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#2058163 - 04/02/13 06:09 AM 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice)
Harpsichord Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 30
Loc: US
Hello all! I had been depress recently by my slow progress on playing piano pieces lately. I started when I was late 21 years old, progress was fast initially as before the lesson, I taught myself some basic music theories. I'm not trying to say 5 years was a lot, I believe it even take longer.

I am taking ABRSM Grade 5 exam this year (My first exam), excited and yet depress as over the years I couldn't overcome these problem I had identify.

These are the chain that bounded me...

Sight Reading - Believe me, I had problem sight reading a basic beginner pieces. My mind just went blank when I'm reading the notes. I did practice my SR with these pieces. I might be able to play with basic rhythm with only one staff. When comes to treble and bass and both hand. I'm stuck.

Hence all these years, my pieces are all slow, torturing one by one practice and soon I memorized it.

Act before thinking - I don't know if this is good or bad. But things like basic scales e.g. I find myself automatically act before my brain told me the right note! (Scambag brain). Even the basic C Major scale, my mind knows the note but my finger run first before brain, hence chances of hitting wrong note is higher because finger act without thinking...

Hitting the note accurately - Might be due to the problem from above. Chances I missed, clash and etc are higher. Could be I still cannot imagine the topography of the piano key or something like that.

Hand Coordination - Having problem with Sight Reading is already making my process of learning a new piece slower, I find myself still can't do a left and right coordination while some others could simply sit down figure awhile and do it. I need days and week of practice before I can, even though I memorized the notes. (Big problem with Baroque pieces)

I just don't want to give it up, I do love music and enjoy playing. But I find myself learning the most basic G2 to G3 pieces, require a slow torturing long of practice even at my level. My progress basically just stopped and all these years I think I'm actually a "Hard Coding Learner" rather than a "Soft Coding Learner". (Kinda like a person able to apply the techniques he/she learnt from Piece A e.g. Ragtime and applied to a pieces similar to A. Hence cutting down the time of "re-learn".

I think it might be the years of mostly just learning ABRSM exam pieces and lacking out of some exercise, I been looking at Hannon and Czerny. Not very sure which one should I pick up...

Anyway, sorry for the long post. Just need to post it as I couldn't share my agony with anyone as nobody understands (specially my musician friends). I do not want to blame it on being a late learner. But I really hope to get tips from the experts here or anyone who shared the same problem with me and already overcome it.

I am just a normal person who wants to be a musician to play freely and not bounded by anything.
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#2058191 - 04/02/13 08:29 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Do you have a teacher?
_________________________
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Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2058196 - 04/02/13 08:44 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Morodiene]
Harpsichord Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 30
Loc: US
Hi Morodiene, I do have. Been learning with my teacher since then. Practice was the advice.

I was thinking maybe I wasn't really the normal kind of person that can do it easily. Maybe I got some learning difficulties problem with coordination and etc...
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#2058206 - 04/02/13 09:08 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Well, a couple of things to think about:

1) You haven't been playing that long in the grand scheme of piano playing. Accuracy, sight reading, coordination, all take a long time to get there

2) You appear to think that your issues stem from your poor sight reading skills. I disagree. Sight reading (playing a piece the first time through) and reading music you are learning (playing a piece over and over again with the goal of being able to perfect it), while linked, are two separate things. They help one another, which means that the more repertoire you learn, the better your sight reading will be because you will be able to identify patterns that you've encountered before in other pieces. Sight reading can also help with learning pieces, of course, but only at the very beginning when you're learning how to play it the first time or two.

Sight reading will not help with coordination or playing faster. Playing too fast, however, can hinder your accuracy and coordination and being able to visualize the notes before you play them. I recommend you do lots of *slow* practicing. If you feel you are getting ahead of yourself when you're playing, then perhaps that is an indication you're playing it too fast. Even if the piece is supposed to be allegro, you should practice it slowly and only increase the tempo when you are able to play it well.
_________________________
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MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2058222 - 04/02/13 09:46 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
Ataru074 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 339
Loc: Houston, TX
I had a similar problem... hitting a glass ceiling after one year I restarted playing the piano... after a VERY VERY long break. You need a good teacher and get out your comfort zone.
Sight reading: get as many music scores as you can... go to the bargain bin of the music store.. get this scores with bootleg pop and rock music for piano, get easy classics.. anything that looks and feels terribly easy and go through it... slow, accurate but keep going. At one point... I don't know how to describe it, you'll see the light. I was a terrible sight reader and I was stuck with some piece or repertoire and almost unable to move forward. My teacher did just throw me out of my comfort zone with pieces that I knew by "sound" but I never attempted to play... well.. that did the magic for me.
I'm almost 40... and I WILL play Chopin Scherzos, Beethoven Op. 109,110 and 111... and many more pieces.
Keep practicing. It will work.
_________________________
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working on:
Bach: BWV 871
Mozart: Kv310
Beethoven: Op 14 #2
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#2058508 - 04/03/13 01:15 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
Harpsichord Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/10
Posts: 30
Loc: US
Thanks guys. Maybe I was too minor these days and got a little depress haha. As I was playing a leisure piece for myself yesterday and I couldn't get it after half an hour at attempting the 3 bars... I took a long break and tried it at night, still couldn't get it. Oh well. I already memorized the notes but just can't coordinate and even at the slowest speed. Gotta try again later....

