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#936204 - 12/14/08 08:17 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


I think the most important thing is that nothing can be accomplished without some degree of effort ... and if one must keep one's eyes on the prize, not to be so fixated that you don't enjoy the journey, too!

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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#936205 - 12/14/08 08:51 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11800
Loc: Canada
The journey *is* the prize. It would be disappointing to discover one day that you have arrived. Now what?

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#936206 - 12/15/08 12:32 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Otis S Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/25/08
Posts: 204
MAK:

My recommendation is to set realistic expectations for yourself and dive in. There is a lot of piano music which does not require advanced technique to play. If you can derive satisfaction from playing these simpler pieces, you can gradually build up your technique to play more difficult ones. Regarding what level you can reach, that is not possible to determine unless you go ahead and start playing.

Monica:

Thank you for the references you provided on practice and achieving expert performance. Regarding your statement that that “it takes about 10,000 hours of focused practice to become an expert at just about anything (a sport, foreign language, chess, and piano).”, are you suggesting that this applies to widely different activities such as mowing lawns and brain surgery? Conventional wisdom suggests that it would take significantly more time to become an expert in the latter than the former.

Even among highly skilled activities, the time to reach high levels of expertise can vary. Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to ever get a 10 in an Olympic Games gymnastic competition after training seriously for about 7 years. Even the most talented pianists would take a lot longer before they could be one of the best in the world.

In scientific disciplines, some of the key contributions are made right after a field is established. For example, key contributions were made to the area of Web search before the area was old enough for the researchers in this are to have devoted 10,000 hours to studying it. One could argue around this by saying that the people in this area had expertise in other fields that really should be counted towards the 10,000 hours. Using this logic, any person who has had 10 years of schooling or more probably has devoted at least 10,000 hours to academic pursuits. When this is taken into account, the time to become expert enough in an academic area to make a significant contribution balloons to a lot more than 10,000 hours.

Regarding the following:

“For copyright reasons, I don't want to quote at length from the article, but here's their summary sentences from the section entitled "Expert Performance and Talent" (pp. 279-281): "Reviews of adult expert performance show that individual differences in basic capacities and abilities are surprisingly poor predictors of performance (Ericsson et al 1993, Regnier et al 1994). These negative findings, together with the strong evidence for adaptive changes through extended practice, suggest that the influence of innate, domain-specific basic capacities (talent) on expert performance is small, possibly even negligible."

I read the Ericsson papers that you recommended and the research that they did on pianists described in:
Ericsson, K. A., R. Th. Krampe, and C. Tesch-Römer, 1993, ‘The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance.’ *Psychological Review*, 100: 363-406

The study on pianists does not support (nor refute) this conclusion. The data are insufficient to allow one to draw conclusions one way or another.

In this paper, they compared 12 expert pianists and 12 amateurs. Expert pianists were students at Hochschule der Kuenste, a Berlin music school. Amateurs were recruited from newspaper and campus ads; the amateurs had to play classical music and a Bach piece used in the study (Prelude #1 in C Major from Bach’s Well-Tempered Klavier. Since the paper described it as “technically very simple”, I assume they used the prelude from the 1st book; this should have been clarified in the paper). It isn’t clear how good the amateurs were. Only 3 amateurs were rejected which suggests that the study was not too selective in picking subjects for the experiments.

Unsurprisingly, the expert pianists as a whole practiced a lot more than the amateur pianists and started playing at an earlier age. However, we cannot conclude that the amateurs would have gotten to the same level of proficiency as the experienced pianists if they had engaged in as much focused practice and learned the piano at an earlier age.
There is no evidence that the amateurs could (or could not) ever reach the levels of the experts, even with more practice time.

The study is clearly not conclusive. The sample size is too small to draw meaningful conclusions. If the authors of the study wanted to do a rigorous comparison, why didn’t they have the pianists play a variety of different pieces instead of just one piece which is one of the simplest pieces in the classical repertoire (which the paper did not even identify unambiguously)? I am quite certain that if other people on the forum read this article, they will have many objections to the methodology used.

With any fine skill such as the piano, achieving expertise requires a combination of both ability and hard work. Both elements are essential. To claim that only one of them is required is simply wrong. It may be the case that a considerable fraction of the general population has the ability to play decently given proper dedication. However, people such as Mozart and Liszt did not achieve what they did through sheer hard work alone. They clearly had rare innate abilities.

