How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece of Music?

Piano Lessons / general / How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece of Music?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how long it should take you to learn a piece of music. There are a lot of people who feel really committed to the piano. And when they are passionate about learning a piece, they don’t care if it takes a year to learn it. They just really want to learn that piece! This is not necessarily the best approach. Let me explain. In the amount of time that it would take in that year to learn one piece of music, imagine instead you focus on pieces that you can master in a couple of weeks. Then you build up a repertoire of pieces you can play on a high level.

Find music on your level.

Focus on pieces you can learn relatively quickly, each one a little bit more difficult than the last. You can expand not only the difficulty, but the style, the range, the mood, the period, all different aspects of music that you can assimilate into your technique. After a year, that piece that maybe would have taken you a year might only take you three or four weeks! The secret is finding music on your level. Now there are certainly exceptions to what I’ve just said. For example, maybe you’re a pretty serious pianist and you’ve just always wanted to study a monumental work like the Brahms Handel Variations, the Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata, or the Liszt B Minor Sonata. Are you going to learn one of those pieces in two or three weeks? No, not likely. It could take you months to really learn and maybe up to a year to get on a performance level. A major concerto takes time to master as well. But even if you are learning such a work, I would strongly recommend that in parallel you also work on other formative pieces along the way. So at the end of the year you don’t have just that one piece, but maybe you have a dozen or more pieces that you’ve learned over the course of the year, including that one long-term piece that you’ve always wanted to learn.

Always be assimilating new music into your repertoire.

Learn music of different styles, different techniques, and you will grow as a musician far faster and greater than just focusing on one or two pieces that you really want to learn. You will actually be able to learn those pieces far sooner and get them at a higher level if you have progressive repertoire that you’re always mastering on the piano. I hope this is helpful for you and that you don’t find this discouraging. This is actually the fastest way you’re going to be able to learn that piece you’ve always wanted to learn! I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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5 thoughts on “How Long Should it Take to Learn a Piece of Music?”

  1. I’m working on half a dozen. K545 for about 9 months now, just the first part. The theme from the Tom Cruz movie The Firm. Tom Waits’ Invitation to the blues. Elton’s Guess that’s why they call it the blues. Satie First Gymnopedie. I’ve finally learned I don’t need to learn the whole thing, maybe even my favorite section only. I’m finally to the point where I can stick with it and get it down pretty good. Sure I want to play for my own fun but my battle is to overcome my drive to impress people with how cool I am-not a good thing.

  2. I don’t think I can learn anything in a week or two. Even Bach Minuet in G. What this suggests to me is to focus on that one piece only and work everyday. That would burn me out I think. I’d get to smearing mud and have to stop-leaving me with unused practice time. I could run through it three times a day in 20 minute sessions at best. then I might get it down in 3 weeks. I’m open to suggestions. I’ve been struggling for decades always giving up after not much progress. Got tons of sheet music all genres. Finally overcame that. Never had a teacher and I don’t want some blue haired old lady. I did have one guy who said I need to be able to play at full speed from the git go.
    He sent me a letter saying keep the book but I don’t want you as a student any more. I thought he was nuts. I’m not stupid. Lack discipline maybe Have a BA degree in psych. Thx for your help.

  3. This article was very helpful to me. Specifically, I have a couple of pieces that I had learned in college as a music major, but felt I could never get a handle on. And they aren’t even considered as difficult as certain other pieces that I am comfortable with. To this day (I’m 63 now), I WANT to play these guys right, but as you said here, the hours spent trying to hone all the rough spots could get me maybe ten pieces in the same time. So you have finally answered my back and forth on these. I will keep them under my fingers, so that when (and if) I come back to them I’ll be ready. Thank you in advance for my new big repertoire! I love your articles!

    1. I’m in somewhat a similar boat (college music major – only In my 70’s now) – trying to re-capture some pieces that will require some “stringent attention.” I’ve found it helpful to take some of the challenging sections and just work on those for 5-10 minutes or so as part of my practice. I approach each section as a little “mini piece” – 8 – 12, 16 measures or so. That sets me free to just work out the kinks for now without having the “goal” of relearning the entire piece looming over me. As I get further along I’ll start stringing them together – then the rest of the piece won’t seem so far out of reach. But I do, as Robert so rightly points out, enjoy having some easier favorites to play. Robert’s advice is – as always – spot on the mark!

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