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#936114 - 12/12/08 08:08 AM Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
MAK Offline
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Registered: 08/14/04
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5 Icon 1 posted December 12, 2008 09:42 AM Profile for MAK Author's Homepage Send New Private Message Edit/Delete Post Reply With Quote I have a question for experienced players and teachers: What should an adult beginner, possessed of no particular musical talent, expect to achieve in piano when piano is first taken up in mid-life? In other words, a adult in his late 40's wants to learn piano, and will start from scratch. How much should he expect to achieve in a few years? 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?
_________________________
Michael

Bosendorfer 175

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#936115 - 12/12/08 08:26 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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Are you working with a teacher, Michael? That might make a difference.

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#936116 - 12/12/08 08:57 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
MAK Offline
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Yes, I have a teacher. A graduate from a conservatory in Russia.
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Bosendorfer 175

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#936117 - 12/12/08 09:12 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Morodiene Online   content
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That's really tough to answer, simply because there is a factor of talent involved. This is not like a college class where at the end of the semester you have learned such-and-such. Both the level of playing and satisfaction depend greatly on your drive, what your particular goals are, and how much time you can devote to achieving those goals. Also, as keystring said, a teacher will make a big difference as well. Having regular lessons in the beginning is extremely helpful.

I have had several students who have learned "from scratch" as an adult. All other things being equal, there is a direct correlation between time spent practicing regularly and progress. Slow and steady wins the race. One cannot cram piano. It is better to practice for 20 minutes every day than to do 2 hours in one.

Please take this with a grain of salt, because I have no idea how quickly you learn: if you practiced regularly (minimum 5 days a week on average), I would say after the first year you would be in middle to late elementary. After 2 years, possibly middle intermediate.

Perhaps the better question to ask yourself is, how far do you want to go, and how badly do you want it? You mention that you are a "very busy professional with an active family and social life and great demands on time." Where would piano fit into all of this? Of course, I think that family should be top priority in anyone's life, and working is a part of that so you can feed your family. But would piano be below or above your social life? If it is below, then I would not expect that you would last for a year. You would most likely start off strong and then taper off, having not achieved more than early beginner material. However, if you treat piano like another important thing in your life where your daily practice time is scheduled and you keep that time, then you can expect results similar to what I stated above. Often when people are dissatisfied with their progress in piano, it lies in the fact that they don't work at it much.
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#936118 - 12/12/08 10:27 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
MAK Offline
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OK, that makes sense, and here is a corollary question. Let us presume that an adult beginning from scratch reaches the intermediate level. As the level of difficulty goes up, does this require a greater amount of concentration in order to achieve a satisfactory result?

As a simple example, the adult can learn to play Mary Had a Little Lamb in one day, and, a few months later, EZ Piano Classic pieces after one week of practice. The player is advancing slowly and steadily. Does this slow and steady rate become much slower once the player advances into the classic repertoire, say a Beethoven sonata, for example. Will the same player, who has advanced slowly and steadily to an advanced level now have to work much harder to accomplish mastery of "real" piano music? Or is it slow and steady throughout the entire range of study, from beginning through advanced repertoire?
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Michael

Bosendorfer 175

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#936119 - 12/12/08 10:36 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Morodiene Online   content
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Harder, yes, because the content is so much more intricate. Also, longer. 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. In fact, as the music gets harder, one can assume that "slower and steadier" is the rule. It will take longer to learn a given piece, and it will take longer to progress, but boy is the journey fun! The music is so much more intricate, which means challenging, but also interesting. That means the reward for all the hard work is that much more worthwhile.
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#936120 - 12/12/08 11:15 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gyro Offline
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Posts: 4533
Mid-forties is still a spring chicken,
relatively speaking, in piano. You should be
able to eventually play everything you
want to play.

However, I would suggest you get a weighted-
key digital piano. We are living in
the digital piano age, and there is simply
no excuse for a person to avoid digitals
when they are most effective tool for
good playing. They let you play anytime
and anywhere and not disturb anyone,
and therefore produce better technique
and playing. This is especially critical
for someone with limited practice time.

