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#1984367 - 11/08/12 09:05 PM I Feel Like Giving Up
soundofsilenc3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/11
Posts: 103
I need some advice. I've been playing now for a little over a year and half. I can't count beats what so ever. Every time I try to count I end up trying to "sing" the counting, which only makes it worst when the whole aspect of counting already makes no sense.

I've pushed myself on with scales, with learning new pieces, very slowly note for note, using my metronome with scales, really trying to get a feel for the music based on how the notes appear.

Recently I tried playing an old song I learned direct from the sheet. It's a song I've memorized and I can still play it without the sheet "in my own way" so to speak. (I say this mainly because I can't count) But when I tried to play it from paper I couldn't do it. It almost felt as if I'd have to start all over again. And it truly was devastating considering I learned this piece in the past and I STILL CAN play it without looking at the sheet.

I just don't understand if I'm really making any "progress" at all. And worst off I don't know what to do to fix it. I started a thread a while back and had some nice replies and great advice from the members here. One of the things I'm still puzzled over is "skipping counting initially and just focusing on making a piece your own" "bringing feeling to the notes based on how they appear on the page" and not necessarily concentrating on STRICT counting in the beginning stages.

The problem is that's exactly what I've done for a year and half now. With every thing I've practiced. With every piece I've learned whether I've memorized it or am currently studying it. And look where I've ended up. I almost feel now as if I've just kicked myself and accomplished nothing. I go to a lesson and my teacher tries and tries to make me count and it just doesn't make sense. I can't do it. If the reason for my failures are due to counting, due to not being able to "space" the notes out correctly, playing certain notes too fast or too slow, (even if the end result sounds accurate and no one can tell) then the only thing I've taught myself so far is how to sound like a good player in front of a person who doesn't know anything about music.

This scares me because as soon as I sit in front of someone who knows what they are doing, their going to hear all those "technicalities" that make a piece sound horrible to an experienced player. And that really makes me hang my head even lower in shame. I've read so many articles and watched countless videos. People say "When sight reading, if you make a mistake KEEP GOING" but then other people say "play VERY slowly note by note, press a note ONLY when certain your hitting the correct key ... keep repeating this .. you can't sight read what you can't play"

Well if I can ask. Which is it? Keep going and screw the mistakes? or slow down and pay dreadful attention to detail? I've paid attention to everything that I possibly can constantly and consistently. And now comes the time where there's nothing else left to feel but some sort of failure, and I just don't know what to do about it. If anyone can help. Thanks guys smile

* Just to add. If you can't count. Are you just "ruining" pieces by repetitively trying to play them? Even if you ultimately come up with an accurate result note by note? Has the time come to step away from pieces completely and just stick with scales, arpeggios, hannon, contrary/similar motion, and ONLY pick up a piece again when this is all DRILLED into the brain? Because if I'm just ruining the piece then whats the point. I would think I'm better off with all the scales. Thanks everyone smile


Edited by soundofsilenc3 (11/08/12 09:15 PM)

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#1984379 - 11/08/12 09:30 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
EdwardianPiano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/29/11
Posts: 753
Loc: Liverpool, England
Hello, sorry you are feeling down. I am only a beginner myself- not even grade one! I've been struggling terribly with counting- you can see my numerous posts on this forum about it. I have had so much encouragement from folks on here and my teacher is very patient and kind; I have fortnightly lessons and I asked him to show me counting with the metronome. I've got a bit better with timing now. I know it'll take me a long time to get it right, but I'm keeping at it. Any small improvement makes me feel over the moon! What puzzled me about counting was that each note hasn't a time duration in that for example a crotchet= one second so I was equating a beat with the length of time I should hold the key down. My teacher is helping me get over this problem- he showed me that one can set the metronome for 60= a crotchet and work to that. Music is variable it seems!
I wish I could help you but you are a better player than I so I can only empathise and send you my best wishes.
I have found however when I think less about playing it happens more naturally-I'm getting in the habit of studying music theory away from playing- I'll read up on things not at my time on the piano but separately. It seems when my brain has processed this when I play again I'm a little better. I did have about two weeks when I felt I had got worse but then I had my next lesson and told my teacher what I was struggling with and we worked on it. Also Brian's ebook has helped.


Edited by EdwardianPiano (11/08/12 09:31 PM)
_________________________
"Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend."

"He who divines the secret of my music is delivered from the misery that haunts the world."


Ludwig Van Beethoven

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#1984383 - 11/08/12 09:39 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: EdwardianPiano]
soundofsilenc3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/11
Posts: 103
Thanks mate. I appreciate the best wishes and support. It was nice of you to come out and offer your story and support. Thanks so much. Best of luck I hope everything goes well for you as well.

I think my main concern with the metronome, personally, if I don't know how to count. What exactly might a metronome do? If I set it to the correct tempo marking ... maybe this will encourage me to the play the piece a bit faster in certain parts, but if I can't count than I can't really keep up with that metronome in the first place. I'm just letting it tick and tick non stop and continuing to play whether or not the playing is in relation with the metronome or not.

Maybe I just don't know how to rate my own success because I have no clue what that success is supposed to look like. That's why I wrote the post because I'm at a stand still and don't know which way to turn.

But thanks again man. It means a lot that your willing to come forward with your experience smile Best of luck smile

* I really hope this thread gets replies because sometimes it just feels like your banging your head against the wall


Edited by soundofsilenc3 (11/08/12 09:58 PM)

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#1984390 - 11/08/12 10:02 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
EdwardianPiano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/29/11
Posts: 753
Loc: Liverpool, England
Quote:
Thanks mate. I appreciate the best wishes and support. It was nice of you to come out and offer your story and support. Thanks so much. Best of luck I hope everything goes well for you as well.



