How Long Should it Take to Learn New Piano Music?

06/05/2014 11:28 am

piano keys

What is a normal amount of time to learn piano music?

I am asked all the time about “how long it should take to learn a new piece of piano music?” This is not a simple question with one simple answer but I would like to give some insight as to why I think so many struggle with taking much longer to learn a piece than they expected. While it’s true that the level of difficulty of any given piece of music will have a great impact on how long it will take to learn, it is also true that if you develop a great practice routine when it comes to new music, you will find yourself learning at a faster pace in no time.

What Not To Do

The first thing we have to get out of the way is what not to do when learning a new piano piece. We all like to feel good and accomplished when learning something new, so it’s very typical that piano players repeat the first section of a piece and then fail to really dig in to the middle. Whenever they practice, they will constantly repeat the beginning and before you know it, half of the practice session was playing what you already knew! It’s something we are all guilty of and it can be fixed very easily. Next time you sit at the piano, promise yourself you will not start from the beginning. Go straight to that part that is driving you crazy. Pretty soon it will sound great. During every private lesson I give, I always like to ask my students to start from a random measure. I am always surprised to see that most piano players cannot start from anywhere in the music. They need to start from a specific point and then continue from there.

If you do this, be aware that you are reinforcing only muscle memory and not real sight reading and learning. What you want to strive for is to be able to start from anywhere in the score, not just certain sections. Frustrating at first, but well worth the effort.

Learn Faster with Less Frustration

There are a few things that you can do next time you put a new piece of piano sheet music in front of you. They are simple but effective techniques.

  • Read Through the Entire Piece First – Before you really dig in to the piece, play it through once, with bumps and all. This will give you a sense of the whole piece and how it sounds. You may think it will be a complete train wreck but trust me, it will be a great thing.
  • Break It Up Into Small Sections – This may seem like common sense but I often find that some piano players try to bite off a huge chunk of the piece at once. Practice 4, 8 or 12 measures at a time and then move on to the next. Special Note: Make sure to practice connecting each section smoothly.
  • Don’t Skip the Hard Parts! – It always makes me smile when I see someone play a piece extremely well and then when the tough parts come, it all falls apart. This is because every piece has at least one section that will give you a little more trouble but the way to solve that is to give special attention to that part. You will be surprised at how much easier it is than you originally thought if you just give it a little more attention.

Have Fun!

This one seems simple enough but many have forgotten to simply enjoy learning how to play the piano and playing new music. Remember why you started int he first place, to enjoy the joy of playing the piano. Don’t let yourself get stressed out and enjoy the process.