Robert Estrin - piano expert

How many pieces should you practice at a time?

Discover whether you should practice more than one piece at a time.

In this video, Robert gives you practical tips for practicing multiple pieces of music at once.

Released on October 8, 2014

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to virtualsheetmusic.com and livingpianos.com. I'm Robert Estrin with a viewer question: how many pieces can you practice at a time? This is a great question that covers a lot of territory we're going to cover today. Well, you know when you're starting out, and you're learning one piece during the week and hopefully you can learn it during the one week, maybe two weeks. Maybe go on to a new piece and then another piece, and you're generally working with one piece at a time. Well, right there already, there's a question. Should you practice your review piece? When you're learning a new piece, should you practice the piece you learned the week before? Well, absolutely because when a piece is freshly learned you might be able to get through it and play it okay, but imagine after you've lived with it for weeks. If you keep practicing it over a period of weeks, you will develop a fluency and ease with the music, more so than the piece you just learned that week.

At a certain point though, you have so many pieces that just being able to play them all and keep them at a high level may prevent you from progressing to new repertoire because it's too time consuming, and you must drop older repertoire as you start new pieces. But it's great to have a body of work that you can sit down and play, so you always have pieces that are at a high level, number one. And number two, just keeping in shape, you can play through whole a lot of music instead of just playing boring exercises, and this will strengthen your fingers as a pianist or your lips on a wind instrument, etc.

Now what about when you get to more advanced levels of study? Well, if you're, for example, playing a musical program, a solo recital, let's say, you obviously have to practice many pieces, and you may have to practice an hour, an hour and a half of music. Perhaps more if you're entering competitions, so it's not a one size fits all. It depends on the level of your playing, as well as the amount of time you have to devote to practicing. Obviously if you can only practice 30 minutes a day or an hour a day even, it's going to be tough to practice four hours of music because just getting through it's going to take longer than that.

So if you're working on a whole program, let's say an hour and a half, you have to have three or four hours to practice on a regular basis or at least a couple of hours just to be able to cover that music and keep it at a high level. At the beginning stages, as I said, even at the very beginning you should practice some review pieces, so you keep growing and have a body of work. I've seen people that've been playing for years, and they always drop their old piece and start a new piece, and they never have anything that's on a really high, polished level because they never live with anything long enough. Don't let that happen to you! Keep some of your review pieces in your repertoire, and you'll be rewarded with a fluency and an ease of performance when the opportunity comes. Thanks so much for the great question. I'm Robert Estrin at virtualsheetmusic.com and livingpianos.com.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on October 11, 2017 @5:41 am PST
I found a simple solution for not dropping older short pieces, and even some studies, that I particularly like. I make a copy of the originals and place then in a 3-ring binder. Then at the end of my practice session, I go over those I put in the binder at least once. It is fun to end the session with something that I know quite well and feel easy.
reply
Robert - host, on October 11, 2017 @11:55 am PST
This may work until your repertoire becomes too large. You may have to drop some of your pieces at some point. But revisiting them on some regular basis can help to retain some familiarity with your music.
Robert - host, on October 15, 2014 @11:05 am PST
There are hundreds of videos available for you including several with musical performances. Here is the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodie #6 for you:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxRq07yVLfo
Enjoy!
M J Tait on October 15, 2014 @4:05 am PST
beautiful piano behind you there, watched a couple of your videos but not heard you playing it yet :o).
Tony Lockwood * VSM MEMBER * on October 8, 2014 @7:23 am PST
Robert, I have been watching your videos for some months and, indeed, have viewed you back-catalogue of advice. I find them most helpful and particularly love your enthusiastic delivery. I admire hugely your simple, no nonsense, advice. THANK YOU.
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