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#1321759 - 12/09/09 12:45 PM Finding motivation for the less enjoyable pieces
Hummingbird Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/08
Posts: 58
So I'm a pretty new student, I've been teaching myself on and off (mostly off) for years, but started formal lessons about three months ago.

My instructor currently has me doing
-Timing/rhythm exercises
-Two short repertoire pieces at my level (e.g. Bach's Minuet in G)
-A "fun" piece from a Fake Book that we use to also discuss some theory (chords, etc)

The problem is, I dislike the "fun" stuff. Yeah, I'll talk about it with him later -- but the point I'm going to ask about remains.
How do you find the motivation to practice the pieces you find uninteresting, especially when you have limited practice time that you can more than fill up with the pieces you like?
I play piano for fun, but someday I'd like to join an amateur group, and I'm sure there will be times when I'm less than enthused about the the pieces we choose to play. Or I know some people dislike scales and/or etudes but force themselves through it (I actually happen to like those, so it's not a problem for me).

So what tips do you have, or what tricks do you use, to make yourself put down the pieces you love and pick up the pieces you may not?

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#1321777 - 12/09/09 01:04 PM Re: Finding motivation for the less enjoyable pieces [Re: Hummingbird]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 18030
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I'm going to be no help whatsoever, because I am one of those stubborn students who doesn't work on anything they don't enjoy. whome

My advice would be to weigh the benefits of doing the boring stuff against the disadvantages (less time for the stuff you really like). Discuss this with your teacher. I've seen arguments made heroically here by the teachers as to the wisdom of doing exercises etc. And for many people those arguments are compelling. The exercises will improve your technique and fill in gaps in your development.

However, for me, the downsides at this point far outweigh the upside. I'm not in this to become a concert pianist or have the greatest technique ever developed. I'm in this as a source of gratification and personal pleasure and enjoyment, and so far I've been able to make progress WITHOUT spending time on stuff I don't like to do. So I don't do it. But I'm headstrong that way. smokin

Talk it over with your teacher, and maybe he/she will reconsider the balance of assignments to make it more enjoyable for you. Or maybe you'll need to reconsider your goals and route to piano. But I would suggest that you either become comfortable with doing the exercises (a la resigning oneself to eating vegetables because they're good for you), or make a change in how your lessons are conducted. You don't want to be sitting at the bench not liking what you're doing. frown
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

#1321794 - 12/09/09 01:23 PM Re: Finding motivation for the less enjoyable pieces [Re: Monica K.]
Frozenicicles Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/09
Posts: 1325
Loc: Canada
I remember when I came across this issue a few years ago with my teacher. I really hated the latest piece assigned to me...Lotus Land by Cyril Scott. I got into a slump whenever I tried to practice it and begged to be allowed to play a different piece. Well...I was assigned the most ugly sounding 20th century work ever. It was so bad that I had to frequently check I was playing the right notes when practicing because it sounded like the composer was just randomly pounding dissonant notes on the keyboard.

So...I complained about this piece and asked to be switched again. "Well, you can always go back to playing Lotus Land." Oi...so I dutifully forced myself to learn Lotus Land for the next recital. It was a big hit! All the parents complimented me on how well I played and it was the highlight of the show. Now I never complain about the repertoire that I'm assigned because I learned my lesson that time. laugh

Here's the piece played by a talented young pianist (not me!) on youtube if you want to have a listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTxKdkWh51g

So if you are going to bring this up with your teacher, do it in as tactful a manner as possible and don't be whiny like me. They have some tricks up their sleeves!

#1321802 - 12/09/09 01:29 PM Re: Finding motivation for the less enjoyable pieces [Re: Frozenicicles]
Hummingbird Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/08
Posts: 58
LOL, Frozenicicles laugh
That sounds like a great way to pick up motivation.

I'm sure the discussion will come up at my next lesson. Let's just say, every piece is going to sound well practiced... except one. There will be no avoiding it. Somehow I'll have to approach the "uh, yeah, I didn't actually practice this one all week" subject blush

#1321822 - 12/09/09 01:40 PM Re: Finding motivation for the less enjoyable pieces [Re: Frozenicicles]
foxyw Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/08
Posts: 298
Loc: New Hampshire
I keep a fake book piece in my lesson plan almost all of the time. They are not my favorite thing to work on but the more of them I do, the more enjoyable they become. We apply different LH patterns depending on the piece I'm learning. I've also learned to create voiced chords in the RH from the melody line. Something I continue to work on. My lesson plans are similar to yours but I also am assigned cadences to practice which helps with playing the LH of the fake book pieces.

Prior to playing piano, I played guitar with a small jam group that included a piano player. We only had a fake book (or worse, guitar chords only) score for almost all of the pieces we played. If the type of music group that you would like to join is a similar group, studying the chords and chord progressions would be really helpful.

I keep a list of everything I practice each day and try to make sure I get in the fake book practice at least every other day during the week. It helps keep my practicing in check, otherwise I'd tend to spend too much time on my favorite pieces or those that are nearly complete.
"Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!" J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 1997.

#1321827 - 12/09/09 01:46 PM Re: Finding motivation for the less enjoyable pieces [Re: Hummingbird]
Triryche Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/06
Posts: 1456
Loc: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
What I try to do is after I've warmed up with a few scales, I dedicate X amount of time on what I consider not so fun and do that first. The X depends on how much time I have to practice. Sometimes X is only 5 minutes. After the "work" is done, then it's on to the fun!!

#1321830 - 12/09/09 01:48 PM Re: Finding motivation for the less enjoyable pieces [Re: foxyw]
Hummingbird Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/08
Posts: 58
Originally Posted By: foxyw
If the type of music group that you would like to join is a similar group, studying the chords and chord progressions would be really helpful.

Actually I want to be part of a small chamber group, playing harpsichord for Early Music (mostly Baroque, maybe some Renaissance and Medieval).

I keep a list of everything I practice each day and try to make sure I get in the fake book practice at least every other day during the week.

That's a good idea. Practice it only every few days, instead of trying to get it into every day like the other pieces. It obviously won't be as well practiced as everything else, but maybe that will be enough to learn what I need to from it.
Thanks for the tip.


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