If you all are curious haha it's actually 4/4, rag time and in notes of quaver:

RH: C#,E,G,Bb, C#_ Rest |
LH: G,Bb,C#,E, G__ Rest |


This one is the advance arrangement... I only dare to try out the easier one lol. It should be around 1:23 .

I agree with you guys... I should just go back and it out again! I hope to see the light soon! That's what my teacher said. The initial start it's just hard but when your minds open to another level. You will see the light and everything will be under your control. At first I thought maybe only the actual talented people could see the light. But never mind, after hearing you guys, I will just try work at it, even one single piece of light of becoming to the next level. (:

But is there any technical exercise I could try on to get myself to improve too? E.g. Hannon or Czerny. I liked Czerny as it's more musical but not very sure which one to start working on it. Maybe I should try study some Bach Inventions.

Anyway, thank you guys for replying!
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#2058536 - 04/03/13 03:49 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
Praeludium Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/11
Posts: 91
Loc: Besançon, France
If I were you I'd choose Bach inventions (and Bartok Mikrokosmos !). For the fingers aas well as the mind..
But beware, they're true pieces of music, ie. you can't practise them only a little bit as technical exercises !

My teacher gave me Dohnanyi for finger exercises. But you need to practise those under the guidance of your teacher. They aren't musical but you don't have to practise them 3 hours a day either (:


Edited by Praeludium (04/03/13 03:50 AM)

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#2059111 - 04/04/13 08:28 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
RonaldSteinway Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1492
I think you do really well, try Chopin Etude Op. 25 No. 2. You will improve technically once your master that one. After that, choose another one.
Good luck...

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#2059855 - 04/05/13 01:47 PM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
jimtaylor170 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/04/13
Posts: 2
Sounds like you're on the right track. Keep up with scales and Hanon exercises. The hard stuff makes the difficult stuff easier

mt pleasant piano lessons

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#2059931 - 04/05/13 04:34 PM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
Auntie Lynn Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/04
Posts: 1108
Loc: San Francisco, CA
First of all, don't quit your day job. Then, consider the fact that all of this learning is a lifetime experience. Even the top ten artists (e.g., Yuja Wang, Arkadi Volodos, Midori), take a giant step sideways to re-invent, learn new stuff and work on existing repertoire...just hang in there - sooner or later it all comes together...

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#2060168 - 04/06/13 03:10 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
You are not a machine but an organic organism.
Learning to play the piano is a lifetime endeavor and must occur organically.
You can't push a particular artificially imposed rate of development.
ABRSM is a nice objective way to recognize certain milestones in your development, but
don't put the cart in front of the horse and demand from yourself that you pass an exam per year.
When you are ready you will be ready.

The most important things you can organize are:
1. the very best teacher you can find that knows how to teach YOU;
2. learning how to listen and how your movements impact what you hear;
3. learning how to practice deliberately with full awareness;
4. consistent time and dedication on a daily, weekly, etc. basis to lessons, practice and performing.

Also: Be grateful and enjoy being the pianist you have become rather than only looking ahead to the next golden ring.


Edited by theJourney (04/06/13 03:12 AM)

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#2060183 - 04/06/13 04:55 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
Frankni Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/12/13
Posts: 160
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: Harpsichord
Thanks guys. Maybe I was too minor these days and got a little depress haha. As I was playing a leisure piece for myself yesterday and I couldn't get it after half an hour at attempting the 3 bars... I took a long break and tried it at night, still couldn't get it. Oh well. I already memorized the notes but just can't coordinate and even at the slowest speed. Gotta try again later....

If you all are curious haha it's actually 4/4, rag time and in notes of quaver:

RH: C#,E,G,Bb, C#_ Rest |
LH: G,Bb,C#,E, G__ Rest |


This one is the advance arrangement... I only dare to try out the easier one lol. It should be around 1:23 .

