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#1970601 - 10/09/12 12:59 AM Not sure what to do next...
Stryder87 Offline
Gold Level Forums Subscriber Until Aug 29 2013

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 88
Loc: New Westminster, BC Canada
I find I’m in a quandary right now. I know my skill level is still really low as I’ve spent the last 4 months learning a specific song instead of going through my Alfred book, but I just had to learn it. Even now I’m mentally racing far far ahead of myself as there’s so much I want to play, yet I still remind myself that I only got through the first half of Book 1 (I got to page 78, ‘The Amazing Aerobics of Hanon’ and said “Ummm… no.”, and closed the book) and decided to learn something I wanted to play.

And I did learn a song. Now I’m sitting here wanting to learn the next one on my list of three priority songs to learn and am wondering if I’m doing this all wrong. Because I haven’t built my core knowledge I struggle with notes as my sight reading is practically zero (which I hear isn’t all that uncommon anyway though), and it takes a very long time to learn anything, with a lot of frustration thrown in just for kicks. Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly could learn the next song, it’s just that I specifically put them in the order I did as they made definite jumps in skill levels. The first one was very basic and it took me four months, with a broken up month of time not touching the piano in that period as I was hitting walls and required time to just let my brain work through it on the back burner (that’s how my brain works it seems) as I left it alone and stopped trying to shoehorn anything more in there. Now I’m sitting there starting the second song and wondering if I’m just totally outclassed and being an idiot. I can do it, but it’s going to take a long time. I also know that if I put it aside and go back and finishing Book 1 and possibly Book 2 I’ll have much more skill and experience that it won’t be anywhere near as difficult to learn. But in the meantime I’m terribly impelled to learn this next one because of what it means to me.

I certainly know that I’m outclassed by my third song choice and that I’ll have to wait until I get more learning under my belt, and I’m ok with that.

Meanwhile, I feel the hands of the clock moving ever onward. It’s been suggested to me to possibly spend half my practice time going through my Alfred’s and the second half learning something new. It’s a really good suggestion, but I’m just afraid it’s going to be too much and my brain will just shut down one part of it. I’ll either end up doing one or the other. Maybe I could alternate days instead, one day for practice, one for learning a new piece.

I think I’m just talking through this now. I just know that, I started playing in December. It’s almost a year and what have I truly got to show for it? Nowhere near as much as I was hoping for. I keep reminding myself it’s not a race, but I’m a very driven person. I suspect what I should do is go back to my book and get the basics under my belt and then turn to learning something. I’ll have to start back from the beginning just refresh myself on the first half, but that won’t take long anyway.

Any suggestions? I sort of feel like I’m floundering a bit here.
_________________________

"Music is something so innocent and pure, it makes a person completely naked - in music you cannot lie." - Alice Sara Ott

Playing since December 6, 2011.

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#1970605 - 10/09/12 01:09 AM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
Derulux Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5283
Loc: Philadelphia
You say you hear the clock ticking, but how much clock has already passed? Ideally, if you have a good 3-4 years, you can build your technique to the point where you can learn the notes to just about anything you want to play within a few short weeks/months. So, you have to decide: is my time better spent working on the pieces I really want to play, or do I have enough time to develop the technique to where I don't have to spend all my time learning the pieces I want to play? Either way, you're spending time.. but the way you spend it is very different.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#1970612 - 10/09/12 01:19 AM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
Sand Tiger Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 990
Loc: Southern California
I go back to the time slices suggested by in The Musician's Way book.

20% old material
40% new material
20% technique (eg: scales and arpeggios)
20% sightreading and musicianship

It isn't set in stone, but I have found it to be an excellent guide to my early travels (I started in March 2012). My mind doesn't get overwhelmed by the change of pace. It actually seems to help to work on different things.
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my piano uploads

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#1970630 - 10/09/12 02:21 AM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
MaryAnn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/11
Posts: 388
Loc: Japan
I'm no expert but I don't think there's anything wrong with picking up technique while learning "real" pieces instead of using a method book. It's probably important to pick the right pieces, though--challenging, but not too challenging. I have more or less been doing this, with the help of a teacher, after about month 4. At first we did a mix, but now it's all "real" pieces.