It is important that you start to observe
the most important thing about playing:
not looking at your hands as much as
possible when playing with sheet music.
(Most teachers will not emphasize this.)
This allows you to concentrate fully
on reading the score, and by doing this
your hands can find the best fingering
and technique on their own with no
special effort on your part, greatly
simplifying playing, since you no longer
have to read fingering numbers or worry
about if your technique is okay.

From this one most important aspect of
playing all other skills and requirements
for playing develop naturally with
no special effort on your part: sight-reading,
fingering and technique, ear training,
memorization, posture and carriage,
the right physical development for
playing, improvisation, transposition,
playing by ear, etc. Thus, by doing
this one thing you kill multiple birds
with one stone.

When I say you can play anything you
aspire to play, that comes with some
qualification. If you aspire
to play something big, like
one of the big Romantic Era concertos, then
you need to start on your favorite movement
of it right now, or you will never be
able to play it. The reason for this
is that an average player will not be
able to progress to the conservatory
level--where he could work up a concerto
routinely in a few months--in his
lifetime, even if he starts
playing at age five--there is simply
not the talent for this. Thus, a
player of average talent is going to
take a long time to work up something
big, like a big-time concerto movement,
and by a long time I mean years. So
you've got to start on the big stuff
right now, because the only way you're
ever going to play it is by working it
up slowly--one measure a day initially
is about right pace--over a long time.

I know this can be done, because I've
worked up a big concerto movement,
the Chopin op. 14, like this. When I
first started on it, I had to literally
go at it note by note, slower than
andante, at the rate of one measure
per day initially. Today after years
of dogged, repetitive effort I can
play it. This what I aspired to play
more than anything else, and this is
the only way that a hopeless amateur
like myself could play it, because I
could never progress to the conservatory
level in a lifetime.

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#936121 - 12/12/08 11:27 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Morodiene Online   content
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Gyro, no one in their right mind would trade a Bosendorfer for a digital piano unless it was dropped from a 3rd story or something.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#936122 - 12/12/08 11:53 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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Hey, being dropped from the third floor as a child is a reason someone might not be in their right mind.

Of course, there's also failure to take one's meds ... and that pesky full-moon thing.

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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#936123 - 12/12/08 12:07 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sophial Offline
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Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3446
Loc: US
 Quote:
Originally posted by MAK:
OK, that makes sense, and here is a corollary question. Let us presume that an adult beginning from scratch reaches the intermediate level. As the level of difficulty goes up, does this require a greater amount of concentration in order to achieve a satisfactory result?

As a simple example, the adult can learn to play Mary Had a Little Lamb in one day, and, a few months later, EZ Piano Classic pieces after one week of practice. The player is advancing slowly and steadily. Does this slow and steady rate become much slower once the player advances into the classic repertoire, say a Beethoven sonata, for example. Will the same player, who has advanced slowly and steadily to an advanced level now have to work much harder to accomplish mastery of "real" piano music? Or is it slow and steady throughout the entire range of study, from beginning through advanced repertoire? [/b]
It's not linear as you get into more difficult repertoire. Progress in the beginning can seem quite rapid because one is starting from scratch but will slow and require more concentrated effort and time as you reach intermediate and (even more so) advanced repertoire.

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#936124 - 12/12/08 12:09 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
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How far you go and what you get out of it will be in direct relationship to how much you put into it.

For busy professionals who might have more money than time I would recommend finding a teacher who could provide almost daily lessons on a flexible agenda on your instrument in your home and/or office. With 4-5 one hour lessons/supervised practice sessions per week and an additional daily 30-60 min on your own practicing by getting up an hour earlier or going to bed an hour later one could reach late intermediate/early advanced level in 4 to 5 years if you want it bad enough. (Gyro's suggestion about getting a good digital to complement your acoustic to enable late night/early morning practice or set you up in your office is the one thing that makes sense in his post.)