Your'e welcome!And thanks.

Quote:

I think my main concern with the metronome, personally, if I don't know how to count. What exactly might a metronome do? If I set it to the correct tempo marking ... maybe this will encourage me to the play the piece a bit faster in certain parts, but if I can't count than I can't really keep up with that metronome in the first place. I'm just letting it tick and tick non stop and continuing to play whether or not the playing is in relation with the metronome or not.



I know what you mean. When I first tried it I couldn't press the key in time to it. I then got my little drum and hit it to the beat and could manage that so kept trying with the piano.
I was hopeless so asked my teacher in the next lesson to help me. He got me playing something by him counting out loud to the ticking and I slowly got better.It was just the treble cleff but it must have helped because I then after the lesson was working on a tune from Alfred's and I started counting in my head as I played and next lesson he said my timing had improved. I now look at each note value and count in my head as I play. I hadn't done that up til now. I always understood that a crotchet = one beat, a minim = two etc but I was confused by how long a beat should last...one second? two seconds etc!


Quote:
Maybe I just don't know how to rate my own success because I have no clue what that success is supposed to look like. That's why I wrote the post because I'm at a stand still and don't know which way to turn.



I try not to do that, in that I just play and keep learning and am aware of when I have improved. Even when I make a mistake- many of those- when I know I have made one I see that as part of the process because I know what to rectify.


Quote:
But thanks again man. It means a lot that your willing to come forward with your experience smile Best of luck smile



Thanks again. You will improve believe me- I haven't been playing long and I was totally hopeless and in a few weeks I can sight read some notes now- I used to have to write the letters above the notes on music sheets!
_________________________
"Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend."

"He who divines the secret of my music is delivered from the misery that haunts the world."


Ludwig Van Beethoven

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#1984408 - 11/08/12 11:22 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5377
Loc: Philadelphia
I would like to try to help, but I am confused. What do you mean when you say you "can't count"? Do you mean you literally can't count 1,2,3,4? Or, can you not determine the rhythm of a particular group of notes? Or can you not keep a steady tempo while playing? Or is it something else entirely? Each one is, potentially, a separate issue, so I'd like to start with the one that you think is affecting you the most.
_________________________
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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#1984463 - 11/09/12 02:45 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
* Just to add. If you can't count. Are you just "ruining" pieces by repetitively trying to play them? Even if you ultimately come up with an accurate result note by note?


How do you suppose you come up with an accurate performance of the piece if you "can't" count? I would argue that if your performance sounds even at all rhythmic that you can count, you just can't consciously focus on it. When you listen to a performance of a piece that you like and then proceed to learn and eventually reproduce a somewhat-similar performance, you're employing your sense of the rhythm into learning/playing the piece. Because of your metronome use, you can likely feel, or at least orally count or physically tap your foot to keep a beat (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4...), but you may not be able to purely mentally consciously focus on it at the same time as what notes your playing. I've heard this takes years to become proficient at, so at the very least count the beats aloud when SLOWLY working out sections (this is another issue as students commonly don't practice anywhere NEAR slowly enough to get a comfortable handle on the troublesome rhythms/sections).

Quote:
Has the time come to step away from pieces completely and just stick with scales, arpeggios, hannon, contrary/similar motion, and ONLY pick up a piece again when this is all DRILLED into the brain? Because if I'm just ruining the piece then whats the point. I would think I'm better off with all the scales.


I don't know that there's ever really a time for this in the real world. You're more likely better off doing the opposite, or quite possibly neither and abandoning both learning pieces and working away on technical exercises until you properly learn the ins and outs of rhythm and its notation and then possibly applying you what you've learned to easier pieces.

A lot of people around here highly recommend Dan Fox's Rhythm Bible (book) for explaining rhythms and assisting playing them. I also - for sure - recommend discussing your concerns and frustrations with your teacher and/or, if after a year or so with them, you either

A)still can't grasp the topic or
B)don't feel comfortable broaching the issue,

I recommend getting a new teacher.

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#1984513 - 11/09/12 07:00 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
BeccaBb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/11
Posts: 905
Loc: Thunder Bay, On Canada
May I ask what kind of metronome are you using?

I'm not really good in the rhythm department myself (only been at this for about a year.)When I first tried using a metronome I had a lot of issues with it. I realized (after some time) that there is a whole pile of coordination going on. You are trying to count evenly, follow the tick, depress and release the correct keys at the correct time and read notes. That's actually not easy to do! I also found that the counting was distracting for me.

What I discovered is that not all metronomes are equal. There is digital and analog. There are different sounding ones. I can not stand the digital ones. I had to buy an old fashioned analog one that I can watch. When I'm really having issues instead of counting to start with I will try to depress the key when the pendulum swings to the top. I will only do this with one measure at a time (over and over again) until I get a feel for it. Then I introduce counting after I know how it should feel. I also video myself to see if my playing is accurate with the metronome (I have a hard time hearing it after a few staffs.)

In order to be able to do any of this took a lot of experimentation on my part. I had to try all sorts of different methods (and metronomes) to figure out what I could use. I learned that trying to apply learning to use a metronome with learning a song was too much learning. I would take five minutes a day and an easy one bar exercise and just go at the metronome with it. It became a separate skill to learn.

I also discovered that foot tapping doesn't help me keep rhythm it throws me right off instead. I sway to the beat. It's just how I feel it inside me. Clapping does help but I dislike it and only use it when desperate. LOL

Anyways my point is, try many different things. See what does and does not work for you. Don't try to apply it to what you are working on now. Separate your rhythm work and simplify it, slowly adding to difficulty as you get the hang of it.

I'm not sure that will help but it's worth a shot!