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#1970642 - 10/09/12 03:07 AM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
JackMusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 37
Loc: York, UK
What is the second piece you are learning? It's important not to choose pieces that are too much of a step up as this can be physically and mentally frustrating. It sounds like you might not really enjoy the pieces in your method book, if they feel like a chore.

A mistake beginners without a teacher can make is not realising that there are loads of other pieces for beginners out there. Compilations of easier pieces can be worked through hand in hand with a method book as they usually start off quite simple (only a couple of hand positions, basic rhythm) and get more complicated as they go on. Musically they are better value for money as they only contain pieces and little explanation.

In the UK, the ABRSM publish grade books for classical and jazz, and the pieces in them are pretty good. You could look at Grade 1 classical/jazz and Grade 2 classical/jazz. Alternatively The Joy of First Year Piano, The Joy of Boogie and Blues and other books in that series have some great pieces for beginners and are not too hard. Bach's Notebooks for Anna Magdalena (available free as pdf from IMSLP) contain some excellent beginners' pieces as well.

I'll be posting some examples on my Youtube page at some point in the next month or so.

Mainly, I think the key is to accept that you are not going to become a genius at playing piano in the next year, and instead you should focus on pieces that are enjoyable and within your 'zone of proximal development'!

Hope that helps

Jack


Edited by JackMusic (10/09/12 03:32 AM)
_________________________
Music education blog, [url=http://www.youtube.com/user/jackgmackenzie]Youtube Channel

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#1970650 - 10/09/12 03:42 AM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 943
Loc: Italy
I'm a beginner myself and I'm a particularly impatient person, but I'm convinced that going through Alfred's books 1 and 2 (or equivalent) is the very minimum of theory and technique that one should learn before moving on to the real things. I tried to tackle more difficult stuff, but just because I'm impatient, I realized that I was wasting my time. Now I work half of my time on Alfred and the other half on technique - I for one enjoy scales and stuff like that! Without a teacher, I know I need to build a foundation more than ever and be extremely careful not to pick up (too many) bad habits.

Meanwhile, as I listen to a lot of different stuff, I am becoming aware of all the wonderful pieces waiting for me out there, but as I practice my Alfred I think that every day I'm becoming a bit more competent when it comes to read a score and understand the difficult parts and whether I could reasonably play it or not.

I would really do the half and half thing, half the method book and half anything else that appeals to you.
_________________________
Diana & Wally - Yamaha W110BW
Martha Argerich... is an incarnation of the artistic metaphor of the "eternal feminine" that draws us upward. (Sergio Sablich)

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#1971037 - 10/09/12 10:19 PM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
John_In_Montreal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/21/11
Posts: 400
Loc: Montreal Canada
Originally Posted By: Stryder87
Because I haven’t built my core knowledge I struggle with notes as my sight reading is practically zero (which I hear isn’t all that uncommon anyway though), and it takes a very long time to learn anything, with a lot of frustration thrown in just for kicks.

...

Meanwhile, I feel the hands of the clock moving ever onward. It’s been suggested to me to possibly spend half my practice time going through my Alfred’s and the second half learning something new. It’s a really good suggestion, but I’m just afraid it’s going to be too much and my brain will just shut down one part of it. I’ll either end up doing one or the other. Maybe I could alternate days instead, one day for practice, one for learning a new piece.


Hi there,

I think you've identified part of your problem already, and a possible solution also. I can't tell you enough about just how important the "basics" are if you are to develop your skills, technique and musicianship. Yes, there are many ways to learn something and learning songs by rote is one of them. Without also taking the time to understand what you are doing, all you'll end up with is knowing how to play a few songs. And for each new song, you repeat that painful process of "learning without knowing". It works but its painfully slow.

So, divide your practice time as others have suggested, and in that one or two hours, work on acquiring different skills and theory, maintaining old repertoire and learning new pieces, etc. Learning music is really an integration process, there is much to learn and some skills depend on other skills acquired or currently being worked on. If it seems that 1 or 2 hours in a row is too much - and it might very well be because it takes time to assimilate and integrate all this, focused and deliberate practice is quite energy-consuming - then split the practice throughout the day in smaller chunks.