I agree with you guys... I should just go back and it out again! I hope to see the light soon! That's what my teacher said. The initial start it's just hard but when your minds open to another level. You will see the light and everything will be under your control. At first I thought maybe only the actual talented people could see the light. But never mind, after hearing you guys, I will just try work at it, even one single piece of light of becoming to the next level. (:

But is there any technical exercise I could try on to get myself to improve too? E.g. Hannon or Czerny. I liked Czerny as it's more musical but not very sure which one to start working on it. Maybe I should try study some Bach Inventions.

Anyway, thank you guys for replying!



If this is you on the recording, it struck me that there is maybe something in your hand technique that may be improved. In fact, it was the very first thing that I was impressed upon when as a child I moved from my first piano teacher to my second one (who was a concert pianist). The first piano teacher concentrated on "hitting the notes". Fine. The second one was in a totally different league altogether: the first thing he made me do is draw a bell curve on a piece of paper and made me breathe according to that curve (which at that age struck me as a weird thing to ask me do). The next thing (and this is my point) was to concentrate on the positioning and the stress of (or the actual removal of stress from) the hand. In fact, he convinced me that when you play in mid-voice mode anyone should be able to lift your hand upward without resistance and only feel the weight of the hand or the arm -- no other force. In other words your hands and fingers are not to be used as hammers in a rigid position, but the playing should be as effortless and stressless as possible. Only minimal use of the delicate hand muscles and lower-arm muscles should be needed. In fact, if you use the right positioning and use only the weight of the arm and hand in order to exert force, you should be able to play for hours on end without getting tired or your muscles getting exhausted.

A very good exhibition of this technique (in which I believe the teacher is more or less saying the same thing) can be found on the following video (and the ensuing series)



This is not me, don't worry, but I thought the lectures presented were making good points.


Edited by Frankni (04/06/13 05:09 AM)
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#2060192 - 04/06/13 05:25 AM Re: 5 Years Since I Started Piano... (Adult Learner Need Advice) [Re: Harpsichord]
Teodor Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/16/09
Posts: 945
Loc: Bulgaria
Sight-reading can't be the cause here. I can sight read many difficult pieces that I can't actually play at this stage.

Hand coordination is something that improves over time and it would seem to me that maybe you are not working on things hands separately before moving to hands together. At least not enough.

You need to take it slow when practicing. Take it as slow as you need and divide the difficult parts in a piece in small segments and work just on those. I can't believe and nobody can that you can't play two consecutive notes or chords if you divided it the part.

Take control of your actions. Your brain must be given the control it needs. It seems that your desire to play the piano is great but for some reason your will to do specific tasks on the piano is not as strong. You must exercise strong will in anything you do on the piano. Slow precise willful practice with your mind 100% into it is the only way you will overcome your issues in a timely manner.

Hanon and Czerny are just etudes, they have no magic. You have to figure out for yourself how and if to use them to enhance your technique.

Originally Posted By: Harpsichord
Thanks guys. Maybe I was too minor these days and got a little depress haha. As I was playing a leisure piece for myself yesterday and I couldn't get it after half an hour at attempting the 3 bars... I took a long break and tried it at night, still couldn't get it. Oh well. I already memorized the notes but just can't coordinate and even at the slowest speed. Gotta try again later....


Don't repeat 3 bars over and over make it 1 bar or part of the bar figure out the exact spot. Anything else is a waste of time. You want to play sure not bargain with your ability to learn. Make it work, don't hope it will work at some point. Be more precise and practice it more hands separately then hands together but determine the small sections better. If you see you can't play 3 bars well then play just 1 of those bars if you still can't then go back to hands separately then play it again then if it doesn't work play just that tiny part of the bar which you stumble over every time.


Also something very important that is true for me at least and I keep reminding myself.

The years you spent playing the piano mean nothing at all. How many days were there in those 5 years when you actually sat down and had a nice concentrated mindful practice? Not that many I bet just like it is with me. If you did practice correctly (includes me) for these 5 years you'd be playing difficult repertoire right now and that "advanced" arrangement of the final fantasy piece would be the easiest piece you've ever seen.

Have you seen some of those kids that play terribly difficult pieces at age 7-8? Some younger? Well they practiced a lot and they practiced correctly. Someone was there to guide them and show them the way then they liked it so much that they kept at it constantly every single day for a few years. There is nothing very special about them EXCEPT the remarkable dedication that have at such an early age. We on the other hand, as adult learners, have so many other things in our mind that we cannot afford to become really obsessed and dedicated. If you have to balance school, piano and a job and God knows what other responsibilities, it's not easy at all. This is why it's crucial we learn how to best use what little time we have to play the piano and work at it.



Edited by Teodor (04/06/13 05:48 AM)
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