As to work through mistakes, this is my understanding of it:

Only push through mistakes when performing. When practicing go slow and go accurate. smile
_________________________
Becca
Began: 01-12-11


Floundering and Lost
Roland RD300NX

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#1984520 - 11/09/12 07:25 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Brent H Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
I'm a beginner myself so forgive me for butting with advice...

Do you listen to either recording or your teacher playing the stuff you have trouble with? Can you play in time along with a recording?

I am actually pretty good at counting (for a beginner) but when I can't quite get the exact rhythm of something, my teacher said to listen over and over to someone playing it correctly. Sing along with the recording, then try to sing along while I play it myself.

Of course this is something you do after you've figured out where the notes are an so forth.
_________________________
Current Life+Music Philosophy: Less Thinking, More Foot Tapping

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

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#1984551 - 11/09/12 09:09 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
ZoeCalgary Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/01/11
Posts: 748
Loc: Calgary Alberta
I think everybody goes through frustrations with learning/playing. There are many things to concentrate on when you are just starting out. Almost anybody will tell you to slow things down on your trouble spots. If that doesn't work, do one hand at a time. If still too much trouble, make sure you know the notes you need to press, and for how long, clap out the part slowly. Play one note at a time. Basically keep breaking the music down to it's simplest form. When you got one note, add the next. Play just this until the timing and notes are right. Then add the next note. This is learning and practice methods. You spend more time on your trouble spots and almost none on what you can already play. Then join it up and try to play it through start to finish. Make a mark of the trouble spots and zero in again. This is hard to do because we want to play the parts that are easy for us. It is easier and more fun. But then if that's all you do you don't progress. So you have to really spend some time each day on your trouble spots. If you do you will see that over time they start to disappear and once you got the notes and timing things start coming together.

The fact that you feel frustrated to this extent tells me you are learning and that perhaps you just have to tweak your approach.

Dont give up. Try a new approach for awhile. I think you will be impressed.

PS I agree with the post above. When performing play a piece straightthrough without stopping at a mistake. When learning and practicing look for those mistakes and zero in in them.

Finally, make sure the pieces you are learning are not too difficult. Most method books start with a small number of notes, minimal hand movement, and very basic timing. If you jump right into the hard pieces you won't have learned the basics. Most folks here start right at the beginning to build a strong foundation.

Good luck in your journey!
_________________________
Preparing Grade 6 RCM.


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#1984565 - 11/09/12 09:34 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1954
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
I need some advice. I've been playing now for a little over a year and half. I can't count beats what so ever. Every time I try to count I end up trying to "sing" the counting, which only makes it worst when the whole aspect of counting already makes no sense.


Well, if you are really in that bad a state ... there is really no other option than to start completely over. You must start with as simple a piece of music as you need to in order to be able to count it correctly.

If that is a piece with nothing except whole notes in 4/4 time, so be it ... but start with something you absolutely can count. If there is nothing that you can count, then ... I guess you may have to forget about playing piano.

However, if you can find that "simplest" piece, then do a few like that until you are very comfortable with that. Then move to one with one different thing to count. ..... etc ...

Do not try something that is complicated. It is obvious here that you need to rebuild your confidence and keeping it simple will do that.

Also, your teacher should be able to guide you in this effort. Emphasize that you need SIMPLE !!!! If your teacher keeps pushing you too fast, then get another teacher.

BTW, I looked back at a previous post of yours and it appears that counting out loud seems to be a problem for you while you play. I say to that ... THEN DON'T COUNT OUT LOUD.

You do not have to count out loud. I don't like doing that either and it is not absolutely necessary (In my opinion). However, you may wish to count something out loud as you go over a certain difficult area in a piece just while you are trying to get the rhythm of it.
Do what works for you.

Good Luck


Edited by dmd (11/09/12 09:42 AM)
_________________________
Don

Current: ES7, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors, Ravenscroft275, Ivory II American Concert D, Pianoteq 5

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#1984569 - 11/09/12 09:49 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11850
Loc: Canada
After my first experience with lessons I took a long hard look at the whole question after they stopped. It wasn't piano, but I think this applies everywhere. There seem to be two kinds of lessons (with overlap when you have a good teacher). In the one kind, roughly, you go for material. You get grade 1 pieces, then grade 2 pieces, which you take home and learn to play (somehow). You get feedback on wrong notes, that you aren't counting accurately, and maybe (as in your case) you are told to count - or get the right notes next time, or make your notes even.

There is another kind of teaching that goes underneath all of this. You learn how to approach learning a piece. What is it that you actually do when you are at home, step by step? What does learning to read mean, and how do you go about it? How do you actually get at note value and then counting, timing etc? How do you bring these things together? How do you practice? What does practising mean? I suspect that there aren't that many teachers who do this effectively. So you come away 1 or 2 years later having "done" a lot of things, but didn't get the tools for working effectively and actually learning.

In what you say about reading, you probably learned to decipher the music and then memorized it. If you didn't get the skill of reading, then when you go back to the piece a year later, you have to decipher it all over again. If a teacher is telling you week after week to count, and if you have been sincerely doing what she asked you to do all week long in the manner that she said and it's not working, then the teacher has to try something else. If you keep planting cabbages you get more cabbages.

Dmd talked about starting over with simple material. Yes, maybe, yes and no. You have to learn how to learn. If you do the same thing as the first time, you'll get similar results. You have to go after the skills and know how to do so.


Edited by keystring (11/09/12 09:49 AM)

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#1984675 - 11/09/12 02:26 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Starr Keys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 1010
Loc: california
Hi Soundofsilence,

Feeling the strong beats in the measure is more important than counting them. What matters is getting them into your body not into your head (counting can actually detach you from your body and feeling them IMO).

