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#936144 - 12/12/08 04:28 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Wasn't it Thomas A. Edison who said that genius is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration?

I have a HS freshman who has been with me 9 years now and is ever so slowly grinding away at his piano. Not the brightest bulb in his class, but he is dedicated to learning piano in the most tenacious manner. He has learned, more or less, his left hand from his right, he has learned not to pound the keys, he is into lower intermediate literature, and loves many of the jazzy versions of music I dig up for him. His eyes still light up when something comes out right.

He will be the adult who plays the piano at social gatherings, while my genius students, who at the same age are playing Fantasy Impromptu, will not be able to play a note a decade hence.

Life is so unfair!
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#936145 - 12/12/08 04:49 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
gdguarino Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/20/07
Posts: 317
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by MAK:
What level of playing and satisfaction should one one realistically expect in a few years? [/b]
On second thought, I've decided that you've set an impossible task for yourself. It will be merciless, grueling, soul-destroying drudgery with no reasonable expectation of success or enjoyment.

Please email me for the correct delivery address for the Bosendorfer.


_________________________
Greg Guarino

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#936146 - 12/12/08 05:09 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Just had an odd little thought - I wonder if many of those with a talent for playing the piano are really those with a talent for learning how to play the piano. It's not necessarily the same thing.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#936147 - 12/12/08 05:15 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by gdguarino:
Please email me for the correct delivery address for the Bosendorfer. [/b]
Dang, I hope he hasn't already taken Gyro's advice and traded up to a digital. \:D

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#936148 - 12/12/08 06:00 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Soleil_nuage Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/05
Posts: 284
Loc: Virginia
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
To play at an advanced level, you're looking at at least 2 hours of practice daily, and that is assuming that practice habits are efficient and productive. [/b]
Could I ask how the 2 hours would be divided, e.g. amount of time on technical exercises versus pieces?

I am in the middle, intermediate level, I spend about 15 minutes per piece. I wonder how much more time I will need if/when I reach the late intermediate and early advanced levels.

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#936149 - 12/12/08 08:42 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3465
Loc: US
Monica K. wrote: I am not saying that 10,000 hours will make anybody into, say, a Horowitz. But I would argue that it would make anybody into a highly accomplished pianist capable of having a rewarding professional career.

Monica, I love most of your posts but i think you're really out on an untenable limb here. There's just no evidence for this. Piano, like voice, takes a combination of physical abilities and musical talents as well as lots and lots of hard work to make it to the level of a professional. Do you really think that 10,000 hours of singing will give you a voice capable of sustaining a career as a professional singer? If the pipes are not there to begin with, 10,000 hours later you'll have someone who still does not have the pipes but knows how to breathe, phrase, and has good diction-- but not necessarily a beautiful voice. It may not be as obvious with piano, but there are lots of people out there who have played and practiced hard for years and are nowhere close to professional level. Why? because the underlying neural, motor and cognitive talents may not be there to get the performance to that level. They may become COMPETENT pianists at an intermediate to "advanced" level-- but a performing professional? Able to really rip off those Liszt TE's at speed and with full expression and dynamics? I'm not so sure.
Those who put in the 10,000 hours are a self-selected group and so studying them only provides limited answers . Yes, it may be a necessary condition to get good (to put in 10,000+ hours of focused practice) but there is really no good evidence it is sufficient in a randomly selected group of people representative of the population at large.

Sophia

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#936150 - 12/13/08 01:03 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
He will be the adult who plays the piano at social gatherings, while my genius students, who at the same age are playing Fantasy Impromptu, will not be able to play a note a decade hence.

Life is so unfair! [/b]
John--

To my knowledge, I'm the only person from my high school piano class whose career is related to piano at all. We had 20 highly motivated, talented pianists in that class; unfortunately, I was the only one who actually _loved_ piano.

