How To Learn A New Piano Piece.

You have a brand new piece to learn on the piano! You’re fired up and ready to go. where do you start though? Should you just play it through a handful of times until it just gets better or is there a better, more planned approach you could take.  

In this post I share my first five steps to take in learning a new piano piece. Following this approach will prepare you for success and ready you for your next lesson.

 

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Part 1  Read it through!

The first step in learning a new piano piece is to sit down at the piano with the music in front of you and play it all the way through.

The aim here is to get an overall fell of the piece. You want to get an idea of how it sounds from start to finish. Have a bash!

Make sure you play it through at a slow tempo. Parts of it will feel easy, and there will be parts that are technically quite challenging at the moment.

If you’re not able to make any coherence out of a piece on the first read through consider whether the piece is too hard for you. And, if it is literally unplayable for you then it is going to be a real challenge just to learn the notes.

If this is the case then find an easier piece to learn with the view to moving towards this more challenging selection in the future.

2. Listen to recordings of your piece.

Stage two is to listen to recordings of your piece.  You can find pretty much anything on YouTube now!  There are some things you should be listening out for.

First try to workout the tempo the performer is playing at by checking it against a metronome or online BPM app like this one: BPM Calculator.   You should check the tempo of several different performances and see what the fastest and the slowest tempos are. That will give you a an idea of the range of possible tempi for your own performance.

Make sure that you listen to recordings by renowned performers. Some artists are well known for playing music of a particular composer or period of music. For example, Andreas Schiff  is highly-regarded as a performer of Bach and Alfred Brendel is known for his exquisite interpretations of Schubert and Beethoven.  Listening to these performers will help you form your own ideas on how you will eventually interpret the piece.

Other things to listen out for are the structure of the piece; the mood and character of the different sections, and notice where the main themes or melodies are and their variations. Spot where melodies return or where they modulate or move to different parts or hands.

Discover what the music is about, what the composer is trying to say and how are you going to share that with your audience.

 

3.Identify the most difficult passages.

The third step is to identify the hardest passages in the piece, because they will require more practice time.

You will need to spend extra time and care looking at them and working out how best to approah them. Don’t get frustrated and worked up about them though.  As you dive more deeply into the piece you will gradually get to grips with these passages.  Remember, we are just at the fundamental stages of leaning this piano piece. 

4. Look for patterns, patterns, patterns!

My fourth step is to look for patterns in the music. 

Piano compositions and indeed all music is built upon patterns. Once you begin looking for them you won’t be avle to stop noticing them! Mark where the main melodies or themes occur. Even within this theme there will be repeated patterns of falling or rising notes.  Also try and spot where the music is repeated but perhaps in a different key. You’re listening from step 2 will make it easier to work through this stage.

 

5. Analyse your new piano piece.

The final step in learning your new piano piece is to spend time analysing it. Again, this will give you a really insightful overview of the piece.

The depth of this analysis of course depends upon your knowldege of musical theory so far. 

Some key points that I like to look out for are:

  1. Cadence points at the end of phrases.
  2. Where the main themes fall, or new sections start.
  3. Unusual harmonic progressions.
  4. Melodic and harmonic sequences that repeat.
  5. Phrases that modulate further away from the home key.

 

Final thought…

I find folliwing these 5 stages of preliminary learning so helpful before jumping straight in to a new piece., particularly if it is a real challenge. It gives you a strong foundation of the musical and technical content so that you can come up with a plan of action. You should also be able to ‘hear’ the piece, recognise patterns and begin to form your own ideas of how you want to interpret the composer’s intentions.

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Whether you are five, fifteen, fifty or eighty years old, there are a lot of reasons to start learning to play the piano. So many intellectual, emotional, physical, social, and personal achievments will come your way! There are few reasons, if any, not to start learning.

What is stopping you? Contact me below and tell me. Maybe I can help remove some of those barriers? Choose your keyboard. I will plan the lessons just for you. Start your musical journey with me now.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you like this article and want others to read it, then please  share it with your friends online. Have you started learning recently? What made you start? Did you start and give up as a child? I would love to hear your own musical experiences.

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