Otis

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#936207 - 12/15/08 12:59 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Regretfully, too many readers will assume 2.5 hours a day of piano playing is 2.5 hours a day of practicing, and then wonder, after 10,000 hours of playing the piano, why they are mediocre.
True. But there is more to this. Why are there so many people who refuse to practice intelligently even after they are shown how to do it?

Years ago I heard a voice teacher refer to "vocal masturbation". He was talking about singers who fall so much in love with what they hear, in their own bodies, that they never learn what other people hear. They are impressed with something that only they hear, and continue to believe that they will magically transmit that somehow.

Something similar happens to many if not most people who attempt to learn to play the piano.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#936208 - 12/15/08 01:46 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
I have yet to see a study or a real world case where an "expert" pianist got there because of innate ability rather than having to work at it and practice effectively. IMHO the nature of the beast doesn't provide for such a path.

Yet there are many well documented cases of people with are "born with no particular discernible musical talent" (other than perhaps kicking mamma's tummy impatiently, seemingly in rhythm) who become accomplished pianists through years of effective (for them) practice.

Rather than obsess about one's own (lack of) "natural" abilities, perhaps it is more effective to just get on with it? Life is too short to sell yourself short before you even get started.

I agree with the statements on motivation versus rationalization-for-non-doing via excuses. Of course, if one sets as the standard for one's end-point playing as Richter or Argerich or Pires or Sokolov or Horowitz or even "talented" Sally down the street whose mother started her at age 3 and who spends most of her play time practising, improvising and dreaming about the piano, one might "fail". But, I suppose being able to spend years (on the road towards) making music on the piano in the company of the extraordinarily rich literature with which we are blessed is ample compensation.

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#936209 - 12/15/08 02:03 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
Those bromides suggesting that anything is possible through work and motivation alone are right up there with "Everything happens for a reason," and "Things always turn out for the best." Like "You can do anything if you try hard enough," they are patently untrue though their palliative value is great.

There's a big difference between learning to do something and doing it with skill. You were the one saying anyone could "get good," Larisa, but everyone's not a good driver, a good typist or a good non-native speaker of English, after all.

Let's just agree to disagree.

Steven [/b]
The message behind these studies is not:

"Whoever you are, as long as you put in the time, you will become an expert."

but

"We consistently find behind those who are considered talented experts an internal motivation to consistently push oneself to learn what one does not know and work on what one cannot do rather than polish shiny objects. We find them having worked for years or tens of thousands of hours under expert or master tutors consistently studying and practicing effectively (=spending 80% of your time learning/doing what you cannot do)."


So, no, there are no guarantees that 10.000 hours of such practice will make you an "expert" pianist, whatever that is. However, without such an approach, it is highly unlikely that even the most "talented", whatever that is, will reach the pinnacle, or anything close to it, of playing the piano.

I believe that for millions of us, taking such a deliberate approach could make us better pianists (or better ...) than we could possibly imagine. However, obviously, everything has its price and there are very real opportunity costs that would require us to say "no" to other things in our life.

IMO, this is one of the reasons why piano is becoming a "non-starter" in popular culture. There are too many other options out there for us on which to spend our time, many of which only require us to hold a 64 oz. glass of sugared soda water while we passively stare ahead out of our half-engaged mind through glassy eyes.

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#936210 - 12/15/08 08:31 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Otis S Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/25/08
Posts: 204
I agree that people interested in studying the piano should do so and not be discouraged about a potential lack of ability until they have attempted it and seen what they can achieve. That being said, there are considerable differences in how quickly different people will progress. Some of the differences are due to the amount of quality practice time while other differences are due to ability. I have not yet seen a convincing study which quantifies how much the level of a pianist is due to one factor or the other. If we take an extreme position and say that the most important factor in one’s success as a pianist is talent, then we will be discouraging people who feel that they don’t have much talent. On the other hand, if we take the other extreme position and state that one’s accomplishments as a pianist are almost solely due to how much quality practicing one does, we do a disservice to dedicated pianists who really are having problems making progress; we imply it is mostly their fault for not putting in enough dedicated practice hours. The truth is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, and we should not pretend otherwise.