Originally Posted By: Stryder87
I think I’m just talking through this now. I just know that, I started playing in December. It’s almost a year and what have I truly got to show for it? Nowhere near as much as I was hoping for. I keep reminding myself it’s not a race, but I’m a very driven person. I suspect what I should do is go back to my book and get the basics under my belt and then turn to learning something. I’ll have to start back from the beginning just refresh myself on the first half, but that won’t take long anyway.


As adults, we are very hard on ourselves, beleiving that we can master anything fast now that we are "grown up" and "intelligent" and "well educated", whatever... Be it sports, medicine or music, we forget that to be good at anything, the "time" factor is always involved in the equation. Learning music is time-consuming, its a "labour of love" where there is seldom instant gratification. Sometimes progress is slow, imperceptible even. But its there and it grows - over time.

Body mind and soul need this time to develop coordination, recognition, understanding, deep feeling - it is a process that cannot be rushed. Desire is the fuel that keeps the fire burning. Try to enjoy the learning journey as much as the playing/performing times. We are never "done" with music, it is bigger than any single human being.

Attitude is everything!

John
_________________________
"My piano is therapy for me" - Rick Wright.
Instrument: Rebuilt Kurzweil K2500XS and a bunch of great vintage virtual keyboards. New Kurzweil PC3X.

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#1971127 - 10/10/12 01:17 AM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
When I played (beginner) bari sax in a band, we used to reherse in a warehouse. Everybody played in highschool and college they were now 30s and they dreamed of New York. I was 50s then and it was a dream just to play in a warehouse with other bands - forget New York!

But today - the reality is I wish I could play love of three oranges by prokofiev and Frederic Chopin's Funural March but when I sit down at the piano I have to love the moment - - and I do. I open up book 1 of playing the piano and play half the book 30 pages for a warm up, takes half an hour then I tackel the reality of learning the third song in book 2 -- I have many miles to go!

The security and guidance is that the books are numbered, the pages are numbered and there are 5 Books I have to work through and master so I can play the music I want to play as indicated above.

It can take 2 days to learn 1 song well enough to get through the song and then several weeks of playing it several times everyday - and then another 6 months of playing it and other songs I have learned. But I can see with my eyes every page and measures of music that I can play as my progress. And I can demontrate to myself and to any person who may wish to hear it - nobody has asked, of course - of my ears hearing my playing of the music.

It is critical to have a destination - but just as important to enjoy the journey - because in life one never know how long the journey will be or where it will take you, so you have got to savour your moment - now!

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#1972470 - 10/12/12 08:38 PM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
DinaP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/12
Posts: 149
John in Montreal says it well:

Quote:
“Body mind and soul need this time to develop coordination, recognition, understanding, deep feeling - it is a process that cannot be rushed. Desire is the fuel that keeps the fire burning. Try to enjoy the learning journey as much as the playing/performing times. We are never "done" with music, it is bigger than any single human being. “


Problem is we are attempting to do what we have never done before – and being adults, we know how we want it to sound and get frustrated and impatient with ourselves. I finally decided to give myself an attitude adjustment and employ techniques in my basic practice that reinforce my new attitude.

So, as you know, mastering the basics has to be done. So with a new piece I look it over, recognize the repeating sections – my little pieces usually have a part A, a different part B, and then part A repeats again with a variation for an ending. So I may spend three days learning part A – if there are particularly tricky measures within Part A I may spend the allotted time for one day’s practice just on those measures – so again I am subdividing the piece further. After part A is learned I do the same with Part B – and finally put it together – and maybe it’s two weeks to do that and then I refine dynamics and finally try to bring it up to speed – in reasonable steps.

So what I’ve done is have many goals to reach to master this particular piece. Each time I reach a goal I feel a sense of progress and satisfaction – at the end of practicing each piece, scale, whatever for the day – I write down what went well and what I need to work on the next time I practice the particular piece – that way I don’t waste time the next session recalling where I am and what to do next – I can sit down and start working immediately. And with the notes, I’m giving myself a tool to record progress.

That having been said, if there is a piece you really want to learn that is above your current level, if you have the time, there is nothing saying you can’t try once your basic daily practice is done. So start with the first measure and when you can do that add the next one, work on measure 2 until you can play it and then do measures one and two together. Then work on measure 3 and add it – and so on. OR, even better, start with the last measure and work backwards – big psychological advantage here because each time you master a new measure and then play everything you have done to that point you are finishing with the oldest parts, the ones that have been played more most often and you are more likely to end the piece well – another thing to feel good about.