One of my friends from that class, who still keeps in touch with me, says she owns an upright piano and still plays from time to time. She wants her kids to learn piano when they grow older. Her brother, who was much less talented then she was, actually plays the piano more nowadays.

So I agree with you: Life is not fair.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#936151 - 12/13/08 09:03 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:

To my knowledge, I'm the only person from my high school piano class whose career is related to piano at all. We had 20 highly motivated, talented pianists in that class; unfortunately, I was the only one who actually _loved_ piano.

So I agree with you: Life is not fair. [/QB]
5% of students turned their avocation into their vocation? That's a great success rate. Far better than I'd expect. How many in your math class became physicists? Any?

The other 95% didn't necessarily fail, either, they may have derived benefits from their hobby that made the rest of their life more worthwhile.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#936152 - 12/13/08 11:11 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Matt H Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 170
Loc: Indiana
Regarding the 10,000 hours, I wonder how people would define an "expert" pianist? What level of playing are we talking about?

As an adult beginner and an amateur, I don't really expect to become an expert. Anyway, at my rate it will take about 27 years, which will be just in time for a second career after (a late) retirement.

How many hours do you think it would take to become "proficient"?

In any event, my advice to the OP would be not to worry about how far you can eventually get. Too much concern for some far off goal might actually hinder your progress. Just jump in. If you stick with it, you'll get further than you ever thought. And you'll have fun at every level you achieve along the way. I got as much satisfaction the first time I played "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" hands together as I get from anything I can play today.

Matt

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#936153 - 12/13/08 03:07 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Matt, please define proficient. If you mean, can read hymns out of a church song book and play them reasonably well, then we're talking somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 hrs. Ditto sheet song music, although we're talking a different skill set here. If you want to play solid intermediate literature, even early advanced, very musically, then up that figure to 4 - 5K hrs. At 10k, we're talking artist level.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#936154 - 12/13/08 03:09 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
DeepElem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/27/06
Posts: 366
Loc: USA
To the original poster, I know it's not what you want to hear, but I think if you go into it with "how good you can get" as your frame of reference you are making a mistake.

I started a couple years ago at age 44 and I was of the same mindset. The problem I had was measuring my playing against where I wanted to be, or thought I could get to. All that guaranteed me is that I would be play for years as a miserable failure (judged by where I wanted to be) until one day I might get there.

Slowly I'm changing my attitude and learning to enjoy my accomplishments at any level (much like the earlier post about a kid being so proud of playing Mary had a little lamb). This change in mindset has not been easy, or fast, but I find the more I can get into that mindset the more I enjoy practicing and playing.

Assuming your goal is not to become a performing classical pianist or bust, I say just go for it. The more you put into it the more you'll get out of it, and if you stick with it you'll be amazed at how far you get. I know it all sounds a bit cliche, but it is the truth.

And always remember why you started this journey - to make music !!!
_________________________
-Buck
------
If you knew what you were doing, you'd probably be bored.
- Fresco's Law

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#936155 - 12/13/08 03:52 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17777
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by sophial:
Monica, I love most of your posts but i think you're really out on an untenable limb here. There's just no evidence for this. Piano, like voice, takes a combination of physical abilities and musical talents as well as lots and lots of hard work to make it to the level of a professional. Do you really think that 10,000 hours of singing will give you a voice capable of sustaining a career as a professional singer? ...It may not be as obvious with piano, but there are lots of people out there who have played and practiced hard for years and are nowhere close to professional level. Why? because the underlying neural, motor and cognitive talents may not be there to get the performance to that level....Those who put in the 10,000 hours are a self-selected group and so studying them only provides limited answers . Yes, it may be a necessary condition to get good (to put in 10,000+ hours of focused practice) but there is really no good evidence it is sufficient in a randomly selected group of people representative of the population at large.