Playing the piano is an integrating and synthesizing skill; you are building up a pyramid of interrelated capabilities. Making progress on more advanced repertoire requires an approach based on more analytical and conceptual abstraction skills which require an underpinning in theory. Therefore, I would also recommend that you complement your piano lessons with music theory (keys, chords, cadences, modulations, musical styles & form, etc.) You will notice as you progress that where before you were deciphering thousands of individual pieces of black ink on paper that suddenly you are reading entire whole sections like an Evelyn Woods speed reading course graduate. Progress usually proceeds in dramatic spurts followed by endless plateaus and the occasional brick wall.

Dabbling at the piano will get you dabbling results. Treating it like training for a triathlon with an intellectual component will take you further than you could dream.

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#936125 - 12/12/08 12:47 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7311
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Well said.

The path to competent intermediate level playing takes a minimum of 1,500 hours focused, careful study, for most piano students (though many take more). I tell my HS students that if they're shooting for a music conservatory, or they just want to play at that level, they're looking at 750 - 1,000 plus hours per year for the next four years. These are not self-study hours, but hours under the direct care and handling of a competent teacher.
_________________________
"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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#936126 - 12/12/08 12:58 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
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Gyro, Chopin op 14, which movement??
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#936127 - 12/12/08 01:15 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Monica K. Online   blank

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17747
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Another way to look at it, MAK, is that studies of expertise suggest 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). The key is focused practice (you need to be playing the right things and using the right technique, which is where a teacher is indispensable), not just sheer number of hours.

Daniel Levitin's book, "This is your brain on music," has a chapter on expertise and talent vs. practice in determining outcomes you might find interesting.

The bottom line is that you can become as good as you want to be and are willing to work toward.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#936128 - 12/12/08 01:16 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gyro Offline
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Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I can play the whole thing. I sometimes
refer to it as a concerto movement, because
in length it's more like one movement of
a concerto. It's kind of an offbeat
piece in the repertoire, not really
a concerto, but concerto-like in
style and technical demands.

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#936129 - 12/12/08 01:21 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Monika, thanks for that info. If you happen to recall a citation for the 10,000 hrs, I would love it. Most of us have students with delusions of grandeur, and it would be helpful to have something in print to help them focus their attention.
_________________________
"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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#936130 - 12/12/08 01:35 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Monica K. Online   blank

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Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17747
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Well, the Daniel Levitin book certainly talks at length about the 10,000 hours, and he cites other researchers in the chapter. The latest Malcolm Gladwell book ("Outliers") also talks about it. For a scholarly reference, one of the classics in the literature is Ericsson, K A., & CHarness, N. (1994). Expert performance: Its structure and acquisition. American Psychologist, 49(8), 725-747.

Ericsson is one of the most prominent researchers on expertise. Here's a link to a short essay from his website describing his research, and this essay includes several other citations to scholarly works you or your students can look up:

Ericsson summary of expertise research, with bibliography
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Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#936131 - 12/12/08 01:43 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:
and there is simply
no excuse for a person to avoid digitals
when they are most effective tool for
good playing. They let you play anytime
and anywhere and not disturb anyone,
[/b]
Probably very popular with your neighbours.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#936132 - 12/12/08 01:44 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:
Full Member
Member # 7154

I have a question for experienced players and teachers: What should an adult beginner, possessed of no particular musical talent, expect to achieve in piano when piano is first taken up in mid-life? In other words, a adult in his late 40's wants to learn piano, and will start from scratch. How much should he expect to achieve in a few years? 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? [/b]
I'm not a teacher, haven't had a teacher for over 30 years and haven't been a beginner for over 40 years, so you can take the following with a grain of salt.

Is one's "late forties" too late to take on a demanding new avocation? No. And "now" is always better than "later", which is still better than "never". With luck you may have 40 years to improve.

Having said that, adults have several disadvantages. The first is impatience. A child who manages to struggle through Mary Had a Little Lamb for the first time will play it proudly and repeatedly for whomever is within earshot. An adult will feel a twinge of despair after extrapolating from the amount of effort that it took to learn "Mary..." to the time required for the more sophisticated music that his mature taste prefers. I think I see that tendency in your questions. You are essentially asking, "will I be wasting my time?", before making the attempt.

