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#591443 - 06/03/02 03:17 PM New Player Needs Advice
BLee Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/03/02
Posts: 10
Hello, Forum,

I've been reading here for a few months and really enjoy all of you and your wonderful info. In fact, all of you gave such great advice I was able to buy my piano (Kawai RX-2) relatively painlessly (except for writing the check). Your info saved me lots of heartache and I thank all of you.

I'm one of those returning "nontraditional" (read old person) students. I took for 2 years in junior high then quit. I can't remember if I quit because I was no good or because I just didn't want to take any more. Well, I've decided to take it up again and have gotten a teacher and a new piano. However, I'm wondering which I am -- an intermediate beginner or a beginning intermediate. Mostly over the years I've just played hymns and a couple of those pieces that everybody loves to hate !!! (i.e., Fur Elise, etc.)

My questions to all of you are:

-- After 2 years of piano long ago, what type/level pieces should I be playing now?

-- What pieces should intermediate students be playing?

I realize everyone's level is different. Believe me, I have much more desire than talent. In fact, I'm terrified that this will be more frustrating to me that enjoyable. No matter how many times I play something, I can NEVER NEVER play it without mistakes. I can't play in front of others, either !!

Thank you all so much, and I will take any advice to heart.

Sincerely,
BLee

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#591444 - 06/03/02 03:40 PM Re: New Player Needs Advice
sandman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/13/01
Posts: 605
Loc: toronto
it is very hard for me to decide what level your at without having heard you at all, so really all i can give is advice. Get a sense yourself of what your capable of, play a variety of music and figure out what is easy for you, what is way beyond you, and then pick a middle ground...as well play for your teacher...he or she should be much better able to guage your ability and recomend pieces of the correct difficult to match your abilities, as well as give you technical exercises to improve any areas where you are deficient.
as to the possibility of finding this experience painful or a lot of trouble...thats all up to how you approach it...if you just want to learn the piano for self satisfaction as many people, myself included do, then what does it matter that you dont want to perform in front of an audience, or that you slip up...practicing in no way at all has to be a painful arduous or unpleasant experience, for me at lease who in no way aspires to a performance carreer there is no difference between praciceing and just playing the piano for enjoyment, there one and the same, i dont separate the two in my mind, and i keep my goal realistic, i know im never going to be a concert pianist, but i also know i have the rest of my life hopefully decades worth of it, to get really good, that gives me pleanty of time to indulge myself in all manner of repertoir,
as well pick pieces you want to learn...i think this is really important and i a get the sense that a lot of people dont pick their own music to play, but rather have their teacher pick it for them, this is okay, but i would say make the effort to seek out music, listen to everything you possibly can...find music that suits you and that your gonna love to play and not get tired of.
thats my advice...learning to play the piano...(which is a never ending pursuit) is an absolutely wonderful thing, so enriching and rewarding, and i wouldn't worry i think you'll find it a great thing in your life.

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#591445 - 06/03/02 03:51 PM Re: New Player Needs Advice
BLee Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/03/02
Posts: 10
Thanks, sandman. Good advice. I've only had a few lessons so far, and my teacher is great. She knows I'm in it for personal enjoyment, so she lets me decide what I want to play. We're still getting to know each other at this point, however. You're absoluely right. I find it hard, tho, not to be supercritical of my abilities (or lack of). I have some relatives who are really, really good pianists, and I constantly compare myself to them (Of course, they've been playing for 40 years). Also, since I'm older, I have that age thing going on -- I'm an adult, so I should be able to master this in a few months !!

I do love to practice. Sometimes I get to play a couple of hours at a time. Told my husband the other night I felt just like that beer commercial of several years ago -- I had my new piano, lots of practice time, and my dog was asleep next to my bench -- "It just doesn't get any better than this."

Thanks for your good advice and encouragement. Since you play for personal enjoyment, what kind of pieces do you play? Unfortunately for me, most of the ones I like are too difficult for me at the moment (Chopin, etc.).