Sophia [/b]
Sophia, I know it sounds crazy... and when I first started looking into this literature, I believed as you did. But the more I read the studies out there, the more convinced I get. (This is more than just a passing interest of mine; I'm teaching a class next year on "The Psychology of Music" and will be spending a week on the talent vs. practice question, so I'm studying it in some depth.)

I'm at home and don't have the articles in front of me, but here's a synopsis of the evidence for the practice side: Experts differ from novices with respect to various physiological/cognitive traits (e.g., fast-twitch muscle fibers for sprinters, certain fMRI patterns for chess masters, etc.). But these differences appear to occur as a result of practice, not innate pre-existing differences. This has been documented in several studies in a variety of domains, where they've followed people longitudinally before and after they started learning some skill.

Other research has tried and repeatedly failed to detect pre-existing individual differences that predict success in some domain... something as basic and important as general intelligence, for example, does not predict who becomes a chess master. But hours of playing chess does.

Of course, there *are* physical limits for some domains. A 5'2" man isn't going to play at NBA level no matter how many hours he practices. I'm not quite as convinced about the voice example. None of the studies I've read so far have looked at singers. But it would not surprise me in the least to hear that hours of practice would result in changes to the larynx and corresponding improvements in pitch, timbre, etc. that would bring an initially tone-deaf person to professional (albeit maybe not Maria Callas) level.

It's also not clear to me that there are as many physical barriers to becoming expert in piano (as there are in the short basketball player example). Have I found a study that has taken a representative, random sample of people, had them practice piano for 10,000 hours (or not), and then see where they end up? No. But I've seen enough studies chipping away at various parts of the argument for me to conclude that the weight of the evidence is on the side of practice (and concomitant motivation) as accounting for a vastly huge proportion (imo, well over 90%) of the variation in performance.

One interesting study took a sample of people, randomly assigned them to practice vs. control groups, and had them practice memorizing digits. The experimental group got to the point where they could memorize 400 random digits with ease... which is something that most of us would say "wow, that person must be a savant or math whiz of some sort!" But all it took was lots (and lots) of practice at memorization.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#936156 - 12/13/08 04:01 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11685
Loc: Canada
The problem with studies is that they are usually very narrow in their scope. They have to be because of their nature. I prefer live experiences which can be a lot more varied. It just isn't as neatly cut and dry like that.

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#936157 - 12/13/08 04:32 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
TonyB Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/07
Posts: 332
Loc: Twin Cities
Hi all:

One thing to consider about learning in general, and this is applicable to piano, is that different people have different learning styles and differing natural abilities. Is it possible that a person who seems to be struggling to make progress in one learning environment, may do really well in another?

My main instrument is the guitar. When I consider some of the well known and highly revered jazz guitarists, I wonder how many of them would have achieved their level of expertise if they had been forced to learn in the same manner as a classical guitarist, such as the Segovia method?

When I have read about some of the really good jazz and boogie woogie piano players who influenced the following generations of players, I have found that many of them (at least in the days of the Harlem rent parties and that earlier period), learned "in the streets". If every one of them were forced to take lessons or even some form of the current crop of "self-study" materials available today, how many would have achieved their level of expertise? These people achieved their levels of competence, at least in part, because they seemed to find ways to learn that suited their learning style (or, by plain dumb luck, the only means of learning available to them was exactly what they needed). Take any method of learning, and you will find that some people excel in it, while others flounder, and others do just "OK". Take a different teaching approach, and you will find the same thing, but it will be different people who succeed, flounder, or do "OK". That is why I have a bit of difficulty with the "talent" idea that "some got's it, some don't".

I realize that this is all "apples and oranges" because everything that I have brought up is a variable (i.e. the style of music, the musical time frame in history, the style of learning, etc.). But that is my point. Trying to force a square peg into a round hole (i.e. trying to learn to play piano in a manner that may not at all be suitable for a particular person) would most likely result in severely stunted progress that may not be recognized as a severe mismatch of person to environment, but instead looked at as an overall "lack of talent".

