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Topic Options
#2042246 - 03/03/13 09:54 AM Seven year itch
hexentanz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/24/12
Posts: 9
I've been playing for seven years and recently I've become a bit disillusioned with learning/practicing new pieces.

I always assumed that by this time I'd have a decent number of pieces in my repertoire and would retain new pieces with relative ease.

Instead I've found that it's not too different from when I started - I'll spend a long time perfecting a piece, eventually play it competently, and then after a couple of weeks of not playing it I'll be playing poorly again. So the whole process is beginning to feel somewhat pointless - learn a piece I've always wanted to play, play it well for about a week, and then leave it and not really be able to play it anymore. I've consistently practiced a couple of pieces and those have remained in my repertoire for a while, but I don't want to spend a great deal of time each practice session just playing the same old stuff.

The other issue is that I learn a classical piece, become competent, maybe play it for friends once or twice, and then move on to the next one. I'm beginning to question why I enjoy spending an hour + each day (usually less these days) practicing music that few people actually hear, considering I don't often find practicing particularly enjoyable. I suppose 'play for others more frequently' would be the obvious suggestion here, but I'm not sure how I could do that other than recitals and piano parties, which I'm not particularly into.

On the plus side, music from lower grades has obviously become easier to play and retain, and I enjoy practicing non-classical pieces I like that don't require much effort to learn (i.e., are immediately gratifying).

Does anyone feel the same way? Any suggestions for how to bring the spark back? wink

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#2042266 - 03/03/13 11:09 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
I find recording pieces and putting them on You Tube a great way to save a piece and allow myself to move forward. Even if my playing it far from perfect. You can go back and enjoy the accomplishment any time.

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#2042276 - 03/03/13 11:21 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1100
Loc: Southern California
Hexentanz, yes I share the feeling. All those hours of practice to polish up a short piece that in my case is still at a low level. However, I like performing in public. Others on the forum share on the monthly ABF piano bar and the quarterly ABF recital. For many people this forum is the main opportunity to share their music.

I allocate 20% of time to old pieces. Some people rotate old pieces through that time slot. I rather have a few pieces that I can play at the drop of a hat, just in case of opportunity.

There are no right or wrong answers. However, if practice time is not much fun, and a person doesn't enjoy performing in public, it wouldn't be the worse thing to ease out and find more fun things to do with a person's time. Hobbies are supposed to be fun. I know it is heresy on this forum to suggest a person give up piano or cut way back, but if it isn't fun, I don't see the point of spending an hour a day at it. Time is precious. Enjoy life.
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#2042320 - 03/03/13 12:30 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1957
Loc: Pennsylvania
This issue is the main reason I began working on playing music WHILE READING THE NOTATION. That way I do not have to memorize everything and I can come back to it after a time and still be able to play it reasonably well.

On the other hand, some things are too difficult (for me) to play while looking at the notation. In that case, even though it is memorized, I still get a benefit in that I can come back to it later and have a much shorter time involved to get it back up to speed.

I recommend learning to play while reading the notation to help with your issue.


Edited by dmd (03/03/13 12:31 PM)
_________________________
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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#2042330 - 03/03/13 12:56 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
Pavel.K Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/01/12
Posts: 86
Loc: Czech Republic
hexentanz, you should try to participate in ABF recital. It is a great experience and motivation!
Also making records of you playing pieces is good to have something permanent even if you are not fully satisfied (you will never be :-)). For example I am tracking my progress on soundcloud.
It is also good to have some mid-time goals. (my mid-time goals (about 5 years) are playing some Chopin's Nocturnes, Rachmaninoff's Preludes, long- time terms - probalby start to learning jazz).
Of course once you reach them, you should immediatelly set new goals and never ever ask about meaning or purpose, in my case it is pretty destructive thinking laugh.
Also already mentioned here was learning sight-reading, I know I have to learn it too to be able to learn new pieces and recover those forgotten more faster.
I know, it is easy to say all of that, I have a much less years on my belt, but maybe something will help you.
Good luck smile
_________________________
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#2042334 - 03/03/13 01:07 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2473
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: hexentanz
Any suggestions for how to bring the spark back? wink


Hexentanz, don't vex, go see a hexe!