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#1972540 - 10/12/12 11:56 PM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
Stubbie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/10
Posts: 371
Loc: Midwest USA
Quote:
Any suggestions? I sort of feel like I’m floundering a bit here.


"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."

If all you ever want to do is learn those three pieces, then work on those and nothing else. If you want to feast at the full table of piano music, then spend some time learning how to read music and learning technique.

Go back to Alfred's Book 1 (skip the Hanon and work on scales instead). Just learn to play the pieces. Some are duds. Others are fine. They're there to help you learn how to play. Do Book 2 after Book 1. You can supplement with pieces appropriate for your level, if so desired.

Sadly, there is no shortcut. You gotta do the basics at the very least, and it takes some time. You want to play, that comes through loud and clear, and that helps a lot. Best of luck to you!
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.


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#1972562 - 10/13/12 01:00 AM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
Stryder87 Offline
Gold Level Forums Subscriber Until Aug 29 2013

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 88
Loc: New Westminster, BC Canada
Thanks for all the advice and insight. I think John was right and that I already knew what I needed to do. I guess I just needed to grouse about it a bit… clear the head, so to speak. I think the idea of splitting the time in half, one session for my book and the next one for a song is a good compromise. I sat in front of my piano the other night and stared at it for a long time. I asked it “What do you want from me?” then asked “What do I want from you?” It’s interesting the answers that can come to your head when you don’t let anxiety or stress taint them.

I then played the two songs I know over and over for about half an hour, just relaxing and enjoying it. It’s amazing how the feel of a song can change completely when you just slow it down a little bit. It suddenly feels like I’ve finally found the heart of the song. I don’t make as many mistakes and don’t have as much anxiety playing it since I’m not feeling like I’m running to keep up with the pace I set before. I think sometimes we need to remember that we’re the master of the piano, not the other way around, and it’s ok to take your time to get to the end of the song rather than rush through to achieve a completement of it, if that makes sense. confused

Anyway, thanks again for all the input. I need to go noodle around for a while before I’m too tired to think straight! tired
_________________________

"Music is something so innocent and pure, it makes a person completely naked - in music you cannot lie." - Alice Sara Ott

Playing since December 6, 2011.

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#1972589 - 10/13/12 03:02 AM Re: Not sure what to do next... [Re: Stryder87]
outo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/12
Posts: 528
Loc: Finland
When you are an adult learner it would be useful to know something about yourself as a learner. There are individual differences on how people learn things most efficiently and if you ignore these, it will cause frustration and may even prevent progress.

Many (most?) people do well with method books because the things are presented in a way that is logical and gets harder gradually. But then there are people like me who are unable to learn sequentally. I learn things in seemingly random chunks with little progress showing through and then things suddenly click and I jump to a new level. To an outside spectator this seems like I am wasting a lot of time not progressing at all, but in the long run I actually progress quite fast. If I didn't have so much experience about myself as a learner from other fields, I would probably try to force myself go through the method books and get frustrated, maybe even stop. I used a method book in the beginning, but I could not help doing what I always do, jump over things instead of working diligently through everything. I cannot really concentrate on and learn details before I have the whole picture figured out.

I guess I am lucky to have a teacher who is ok with my "random" way of learning and doesn't feel the need to use method books at all. If I had a teacher like this as a child, who knows where I would be...

When I started lessons last year I had to relearn everything about my posture, arm and finger movements and I was a terrible sight reader. I could not get fingerings to my head and struggled with memorization. It seems like the first year went past without me getting much about any of these things, I still struggled with the same things in May as I had in September. Then after summer break things suddenly started falling into their places. My playing looks and sounds a lot better, I can read better (not well enough though) and I memorize much faster. I was not able to get the scale fingerings and arpeggios into my head last year no matter how much I practiced. Then suddenly in the past few weeks I learned them all hands together, just sat down and I could play them, even new ones without practice.

So if you feel overwhelmed by the method book, you could try finding other stuff to learn, there are so many nice pieces in grades 1-2-3, all available free on the internet (if you don't mind them being classical). You don't have to learn them all perfectly, as long as you learn something about each of them. You could return to the method book every now and then for the theory part, at least for me theory only makes sense after I can see the whole picture and practical implications.

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