I agree with the idea of trying different metronomes. The digital one that I have can be set to most time signatures and will stress the accented beats in the measures. It also can be set to 16th notes, 8th notes, etc. It counts for you so you can concentrate on feeling it. smile


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#1984725 - 11/09/12 05:48 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
John_In_Montreal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/21/11
Posts: 402
Loc: Montreal Canada
Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
This scares me because as soon as I sit in front of someone who knows what they are doing, their going to hear all those "technicalities" that make a piece sound horrible to an experienced player. And that really makes me hang my head even lower in shame.


Too much self-consciousness can get in the way of just simply getting on with what it is you like and want to do. Why would you ever feel shame in being a "beginner"?




Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
I've read so many articles and watched countless videos. People say "When sight reading, if you make a mistake KEEP GOING" but then other people say "play VERY slowly note by note, press a note ONLY when certain your hitting the correct key ... keep repeating this .. you can't sight read what you can't play".

Well if I can ask. Which is it? Keep going and screw the mistakes? or slow down and pay dreadful attention to detail?


There is a "time" for everything... If you are learning a new piece or you encounter a troublesome measure, it makes a lot of sense to play slowly, even very slowly if necessary, to give yourself time to learn and assimilate the material in body-mind-spirit. There is a lot going on in learning music, especially at the beginning (beginning can be very variable in length). If you are an adult, you may suddenly feel incompetent if you think you are not progessing and not sounding like Keith Jarrett or Arthur Rubenstein after one or two years. As adults, we are used to "performing" - at work, in family affairs, etc. So we think we "should" or "ought" be good at piano in a short while because it may seem an easy task. It just doesn't work that way! Playing / learning music is a very intensive task, practicing is "work" and not play.

Once you are fairly fluent at reading and playing a piece at a certain (slow) tempo, then by all means raise the stakes and up the tempo a notch. Eventually you'll reach the intended tempo. At that point, its a good idea to play the piece from start to finish without stopping but only mentally noting what goes wrong. Then work some more on the trouble spots. You eventually need to keep going without stopping for a mistake - a golden rule in music is to never break the rhythm - and your teacher can help you with ways to "recover from a mistake".

So yes, slow and fast, non-stop playing even with mistakes, they all are valid in the ongoing process of learning.[/quote]


Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
Has the time come to step away from pieces completely and just stick with scales, arpeggios, hannon, contrary/similar motion, and ONLY pick up a piece again when this is all DRILLED into the brain?


It is a fine idea to make time to include all of the above and listening very intently to the sound(s) you are making, and aiming for as-perfect-as-can-be technical execution. Doing all this reinforces the basics and establishes a firm base on which to keep building skills, knowledge and feeling. You never know enough, and it has nothing to do with being incompetent.

I encourage you to keep going, the storm will pass. I've been there. And back.

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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#1984815 - 11/09/12 10:20 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1100
Loc: Southern California
I can relate some of my own experiences. I am poor at counting, and at trying to figure out rhythm from notation. However, I am decent at duplicating a rhythm that I hear. So what do I do? I always listen to recordings or a MIDI of the notation before trying to play. Crutch? Perhaps.

Different people learn in different ways. If what a person is doing, isn't working, it might be time to try another way. Certainly bring it up with the teacher, that's the whole point of having a teacher.

As for Metronomes, I don't like them. However, I have learned to tolerate it, though still don't like it. For those that want to play with other musicians, staying in time with others is a must, and metronomes are a path to that goal. This might be a reason why I tend to perform solo, and am not comfortable playing in a group setting. Other folks are the opposite, and will not want to solo.
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#1984899 - 11/10/12 04:41 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1382
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Soundofsilenc3, I'm speaking with a bias, and it's the bias of someone who specializes in the teaching of adult learners at the piano.

Please don't quit now, despite your despair. What you need is another point of view. I fault your teacher for letting you get into this downward spiral. It might be time to change teachers, and pronto. But if you are loyal or not ready for such a big change, then please take a couple of lessons behind the back of your present teacher to get yourself out of this muddle.

You can do this by Skype from people right here on PW. You can do it quietly in your own community, maybe from a church organist or a cocktail pianist. You can take a short vacation to Toronto and see me for an hour or two.

This musical dilemma is so easily fixable, and largely in your head! I'm sure your sense of rhythm is much better than you realize! You also might be working on pieces that are too tough for right now, or that are not balanced by easier pieces.

In the meantime, don't forget to play for your dog or cat, if you have one: they are very forgiving.

Cheers,
Peter


Edited by Peter K. Mose (11/10/12 04:43 AM)

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#1984969 - 11/10/12 09:24 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12215
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
I need some advice. I've been playing now for a little over a year and half. I can't count beats what so ever. Every time I try to count I end up trying to "sing" the counting, which only makes it worst when the whole aspect of counting already makes no sense.

I've pushed myself on with scales, with learning new pieces, very slowly note for note, using my metronome with scales, really trying to get a feel for the music based on how the notes appear.

Recently I tried playing an old song I learned direct from the sheet. It's a song I've memorized and I can still play it without the sheet "in my own way" so to speak. (I say this mainly because I can't count) But when I tried to play it from paper I couldn't do it. It almost felt as if I'd have to start all over again. And it truly was devastating considering I learned this piece in the past and I STILL CAN play it without looking at the sheet.

I just don't understand if I'm really making any "progress" at all. And worst off I don't know what to do to fix it. I started a thread a while back and had some nice replies and great advice from the members here. One of the things I'm still puzzled over is "skipping counting initially and just focusing on making a piece your own" "bringing feeling to the notes based on how they appear on the page" and not necessarily concentrating on STRICT counting in the beginning stages.

