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I'm currently beginning to study repetoire in preparation for my DipAbrsm piano diploma. In total I will be playing 4 pieces (Bach E minor Toccata, Beethoven Moonlight Sonata, Schubert Impromptu No. 3, Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# minor). As one can see this is quite a mixture, and I was wondering if anyone could give any advice on how to practice many pieces at once and maintain them.

Any comments appreciated.

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At dip. level, you and your teacher should be addressing this. It's a personal thing, and while one may say practise all four simultaneously, another may say do one for a week/fortnight, then another, and so on. We all work differently, so it's impossible to give good advice that'll work for you.

With the exam maybe 12 months away, I'd be learning a big chunk of one piece, to the exclusion of the others. When I was happy with that, I'd put it on the back burner, and start the next. Obviously there's other stuff to learn, too. But in reality, given something to learn, I lock myself away until I can't play it wrongly (happily, very rarely nowadays do I have/need to do that...) but why should that work for anybody else?

Above all, I wouldn't advocate sitting down to a long (2hr+) session and play more than a couple - until a month or so before the exam, when all need to be played consecutively, as will be expected during the exam.

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That is tough. I am not sure if advice from a guitarist will carry over to piano but...

I try to maintain a diverse repertoire on two instruments. The approach depends on whether you are learning these pieces from scratch and working them up to performance level or just ironing out glitches but already know them. And, how much time you have to get them up to par.

If I have a piece that is in muscle memory I can afford to not practice it for a while. When I come back to it I need to polish it but that doesn't take long. For me, if the pieces are new, I try to hit each one every day perhaps focusing on one section of each for a week, then the next section for a week, etc. Where section is somewhat subjective, I try to slice the piece in a way that I can handle the practice of all time wise and there is a natural stopping point in each piece. I did this for a set of classical guitar pieces where one was a set of Renaissance pieces that were mostly chord melody, a second was a solo by Haydn with very fast arpeggios, and the third a Spanish flamenco piece that was continuous tremolo. These each required a completely different technique. If I spent a month on the Haydn the others would sink, and similarly for any choice. That required each to be touch every day (at the very least if was going to forego one I needed to hit basic exercises for the techniques highlighted in the piece).

For the renaissance set I found it easier to work through one line of each song together culminating in a complete set after a certain number of weeks/months, rather than attempt to master one then another.

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I could waffle on, but it's all going to boil down to the obvious advice: do some work on one of them then do some work on the next one. What else?

It MAY be that the well-known phenomenon of methodical practice only resulting in improved fluency after 'sleeping on it' also applies after working on other pieces. But don't worry if it doesn't.

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