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Topic Options
#1098051 - 11/10/06 05:56 PM It gets worse before it gets better!
Shey Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/06
Posts: 365
Loc: Greater Manchester, England
Hi everyone,
Had lots of help so far in this lovely forum, now a few months into my learning, I feel I'm not making much progress. It's just ocurred to me that, maybe I am trying to learn too much at once.
I have stuff to learn from my teacher, and also personal songs I want to learn. Besides those, there are the lovely Christmas songs I would love to learn to play.
I have chosen very easy Christmas songs, but they don't sound too good.
My teacher is concentrating on my learning to read music and I don't play full songs, only snippets to get the idea of note reading, key signatures etc.
I am still, enthusiastic, but feeling, frustrated, incompetent and slow, slow, slow.
All I want to do is feel confident and capable of playing the piano at a decent speed.
Please tell me I am not alone.
Alfreds All In One Level 1 graduate and various other tutor sources
Alfreds Masterworks Classics Level 1-2
Fundamental Keys
Adult returner

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#1098052 - 11/10/06 06:55 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
Monica K. Online   blank

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17974
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
You're not alone, Shey! I really do think the first 6 months of piano are the most frustrating. Frustrating because the gap between what you can do and what you want to be able to do is so wide and obvious.

It requires a bit of faith, but please just reassure yourself that you will indeed soon be "capable of playing the piano at a decent speed."

I think you should make a point of recording yourself every week or every two weeks. Just record whatever your current assignment from your teacher is. In two months, go back and listen to the first recording. I am willing to bet that you'll be amazed at how far you've gone in that two months. We really have a hard time recognizing the progress we're making, because we're so aware of the hundreds (or thousands...) or repetitions that went into that progress.

Next Christmas, I guarantee, you'll be playing all those "lovely Christmas songs" you want to be able to play. \:\)
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

#1098053 - 11/10/06 07:12 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
U S A P T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/20/06
Posts: 1645
Loc: An Indiana University
I second Monica's post.

I say little mantras to myself like "I'm right where I need to be." or "If I keep doing what I'm doing the progress will come." etc.

The worst thing i can do is "should on myself." (I should be doing better, I'm not going fast enough etc.) When I do that, I always lose.
Full-Time Music/Entrepreneurship Major: (Why not compose music AND businesses?)
Former Piano Industry Professional
Steinway M
Roland Atelier AT90R
All Posts are Snarky Unless Otherwise Noted

#1098054 - 11/10/06 07:22 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
ftp Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Philadelphia

You seem to imply that you are working on too many pieces at one time. As tempting as it is to jump around I found for me it is best to stay with a couple of pieces at one time and master them. By resolving the difficult passages in just a few pieces at a time I have found I make the most progress. Sometimes I find myself playing just a few bars 10-20 times in a row.

#1098055 - 11/11/06 12:48 AM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
gabytu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 1522
Loc: Portland, Or.
The first 6 months, even the first year can be very frustrating as you want to make music, but are struggling to learn the names of the notes on the staff as well as where they are located on the keyboard, which fingers to use, etc. etc..

Take consolation in the fact that we have all been there and have survived that agonizing period when we are just beginning to learn to play the piano.

Even later on, when you are much further advanced than you are now, you will have periods of total frustration when starting a new piece which poses new difficulties. But, stay with it, and remember, learning to play the piano
but you will be able to do it, and the rewards will be great. Gaby Tu

#1098056 - 11/11/06 12:51 AM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
gabytu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 1522
Loc: Portland, Or.
Correction in the next to the last sentence above. It should read, "learning to play the piano is not easy, but you will be able to do it--etc. Gaby Tu

#1098057 - 11/11/06 04:30 AM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
Mr. Widmore Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/06
Posts: 531
Loc: Lost
Shey, you shouldn't be worried about that. It's just something that happens in the beginning, it ends soon, trust me. In my opinion, you should only work on those pieces your teacher wants you to learn. Why? If you're struggling to make music, it'll take long to handle all of those pieces. You should concentrate and work, at the beginning, on no more than two pieces. Otherwise, it'll drive you mad.
By the way... what pieces are you working on with your teacher?
And in my twisted face... there's not the slightest trace of anything that even hints at kindness...

#1098058 - 11/11/06 06:33 AM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
gmm1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1674
Loc: Spokane WA
Shey, I have experienced the opposite, kinda...

I did learn classical guitar in the 80's so I have experience learning music. Although I was away for over 20 years, I did manage to retain the knowledge that going slower at the begining pays off later.

So, my expectations were more in line with reality. I really took my time for the first 6 months and did not get frustrated much at all.

I am reaching the end of my 2nd 6 months, and it is now that I am having the doubts/problems. After all this time, why am I stopping to improve? Why can't I get to the next level? Why am I failing to learn new stuff at the same time I am losing the old? Argggg.

None of this is really true, btw. I know I am improving, and building my skills all the time. But it sure feels like I am standing still.

So, my advice is learn to accept the fact that it takes time and practice, and there are no short cuts. Learn to enjoy what you can do today as it is better than yesterday, and tomorrow is only going to be better yet.