It should be noted that amateurs who reach a reasonably proficient level of playing without the piano being the number one thing in their lives may have musical abilities that are well above average. Of the number of people who start the piano at some point in their lives, only a fraction of them reach the intermediate level or above. It stands to reason that the ones who do not only practice well but have above average musical talent. The fact that an advanced amateur pianist who can play a Beethoven sonata to a level which musically knowledgeable people would enjoy hearing could have been a professional pianist with more practicing may only be possible because the advanced amateur has a high degree of musical ability.

There are also a wide ranges in difficulty among piano pieces. It should not be the goal of every pianist to be able to play the most difficult pieces in the repertoire. There are many pieces which sound good which are not that difficult from a technical standpoint. One key to being a successful pianist is identifying and deriving satisfaction from pieces which are appropriate for one’s technical ability. If one views each piece as merely a stepping stone to playing pieces such as Mazeppa or Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto with complete mastery, then the person is unlikely to ever be satisfied.

Otis

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#936211 - 12/15/08 09:08 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Brilliantly said, Otis.



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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#936212 - 12/15/08 09:08 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Ursa Major Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/29/06
Posts: 1
Loc: Eindhoven, Netherlands
 Quote:
Originally posted by TonyB:
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?
Tony [/b]
Yep, very valid point! I've been playing the flute for years before taking up piano, and for a long while I believed that I was physically unfit to become a really good flute player. Then I changed teachers, and I found that I could reach the same level as conservatory students. For other reasons, I quit flute playing some years ago, but yes, I do agree that learning environment plays an important role in how far you develop your skills.
_________________________
I never have hobbies, only obsessions.

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#936213 - 12/15/08 10:06 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7407
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Gary, back on the 10,000 hours thing, I had an afterthought - most of us as students divided our practice among different skills sets, such as learning new music, harmonizing, transposing, improvising, as well as practicing for performance. These skill sets are sufficiently different that you might have to focus 10,000 hrs on each one to achieve super mastery.
_________________________
"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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#936214 - 12/15/08 10:27 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Hmm, the 10,000 hours. If I remember correctly (I think so but am not certain), the survey was done with students who have already entered conservatories. Among them, those who had practiced 10,000 hours were significantly better players than those who had practiced 4,000 to 6,000 hours. But what about those who did not enter conservatories? Is it because they didn't have the talent to start with, or is it because they didn't practice enough? The survey does not in any way claim that talent is irrelevant.

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#936215 - 12/15/08 10:35 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3485
Loc: US
the Journey wrote:
"The message behind these studies is not:

"Whoever you are, as long as you put in the time, you will become an expert."

but

"We consistently find behind those who are considered talented experts an internal motivation to consistently push oneself to learn what one does not know and work on what one cannot do rather than polish shiny objects. We find them having worked for years or tens of thousands of hours under expert or master tutors consistently studying and practicing effectively (=spending 80% of your time learning/doing what you cannot do)."


So, no, there are no guarantees that 10.000 hours of such practice will make you an "expert" pianist, whatever that is. However, without such an approach, it is highly unlikely that even the most "talented", whatever that is, will reach the pinnacle, or anything close to it, of playing the piano.

I believe that for millions of us, taking such a deliberate approach could make us better pianists (or better ...) than we could possibly imagine. However, obviously, everything has its price and there are very real opportunity costs that would require us to say "no" to other things in our life."

I would agree with this and I think that is quite close to what I was saying as well. However, I do think sometimes the way the 10,000 hour message is portrayed is too close to the "whoever you are, if you put in the time you will become an expert" version.

Sophia

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#936216 - 12/15/08 10:38 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
Brilliantly said, Otis.



Steven [/b]
I second that.

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#936217 - 12/15/08 10:43 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
To the original poster re. adult beginner progress:

I'm also an adult beginner, and I have quite a few friends who started learning piano with their kids. My own experience and observation of those friends is that adult beginners do very well. We don't have much time to practice, but we make up by our focus, our ability to understand new concepts and our possession of learning strategies. Plus we have been exposed to all kinds of music for many more years than our kids. My adult beginner friends and I all made very fast progress (faster than the kids) in the first couple of years (this is true despite the fact that the kids have more practice time and a few of our kids are very good piano students). Then at some point the kids catch up and get ahead of us (because they gain momentum and the adults usually slow down due to the lack of practice). So I'd say if you check out how fast kids should advance, you'd know roughly where you will be.

