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Hi all.  I posted this question in the practice thread but haven't received any answers yet, so I'm starting a new thread in hopes of getting some input.


I'd like to get opinions on how many new pieces to work on at the same time.  It takes me a while to master any song and working on just one for a long time gets boring and tiresome, even not having mastered it yet.  When I was in high school band many years ago we worked on any number of pieces at the same time.  Same with chorus, then and today.  I'd just like to get some people's opinion and experience on this.

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At any one time, I'm usually working on 3-5 new songs. I might be working on more if I'm preparing for a gig.
   One of the guys I play with on a regular basis will have a new song or two to show me and we'll go over them, then I'll take them home and add them to the one or two new ones I'm learning on my own, right now I have about 6 or 7 sitting on my music stand.  Some of them I will learn as back up player (not knowing all the lyrics for now) and some I will learn completely.  I probably have a dozen or so I started to learn and thru some glitch (can't get the correct timing or memorizing the words) are laying around waiting for me to come back to them at a later time.  But I usually try to learn two or three at a time.

Hi Terry,

For me I will usually only work on one new piece at a time.  I do this for the same reason as you of trying to master the song.  I mostly do solo finger style pieces and those definitely take longer to learn than if I'm playing a piece with a combo.  So the complexity of the piece really determines if I might work on a second or third piece. 


I have the same problem as you said of getting bored with a piece and when this happens I quite often put it away for a while unless I have a deadline to meet.  I try to maintain the original excitement of a piece so taking breaks from it helps with this. 


All the best,

David Youngman

How long do you put a piece away.  If I let one sit for too long I end up losing a lot of what I've gained or learned with it.  For instance I let a piece by Peter Lang sit too long and I had to actually take the sheet music out and relearn some of it.  Might be just a short memory thing for me.

I just had a situation with a student who wanted to learn a blues fingerstyle piece and this student has only been doing fingerstyle for a few months.  I started working on the piece with him and he lost interest after a couple of weeks after realizing how hard it was.  We were only working on the first few measures within that two week time period.  It would have taken him maybe six months to a year to learn that piece if we stuck with it and worked on nothing else.  So for now we've put that piece aside and maybe next year we'll pull it out again.  By that time he will have hopefully become a better player to handle the piece.

So this is my approach with a piece.  Some pieces I can learn in a few days and then spend time perfecting it.  But if it takes weeks or months just to learn a piece to the point of just stumbling through the whole thing, I know the piece is out of my league and it's best I put it away and work on some other pieces that might develop techniques I need to do that harder piece.  By far the most difficult piece I've come across is "Aerial Boundaries" by Michael Hedges.  I've opened up the music to that piece a few times and work on it for only a few days and then realize it's too big of project right now to learn.

Lately I haven't done nearly as many cover pieces as I used to so I don't have this struggle quite as much.  I mostly write and arrange my own pieces now.  Also, now I have more deadlines to meet so that motivates me to finish something.  This is actually a good way to motivate yourself if you are getting bored with a piece.  Set up a performance at a local open mic, coffee shop, or (if the music fits) church. Make a realistic goal of having a piece done by a certain date and then see what you can set up by that time.  It could also be a family gathering. 





I've just pulled  Andrew Dubrock's arrangement of Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, out again after putting it aside to intentionally forget it, because I had been learning it using improper picking technique.  I tried correcting it mid-stream, but the incorrect technique was so wired in it was really messing me up.  I picked up Mark Hanson's Beyond Basics Fingerstyle Guitar which has really helped with the bad habits I had formed.  I think that title is a little misleading though, because I feel it starts with 'the basics'.  That was a good thing though, considering the bad habits I had picked up from being self taught.  The pieces in this book are great fun to learn and play, and the final piece is fairly complex, for me any way.  Using my thumb the way it's supposed to be used picking alternating base, with Going Down The Road Feeling Bad makes much more sense now.  I think I'll pick it up much faster this time with the correct picking technique.

Sounds like a good plan Terry. 


Thanks David and everyone else for the great feedback. I'd really like to improve enough in a year or so to be able to do an open mike somewhere and maybe some street playing on the Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall.


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