Adults also suffer from preconceptions. When I was a teenager I used to spend a lot of time at the pool diving. From time to time I'd teach some kids, and a few adults, how to do a basic dive. The kids were much easier to teach. This is at least partly due to the fact that a young kid accepts the idea that he has no idea how to dive.

I would tell them to bend over deeply, head down, arms out, then just fall into the water. After a couple of tries, most of the kids would get it. The adults, on the other hand, knew what a dive looked like, and it certainly wasn't "falling". There was "spring" involved and a graceful arc into the water. They would inevitably attempt to imitate their mental picture of a dive rather than listen to what I was trying to tell them.

The usual result was that they would bend their knees, jump forward, pick their heads up and land with a mighty report and prodigious splash. After a couple of repetitions, they'd give up.

Their kids, on the other hand, after absorbing the lessons of the inelegant "fall" into the water, would start to add a little spring, a little distance, a hint of arc. It might take a few days, or even weeks, but eventually most learned to do a more graceful dive.

The point here is to find a good teacher and try to accept that the teacher knows what steps are involved in a successful path to your goal, even if some of them don't bear an obvious resemblance to the goal itself.

Greg Guarino
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#936133 - 12/12/08 01:59 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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Registered: 08/15/06
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Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
MAK,

Phlebas mentioned the role of talent in your original thread in the Pianist Corner, and Morodiene has done so here. I think it's worth reemphasizing that the role of a natural facility for performing a skill shouldn't be dismissed, discounted or underestimated.

I haven't read Levitin's book, and I have a fundamental disagreement with his assertion about any fixed number of hours resulting in expertise. For that to be true, there would have to be a level playing field in which all participants have an equal amount of talent or to be equally untalented. That premise is patently false.

The amount of hard work required to attain mastery, and the degree to which that work is perceived as hard, are inversely proportional to one's innate gifts.

There's another point that deserves to be addressed: In your hypothetical situation of an adult beginner "possessed of no particular musical talent," how would a true musical novice know that? I don't believe that the exploitation of musical talent must begin in childhood (or by any fixed age) in order for it to develop. How many latent musical geniuses are among us who haven't (yet) had the opportunity or the environment to reveal that gift?

Even though I consider it manifest that one's accomplishments aren't determined by effort alone, no one should be discouraged from making the attempt. Indeed, how else can one even know one's potential, much less realize it? It's never too late, and it's better late than never.

Steven

Disclaimer: I am not a teacher, nor do I play one on the Internet.
_________________________

"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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#936134 - 12/12/08 02:24 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
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Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
Progress usually proceeds in dramatic spurts followed by endless plateaus and the occasional brick wall.
[/b]
This was good to read. I'm an adult beginner at a mid- (late on a good day) intermediate level and have been in each of these places but lately see more plateaus and brick walls... :rolleyes:
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#936135 - 12/12/08 02:56 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Morodiene Online   content
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Excellent post, Greg! Impatience is self-defeating in most adult students. The ones who succeed the most from lessons are the ones who know they know nothing and approach it that way. I have one adult student who has been struggling with lessons for the past year with me. She was a transfer and has has many years of lessons, and has barely made it to late elementary/early intermediate playing. Despite my recommendations, she insists on cramming her practice into one day a week, thinking that 1 1/2 hours is equivalent to daily practice. She also insisted on playing hands together when I specifically told her to do hands separately. I finally got her to agree to try my way before dismissing it this week, so we'll see. But in her impatience to play hands together, she is actually taking longer to learn the piece.
_________________________
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MTNA member
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#936136 - 12/12/08 03:12 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Monika, thanks for the citation. That is most interesting. Especially as it appears their studies control for differences in basic intelligence. Now I have some real ammo for a couple of wayward HS students! \:D

There's an old story about Frank Sinatra, who claimed to have sung every song in his repertoire 1,000 times before ever singing it once in public. The skill of his singing certainly supports that claim!
_________________________
"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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#936137 - 12/12/08 03:19 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
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Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2368
Loc: Denver, CO
I apologize for keeping this thread slightly OT here,

 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
I haven't read Levitin's book, and I have a fundamental disagreement with his assertion about any fixed number of hours resulting in expertise. For that to be true, there would have to be a level playing field in which all participants have an equal amount of talent or to be equally untalented. That premise is patently false.
[/b]
Soto Voce, I agree with your statement above, and having read Levitin's book I can state that that is not quite what he is saying.