Tony
_________________________
my blog: http://ajourneyintomusic.blogspot.com

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#936158 - 12/13/08 05:07 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5933
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by DeepElem:
Slowly I'm changing my attitude and learning to enjoy my accomplishments at any level ... This change in mindset has not been easy, or fast, but I find the more I can get into that mindset the more I enjoy practicing and playing.
...And always remember why you started this journey - to make music !!! [/b]
Hear, hear! There is music, real music, to play at any level. I can't see the point of only fixing some definite and far-off goal, and being dissatisfied until you've got there (Hammerklavier in 20 years, anybody?). Enjoy the journey and the music you play as you go.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#936159 - 12/13/08 05:21 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
One other thing to think about is that "talent" is not a single, undifferentiated quality. Rather, it's a set of attributes - how good is your musical memory? Audiation skills? Finger dexterity? Visual memory? Tactile sensitivity? Someone may be very very good at some of those and horrible at others. No one is good at every single skill that's needed to be a musician (well, except for Mozart, perhaps - but he put in his 10,000 hours before the age of 5...)

If you put in the 10,000 hours of practice, you may very well discover that you're good at some things and bad at others, and learn to make your strengths compensate for your weaknesses. If you don't put in the 10,000 hours, you won't learn that, and your weaknesses will stop you.

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#936160 - 12/13/08 05:52 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Wasn't it Thomas A. Edison who said that genius is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration[/b]
Yes, and I am living proof of that quote.

I attribute most of my skill to the fact that I wasn't smart enough to know when to quit.

I know a lot of people more talented than I who gave up because they "weren't good enough." Oddly enough, I have a successful career in music and they don't.

I've talked to my wife at length about this and she believes the same thing about medicine. She's convinced that a lot of people don't go to medical school because they don't think they're smart enough. They're wrong, you don't have to be crazy smart to go to med school. Again, the 99% perspiration rule applies.

Another friend of mine won a fairly prestigious competition when he was 19 years old. I asked him how he did it, and he said "well, nobody told me the piece was hard, so I just went home and learned it. I'm pretty sure I would've lost if I'd known the piece was difficult."

It was the concerto competition at Juilliard.

Rachmaninoff Concerto #3.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#936161 - 12/13/08 06:17 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
MAK Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/14/04
Posts: 153
Loc: New York Metropolitan Area
This is fascinating discussion, even inspiring. I am more motivated now to put the time in to learn.

Still, how do I understand the following, which I observed last week ( and which prompted my question at the start of this discussion)?:

I was standing on the floor of Beethoven Pianos in Manhattan, looking over the instruments. In walked a ten year old boy with his mother. The kid sat down at a Steinway, and, without notes, started playing Clementi, then Mozart, then Chopin, movement after movement, apparently effortlessly. I asked him how long he had been taking lessons and he told me, "Since 2006", in other words, two years. I was flabbergasted. I have seen this type of thing before; how do we understand this?
_________________________
Michael

Bosendorfer 175

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#936162 - 12/13/08 06:26 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Furtwangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 1529
Loc: Danville, California
There is one thing and only one that is required to become a fine musician. All else will follow if you have this one thing.

You must love music. Love it with all your heart.

That is all.

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#936163 - 12/13/08 07:32 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
DeepElem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/27/06
Posts: 366
Loc: USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
The problem with studies is that they are usually very narrow in their scope. They have to be because of their nature. I prefer live experiences which can be a lot more varied. It just isn't as neatly cut and dry like that. [/b]
Good point.

So, teachers, extrapolating from your experiences teaching people with a presumably wide variance in "talent", where do you think a student of yours would be after 10,000 hours of focused practice (remember that works out to 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 16 years !!!) ?

I know this is an impossible question to answer, but it is a fun topic.

