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#2339181 - 10/19/14 04:23 PM 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do?
pinkfloydhomer Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 03/07/08
Posts: 280
Hello piano teachers,

let me summarize my situation first, then I'll expand in a moment:

- I am 40 year old self-taught living in Denmark, Europe

- I love Bach and have taught myself to play some of his works

- I want to get better and more focused and effective in my practice

- I would love to get better technique and better practice routines, but would be really demotivated if I had to practice "simpler" music first before being "allowed" to practice Bach

- and last by certainly not of least importance, I would like a better instrument than the upright chines Nordiska 120 from 2004 that I am now practicing on, preferably a grand, but even after having tried several reputable and expensive grands, I can't seem to find one that I love: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2335104/1.html


Let me expand:

I've been toying with music since I was a child. I was transferred to a special school for musical children when I was 9, life took me in a different direction though, I took up the guitar as a teenager and got quite good at it.

In high school, my music teacher introduced me to a lot of great music. Glenn Gould's version of the G minor prelude and fugue from the WTC1 (BWV 861) stuck in my mind. A few years later, I suddenly decided to learn it. I didn't even own a keyboard, let alone a piano. I bought a cheap keyboard and off I went. My technique and practice habits were probably awful, but my motivation and joy was immense.

Then life happened and I didn't play for a long time.

Then about 5 years ago I was lucky to receive a Nordiska 120 upright piano from a family member. It is not the most impressive piano, to say the least, but it was in my home, available, and it was good enough to draw me back into Bach.

I have to balance piano practice with many other things in life, family, work and so on. As do many adults, I guess. I means that my "practicing" is not very structured. I just practice or play whatever I feel like. That also means that I know many first halves of pieces smile I would like my practice to be more efficient and I can be quite disciplined when I am motivated. But this is still only a hobby, albeit a passionate one.

I read slowly, memorize and then play from memory. One one hand, Fundamentals of Piano Practice says:

"It is more important to be able to memorize than to sight read because you can
survive as a pianist without good reading ability, but you can't become an advanced pianist
without the ability to memorize"

http://www.pianopractice.org/book.pdf

But reading "Grand Obsession", I get the idea that this is a big no no and that I have to be able to play what I read and always know what count I am on and so forth. I find it hard to understand why it is better to multitask by having to not only play the piano but also read (and count) at the same time. Even if I can't read something quickly, I still have to practice it hands separate and slowly. So why the need to confuse my brain by reading at the same time?

This is a (probably incomplete) list of works I can play in some form.

- WTC1 C Major Prelude

- WTC1 C Major Fugue - this took a long time to learn with all the strettos, but I have it memorized and can play it quite okay. There is always room for improvement.

- WTC1 C minor Prelude - I have memorized most of the first part (until bar 24) and some of the remaining bars. But I haven't practiced it enough to play it well.

- WTC1 C sharp minor Prelude - I have it memorized and can play it quite okay.

- WTC1 C sharp minor Fugue - I have the first 28 bars memorized and can play it quite okay. But there are 115 bars in total, a long way to go smile

- WTC1 D major Prelude - I have about half of it memorized, but I haven't practiced it very much and can't play it well.

- WTC1 E flat major Prelude - I have the first part (until bar 9) memorized and then the first fugal part (until bar 24) mostly memorized. I haven't practiced it much and I can't play it well.

- WTC1 E flat minor Prelude - I have it memorized and can play it quite well.

- WTC1 D sharp minor Fugue - I have about the first 12 bars memorized and can play most of it okay.

- WTC1 E major Prelude - I have the first half memorized and can play it okay.

- WTC1 E minor Prelude - I have the first part (until the presto at bar 23) memorized and can play it but it could be much better.

- WTC1 F minor Prelude - I have it memorized and can play it quite well.

- WTC1 F minor Fugue - I have memorized about 15 bars and can play it slowly but not well.

- WTC1 G minor Prelude - I have it memorized and can play it okay. Of course, the trills are central and my trills could be much better smile

- WTC1 G minor Fugue - I have it memorized and can play it okayish, but some parts especially in the last half could use more practice.

- WTC1 B flat minor Prelude - I have memorized 14 bars but I haven't played it in a long time and can't play it well.

- WTC1 B flat minor Fugue - I have memorized the first 14 bars but can't play it well.

- WTC1 B minor Prelude - I have the first part (until bar 17) memorized and can play it okay.

I have of course played with many other bits and pieces from WTC1.

In the WTC2 I have practiced a little of the F minor Prelude and the E major Fugue.

I have learned about half of the first fugue from the Art Of Fugue.

