I'm a grade 2-3, and last week my piano teacher gave me "To a Wild Rose" (Edward MacDowell) to learn - page 1 for now anyway. At first glance it seems quite straightforward, but 5 days on and I still can't play the page without hesitating or fluffing it at least once. I've practiced it over and over for 30-45 minutes a day, so I must have worked through it 100+ times now, and starting to feel a little frustrated!
I'm in my early 50s by the way, so don't have a "memory like a sponge" any more unfortunately, although I have played this page so many times now that I have memorised most of it. Similarly, muscle memory is working well (possibly better than "brain" memory) and in certain sections I can feel my fingers instinctively moving to the next notes, but again not 100% there.
It's hard to explain the problem, but it almost feels like these three things (memory, muscle memory, reading) are "fighting" with each other rather than working together. It's as though my brain has one (incomplete) view of the piece and my muscle memory has another. I suspect the main issue is that I'm reading the music as I go along, but in all likelihood more slowly than the brain/muscle memory wants to try and play it, so my eyes start throwing more information into the mix and is possibly what's tripping me up. Sorry if all that sounds a little "over analytical"!
I tend to pick up practice pieces from grade 2-3 books fairly quickly, so I'm at a loss as to why I'm struggling with this particular piece, although I realise it's a "real" piece rather than a "made up" practice piece (where hands often don't move from the same spot so much). It's possible that I'm committing these practice pieces to memory more quickly, hence the feeling that I can progress with those faster than I am with To a Wild Rose.
I suppose what I'm asking is - is this normal behaviour for a relative beginner, and are there any techniques to help when learning a new piece?