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#591446 - 06/03/02 04:34 PM Re: New Player Needs Advice
sandman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/13/01
Posts: 605
Loc: toronto
im 23 right now and have been playing since i was about 10...right now im learning

chopin ballad# 1
Bach partita #4
scriabin etudes Op. 8 # 12, Op, 43 #5
Chopin Nocturn Op. 55 #2

i admit though that the scriabin is fair bit beyond me...but they make for great pieces to really work on technique and im still gonna keep at them cause their both favorites of mine.

i dont really get much time to practice either, only a few hours a week if im lucky, but yah those occaisional 2 hour days are great, my fingers feel so great after a nice long practice session!!!

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#591447 - 06/03/02 09:35 PM Re: New Player Needs Advice
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2339
Loc: Massachusetts
BLee,
Welcome to the club! I am so enjoying my lessons, having now taken them again for 2 years. Easy to remember since I started again at 40, that would make me, let's see......

Anyway, I have the same problem choosing music. I have taken to writing down things I hear on the classical station here and on the breaks on the news of NPR. I then tell my teacher about it and she helps me find a piece. Sometimes I find she just passes over something if she doesn't like it, but that's ok. She usually has something in mind for me and wants to work on it. Other stuff I buy for myself and work on without her. Sometimes she finds music I think is terribly difficult and she always says, "Oh, you can play this" and now I am finding that she is right! The latest is the Gershwin Preludes. So beautiful, but.... something to work on over the summmer. As you work with your teacher, she should be better at knowing what sorts of things appeal to you.

As for nerves, take baby steps. At first I couldn't play with the windows open (I only have 2 neighbors..) Now I ask friends to sit and listen as practice for recitals. It does get easier.

Good luck and have fun!
_________________________
BeeLady

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

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#591448 - 06/03/02 11:27 PM Re: New Player Needs Advice
BLee Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/03/02
Posts: 10
Oh, BeeLady!!! You do my heart good. I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one "going back" and that I WILL progress -- with patience (which isn't my strong suit). Mercy!!! Gershwin Preludes !!!! I can only hope. Do you play any "pop" pieces or justs classical ones?

About that nervousness -- I get so nervous even in front of my teacher I can hardly play even scales, much less a piece of music. Hopefully that will subside.

Would you mind telling me what your typical practice session is like, as in scales, pieces you're working on, fun stuff, etc. I try to stay focused on the one or two pieces I want to learn, but find myself always going back to the easy things I already know, such as hymns. I hope some day to play that Moonlight Sonata (that probably eveyone here can play as easily as they can breathe!).

What kind of pieces did you start out with 2 years ago? I think you have a wise music teacher. I'm torn between sticking with the easy stuff that I KNOW I can play or pushing myself to tackle harder pieces. I just don't want to push myself so hard at first that I get overly frustrated.

Anyway, thanks for your encouragement. I think I'll stick around here and learn a lot from you pros. As I said, I would have made MAJOR mistakes on my piano purchase had I not read most of the posts here. I am eternally grateful I found this place.

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#591449 - 06/04/02 02:36 AM Re: New Player Needs Advice
nancyww Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/02
Posts: 585
Loc: central oregon
Hi Blee,

I, too started back at the piano after many years away. For the first couple of months I sight read thru my kids' piano books, starting at level one. It was a good exercise and got me reading music again. There was so much I'd forgotten!

It was often frustrating at first but now I can't remember what it was like to not be able to play. If you practice and have a good teacher you will certainly improve. Especially since you are motivated.

By the way, I checked your profile and noticed that YOU ARE NOT OLD AT ALL!!!!!! Didn't Rubenstein and Horowitz perform into their late 80's? You have many years ahead of you to learn and enjoy playing the piano. \:\)

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#591450 - 06/04/02 08:04 AM Re: New Player Needs Advice
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2339
Loc: Massachusetts
Funny you ask how I started out.... My first lesson I will never forget. My teacher ran to her kitchen and chose her heaviest cookbooks. She had me hold them out in front of me an drop them on the floor by letting my arms collapse. We did this over and over in order to get a good loud thwack when they hit the floor! It turned out to be a good exercise to help me use my whole arm in playing, not just fingers.

We started with very beginning Faber and Faber book. It is hard in the beginning to go along with this low a level, but I found she really did teach that even the simplest piece can have so much in it that needs expressing. I found it almost hard to play them well. We then moved into more difficult material.