I have learned the aria from the Goldberg Variations.

I have tried forcing myself to learn the easier pieces everybody says I should have started with. The C Major 2 part invention, for instance. I find it hard to motivate myself to learn this properly because I don't love it.

I love the C minor and G minor 3 part inventions and have memorized about half of each.



I really love playing the piano and exploring Bach and I devote a lot of my spare time to it. But I don't know where to go from here.
Reading "Grand Obsession", Perri Knize finds a great teacher and eventually a great piano (I guess, I haven't finished reading it yet) and she gets a lot of help on this forum even.

I feel the same way she describes. It feels like an obsession. An obsession to get better but also an obsession to find the right piano and the right teacher etc.

I don't know what to do from here. I don't know where to find the right teacher, where to find the right piano. It feels like I can't get better before I get a better instrument, but I can't get myself to buy a better instrument before I can really play it and know what I am buying. I probably have a lot of bad habits from self-teaching and playing my upright. It feels like a catch 22. I have to have a good grand piano technique to find a grand piano I want.

What do I do know to stop thinking so much about grand pianos and practicing and teaching, and move on to the next step?

Can I find a teacher that is willing to teach me using only music that maybe is "too hard" for me but that motivates me?

How can I find a grand piano that I love and that I know is good and will support the development in my technique?
_________________________
Amateur pianist working on: Bach. And amateur tuning, regulation and servicing of my own piano.
Piano: Frustrating and cheap Dongbei Nordiska 120CA upright from 2004.

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#2339223 - 10/19/14 06:23 PM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5943
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: pinkfloydhomer
I read slowly, memorize and then play from memory... I find it hard to understand why it is better to multitask by having to not only play the piano but also read (and count) at the same time. Even if I can't read something quickly, I still have to practice it hands separate and slowly. So why the need to confuse my brain by reading at the same time?
I don't have time to do justice to all of your post at the moment, but I'd just like to pick up on the reading aspect.
If you work on your reading instead of only decoding + memorising, you will have a number of advantages:
[1] You will learn new pieces more quickly.
[2] You will be able to pick up pieces you have previously learned but forgotten, and bring them back more quickly.
[3] You will be able to explore all the music you wish to learn much more easily.
[4] You will actually memorise more efficiently when you do want to do so, because you'll have additional input to use - the visual and analytical as well as the tactile.

Don't think of it as "confusing" your brain - think of it as training your brain. smile
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#2339321 - 10/19/14 11:37 PM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 850
You need to get a piano teacher. It's that simple. Explain to that teacher what you would like to do. He or she will either help you or not help you. He or she will be able to find a piano with you, or not be able to find a piano with you. Take a risk, pick up the phone.

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#2339379 - Yesterday at 07:27 AM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 690
Loc: Leicester, UK
Advice to get a teacher is totally to the point and correct. But not just any teacher. You need to find someone whom you trust and whom inspires you. Which means you've probably got sit some research to do. When you find the right teacher the. Very simply work with them.

There are many reasons to play all sorts of repertoire. One reason is because stuff that has to be learned comes from specific pieces depending on where you are as a pianist. Which is to say limiting your repertoire as you've described may have benefits. But over the long run it's going to have HUGE deficits as well.

find the right teacher. It really is that simple.

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#2339381 - Yesterday at 07:38 AM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 690
Loc: Leicester, UK
I just read your post about grand pianos. The simple answer is you don't know enough or have the experience to assess what a top-tier piano should do for you. In particular, it's a huge misconception to think a top tier piano will do anything at all except to mirror your current level of skill. As with the need for a teacher it really is that simple.

Find the right teacher - put in the time and effort and smarts - and everything else will take care of itself. That is, as long as you commit to working with the teacher and recognising the experience they can bring to your learning path.

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#2339386 - Yesterday at 07:58 AM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
Snippets...
Quote:
- I would love to get better technique and better practice routines, but would be really demotivated if I had to practice "simpler" music first before being "allowed" to practice Bach.

........ I've been toying with music since I was a child. I was transferred to a special school for musical children when I was 9, life took me in a different direction though, I took up the guitar as a teenager and got quite good at it.

In high school, my music teacher introduced me to a lot of great music. Glenn Gould's version of the G minor prelude and fugue from the WTC1 (BWV 861) stuck in my mind. A few years later, I suddenly decided to learn it. I didn't even own a keyboard, let alone a piano. I bought a cheap keyboard and off I went. My technique and practice habits were probably awful, but my motivation and joy was immense.

