very much against listening before learning the piece.

After that, if the piece is easier than a Beethoven sonata I start by sight-reading the whole thing then breaking it down: picking a page at a time and working on melody lines alone, inner voices alone, getting into detail with fingerings and articulations, planning phrasing.

If the piece is harder than a Beethoven sonata I go much more slowly, sticking only to the first section until all notes are learned and fingering is functional, still with a lot of individual voices alone, then moving on to the next section. Learning speed depends how much time I have. The most difficult piece I learned this year was probably about a page every week.

For fast pieces I wait until very late in the learning process to start increasing the tempo. Except once in a while trying performance tempo for fun :)

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Re: How do you start learning a piece?

Postby StuKautsch » Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:38 pm

Interesting question, I guess. I've always been a reader, so I read through a few times.

Now that recording is my hobby, I then try to learn a few of the more difficult parts to see if the piece fits in my recording and tuning schedule. I may be learning other pieces that I want to have ready in, say, 3 months, and I want them to "peak" all at the same time. (This is not that different from being a recitalist, since one wants a chunk of repertoire ready at the same time and at a certain date. Now, though, I'm trying to save a little money on tuning.)

I don't work on much music that does not have a time frame for learning, so if it's too difficult, I just pass on it. (Unless I'm working toward a "complete set", in which case it becomes a long-term project.)

No matter what, though, I do not fail to read it all the way through every practice session, because I don't want to lose "sight" of it as a complete work. Also because I play for enjoyment, and I want to enjoy it!

I frequently don't listen to any recordings of a piece while I'm working on it. I'm either familiar with it from previous exposure, or I'm learning it because there are not many recordings. I recently had an experience which has warned me away from learning a piece without ever having heard it before, so this may change a little.
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Re: How do you start learning a piece?

Postby pianolady » Wed Sep 25, 2013 3:27 am

Most of the time, I have to have heard the piece and liked it enough to want to learn it. Then I print it out or buy it, and play through it several times. If I still like it, then I set the goal to go all the way. If after about the third or fourth time it's not grabbing me any more, then I put it away and find something else. If the piece does still appeal to me, then I simply play through all of it several more times. After that it starts to stick and I can tell what parts need extra attention. I don't really listen to other recordings of the piece until I'm getting to the end of the learning process and I want to see if my tempo is okay.
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