The problem is that's exactly what I've done for a year and half now. With every thing I've practiced. With every piece I've learned whether I've memorized it or am currently studying it. And look where I've ended up. I almost feel now as if I've just kicked myself and accomplished nothing. I go to a lesson and my teacher tries and tries to make me count and it just doesn't make sense. I can't do it. If the reason for my failures are due to counting, due to not being able to "space" the notes out correctly, playing certain notes too fast or too slow, (even if the end result sounds accurate and no one can tell) then the only thing I've taught myself so far is how to sound like a good player in front of a person who doesn't know anything about music.


Have you talked to your teacher about your feelings? This will help tremendously because then they will know how to better teach you. Communication is essential between student and teacher. S/he wants you to succeed but can't read minds in order to give you everything you need. You need to meet them part way.

As for the reason for counting out loud, yes it is hard and makes you play slowly, but believe it or not, it actually does help: 1) it makes you realize when you've played an incorrect rhythm, so every time you "mess up" the counting and have to redo that measure, you are actually self-correcting, and 2) it forces you to play a bit slower.

I'd like to also add that counting MUST be done when you are first learning a piece. If you try to play the notes first and add counting later, it will not work because you will have gotten in your ears the incorrect rhythm and will make your counting match that instead of your playing matching the counting. Likewise, after you've learned how a piece sounds you can stop the counting and only use it in spots that are still rhythmically troublesome. There is a point after which counting out loud is no longer helpful.

Quote:
This scares me because as soon as I sit in front of someone who knows what they are doing, their going to hear all those "technicalities" that make a piece sound horrible to an experienced player. And that really makes me hang my head even lower in shame.

This is the result of unrealistic expectations of yourself. It also shows you are a very caring person because you want to please your audience, but this is to your own detriment. When you are talking to a friend about how your day went, or a special event in your life, do you worry about proper grammar and enunciation? No, you simply want to share with your friend. You need to approach playing for anyone (including your teacher) in this same way. You are sharing this piece with them, you are sharing the progress you've made on this piece, or even, you are sharing the difficulty you are having with this piece. Your teacher is your partner on this journey, not someone to impress each week. Stop trying to impress and be humble. Know and accept that you are a beginner (it takes several years to learn to play piano even at a passable intermediate level) and that you have lots to learn. This will go a long way to making lessons more productive.

Quote:
I've read so many articles and watched countless videos. People say "When sight reading, if you make a mistake KEEP GOING" but then other people say "play VERY slowly note by note, press a note ONLY when certain your hitting the correct key ... keep repeating this .. you can't sight read what you can't play"

Well if I can ask. Which is it? Keep going and screw the mistakes? or slow down and pay dreadful attention to detail?


It is both. First of all, sightreading and reading through music you are learning are two different things. Sight reading in music refers only to the first 2-3 times you are playing a piece, where you are concerned only with playing through the piece as best you can, adding as many details as you are able to. Reading a piece you are learning and plan to invest weeks or even months in will go much differently.

So for sight reading, yes, you keep going no matter what, and you try to pick a tempo in which you can best accomplish this. In reading a piece you are learning, it is best to go very slowly, slow enough where you can process all the rhythms and notes correctly. Generally, the level of piece you can sight read will always be lower than the level of piece you can learn over time.

Quote:
I've paid attention to everything that I possibly can constantly and consistently. And now comes the time where there's nothing else left to feel but some sort of failure, and I just don't know what to do about it. If anyone can help. Thanks guys smile


I don't really think this is a fair statement. I understand you are frustrated, but to say you've paid attention to everything constantly and consistently to me says that you are determined to give up, and not really a fair assessment of the situation. I think it's better to say, "I dont' know what to do" than to assume you've tried it all and there's nothing more you can do. I know how you feel and I'm sympathetic to your situation, but the way we speak to ourselves is extremely important, and you are telling yourself how to fail. You've not gone through this process before, so how do you know what the outcome will be? How do you know how many steps it will take? Simply put, you don't. Believe it or not, this is a pride issue. It is far easier to accept that you've done everything and it didn't work, because then the blame is on the process and not you for it not working. Whereas if you accept that there is probably something you're missing, you realize that you just haven't found the solution yet and the journey continues.

But really, the latter isn't so bad, is it? I'm sure there are pieces you can play well, even if they are simple. Why not remind yourself of your successes, and enjoy the process of learning more about problem-solving and how to play more difficult things? There is beautiful music at all levels to be enjoyed.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1984990 - 11/10/12 10:22 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3191
Hi SoundofSilence...

What Morodiene posted is good advice, and I would add that as a teacher I have had some success with many students who have timing/counting problems.

First, I do not know what music you are using to count with, but it is likely it is a piece(s) more difficult that basic beginner level.

Adding in counting to playing is like a juggler who can juggle 3 balls now having to juggle 4 balls...a greater task for the brain, and overwhelming at first.

Therefore, I always start with something extremely simple, even just C - D - E - F with right hand fingers 1 - 2- 3- 4, or Mary Had a Little Lamb.

What has to happen is that your brain needs to learn to do this new skill of counting, so starting with "baby steps" best allows that to happen.

Second, you need to, at first, count out loud. Counting out loud is very different than silently counting in your head. Counting in your head is dreamy and unfocused, whereas out loud is much more concrete and focused.

An alternative to jump-starting this process is to sing syllables with Mary had a Little lamb...sing Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah dah dah.

You mentioned in your first post that your counting ends up as singing...this is wonderful...Your natural predisposition to turn counting into singing the beat is a very good sign. Do that with a very simple piece, and either sing the counts, or sing the beats with dah dah, and it should work fine.

This has worked with many students of mine. Take baby steps, go slow, and allow your brain to learn and absorb this new skill.

All the Best!