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#2042341 - 03/03/13 01:24 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3887
Loc: Northern England.
Mark`s advice was good; I do that, it`s fun. And when you record, you iron out a lot of bad stuff. A Youtube recording is like a personal library of your stuff. There`s no reaso0n why you need to retain everything; even the best players rehearse eavily that which they perform.

Be like a shark. Keep moving and devouring . . . .
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#2042352 - 03/03/13 01:52 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
personne Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/12
Posts: 130
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Originally Posted By: hexentanz
I always assumed that by this time I'd have a decent number of pieces in my repertoire and would retain new pieces with relative ease.

Instead I've found that it's not too different from when I started - I'll spend a long time perfecting a piece, eventually play it competently, and then after a couple of weeks of not playing it I'll be playing poorly again.


To easily learn and retain new pieces - I believe it only comes after degree in Performance Major + some years of practice as a concert pianist, but I could be wrong here.

But if you do not play piece well after just 2 weeks of not practicing it - it means you did not probably spend enough time on it (I mean you learned it fast and played it little so it did not stick). Some pieces I cannot play well after 2 months, but they come back after a little practice. Playing a piece a few times per week should be enough to maintain it in relatively good condition - but you can find your schedule how often to practice a piece.

PS. I was taking piano lessons for 7-8 years many years ago, and consider myself rather an amateur pianist than a professional.
_________________________
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#2042374 - 03/03/13 02:33 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1957
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: hexentanz
Any suggestions for how to bring the spark back? wink


Well, you may have to think back to where the "spark" came from in the first place.

You probably had a vision of how this was going to go and how "good" you were going to be sometime down the road.

Now, you find that that vision is not becoming reality.

You may have to adjust either your vision or your methodology in reaching that "vision".

I have already suggested ... learning to play while looking at notation. That is one option.

Do you have a teacher ? If not, that is another option.

Another consideration is ... what are you giving up by practicing the piano ? If the answer is ... nothing (other than TV time) I say ... keep going. If the answer is ... time with my family and/or friends, then you may wish to lower your expectations and treat piano playing as any other hobby. You do it when you have time but do not let it get in the way of more important activities.

Bottom line ... You have to decide how important this is to you.

I do it because I love music and I enjoy my time at the piano. However, if my son calls to go golfing, I do not pass that up because I have to practice. You kiddin' me ? Never.
_________________________
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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#2042402 - 03/03/13 03:54 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
Sam S Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 1430
Loc: Georgia, USA
I can only speak from my own personal experience. I'm starting my 6th year back at the piano, so I'm not that far behind you. I've said this on here before, but it's about the journey, not the destination. You've got to make daily practice or playing enjoyable. Who knows if you will ever reach your "destination" anyway.

Of course, I have to have goals too. I've done 17 ABF recitals now, and that gives me something to work towards every 3 months.

I also take lessons, and the necessity to prepare for a weekly session with my teacher is also a strong motivation.

And for the last two years I've gone to summer music camp for adults - Summerkeys. Preparing for that has been a great motivator.

So yes, you've got to keep moving, but take pleasure in the journey.

Sam

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#2042519 - 03/03/13 07:33 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: hexentanz
Does anyone feel the same way? Any suggestions for how to bring the spark back? wink


What you experience is normal. Your expectation is that after you finished learning a piece, you should be able to play it any time in the future, but in fact, when you just finish learning something, you barely learned it. This is why you forget it when you don't practice it. To really learn a piece you need to internalize it. This requires a lot more practice. If you practice a piece a few times everyday for many months after it is considered finished, you will find that you can put it away, and still be able to play it on demand in the future.