Now, I am working on playing Debussy's Golliwog's Cakewalk in an adult piano party Thurs. (I never thought I would EVER be able to play it) The Gershwin will be my summer project. We are also beginning on some Bizet duets and I hope to get my 12 yr old son to agree to work on one with me this summmer. (We have "TV free" summer and use the time to work on "projects" with the kids)

Thanks go to the forum member who suggested the Ashokan Farewell, it is a lovely piece and not too difficult. You might take a look.

Have a great time. Adult learning has its challenges, yet can be more satisfying than as a kid. You can really appreciate it and you have the life experience to better understand the music.
_________________________
BeeLady

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

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#591451 - 06/04/02 11:26 AM Re: New Player Needs Advice
BLee Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/03/02
Posts: 10
Thanks to all of you for the encouragement. As much as I practice, I SHOULD be able to play like Horowitz, et al !!! I also need to have a TV- free household. I'd sure get a lot more useful stuff done.

I, too, got out some of my old beginner books, and also found some of the simplest things hard to do!!! But you know its funny -- I can still play from memory some of those small pieces I learned all those years ago -- but yet I can't seem to memorize something I now play all the time.

Another thing I'm finding is that after all these years of no lessons and playing "just for me," I've gotten in the habit of not paying attention to dynamics, timing, etc. If I can't reach the next note as soon as I should, I just hold the previous one a little longer!!!! I've got lots of bad habits to undo.

Oh, I forgot to ask. Any tips from anyone on getting pieces up to tempo? Lots of times I can play the notes -- just not up to tempo.

Thank all of you and good luck in your playing.

BTW. It occurred to me why I gave up piano at 15. A boyfriend who was more important at the time. To this day I STILL intensely dislike him -- especially when I'm struggling at the piano !!!

Good luck.

BLee

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#591452 - 06/04/02 11:47 AM Re: New Player Needs Advice
Beth Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/21/01
Posts: 151
Loc: Atlanta Area
BLee, there are many of us who have returned to playing as older adults. There are also lots of adults who start as brand new beginners. Read back through some of the older posts in this forum. Many things you are confronting are universal to adults students and amateurs. You will be far more limited by what you think you can't do than by anything else. So be patient with yourself, practice, and share your successes.

One of my favorite web sites for encouragement:

http://www.musicalfossils.com/

I have passed 3 major milestones in the last month:
1. Hosted the third Adult Student Recital at my house.
2. Played a 7 piece program for guild auditions. The only area that the judge marked as "needs attention" was memory. The nerves hit really badly and I lost my place in the Haydn Sonata in D.
3. The best for last: I played for an entire evening service at church: prelude, hymns, offertory. It wasn't all pretty, but I got through it, and the music director was great. It was such a thrill to play while the congregation was singing. I felt like I was watching myself from somewhere else: I could see the music and the director keeping the beat, feel the keyboard and the rhythms and the chords, hear the congregation, all at the same time. It was a very joyful experience.

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#591453 - 06/04/02 04:15 PM Re: New Player Needs Advice
April Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 323
Loc: Great Lakes State
BLee,

Congratulations on your new piano! I am very jealous. ;\)

You may want to look at some of the newer composers for supplementary material, such as:

Dennis Alexander
Melody Bober
Martha Mier
Lynn Freeman Olson
Catherine Rollin
John Robert Poe
Eugenie Rocherolle
Robert Vandall
Jeanine Yeager

Each of these composers publish collections of their "teaching solos", with difficulty levels ranging from beginner to early advanced. They have written a wealth of music for the early intermediate/intermediate levels; much of it is quite beautiful. Check with your teacher for specific pieces, or perhaps others on this forum can recommend some of the songs by this talented group.

And most importantly....have fun & enjoy that new Kawai! \:D

April

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#591454 - 06/04/02 06:00 PM Re: New Player Needs Advice
BLee Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/03/02
Posts: 10
April and Beth,

Thanks a lot for all the info. I will check around for those composers you mentioned. I've discovered already that buying music is a severe addiction.

Beth, I went to that musicalfossil site and it was great!!!! Gave me lots to think about and rethink.

One more question for the relatively new pianists. Let's say you're working on an intermediate piece. How long does it usually take you to get it like you want it? Generally, of course, as everyone is different.

Thank you all so much. I know I'll be coming back here daily to chat and get encouragement!!

Thanks,
BLee

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