_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

Free Tune from my Blues & Boogie-Woogie Piano CD:

https://app.box.com/files/0/f/0/1/f_2665138101

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#1985015 - 11/10/12 11:36 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: Morodiene]
MrHazelton Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/24/09
Posts: 243
Loc: CT
Morodiene's advice is very wise and I suggest you listen to it. I was going to basically say everything she already did. I'm an advanced intermediate player (so I'm told, but I sometimes wonder). I've been playing since my early 20's (I'm 33 now). I was always a poor sight reader and only started classical lessons a few years ago to learn to sight read. I've felt, and sometimes continue to feel, the same way you do. Counting can be tough, especially in the beginning. I remember asking myself, "what's the point of this", and thinking it was a waste of time. This reminds me of being in math class back in middle school and asking, "when are we going to need this?" Today I use the math at work and see its importance. As my sight reading skills continue to improve I now see the importance of counting. There are times I become lazy and don't count and when I notice I have to force myself to count. That's when I realize the mistakes I was making when not counting and that's also when I make the most progress on a piece. On really difficult measures I'll usually write the rhythm out under the notes. You can also try to count while playing with one hand at a time to simplify the piece until you are comfortable. Another idea is to try counting while listening to a recording of music to help build the habit.

I have young children in elementary school. The parallels between my learning to read music and them learning to read English are interesting. I now understand how it must feel for an adult who is illiterate to struggle through the learning process for reading.

Don't feel too bad. I've been working on sight reading for 3 years now and I'm only now starting to see decent progress but I have a long way to go. Read something very simply once a day and you'll start to see progress.

I found this video on YouTube a couple of years ago regarding this topic. Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aASBNbeRE...ture=plpp_video

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#1985048 - 11/10/12 01:28 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
CarlosCC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/06/09
Posts: 1474
Loc: Lisbon, Portugal
Just a quick opinion (I didn't have time to read all the thread):

1st, learning is an hard process. You have to be focus on minor and then in main goals, so don't be disappointed when some milestones get harder to take.

2nd, there is lots of stuff you can learn. You may shift when you think you are doomed with a particular matter. Return later.

3rd, Its better to focus in some small steps instead a large one (are you choosing the right pieces to learn?)

4rd, don't forget to have fun. Learn only makes sense if it's fun.
_________________________

Youtube channel
Box.com MP3 records

Self-taught since 12/2009
Don't play what's there, play what's not there.

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#1985116 - 11/10/12 06:09 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
soundofsilenc3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/11
Posts: 103
Honest to God ... I'd just like to thank everyone for their advice, replies, support and encouragement. It's going to take me at least the night to read through each post in the thread and formulate a decent and accurate reply.

But I just wanted to give thanks for seeing so much help and assistance and great advice coming from everyone here.

You guys rock smile

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#1985118 - 11/10/12 06:12 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: Derulux]
soundofsilenc3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/11
Posts: 103
Quote: Derulux

"I would like to try to help, but I am confused. What do you mean when you say you "can't count"? Do you mean you literally can't count 1,2,3,4? Or, can you not determine the rhythm of a particular group of notes? Or can you not keep a steady tempo while playing? Or is it something else entirely? Each one is, potentially, a separate issue, so I'd like to start with the one that you think is affecting you the most"


I can count 1234 ... Mathematically. I'm not dyslexic in math. But I can't count musically at all. It just doesn't make sense. I don't know where the numbers lie at all. And if I try to count I end up "singing" the numbers and that just screws it up more. I can stay fairly "steady" when I'm just trying to play it without bothering with the counting. But that's when I end up sometimes speeding up or slowing down in certain parts ... that I probably shouldn't. Until I've just done it enough times that it starts to fit itself.

Thanks Derulux smile


Edited by soundofsilenc3 (11/10/12 06:15 PM)

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#1985123 - 11/10/12 06:26 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: Bobpickle]
soundofsilenc3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/11
Posts: 103
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
* Just to add. If you can't count. Are you just "ruining" pieces by repetitively trying to play them? Even if you ultimately come up with an accurate result note by note?


How do you suppose you come up with an accurate performance of the piece if you "can't" count? I would argue that if your performance sounds even at all rhythmic that you can count, you just can't consciously focus on it. When you listen to a performance of a piece that you like and then proceed to learn and eventually reproduce a somewhat-similar performance, you're employing your sense of the rhythm into learning/playing the piece. Because of your metronome use, you can likely feel, or at least orally count or physically tap your foot to keep a beat (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4...), but you may not be able to purely mentally consciously focus on it at the same time as what notes your playing. I've heard this takes years to become proficient at


Thanks Bobpickle. This is a good clarification. I think your right. I can't consciously/mentally focus on counting, but I can produce accurate results after practicing 50 million times over and over again. I listen to recordings alot and really try my hardest to produce the most accurate version I can.

It's just that it really started to get to me because I thought maybe even after all the effort, pieces will still be amateurish because I have literally NO GRASP on counting what so ever. I could be subliminally learning to count - because playing a piece accurately requires correct rhythm. In this case I'm hoping timing and rhythm will just come naturally. Or maybe I'm learning rhythm without actually realizing it. But I must say, there have been times I would have loved to have this "natural phenomena" occur and yet I was quite heavily disappointed frown

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#1985125 - 11/10/12 06:39 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: Morodiene]
soundofsilenc3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/11
Posts: 103
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
I need some advice. I've been playing now for a little over a year and half. I can't count beats what so ever. Every time I try to count I end up trying to "sing" the counting, which only makes it worst when the whole aspect of counting already makes no sense.

I've pushed myself on with scales, with learning new pieces, very slowly note for note, using my metronome with scales, really trying to get a feel for the music based on how the notes appear.