The good news is, re-learning a piece you've learned in the past should be fast. If a piece of music took 3 weeks to learn before, you could probably play it to the same proficiency in a few days. It's not going to require the same 3-week effort as before.
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Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci

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#2042718 - 03/04/13 07:27 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
IanW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/09
Posts: 53
Loc: Adelaide, South Australia
How about something completely different, like ditching your classical pieces for a while and working exclusively on jazz/blues improvisation. If that doesn't click you can always switch back.
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#2042728 - 03/04/13 07:54 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: IanW]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1957
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: IanW
How about something completely different, like ditching your classical pieces for a while and working exclusively on jazz/blues improvisation. If that doesn't click you can always switch back.


That is something I do periodically just for a change of pace.

Another idea might be to pick a classical piece that is below your skill level and learn to play it very well. It can get depressing to keep working and working on things you cannot play. It can be refressing to just relax and work on something that is fairly easy for you ... just as a means of assuring yourself that you are getting better.

Or Learn to play it while looking at the notation. I think this is always a good idea. Learning to play and read notation at the same time opens up a whole world of possibilities.


Edited by dmd (03/04/13 08:09 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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#2042794 - 03/04/13 10:49 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
CarlosCC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/06/09
Posts: 1479
Loc: Lisbon, Portugal
From the opinions above I have retained two ideas:

@hexentanz: "I suppose 'play for others more frequently' would be the obvious suggestion here". IMO, you have to have pleasure playing for yourself first. The "others" come next. If you do not enjoy playing for yourself how are you going to transpose the "pleasure" to others?

@4evrBeginR: "To really learn a piece you need to internalize it." I think this is the "secret".
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#2042802 - 03/04/13 11:14 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2425
Loc: Virginia, USA
To me, one thing jumped out which was that you don't really enjoy practicing. Hmm, yes I can see how this wouldn't exactly motivate you. So, is it that you don't enjoy it because of the outcome you describe or that you just don't plain like it much (you must enjoy it somewhat to spend an hour a day!!!)

Perhaps going back to easier pieces for a while would help motivate you - you would move through them quicker and perhaps rekindle the love of learning? It may also be what you need to move past the current plateau - if you find harder pieces easier to pick up after doing easier ones for a while?
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#2043000 - 03/04/13 07:02 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3602
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
I always thought the "seven year itch" had to do with a certain "restlessness" or "irritation" of another kind...maybe the "scratch" here is like the "scratch" there..."play" another "instrument" until you get bored with it (or it bites you in the butt) and then return to your original "instrument" with renewed vigor...salacious food for lascivious thought...
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Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#2043034 - 03/04/13 08:59 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: TrapperJohn]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2766
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
That's a hard post to follow, TrapperJohn!
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A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2043044 - 03/04/13 09:18 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: TrapperJohn]
hexentanz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/24/12
Posts: 9
Originally Posted By: TrapperJohn
I always thought the "seven year itch" had to do with a certain "restlessness" or "irritation" of another kind...maybe the "scratch" here is like the "scratch" there..."play" another "instrument" until you get bored with it (or it bites you in the butt) and then return to your original "instrument" with renewed vigor...salacious food for lascivious thought...


Lol!

I've tried jazz/blues improvisation and found it much harder than classical. I've also tried practicing easier pieces and that inspired me for a while, but eventually my interest waned. I'm not sure what it is - just a few months ago I felt fine with the 'process' and enjoyed practicing, but something's changed.

I think I might take a four week break ("trial separation") and see how much I play piano on my own accord in a pressure-free environment, ie not just to be prepared for lessons, and also try some new material. If I end up practicing a decent amount I'll continue with lessons, and if not I won't take lessons until I feel motivated to practice regularly again.

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#2043207 - 03/05/13 05:22 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
Kristina1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/24/13
Posts: 123
Loc: UK

There might come a moment
when our learning (as adult beginners)
seems "to stand still"
and we don't seem to make any progress anymore
(not as fast as we would like to make anyway).

I also went through a very frustrating time
when I was under too much stress with other things
that I could hardly "do my daily exercises"
on the piano anymore.

My good luck was that "I pressed on" nevertheless
and took the very little time I had left
for my piano exercises etc. whenever I had a chance
(even if it was only every third day for about twenty minutes).

