Generally I believe that it’s a good idea to work on more than one piece of music at a time. Working on a lot of music helps to vary your practice and keep your attention focused. It increases enjoyment, and it’s also very helpful for learning many different styles. With that being said, there comes a time for most musicians where a deadline is coming up and they just need to learn one piece as quickly as possible.
Typically you don’t want to rush learning music, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice. If you had just a couple of weeks to learn a piece of music that normally takes you months, what can you do to maximize your practice time and still have the piece learned well at your deadline?
Have you ever crammed for a test? I would be lying if I said I never did. Actually for me the better question would be, “did you ever take a test that you didn’t cram for?” I’m not sure what the answer to that one is. When you cram do you do well? Most teachers and parents tell you not to cram, but it worked for me. Well, it worked for what my goal was. I got good grades on the tests I crammed for. If you were to ask me today to tell you much about what I learned in high school biology, I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Cramming helps if you only need information for a day or so, but learning to play an instrument isn’t the same as memorizing facts to put on a test. Even if it were, you don’t only want to be able to play a piece the next day, you want to learn it well, so you can play it any day.
In order to get to that point you need to understand how to use sleep to your advantage. No more cramming.
Music is not learned in lessons. Music is learned alone with your instrument. Lessons are just meant to guide your practice time. They are meant to help you understand what you should be practicing and how. If practice is so important, how much of should you be doing?