It’s the start of a new school  year! With it comes new challenges, new examination syllabi and many wonderful pieces to learn. Whether you do it for pleasure or an exam, here are seven tried and tested steps to help you lay a solid foundation when starting a new piece.

learning a new piece

1. Familiarise yourself

Get to know the piece better before you start:

  • Reading up on the piece beforehand will give you context
  • Tune your ear by listening to several recordings of the piece 
  • Analyse the piece by considering its form and character

2. Select your fingering

Organise and condition your fingers at the start:

  • Note down your chosen fingering for both hands in the score
  • Adjust as learning progresses until you find the perfect fingering
  • Once you’ve found your fingering sweet spot, stick to it!

3. Divide & conquer

Avoid overloading your working memory by:

  • Separating the piece into smaller, more manageable sections
  • Exercising mindful repetition using the bar by bar plus 1 method
  • Learning one section at a time before you move onto the next!

4. Take it slow!

Learning a piece correctly is more important than developing speed:

  • Start slowly to get your notes, rhythms and fingerings right
  • Give yourself enough time to think and plan in between notes
  • Patiently repeat small sections of music as often as you need it

5. Start in different places

Avoid developing weak spots and superficial learning of the work by:

  • Exercising tracking to test and strengthen your memory
  • Working backwards through sections of your piece
  • Starting with any Quarantine spots identified early on

6. Separate hands & strands

Simplify the process by deconstructing the piece:

  • Tackle separate-hand activities
  • Break your piece into simple strands
  • Isolate notes or patterns and learn them to perfection

7. Develop your own voice

Creating a personal interpretation comes from trusting your instinct:

  • Avoid copying other players’ ideas directly
  • Don’t listen to other recordings at this stage (only in the preparatory stage!)
  • Create your own ideas and play at your own speed

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