Recently I tried playing an old song I learned direct from the sheet. It's a song I've memorized and I can still play it without the sheet "in my own way" so to speak. (I say this mainly because I can't count) But when I tried to play it from paper I couldn't do it. It almost felt as if I'd have to start all over again. And it truly was devastating considering I learned this piece in the past and I STILL CAN play it without looking at the sheet.

I just don't understand if I'm really making any "progress" at all. And worst off I don't know what to do to fix it. I started a thread a while back and had some nice replies and great advice from the members here. One of the things I'm still puzzled over is "skipping counting initially and just focusing on making a piece your own" "bringing feeling to the notes based on how they appear on the page" and not necessarily concentrating on STRICT counting in the beginning stages.

The problem is that's exactly what I've done for a year and half now. With every thing I've practiced. With every piece I've learned whether I've memorized it or am currently studying it. And look where I've ended up. I almost feel now as if I've just kicked myself and accomplished nothing. I go to a lesson and my teacher tries and tries to make me count and it just doesn't make sense. I can't do it. If the reason for my failures are due to counting, due to not being able to "space" the notes out correctly, playing certain notes too fast or too slow, (even if the end result sounds accurate and no one can tell) then the only thing I've taught myself so far is how to sound like a good player in front of a person who doesn't know anything about music.


Have you talked to your teacher about your feelings? This will help tremendously because then they will know how to better teach you. Communication is essential between student and teacher. S/he wants you to succeed but can't read minds in order to give you everything you need. You need to meet them part way.

As for the reason for counting out loud, yes it is hard and makes you play slowly, but believe it or not, it actually does help: 1) it makes you realize when you've played an incorrect rhythm, so every time you "mess up" the counting and have to redo that measure, you are actually self-correcting, and 2) it forces you to play a bit slower.

I'd like to also add that counting MUST be done when you are first learning a piece. If you try to play the notes first and add counting later, it will not work because you will have gotten in your ears the incorrect rhythm and will make your counting match that instead of your playing matching the counting. Likewise, after you've learned how a piece sounds you can stop the counting and only use it in spots that are still rhythmically troublesome. There is a point after which counting out loud is no longer helpful.

Quote:
This scares me because as soon as I sit in front of someone who knows what they are doing, their going to hear all those "technicalities" that make a piece sound horrible to an experienced player. And that really makes me hang my head even lower in shame.

This is the result of unrealistic expectations of yourself. It also shows you are a very caring person because you want to please your audience, but this is to your own detriment. When you are talking to a friend about how your day went, or a special event in your life, do you worry about proper grammar and enunciation? No, you simply want to share with your friend. You need to approach playing for anyone (including your teacher) in this same way. You are sharing this piece with them, you are sharing the progress you've made on this piece, or even, you are sharing the difficulty you are having with this piece. Your teacher is your partner on this journey, not someone to impress each week. Stop trying to impress and be humble. Know and accept that you are a beginner (it takes several years to learn to play piano even at a passable intermediate level) and that you have lots to learn. This will go a long way to making lessons more productive.

Quote:
I've read so many articles and watched countless videos. People say "When sight reading, if you make a mistake KEEP GOING" but then other people say "play VERY slowly note by note, press a note ONLY when certain your hitting the correct key ... keep repeating this .. you can't sight read what you can't play"

Well if I can ask. Which is it? Keep going and screw the mistakes? or slow down and pay dreadful attention to detail?


It is both. First of all, sightreading and reading through music you are learning are two different things. Sight reading in music refers only to the first 2-3 times you are playing a piece, where you are concerned only with playing through the piece as best you can, adding as many details as you are able to. Reading a piece you are learning and plan to invest weeks or even months in will go much differently.

So for sight reading, yes, you keep going no matter what, and you try to pick a tempo in which you can best accomplish this. In reading a piece you are learning, it is best to go very slowly, slow enough where you can process all the rhythms and notes correctly. Generally, the level of piece you can sight read will always be lower than the level of piece you can learn over time.

Quote:
I've paid attention to everything that I possibly can constantly and consistently. And now comes the time where there's nothing else left to feel but some sort of failure, and I just don't know what to do about it. If anyone can help. Thanks guys smile


I don't really think this is a fair statement. I understand you are frustrated, but to say you've paid attention to everything constantly and consistently to me says that you are determined to give up, and not really a fair assessment of the situation. I think it's better to say, "I dont' know what to do" than to assume you've tried it all and there's nothing more you can do. I know how you feel and I'm sympathetic to your situation, but the way we speak to ourselves is extremely important, and you are telling yourself how to fail. You've not gone through this process before, so how do you know what the outcome will be? How do you know how many steps it will take? Simply put, you don't. Believe it or not, this is a pride issue. It is far easier to accept that you've done everything and it didn't work, because then the blame is on the process and not you for it not working. Whereas if you accept that there is probably something you're missing, you realize that you just haven't found the solution yet and the journey continues.

But really, the latter isn't so bad, is it? I'm sure there are pieces you can play well, even if they are simple. Why not remind yourself of your successes, and enjoy the process of learning more about problem-solving and how to play more difficult things? There is beautiful music at all levels to be enjoyed.


Thank you Morodiene. Great assessment and wonderful advice. I think your right on all levels. My teacher tries to get to me count all the time. She writes the counting in constantly. And to be very honest. I think its me for some reason. I see the notes as they should be counted but I somehow "feel" its too slow or doesn't sound right even when counted correctly. It's almost like you hit this gap when you get to a long note and I find myself asking myself in my head "Ok what am I waiting for here?" it literally "feels" "to long or wrong or like there is something off with it" I really don't know how to explain that it's just a feeling I get when I play something.