What is the level you'd guess a student with below average talent would achieve after 16 years of lessons with you and with focused practice for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year ?
_________________________
-Buck
------
If you knew what you were doing, you'd probably be bored.
- Fresco's Law

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#936164 - 12/13/08 07:42 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3465
Loc: US
Hi Monica,
Well it’s good to hear how you’ve gradually found yourself more convinced, but I guess I’m not there yet for a couple of reasons. First off, let me say I really DO believe the evidence that focused practice makes a huge difference in skill level over time and in maximizing one’s natural aptitudes and abilities. I also agree that there can be physical changes as a result of practice and learning (remember the study on the brains of London cabbies and how their areas devoted to processing visual spatial information increased after years of learning the maps and streets of London?). However, there are some reasons I don’t buy the full argument that 10,000 hours is sufficient to turn anyone selected at random into a professional performing pianist.

First, I think the 10,000 rule is probably more applicable to areas of expertise that involve relatively fewer rather than greater numbers of different skills to master and that also involve fewer skills that are dependent on physical attributes where you are likely to bump up against built in limitations of the physical mechanism (not that there are not cognitive limitations – but they may not be as easily defined and there may be greater plasticity to them ). So the example you used of memorizing numbers is a good one—requiring a relatively circumscribed number of cognitive skills aimed at increasing mnemonic capacity, and really no physical skills.

Voice, on the other hand, may be one where the physical equipment is paramount. Yes, practice enables a singer to produce better tone, with less strain, on better pitch, and all of the above, but I’d find it hard to believe that someone could start out with really poor basic vocal quality (pipes) and end up a professional singer just as a result of practice. (That would be an interesting experiment to run—a kind of American Idol meets Pygmalion scenario!) Yes, of course one can improve with training but there are simply physical equipment issues that will determine whether someone ends up in the church choir or at the Metropolitan Opera (as well as other types of talent, luck, physical appearance, connections, charm, etc etc.) In fact, singers have to be careful NOT to overpractice to avoid ruining their vocal equipment.

I think piano is probably somewhere in between the memorizing numbers activity and voice in terms of how much practice will improve performance. Piano at the professional performing level involves many different skills that are both physical and cognitive, and involve speed of processing, coordination, ability to have extremely good control of gross and fine motor activities, visual-motor, kinesthetic and ballistic skills, as well as musical skills. To reach very high levels, you need to have at least good physical, musical and cognitive aptitudes underlying these abilities, and have most or all of them simultaneously. If each of them is distributed normally in the population, the odds of winning the genetic lottery and getting all of them at once are fairly low. Once in that group then, practice will likely pay off big time.

The fact that almost every high level performing pianist started as a child and showed enormous potential at a young age is very compelling. Artists like Nelson Freire who started playing public recitals at age 4 or 5 (no time for 10,000 hours yet!). It’s hard not to believe that there is an aptitude that is there and of course gets even more developed with focus and practice.

Part of the problem with the studies that showed that within classes of experts, level of proficiency was better predicted by practice is that they are looking within a group of people who all have aptitude for music (or whatever the skill might be). When the sample is selected from one end of the distribution and the range is restricted on that variable, the correlation with outcomes will be reduced (a statistical effect of range restriction). So within that group, yes, practice will show the larger effects because they all likely have a higher than average degree of aptitude or talent compared to the population as a whole.

Well, in many ways, I hope you are right, Monica. It would be great to feel that no matter what, hard work and practice can get us there. It that were the case, though, I can’t help but think there would be more “experts” out there. Perhaps being able to actually focus and discipline oneself to put in 10,000 hours of efficient practice is part of the talent package too. I look forward to the evidence.

Sophia

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#936165 - 12/13/08 08:26 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Larisa makes an excellent point, I believe.

Take my current students. When they play at the piano, we all hear the exact same thing (allowing for differences in hearing). However, we don't all recognize what we're hearing. How long does it take a student to comprehend what they are hearing? It varies, but with a teacher guiding them, it still takes years. With no teacher to guide them, they may not "hear" what they're playing after a lifetime of playing.