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#936218 - 12/15/08 12:20 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
To the original poster, re: kid playing Clementi, Mozart and Chopin after 2 years of study. I think the fact that the kid and his mom were trying out a Steinway means that they are very serious about piano study. For someone who is serious, with some talent, starting at the age of 8 (meaning, not too young), I wouldn't be surprised that he can play easy Chopin, Mozart and Clementi after 2 years. I'm sure some talented adult beginners can also do that if they have discplined practice.

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#936219 - 12/15/08 06:58 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
I once taught a (wonderful) student who started at age 13. He was very motivated, and practiced 2 hours a day, every day. We were working on Clementi and Mozart after about a year. (the Mozart sonata in question was an easy one - K.545 - but still...)

And this was not a kid whom I, or anyone else, would have pegged as "having musical talent." Just a normal, average kid with no particular musical inclination - but he was brought up in a culture that valued hard work and practice, so he practiced. And got surprisingly good surprisingly fast.

I had to move away, so I could not continue with the child, but I hope he is still playing.

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#936220 - 12/15/08 09:03 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
Larisa, I know we agreed to disagree and all \:\) , but I would suggest that his rapid advancement is proof that he did have musical inclination (or innate ability, aptitute, talent, etc., however it's labeled).

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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#936221 - 12/15/08 09:10 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
I would agree with Steven here.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#936222 - 12/15/08 10:53 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
You know - I'm not so sure that he had "musical talent", whatever it is. He was smart, definitely. His level of general intelligence was very high, and it definitely made it easier for him to learn to read music, for example. But his musical ear was not above average. I give some basic ear-training to all my students, and he was not particularly outstanding at it. His finger dexterity was OK, but nothing spectacular. His musicianship was, again, OK, but nothing spectacular. I've taught "musically gifted" kids (and I was, once upon a time, a "musically gifted" kid), and he definitely wasn't one.

And this is part of why I've been arguing what I've been arguing here. If this child had posted here asking the sort of question that started this thread, he would have gotten a discouraging reply, and may not even have started piano. (What? You're starting at age 13? You don't have perfect pitch? Let's be realistic here....) And note that when he started with me, he knew nothing about music, and no one was saying anything about musical talent. He came to me because his best friend was taking lessons from me, and he wanted some too.

And instead of "realism", he got me and my bromides. I never told him he couldn't get good. I told him he could get really good if he put his mind to it. I told him that the harder he worked, the faster he'd get through all the beginner stuff and the sooner he would play real music. I told him he had musical talent. His Vietnamese parents told him he had to practice 2 hours a day. And it all worked.

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#936223 - 12/15/08 11:21 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
Well, I can only share a personal experience of my own with someone who was called talented as a child, though the sources probably weren't reliable and he never had quality instruction. From his teen years onward, he returned to piano only sporadically but has been fairly consistent for the past several years. Now middle-aged, he has reached a level of playing by spending about 45 minutes a day on repertoire alone—no technical exercises, scales or arpeggios ever in his lifetime—that some of his peers have not advanced to though they practice for three hours daily or more.

What accounts for the difference, if not some innate ability? What accounts for all the 13-year-olds who don't make the remarkable progress that your student did notwithstanding the same practice habits?

That's the realism of my own experience. I would never deny the importance of dedication and practice. Why do I feel that so many people wish to deny the role of "talent" when it plainly exists?

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

Top
#936224 - 12/15/08 11:43 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
And instead of "realism", he got me and my bromides.
By "bromides", do you mean"commonplace or hackneyed statements"? I'm trying to understand your point, and I'm lost.
 Quote:

I never told him he couldn't get good. I told him he could get really good if he put his mind to it. I told him that the harder he worked, the faster he'd get through all the beginner stuff and the sooner he would play real music. I told him he had musical talent. His Vietnamese parents told him he had to practice 2 hours a day. And it all worked.
Well, obviously something did NOT work. I don't judge people by where they start, or even how long it takes them to reach a particular point. I can only judge results.

However, it is reasonable to assume that someone who takes 10 years to accomplish what someone else does in two is highly unlikely to get very far, and no matter how much we analyze why some people are so successful, and others are not, there are always questions.

To me there is all the difference in the world between encouraging people to find out how far they can go and encouraging them to make money in music. But even here we can never be sure, since some people who never acquire great playing ability do other things in music and are highly successful.