Oh, yeah, and learn to take your own advice.

"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro

#1098059 - 11/11/06 08:54 AM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
Shey, regardless of what you may be feeling about your progress, you ARE making progress. I think it is quite normal for many adults to go in many directions when starting out. At least it is my experience as well as yours. Yes, there are the periods where progress seems slower but in fact it is part of the learning curve. Unfortunately you are in the middle of it and can't really see this to the extent that it is really happening.

Keep up the enthusiasm, the frustration will come and go but remember one thing, quitting is NOT an option! \:D

#1098060 - 11/11/06 12:57 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
Glyptodont Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/05
Posts: 377
Loc: Wisconsin
One thing that could really help is if you would be able to select your own pieces, and play more than snips from them.

This would then put some burden on you, since you would have to figure out what you really want to play.

But if you play pieces you really like, you will practice more. And probably more practice is the likeliest way to improve fast.
the Glyptodont

#1098061 - 11/11/06 03:22 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
carrieupnorth Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 6
I agree with Glyptodont that it would be good to have some pieces you enjoy, and play at least a few full songs, not just snippets.

My daughter started piano at age 10, several years ago, and I'm just starting at age 48! My teacher suggested we use my daughter's old lesson books, rather than get new ones for me. Even though the books are geared toward children, there are some songs that, though simple, sound quite good.

I think it would be much too discouraging to never play a full song - I applaud you for sticking to it! Hang in there.


#1098062 - 11/11/06 04:55 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
I've been playing only snippets of my music at lessons lately and it's starting to bother me. I love my teacher but I think his constant stopping me (um...because I make too many mistakes perhaps??) is preventing me from being able to play smoothly and from completing a piece without all the hesitation that we need to avoid....

This week (I said this last week..) I'm going to play my Christmas recital piece and I'll play through regardless..... I'm kind of tired of playing my three current lesson pieces in bits and pieces. I feel sometimes that my lessons are taking away from my musicality, which is ridiculuous because my teacher is constantly coaching me on the "musicality" etc. rather than simply the right note.... sorry I'm rambling... It's the wine (it's my 30th!!!! wedding anniversary weekend - well not til Monday but we're celebrating all weekend!!....
What was the topic of this thread???? \:D \:D
It's the journey not the destination..

#1098063 - 11/11/06 06:07 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
Mr. Widmore Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/06
Posts: 531
Loc: Lost
Sandy... Give me some of those drugs.

Congrats on you 30th wedding anniversary in that case ;\)
And in my twisted face... there's not the slightest trace of anything that even hints at kindness...

#1098064 - 11/12/06 08:33 AM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
loveschopintoomuch Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/05/06
Posts: 4692
Loc: Illinois
You tale of woe is all too common. It's akin to runners hitting that brick wall.

I came back to the piano after 30 years or more, having just 2 "spotty" years of lessons at the age of 15.

I started in early this year in earnest and have practiced religiously (no teacher) for hours each day. I was amazed at my progress and quite proud of myself. Well, that lasted for a few months.

Then I hit that point where I couldn't get beyond a certain point of competency, no matter how hard I tried.

Then I seemed to be loosing whatever of that elusive quality that I had seemed to gain.

Now it seems like I am slowly progressing backward, if that's possible. Yeah, I guess it is.

Finally, I realized that unless I received some professional help, I might end up just being able to play chop-sticks. So I'm signing up for weekly private lessons from my local community college's music department.

Good luck, but more importantly, do keep the faith. Playing the piano takes every ounce of every brain cell we have, plus it takes complete concentration and focus and hours and years of practice. Some seem to be able to sail through it, others (like me and most) have to really commit to it.

This may not seem like a note of encouragement, but if you really want to play, that's what it takes. And I happen to think it's all worth it.

And, as posted on another thread, it has been proven that success in any endeavor comes from just really hard work and lots of it AND it is the journey not the destination in which we need to take pride and enjoy. If we can, then it will all fall in place, sooner or later.

After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Oscar Wilde, 1891

#1098065 - 11/12/06 01:42 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
glitzer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/12/06
Posts: 64
Loc: Tornado Alley meets Bible Belt
My experience (with the accordion, have been playing the piano for only about three months now) is more similar to gmm's: The frustration sets in later, at the beginning you make visible (audible?) progress on a daily basis, but after a while it all grinds to a halt.
Beginner, started in Summer 2006, self-taught

#1098066 - 11/12/06 03:22 PM Re: It gets worse before it gets better!
Shey Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/06
Posts: 365
Loc: Greater Manchester, England
Hi all, thank you so much for your input. I wasn't intending on giving up, just a bit of a moan really.
I suppose deep down, I thought that learning piano was like learning other stuff. You know, you progress and move on usually.
However, piano is different to anything else. It's a part of us that we struggle with, enjoy, struggle with, enjoy and so on. It seems to be that any kind of art is so personal to us that it becomes incredibly emotional too. That's what I sensed from all your replies, personal and emotional.
Thank you for sharing. Shey
Alfreds All In One Level 1 graduate and various other tutor sources
Alfreds Masterworks Classics Level 1-2
Fundamental Keys
Adult returner


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