..... I means that my "practicing" is not very structured. I just practice or play whatever I feel like. That also means that I know many first halves of pieces smile I would like my practice to be more efficient and I can be quite disciplined when I am motivated. But this is still only a hobby, albeit a passionate one.


I have one foot in teaching, and the other in learning, and my formal music studies began as an adult student - hopefully that might help you accept some of what I am going to say.

You are on the right trick in wanting to improve your technique etc., and getting the guidance of a teacher to do so. But to help you, that teacher has to do what works, along whatever is needed to get you there. It is not a question of a series of baby pieces vs. advanced music. Good teaching has nothing to do with repertoire presented in order of difficulty. What it does mean is assessing your present strengths and weaknesses, seeing what you need to learn and unlearn, and then finding what material to use to help you. If you reject this, then how can a teacher help you? Or - you can get a teacher who gives you the pieces that you want, and isn't that invested in your real growth. That is a poor way to spend your money.

In regards to "motivation" - Musicians who acquire skills do what is needed to get there, even on days that they don't feel like it. In another thread, Rocket88 talked about "passion" as a positive attribute. I agree. But this is an underlying passion that has you stubbornly slogging on even on dark days, because this is something you want to achieve - the success is all the sweeter. smile It is wonderful when you have a piece of music you absolutely love, and the sheer pleasure gives you wings, so you could play it for hours on end. But if you use "motivation" in this way, then you put yourself in a passive, subservient role where how you feel governs what you "can" do. That is no good for getting better at music.

Whatever you have experienced in practicing and playing music in your 40 years is not the only version that exists. There are other ways, and other experiences, that you have not tasted and that are unfamiliar and foreign to you. If you manage to find a good teacher who gives you what you need to grow, and if you are open to what he or she shows and asks you to do, then these new things will be yours. But if you insist on only working along the ways you already know, and only doing those things that you presently enjoy, it won't happen. As in the beginning - a guiding teacher must be free to do what works.

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#2339389 - Yesterday at 08:16 AM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2609
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: pinkfloydhomer
...

- I want to get better and more focused and effective in my practice...

I have to balance piano practice with many other things in life, family, work and so on. As do many adults, I guess. I means that my "practicing" is not very structured. I just practice or play whatever I feel like. That also means that I know many first halves of pieces smile I would like my practice to be more efficient and I can be quite disciplined when I am motivated. But this is still only a hobby, albeit a passionate one.



When you are busy you need to be more focused and structured in your practice and not less.

If you have a teacher and want to improve you will need to do what the teacher says. There is a current thread in this forum about teachers giving specific instructions for practice and why students do not follow them.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2339498 - Yesterday at 03:05 PM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
pianomouse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 93
Loc: Europe
What a wonderful thing to be so passionate of Bach's music! I think, for an adult student it's okay, if you only want to play Bach. I myself love the diversity of all the piano music available, but I can understand your passion.

But: You need to find a teacher who's just as passionate about Bach as you are. If you have found that person, YOU NEED TO TRUST THIS TEACHER. The two of you should be able to make some sort of a deal: if the teacher agrees to only teach Bach, you on the other hand should agree to follow his guidance. I've made the experience with self-taught students that they often don't want to accept my suggestions, because until now, they've been able to play someway or other - so why should they change anything???

Reading, fingerings, technique, rhythm, musicality, practice techniques, etc. can be wonderfully taught through Bach's music.

Good luck!
_________________________
The piano keys are black and white,
But they sound like a million colours in your mind.
(Katie Melua)

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#2339510 - Yesterday at 03:21 PM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3214
Loc: Virginia, USA
I agree with pianomouse.

I think there's a very good chance you won't find that teacher locally. You're looking for a unique match.

Here I think skype is your friend.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2339532 - Yesterday at 04:08 PM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5263
Even Glenn Gould played Byrd, Mozart, Beethoven, Sibelius, Wagner, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Schoenberg........
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2339808 - Today at 11:25 AM Re: 40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do? [Re: pinkfloydhomer]
pianosNpreschooler Online   content
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/14
Posts: 16
I was self taught for about 2 years. When I was self taught, I played when I wanted to, and did what I wanted. I played mostly music by Emily Bear. My sight reading was basically non-existent, but my memory was so good, I would compensate for my reading by using my memory. I would read through and memorize one bar at a time. Finally I was at the point where I couldn't progress anymore. I started lessons with a wonderful teacher, and the first thing she did was take away my memory crutch. She gave me lots of music that I had never seen, and made me learn it without ever listening to it. 2 years later, I still struggle with sight reading, but I can do it much better, and I learn songs SO much easier because I can read them. Reading does not retard my memory, it's still great, and my ear is still great, but everything is easier!

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