I think we do more damage to people by telling them what they can't do. I think it's best to just watch, encourage, and see what will happen.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#936225 - 12/16/08 12:06 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
Well, I can only share a personal experience of my own with someone who was called talented as a child, though the sources probably weren't reliable and he never had quality instruction. From his teen years onward, he returned to piano only sporadically but has been fairly consistent for the past several years. Now middle-aged, he has reached a level of playing by spending about 45 minutes a day on repertoire alone—no technical exercises, scales or arpeggios ever in his lifetime—that some of his peers have not advanced to though they practice for three hours daily or more.

What accounts for the difference, if not some innate ability? What accounts for all the 13-year-olds who don't make the remarkable progress that your student did notwithstanding the same practice habits?

That's the realism of my own experience. I would never deny the importance of dedication and practice. Why do I feel that so many people wish to deny the role of "talent" when it plainly exists?

Steven [/b]
Oh, of course it exists. I can tell you about my own experience, too. I've always found music to be easy. Everyone has always told me I had great musical talent, including all my piano teachers. I know that there are many musical things that are easy for me that are hard for others. In music school as a child, I breezed through things that my classmates sweated over.

But stellar though my natural ability is, I have not gotten to Carnegie Hall. And other people, with lesser abilities, have. And that's as it should be - they put in their practice time, and I have not.

So this is one of the reasons I dislike the label of "talented" or "untalented" - it does not correlate to actual success. Dedication and practice matters far more.

As for my student, I don't know too many 13-year-olds who would practice 2 hours a day and do everything - and I do mean everything - their piano teacher told them. Generally, such 13 year olds tend to do very very well.

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#936226 - 12/16/08 12:11 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
As for my student, I don't know too many 13-year-olds who would practice 2 hours a day and do everything - and I do mean everything - their piano teacher told them. Generally, such 13 year olds tend to do very very well.
I don't think they tend to do very well unless they also have a gift for following directions carefully, which is something that is not given enough credit. Granted, it is only one factor, but it points towards many things that, together with talent (or other kinds of talent), make it all come together.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#936227 - 12/16/08 12:21 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gary D.:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
And instead of "realism", he got me and my bromides.
By "bromides", do you mean"commonplace or hackneyed statements"? I'm trying to understand your point, and I'm lost.
[/b]
I was accused, earlier in this discussion, of dispensing empty "bromides" such as "hard work and motivation will get you anywhere." I was alluding to that.

 Quote:
[QB}

 Quote:

I never told him he couldn't get good. I told him he could get really good if he put his mind to it. I told him that the harder he worked, the faster he'd get through all the beginner stuff and the sooner he would play real music. I told him he had musical talent. His Vietnamese parents told him he had to practice 2 hours a day. And it all worked.
Well, obviously something did NOT work. I don't judge people by where they start, or even how long it takes them to reach a particular point. I can only judge results.

However, it is reasonable to assume that someone who takes 10 years to accomplish what someone else does in two is highly unlikely to get very far, and no matter how much we analyze why some people are so successful, and others are not, there are always questions.

To me there is all the difference in the world between encouraging people to find out how far they can go and encouraging them to make money in music. But even here we can never be sure, since some people who never acquire great playing ability do other things in music and are highly successful.

I think we do more damage to people by telling them what they can't do. I think it's best to just watch, encourage, and see what will happen. [/QB]
Yes. I think that we do a lot of damage to people by telling them what they can't do. More than we can say.

One of the reasons I feel so strongly on the subject is that I am a "returning" piano player - I'd quit for about 10 years, from age 18 to age 28. Had I listened to everyone I could listen to, I wouldn't be playing now - obviously, I'd never be any good anymore after I'd quit for so long, and why waste my time? And I did hear such sentiments from my parents, from my friends, from everyone. And I believed them, for way too long.

I played my first solo concert this summer, and lots of festival gigs as well. My second CD is coming out soon. My first CD is selling nicely, as is the sheetmusic of my compositions. No, this is not Carnegie Hall, but I'm doing what everyone in my life told me was impossible. And it saddens me to see other people believe the word "impossible," or be told to be "realistic."

Aside from the above, how do you know how much musical talent someone has? Especially over the Internet, from a short posting? You don't. Neither do I. Chances are, neither does the person who asked the question.

I have perfect pitch, which is genetic. I have to have acquired it from either my father or my mother. Neither of my parents have had any kind of musical training. Both are convinced that they are completely unmusical and have no musical talent. At least one of them has to be wrong, by the laws of genetics.