I put it to them this way: when you play, in your head, you hear the world's best artist rendition coming from the piano, but I hear a student performance. We're both hearing the same thing, so why the difference? Because the natural human instinct is to hear what you want to hear, not what is actually occurring.

We then proceed to work through a piece measure by measure, phrase by phrase. The improvement in musicality is astonishing. Of course, they are slowly learning to really hear their performance.

I would suggest that the artist with 10k hrs under their belt are not just learning notes, but rather have learned to really hear themselves and are honing each performance to the nth degree. Each note is balanced in respect to the surrounding notes, and that is why their performance is artistic, not that they have some bravura technique.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#936166 - 12/13/08 10:32 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
Aptitude or talent is an obvious component of the human experience. The fact that somebody like Freire or Mozart could perform so well at an early age does indeed suggest a genetic component. I do not think though that the "focused practice" advocates deny the pre-determined genetic imprint. They (some of them anyway) rather argue that an altered environment, eg focused practice, can make up for the absence of a certain gene / genetic profile. The mechanisms are far from understood, but there is ample evidence for the effect of the environment on a whole range of parameters, such as brain plasticity or even neurogenesis ( birth of new nerve cells) in a much shorter term than peviously anticipated.
On the other hand, this is not to imply that Jane Regular will necessarily become Nelson Freire or Wolfgang Mozart if she practiced for 10,000 hours. Focused practice alone may or not be the only enviromental modifier needed to bypass the genetic disadvantage. Future research however may very well elucidate the additional parameter(s) needed, and make that experiment more likely to succeed. Keep in mind though that Jane may just reach a level comparable to 5 year old Nelson. He will always have the advantage of having further enriched the environment around his sterling genes for many years beyond.
Note that the genome project has published the complete genetic code of prominent scientists including a Nobel prize winner. The results were not particularly revealing except that one of them had a gene that predicts Alzheimer's disease in the future!
Also physical characteristics should not be over rated. They are, to a large degree, enhancers or facilitators. Control resides in the brain, a dynamic engine.

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#936167 - 12/13/08 10:39 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11685
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Each note is balanced in respect to the surrounding notes, and that is why their performance is artistic, not that they have some bravura technique.
IS that not the bravura technique, stripped of its illusion?

I was told by two individuals on two different occasions - one an old viola teacher close to his 90's, the other my own teacher:

"There is no technique. This is all there is." as a way of describing technique, which is everything, but it isn't while it is.

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#936168 - 12/13/08 10:56 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Andromaque:
Aptitude or talent is an obvious component of the human experience. The fact that somebody like Freire or Mozart could perform so well at an early age does indeed suggest a genetic component. I do not think though that the "focused practice" advocates deny the pre-determined genetic imprint. They (some of them anyway) rather argue that an altered environment, eg focused practice, can make up for the absence of a certain gene / genetic make-up. The mechanisms are far from understood, but there is ample evidence for the effect of the environment on a whole range of parameters, such as brain plasticity or even neurogenesis ( birth of new nerve cells) in a much shorter term than peviously anticipated....[/b]
This is enormously intriguing, and further advancements in research in this area are something to look forward to. My reservations about what I believed to be disregard of aptitude and talent were way more mundane.

I completely understand how important it is for people not to feel limited and to feel encouraged and empowered to pursue their goals. And people really want to believe that if you work hard enough, you can do anything—that where there's a will, there's a way.

But if those convictions that are intended to inspire actually create expectations that may be unrealistic and unreasonably high, they could ultimately be cruel and misleading instead and result in unwarranted feelings of personal defeat because one apparently just didn't try hard enough.

I believe that the greatest emphasis belongs on having sensible goals and enjoying the journey instead of fixating on the destination.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#936169 - 12/13/08 11:02 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
playadom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/06
Posts: 1366
Loc: New Jersey
 Quote:
Originally posted by sophial:
Perhaps being able to actually focus and discipline oneself to put in 10,000 hours of efficient practice is part of the talent package too. I look forward to the evidence.

