Or do they learn all the pieces to perfection and then record them in longer sessions?

For example, I am currently listening to Ronald Smith's complete Chopin compilation and it made me wonder if it would be confusing for him to learn more than four or five pieces at the time, or if professional performers are able to retain many more pieces at a high standard.

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    Having the music in front of you as you play probably makes things a bit easier... – topo Reinstate Monica May 12 '18 at 21:59

Professional musicians give live performances with a dozen different pieces straight, so it's safe to say that they have enough pieces prepared simultaneously for an album, too. They may still take longer to record an album than to perform live, but that's mainly in order to get every nuance absolutely perfect, not to learn another piece.

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According to my knowledge in classical music it works as follows for studio recordings:

  • Recording room, sound engineers and whatever else is required (e. g. piano tuner) is booked for a few days
  • Piece by piece is recorded once fully, depending on the results passages or the full piece is re-recorded until everybody agrees to keep it
  • Progress to next piece

For live performances often a recording made during rehearsal is used as additional material.

You can verify this by looking at some CD booklets of major labels: often the recording time is specified there. (The first CD I grabbed specified 4 consecutive days for a 78 minute CD of a chamber ensemble).

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