How Long Does it Take to Learn Music?

Question: If a professional musician was given an advanced piece of classical music of say 15 pages, something they had never seen before, how long would it take them to learn such a piece? When I have watched a concert pianist playing on a DVD, I have always wondered how long it took them to learn that piece of music.

– Brian (Colombia)

Albert’s reply: The best answer to this question is one I heard (second hand) from Juilliard piano professor Jerome Lowenthal: It takes as long as you have. If you have a year, it takes a year to learn a piece. If you have a a month, it takes a month, and if you only have a week, it takes a week!

It really depends on the individual musician. Some people learn faster than others, which is partly a matter of natural facility and partly the result of training and experience. One of my teachers, Dr. Harvey Wedeen of Temple University, emphasized that it’s totally irrelevant to the audience whether the performer onstage learned the piece yesterday or has been playing it for decades. The only thing that counts is that it’s played beautifully!

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