I noticed later that I went through a time
when my mind needed to "digest"
what I had learned so far and I could later progress from there.

But my mind needed the rest at that time
to avoid being overcrowded
and I just needed the time "to sit it out".

I wish you good luck and all the best
and please let us know how you go,
Kristina.

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#2043223 - 03/05/13 07:12 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3602
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Kristina -
I kept waiting for your post to rhyme...
I wonder why...
but it never quite did...
I can only sigh...



Edited to add that this is my 3,333rd post - maybe I should post less and practice more and I wouldn't have the seven year itch too...scratch, scratch...


Edited by TrapperJohn (03/05/13 07:22 AM)
_________________________
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#2043226 - 03/05/13 07:27 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: TrapperJohn]
Sam S Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 1430
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: TrapperJohn
I always thought the "seven year itch" had to do with a certain "restlessness" or "irritation" of another kind...maybe the "scratch" here is like the "scratch" there..."play" another "instrument" until you get bored with it (or it bites you in the butt) and then return to your original "instrument" with renewed vigor...salacious food for lascivious thought...


Some of us, of a certain age, will remember the movie with Marilyn Monroe and the unlikely Tom Ewell (I had to look him up) as the "romantic" lead. He lived in a New York apartment, his wife and kids had gone to the country for the summer, and Marilyn Monroe had moved in upstairs. He got the "seven year itch".

There is a piano tie-in, of course. He reasons that the best way to get Marilyn in a romantic mood is to play Rachmaninoff. Turns out the only thing they can play on the piano is chopsticks.

This is the movie with the famous shot of Marilyn standing over the subway grate with her dress blowing up...

Now back to the piano discussion...

Sam

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#2043555 - 03/05/13 08:03 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: Sam S]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3602
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Originally Posted By: Sam S


This is the movie with the famous shot of Marilyn standing over the subway grate with her dress blowing up...


Sam



Sam - The scene is indelibly etched into my memory banks - there is a lot to be said for certain women wearing dresses...something wonderfully feminine and alluringly sensuous...NOW, back to the piano discussion...
_________________________
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#2043680 - 03/06/13 12:36 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: TrapperJohn]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7780
Loc: New York City
Personally, I don't have an issue with keeping pieces in my fingers, they just sort of stick once I've developed the muscle memory. I'm not a world class pianist who can play 75+ full concertos at the drop of a hat, of course (and yes there are pianists who can do that) but there is a substantial amount of repertoire I can probably play on the spot.

However, the best way to maintain pieces is to play through them each day. There is no way around it. You should pick 5 minutes of repertoire to keep polished, and just play through them once. They will never leave you.

(After a while, just from having played it consistently over a period of time, you must at some point internalize it and you will find that you can play it less and less and still remember it, until it is second nature and you will literally NEVER forget it (unless you suffer some kind of brain damage). That's how all the great pianists learned those pieces that you wonder how they remember.)
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Polyphonist

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#2043814 - 03/06/13 08:29 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: Polyphonist]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3602
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist


...the best way to maintain pieces is to play through them each day. There is no way around it...They will never leave you.

(After a while, just from having played it consistently over a period of time, you must at some point internalize it and you will find that you can play it less and less and still remember it, until it is second nature and you will literally NEVER forget it (unless you suffer some kind of brain damage).



I'm not too sure one can accurately generalize this way about this capability - besides basic, inherent natural ability in this regard (and leaving considerations of "brain damage" aside for the moment) there are a lot of variables such as how many pieces in one's repertoire, how long they are, how complex they are, how often one can reasonably work on maintaining any given work, recycling it back into one's practice schedule, etc., etc.

What are the real capabilities here? What are the typical or normal limits? Can maximums be stated, or even averages?


And did Matthew really die in that car crash at the end of Season 3?
_________________________
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#2043850 - 03/06/13 10:07 AM Re: Seven year itch [Re: TrapperJohn]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1957
Loc: Pennsylvania
You can probably generalize to this ...