As I recall it, the way Levitin worded it was that a study of experts indicated that they all had at least 10,000 hours of practice in their field.

In other words, there is such a strong correlation between 10,000 hours and being considered an expert in a field that one could consider 10,000 hours to be a necessary condition for being an expert.

That is very different from saying that 10,000 hours is sufficient for being an expert.

I'm sure Monica can provide further information if I am reading it incorrectly.
Rich
_________________________

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#936138 - 12/12/08 03:27 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned

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#936139 - 12/12/08 03:34 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by IPIBAHN - Sandy:
 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
Progress usually proceeds in dramatic spurts followed by endless plateaus and the occasional brick wall.
[/b]
This was good to read. I'm an adult beginner at a mid- (late on a good day) intermediate level and have been in each of these places but lately see more plateaus and brick walls... :rolleyes: [/b]
I like your tagline.... ;\)

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#936140 - 12/12/08 03:47 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Boira Offline
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Registered: 07/09/07
Posts: 472
Loc: Barcelona
Interesting thread,

I'm not a teacher, but an adult beginner with one.

MAK, *age* has the annoying habit of reminding us our limitations, but sometimes things also depend in some degree on how bad you want to achieve them.

My tecaher only has 3 adults.
One of them, I don't know. The other is a middle aged lawyer with 3 years of lessons. The 3rd is me, with 1 year and 2 months.

Two months ago, I "catched up" the lawyer. Now we're playing at the same level. He commented that fact with our teacher, not in a wrong way -of course, he's a very nice man, perfectly polite-, he just talked about talent and all this.
Our teacher replied (in a very spartan Russian way): She's not more talented nor smarter than you. She only works harder.

The only secret is finding the time to practice every day and stick to your practice routine NET (= No Excuses Tolerated). Not always easy given the life we lead :rolleyes:

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#936141 - 12/12/08 04:00 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Monica K. Online   blank

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 Quote:
Originally posted by DragonPianoPlayer:
I apologize for keeping this thread slightly OT here,

 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
I haven't read Levitin's book, and I have a fundamental disagreement with his assertion about any fixed number of hours resulting in expertise. For that to be true, there would have to be a level playing field in which all participants have an equal amount of talent or to be equally untalented. That premise is patently false.
[/b]
Soto Voce, I agree with your statement above, and having read Levitin's book I can state that that is not quite what he is saying.

As I recall it, the way Levitin worded it was that a study of experts indicated that they all had at least 10,000 hours of practice in their field.

In other words, there is such a strong correlation between 10,000 hours and being considered an expert in a field that one could consider 10,000 hours to be a necessary condition for being an expert.

That is very different from saying that 10,000 hours is sufficient for being an expert.

I'm sure Monica can provide further information if I am reading it incorrectly.
Rich [/b]
You are correct, Rich, that saying that 10,000 hours is necessary to be an expert is not the same as saying that it's sufficient.

Perhaps surprisingly, though, many of the researchers on expertise argue that it is *also* sufficient. Sotto voce, I encourage you to read Levitin's chapter and some of the references listed in the bibliography I linked to should you be interested in pursuing this further.

Another good reference is Ericsson, K. A., & Lehmann, A. C. (1996). Expert and exceptional performance: Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 273-305.

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. We believe that the motivational factors that predispose children and adults to engage in deliberate practice are more likely to predict individual differences in levels of attained expert performance."

Translating the academic jargon, my take on what they are saying is that the effect of "innate talent" is very small; instead, if a person is intrinsically motivated enough to engage in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on a task/skill, he or she will become an expert on it.

These "talent vs. practice" debates never seem to get settled here, partly because there is confusion over what "talent" and "expertise" mean. 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.