Sophia [/b]
I certainly agree here.
This reminds me of an anime I watched recently. One of the characters had no natural ability at all, but was still able to become extremely good, through pure hard work. One scene has his teacher having a 'revelation' and realizing that the kid is actually a genius at hard work.

Then again, there was a genius character on the show, and he managed to surpass the hard worker's ability level in only a month of work.
_________________________
Practice makes permanent - Perfect practice makes perfect.

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#936170 - 12/13/08 11:03 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
But the other question is this: is Jane Regular wanting to become the next Mozart, or does she want to become a good concert pianist? There was only one Mozart, but there are a lot of good concert pianists out there. Most of them are unknown, sure - such are the vagaries of fame. But they do play the piano very well. (note that Mozart was not considered particularly special in his time, either).

We tend to focus on the few extraordinary geniuses when thinking about music, and only when thinking about music. When I went to law school (at a moderately advanced age), no one told me "Well, you'll never be another Clarence Darrow; what's the point?" People seem to recognize that a mere mortal can become a good lawyer by putting in the effort and the practice time, and that one doesn't need to be arguing cases in the cradle to even think about succeeding in law school.

It's also true of music. If you put in the effort and the practice time - intelligent, focused practice - you'll get good. But it has to be focused and intelligent practice; you have to know what you're good at and what you're bad at, and tailor the practice to your individual strengths and weaknesses. If you do that, you'll succeed.

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#936171 - 12/14/08 12:10 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
Let's examine the 10,000 hour idea, in this way.

If you practice 2.5 hours a day, average, 365 days a year for 11 years, you'll hit that number.

365*2.5*11 = 10037.5

I think that's enough time and effort for some people, maybe a lot of people, to play well enough to please themselves, and maybe quite a few people.

But I don't think it's enough to expect a career, performing in public. Not that much time alone, for the average person.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#936172 - 12/14/08 12:33 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:

I completely understand how important it is for people not to feel limited and to feel encouraged and empowered to pursue their goals. And people really want to believe that if you work hard enough, you can do anything—that where there's a will, there's a way.(...)


Steven [/QB]
Steven, I actually did not mean to convey an inspirational thought. The idea that the environment (focused practice) might compensate for the absence (or overexpression or mutation) of a genetic complex is well established in science. It is when we extrapolate to a pragmmatic recommendation (e.g.practice for 10,000 hours) that we get in trouble. Assuming that this recommendation is clearly demonstrated as a means to bypass the defect (which it may not be), a minor minority of people will be able to actually implement it.
So while the facts and perhaps the recommendation may be correct, implementation is not highly probable. This is where your appeal to common sense and modulated expectations comes in.

Larissa, I used Mozart's example as a surrogate for "unusual talent". Yes Jane may become just an extremely good concertist and not Martha Argerich, but I would argue that she could fall within a narrow range. For example, she will have janefans and janehaters here on PW.. \:\)

Gary, I am really not endorsing the 10k recipe. I am just saying that an environmental parameter(meaning an external factor, not dependent on the pre-determined genetic profile)can conceivably compensate for genetics (innate talent) and lead to roughly the same place.. Now whether it is 10,000 hours of focused practice or 5,000 hours of teacher supervised practice or 6 hours of biofeedback, remains to be determined.

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#936173 - 12/14/08 12:45 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11685
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
I used Mozart's example as a surrogate for "unusual talent".
Which of the two Mozart siblings? The children were strictly and stringently taught under close supervision by their father, an expert in the field, from a very early age and both were considered little geniuses. This is our focused supervised practice. The connections were also there to make certain that they were noticed, because performances must also happen in front of someone who will appreciate and further you in public. Are there any 'Mozarts' whom we will never get to know about?

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