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#936228 - 12/16/08 12:23 AM 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 Larisa:
So this is one of the reasons I dislike the label of "talented" or "untalented" - it does not correlate to actual success. Dedication and practice matters far more.[/b]
Except when talent is minimal or nonexistent to the extent that such deficit cannot be overcome or compensated for by effort alone.

I think we're about to need to agree to disagree again!

Steven

p.s. Re your last post, I don't believe that perfect pitch, while an innate trait, is any indicator of musical talent.
_________________________

"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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#936229 - 12/16/08 12:54 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
One of the reasons I feel so strongly on the subject is that I am a "returning" piano player - I'd quit for about 10 years, from age 18 to age 28. Had I listened to everyone I could listen to, I wouldn't be playing now - obviously, I'd never be any good anymore after I'd quit for so long, and why waste my time? And I did hear such sentiments from my parents, from my friends, from everyone. And I believed them, for way too long.
Well, doesn't this simply underscore the idea that we never know what will happen? Isn't this a good reason to keep an open mind? It does not suggest that talent does not exist, or that it is not important. But the important thing is that we can't define what talent is. And because we can't, it has become almost PC to say that it either does not exist or is of very little importance.
 Quote:

I played my first solo concert this summer, and lots of festival gigs as well. My second CD is coming out soon. My first CD is selling nicely, as is the sheetmusic of my compositions. No, this is not Carnegie Hall, but I'm doing what everyone in my life told me was impossible. And it saddens me to see other people believe the word "impossible," or be told to be "realistic."
I don't feel this is what this thread is about. The orginal poster wrote, about himself, in third person:

"Keep in mind this person is a very busy professional with an active family and social life and great demands on time. What level of playing and satisfaction should one one realistically expect in a few years?"

Does that suggest hard work to you? Dedication? Any willingness to make any meaningful sacrifice in order to succeed at playing the piano?
 Quote:

Aside from the above, how do you know how much musical talent someone has? Especially over the Internet, from a short posting? You don't. Neither do I. Chances are, neither does the person who asked the question.
The person evidently knows he has very little time. We can't know for sure, but I've taught many people with unreasonably high expectations of success coupled with very little practice. To be honest, these kind of messages really irritate me.

Gee, I'm an adult with an active social life, and very little free time. I am busy with my family. But I want to learn golf. Or a foreign language. Or learn to paint well.

Don't ask me to spend much time doing it. Don't expect me to do much work. I probably won't show up for many lessons. You see, I am busy. I am An Important Person. We Important People live by other rules. We have money, and money buys everything.
 Quote:

I have perfect pitch, which is genetic. I have to have acquired it from either my father or my mother. Neither of my parents have had any kind of musical training. Both are convinced that they are completely unmusical and have no musical talent. At least one of them has to be wrong, by the laws of genetics.
I would never equate "perfect pitch" with musical talent. For one thing, there are too many things we don't know about what it is, how it functions, or how it develops. I've worked with talented musicians who don't have it at all but who have marvelous relative pitch.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#936230 - 12/16/08 12:56 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
james c Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/23/08
Posts: 31
Loc: Berkeley, CA
As a teacher of 20+ years, taking only adult students, about 1/3 beginners, I will say that in my experience it is almost impossible to know ahead of time what an individual will achieve. Talent takes many forms- some were incredible physical talents and some musical. Some had the talent of working hard every day. Some made steady progress and some jumped and slipped back. One of the most pianistically talented of my students turned to drugs. What talent is that? The important thing is that the ones that worked hard were able to give satisfying solo recitals. Have fun!

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#936231 - 12/16/08 01:02 AM 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 -Frycek:
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. [/b]
Frycek's comment was back on the second page of this thread. I'm not sure it was addressed, and I think it bears repeating now.

Some people are indeed more efficient at the process of learning than others, and I think that can be regarded as a talent in its own right. I don't know that it's of the inborn variety, but it's certainly a valuable skill to have.

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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#936232 - 12/16/08 01:03 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
You know, that's exactly how my teacher describes it.
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#936233 - 12/16/08 01:18 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
Some people are indeed more efficient at the process of learning than others, and I think that can be regarded as a talent in its own right.
I agree.
 Quote:

I don't know that it's of the inborn variety, but it's certainly a valuable skill to have.
We can never define talent. We dance all around it, trying. But isn't it interesting that some people seem to do things effortlessly, naturally, when many times we can't find any logical reason to explain it other than something that is not (completely) learned? \:\)
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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