The more often you play a piece the easier it will be to recall it when you wish to play it. Pretty simple.

And in addition, the better a "reader" you are, the easier it will be to restore it to memory after losing it.

The moral of the story is ...

If you wish to retain it in memory ... play it regularly.

If you wish to be able to put it back in memory more quickly, learn to read notation better.

Pretty simple.
_________________________
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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#2044014 - 03/06/13 04:08 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
Quarkomatic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/10
Posts: 75
Loc: Toronto, ON, Canada
I haven't been at it for as long as the OP, but I'm getting to that point as well. To really progress, I need regular practice, but then sometimes it feels like a chore. I ask myself why I'm doing it on a regular basis. It seems that I never just play the piano; I'm always practicing. I do enjoy it, and sometimes I feel like I really don't want to, but then once I get started the time flies by. But it does use up a lot of time, and I often feel that I'm behind in my practicing if I've had to miss certain days or cut sessions short.

So far I have never successfully internalized a piece. There is one currently that I'm very fond of, and maybe in a year it will have stuck. Though I'm a fast memorizer, the pieces seem to fade away just as quickly.

I do have a teacher and take lessons weekly, so the pressure to progress each week is a motivator, and it's nice to have someone else take interest in my progress. I try to post videos to YouTube of my finished pieces, as another poster suggested. And about once a month I get to play for the other adult students that take lessons from my teacher.

One of my problems is that there is just so much I want to do musically that I can't fit it in. I've always thought of piano lessons as a starting point - a solid musical foundation. But there are other skills I yearn to have - coordinating singing with accompanying myself on piano, composing, transcription, playing by ear, etc. I've scratched the surface of all of those, but just barely, as there is a constant stream of new pieces to be learned.

But perhaps the main problem is that learning piano is such a solitary activity. My fantasies of impromptu good old-fashioned piano parties have not materialized! I am a software developer, so my days are lonely enough as it is. I'm currently trying to figure out how I can make my musical endeavors more social. Perhaps that's something you could consider as well. I've surveyed my friends to see if any of them have secret musical talents, but that didn't turn up much. Looks like I'll need to seek out musicians and make them my friends instead of the other way around. It's daunting though, to try to match musical abilities and interests, especially when I'm so indecisive about which music interests I want to focus on. I am pondering getting involved in traditional Acadian/Irish/Scottish music, which has a culture of jamming, and maybe even picking up a different instrument in order to do that. I grew up with that sort of music, and I'm finding myself drawn to it as I age. Of course, I don't really want to leave my piano teacher, so I'm not sure how I can possibly fit more in, but we'll see. We're all just figuring it out as we go.

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#2044085 - 03/06/13 06:54 PM Re: Seven year itch [Re: hexentanz]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1100
Loc: Southern California
Quarkomatic, I have even less experience than you. However, if you want to do other things besides learning the assigned pieces, speak up, and then go ahead and allocate both your practice time and possibly lesson time to those interests. Your teacher may or may not have expertise in those other areas, but you'll never know if you don't ask.

This would almost certainly mean learning new pieces at a slower pace, but so what? Especially, if you haven't learned any pieces well enough to truly know them and never forget them. Another suggestion is to spend 20% of practice time on old pieces, so some of them stay long enough to be part of you. Again, it will mean learning new at a slower pace, but it may be more rewarding in the long run to have at least a few pieces that are part of permanent repertoire, instead of a series pieces learned then discarded as the originator of the thread seems to have also done.

Another path others have suggested is more focus on sight reading so that old pieces can be picked up and enjoyed very quickly if there is the desire or need to do so.

Yes, dance communities tend to be more social. However, if one is a musician, and not a dancer, there is a wall. Meetup is a site that has some music and dance groups as well as all kinds of other groups. I don't know if Toronto has any active music groups at your level, but it is worth a look. Local music schools might be another place to look, though at conservatories the level of seriousness might be more than you are looking for. It can also be intimidating for a hobbyist to mix with aspiring full time musicians.
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