I think I should make a few more recordings of a couple pieces and post them here along with sheets. Just to see what happens. It may very well help. It's funny that you mention counting is only good when first learning a piece ... because I remember telling my teacher "If I had to go back and literally COUNT each piece I know how to play .... I'd be screwed" and after saying this I thought to myself .... does that make everything I've done completely wrong? All the practice I put in just to have done it all incorrectly? I think that's what lead me to shame and sadness in the first place.

I don't think I have to much pride. But I know I care ALOT. I really want to be good at this. I want to be flawless at this and I'm trying my heart out I really am. It's just so easy to get lost and the line blurred between what it means to succeed and I do have a tendency to be really hard on myself smile

Thanks so much for the advice. It means alot smile



Edited by soundofsilenc3 (11/10/12 06:40 PM)

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#1985154 - 11/10/12 08:46 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Brent H Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
Sounds like there's a disconnect between what you've been doing and what your teacher is trying to teach you. Ignoring the "counting" and just playing the note in the rhythm that sounds/feels right is one way to play. Counting the beats and playing exactly the rhythm that's written is a different way to play.

This comes up a lot with someone who can play songs by ear but not read music. If they want to learn to play from sheet music, they sometimes have difficulty backing up and trying to play a familiar song by a different method (reading it rather than just playing what sounds right).

So really, you just need to ask yourself if you really want to play music with the rhythms as written badly enough to bite the bullet and re-learn stuff you can already play by your accustomed method. It would be like re-learning to play golf left-handed after you could play pretty good right-handed. It's not impossible but it is frustrating.
_________________________
Current Life+Music Philosophy: Less Thinking, More Foot Tapping

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

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#1985191 - 11/11/12 12:05 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1382
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted By: soundofsilenc3
Or maybe I'm learning rhythm without actually realizing it.


That would be my educated guess. Verbalized counting might also be getting in your way: I've seen that happen often with students. Can you dance your pieces, or move to them? If so, your rhythm is probably fine.

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#1985229 - 11/11/12 03:38 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Wow, I just read your post Morodiene and may I say, I think I'm in love 3hearts

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#1985367 - 11/11/12 01:28 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
soundofsilence@ I have thought about your post and the replies so far a lot, because it reminds me a lot of my own troubles with keeping and learning rhythm. In a recent post of mine I got a lot of great responses. Instead of repeating everything, I'll just post the link: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...tml#Post1982575

Motivated by the advice that I got, I borrowed a book (Rhytm, from Andrew Lewis) from the library about rhythm. I haven't finished it yet, but something that stuck in my mind was how much the writer stressed that to develop a sense of rhythm, one does not only have to develop the... how shall I phrase it? The technical side, like counting out a piece. But that one also needs to feel the underlying rhythm and pulse.

I remember a glorious moment when I was working on a (for me) relatively new piece. I had started with counting, but because it got on my nerves I stopped to count out loud during the piece. Instead of counting, I was *feeling* the beat and played the rhythm according to that internal metronom. A moment later, that moment shattered. My teacher who sat beside me insisted that I played the rhythm fine, so stopping to count was apparently not detrimental.

When I read your post, I got the feeling that you are trying to think too much, trying to be too analytical and that your unease come from not allowing yourself to feel the beat and rhythm of the piece. The next thought I had was: "Pretty much like myself..."

Like you, I am just a beginner struggling with rhythm. But maybe we are really both suffering from the same kind of trouble... I decided to try the suggested exercises for developing a feeling for rhytm. Maybe you want to try it, too?
_________________________
Currently working on: Venetian Gondola song by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

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#1985384 - 11/11/12 02:19 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Starr Keys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 1010
Loc: california
+1. This is another reason I like The Rhythm Bible and cd. You can listen to the groove, see the notation for it, and tap it out--whatever helps you get it into your body. I suggested the specialized metronome earlier in the thread because that way you can start out as slowly as you need to to play along and control the tempo, gradually increasing it.

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#1985391 - 11/11/12 02:26 PM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 821
There really needs to be an "It Gets Better" campaign for pianists.

I've been playing for 30 or so years and some days I feel exactly the way you do.

Your brain HATES to change. Learning requires the expenditure of lots of chemical energy. Watching television takes relatively little. Your brain would rather spend only a little energy instead of a lot of energy. Music is a complex of interrelated skills and for most people, me included, it takes a long time. And most music practitioners, me included, have things that, for whatever reason, their brain doesn't immediately grok, that take focused study by agonizing inches.

Those voices inside your head that say, "You're bad. you can't do this," are just your brain's way of trying to trick you. It's saying, "You're making me work--I just wanna lay about."

Pay those complaints no mind, accentuate your talents, keep chipping away at your flaws, and you will improve. The secret to improving at the piano is time, sweat, and bullheadedness.

It Gets Better. Really.
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#1985685 - 11/12/12 10:38 AM Re: I Feel Like Giving Up [Re: soundofsilenc3]
Ragdoll Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/12
Posts: 698
Loc: Illinois
Well I'm a beginner my self (2+ yrs) and when I first began lessons I did not want to study theory at all. Fortunately, I landed a teacher that said to me "then I'm probably not the teacher for you". I wanted her for my teacher (she's great) and so started both theory and piano. I had NEVER seen a theory book and only piddled around on my Mom's piano.

Now two years later, I so appreciate the things I have learned; of course I still have days when I get very discouraged and think I should be making more progress. I will then get out my old lessons from past effort and I realize that I have really come a long way from my beginning lessons.

My teacher tells me I expect too much too soon and of course she's right. Look back and try to remember how difficult those early lessons/songs seemed back then compared to now. thumb

Please be patient with yourself.
_________________________
Ragdoll

Never get directions from someone who hasn't been there.


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