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Apologies if this has been discussed below.

I am in my mid thirties and play the piano as a hobby. I am good enough to play most pieces just above grade 8 level and a good sight reader (therefore can self taught). I play for self enjoyment.

Life is too short and there is an arm length of reportire I want to learn and explore. As an amateur I am lucky to get 3 to 4 hours of practice a week.

The problem is I usually get to 80 percent and abandon the piece. This is because to get to 100 percent, a lot more effort is needed for memorisation and polishing the details, which I found very difficult due to dimisihed return nor do i have the time (this stage of the learning takes the longest time). What contribute to the problem I think is I spend most of my practice section on learning/ practicing the piece that I am currently working on, and not enough time for practicing the pieces that I have already learnt (maintenance).

Anyone has the same problem as me? I do want to have pieces that are at performance level yet, I want to learn new pieces all the time. I want to know what is a healthy amount of time that I should spent on maintenance rather than learning new pieces in my practice section.

Last edited by willpianist; 12/27/19 07:47 PM.
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Originally Posted by willpianist
Apologies if this has been discussed below.

I am in my mid thirties and play the piano as a hobby. I am good enough to play most pieces just above grade 8 level and a good sight reader (therefore can self taught). I play for self enjoyment.

Life is too short and there is an arm length of reportire I want to learn and explore. As an amateur I am lucky to get 3 to 4 hours of practice a week.

The problem is I usually get to 80 percent and abandon the piece. This is because to get to 100 percent, a lot more effort is needed for memorisation and polishing the details, which I found very difficult due to dimisihed return nor do i have the time (this stage of the learning takes the longest time). What contribute to the problem I think is I spend most of my practice section on learning/ practicing the piece that I am currently working on, and not enough time for practicing the pieces that I have already learnt (maintenance).

Anyone has the same problem as me? I do want to have pieces that are at performance level.....

Is there a particular reason - like performing those pieces - for having that?

All my student days, the only pieces I had that were ever at performance level (though not memorised) were the exam pieces. I was more interested in learning new stuff - by myself, as well as with my teacher - rather than spend time on polishing existing learned pieces.

Much, much later on, when I started performing in a monthly recital, I had to polish specific pieces to performance standard again. But these days, I have much more time to practise, so that's not a problem anymore, and I'm still learning new pieces all the time.

I divide those new pieces into two categories: those I want to perform in due course (which I memorise while learning), and those that I have no intention of performing (which I don't try to memorise, or polish).
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I want to learn new pieces all the time. I want to know what is a healthy amount of time that I should spent on maintenance rather than learning new pieces in my practice section.

That depends on how many pieces you want to maintain & polish, how difficult they are and how long they are.

Don't forget that you can always let pieces go for a few months, then come back to them for a further spruce-up. Each time you do so, it becomes easier and further engrained in your memory (and muscle memory) and you retain more of it in the long term.

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Originally Posted by bennevis

All my student days, the only pieces I had that were ever at performance level (though not memorised) were the exam pieces. I was more interested in learning new stuff - by myself, as well as with my teacher - rather than spend time on polishing existing learned pieces.


I'm so grateful you posted this. I always felt this was a deficiency in myself, that I only polish very few songs to keep. I'd much rather learn new repertoire because I get so much out of it. It seems like the more pieces I work on, the faster I progress. I've always felt guilty, though, that I don't have many polished pieces ready to perform. This makes me feel so much better about myself. ❤️


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I have struggled with this, but I feel it is important to have at least a few pieces I can play for friends or family. I have gone through several permutations on how to accomplish this. Right now, I am rotating through 5 “repertoire” pieces that I can play at any time. They are about the level you described. I play through one per day, and focus on sections I feel need tweaking. It only takes 10-15 min of my practice time. The rest of the time is spent on new pieces (2-3 per day) and scale/arpeggio work, for a total of 60-90 min.


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Maintaining a piece takes time that you could be using to learn new music. The more pieces you learn, the more problems you will solve, and the easier the piano will become.

It's probably counterproductive to spend a significant amount of time maintaining a lot of pieces, except maybe to go through them every once in a while.

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If you're playing for your own enjoyment why would you play stuff that you're not enjoying?

For myself, I find that stuff that I can play rapidly becomes uninteresting, so I just play something that's interesting instead. I'm not giving concerts or impressing anyone other than my bird, so why would I play stuff that I'm tired of?


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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Maintaining a piece takes time that you could be using to learn new music. The more pieces you learn, the more problems you will solve, and the easier the piano will become.

It's probably counterproductive to spend a significant amount of time maintaining a lot of pieces, except maybe to go through them every once in a while.


Josh Wright talks about this, as well. smile

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH7bHgyW4Fc


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I normally just practice 2-3 pieces I have for my lesson. WIth limited practice time it probably is not efficient to keep playing learnt pieces. I have never done this. I do often pick up and play a lot of random scores which perhaps not efficient but it is fun. Sometimes if you want to work on an old piece I would bring it back to the lesson and work on it properly. I have found now it better to work on a shorter piece or slighter easier piece along with a one harder piece. I would get it to reasonable standard and my teacher moves me on. I am sure there are many different ways to learn. I would suggest that if memorising is a hurdle then by not memorising you are probably to learn more music.

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imo if you only get to 80% then what comes after is not maintenance but rather addressing that 20%.

The part I love most is the later part. Initially i need to work at learning the notes, know the piece by heart, play at the appropriate tempo. After getting to that point, the fun part begins. I can then experiment with different touch and articulations, change some fingering to hear how that affects the sound, keep reworking the pedaling and listen for different tonal colors. I can spend hours trying nuances, thinking about the structure and interpretation. How do I feel? How do I sound? (Your 80% probably already include this stuff)

I have no desire to play for people. And if I am only allowed to learn the notes of new pieces but not allowed to polish them, I would immediately quit piano. What's the point of playing? I've got better things to do than learning notes. To me approaching a new piece is like trying to read a poem in a foreign language. I spend time learning the words, looking them up in dictionaries, not fun. Once I learned the vocabulary, I can then go back and savor the poem, appreciate it, understand it, that's the best part!

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Thanks everyone for sharing your experience. This helps me massively. I have stopped taking lessons almost 10 years ago (no time) and no pianist friends to talk to.

Wszybcl: I think you are spot on. The final 20% is not quite maintenance (yet) because I have never achieved close to 100% on the most difficult pieces I played. Maintenance is more like bringing a piece back after so many months parking the piece. The final 20% is fun, but often quite painful too!

Ebonykawai: thanks for sharing the video with me. What Josh said make perfect scene for me.

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My practice routine is this: 30 minutes dedicated practice per day, plus many shorter impromptu sessions. (My back can't handle more than 30). I learn new pieces 2 days, and the 3rd day is playing through memorized pieces. I rotate between about 22 memorized pieces. I am a terrible sight reader, so I play by visual contact with the keyboard and muscle memory. The 3rd day sessions reveal areas of memorized pieces that need work, so "repair" is incorporated into the learning sessions. A sample of my repertoire; Brahms op.116 no.4, Schubert Musical Moments no. 2 and 6, mostly slower, yet musically interesting pieces. I can't play fast. I usually keep a couple of pieces polished for completeness. I work about 90% on my digital, 10% on my grand. I don't perform, but I moved recently. My grand is now about 6 feet from the sidewalk, so passerbys can hear. This makes me self-concience, so it is an incentive to keep a couple of pieces as close to performance level as.possible.


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