Okay, I've got errands to run and a child's birthday party to plan, so I'm taking off my professor's hat for now. I do encourage anybody interested in this question to read these articles I've cited. The issues are complex and not easily summarized in a brief post, but please believe me that the researchers have considered and accounted for the factors and issues that many of you raise.
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#936142 - 12/12/08 04:07 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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Rich and Monica: Thanks!
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica K.:
Translating the academic jargon, my take on what they are saying is that the effect of "innate talent" is very small; instead, if a person is intrinsically motivated enough to engage in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on a task/skill, he or she will become an expert on it.[/b]
This resonates with me, because of the old saw about the tendency not to value what we don't have to work hard for. It's common enough for those for whom something like piano comes easily not to apply themselves with diligence, and the result is underachievement relative to someone with less talent but who was motivated to work harder.

Steven
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#936143 - 12/12/08 04:17 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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#936144 - 12/12/08 04:28 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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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!
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#936145 - 12/12/08 04:49 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
gdguarino Offline
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 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.


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#936146 - 12/12/08 05:09 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
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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.
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#936147 - 12/12/08 05:15 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 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
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 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
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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 Online   sleepy
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Registered: 08/07/07
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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.
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#936151 - 12/13/08 09:03 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
TimR Online   content
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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.
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#936152 - 12/13/08 11:11 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Matt H Offline
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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 Online   content
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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.
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#936154 - 12/13/08 03:09 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
DeepElem Offline
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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 !!!
_________________________
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------
If you knew what you were doing, you'd probably be bored.
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#936155 - 12/13/08 03:52 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Monica K. Online   blank

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
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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.
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#936156 - 12/13/08 04:01 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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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
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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
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#936158 - 12/13/08 05:07 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
currawong Offline
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 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.
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#936159 - 12/13/08 05:21 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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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


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Posts: 13763
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.
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#936161 - 12/13/08 06:17 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
MAK Offline
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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?
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#936162 - 12/13/08 06:26 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Furtwangler Offline
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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
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 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 ?
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------
If you knew what you were doing, you'd probably be bored.
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#936164 - 12/13/08 07:42 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sophial Offline
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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 Online   content
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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.
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#936166 - 12/13/08 10:32 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Andromaque Offline
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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 Online   content
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 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
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 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
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 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.
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#936170 - 12/13/08 11:03 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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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
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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.
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#936172 - 12/14/08 12:33 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Andromaque Offline
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 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 Online   content
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 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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#936174 - 12/14/08 02:25 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Gary D.:
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. [/b]
Chopin said 3 hours a day was enough. Rubinstein said ten years from age 70 would also be enough.
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#936175 - 12/14/08 06:13 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 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? [/b]
Beethoven tried something similar with his nephew Karl (surrogate son?) and the young man ended up commiting suicide. Chopin is an example of the opposite approach. He started picking piano up as a toddler from his older sister, then his mother, and then from a violinist who had the good sense simply guide him while he taught himself. Chopin may have managed on his "three hours" because he was a true genius and unencumbered with excess pedagogical baggage. (And yes, Chopin could play the violin though there no mention of him ever touching one after he left Poland.)
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#936176 - 12/14/08 09:20 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
TonyB Offline
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 Quote:
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.

In this thread, this post of Larisa's is the most down to earth and straightforward response on this subject area that I have yet seen. We as adult learners spend so much time with this baggage, that I strongly recommend we each print this quote and put on our respective music stands as adult learners regardless of the approach we are each choosing to take. Then we can leave this baggage behind and just enjoy the journey.

Tony
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#936177 - 12/14/08 09:25 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
(note that Mozart was not considered particularly special in his time, either). [/b]
I agree Larisa's post is excellent, but I can't let her get away with this. Here is Haydn on Mozart:
 Quote:
"If only I could impress Mozart's inimitable works on the soul of every friend of music, and the souls of high personages in particular, as deeply, with the same musical understanding and with the same deep feeling, as I understand and feel them, the nations would vie with each other to possess such a jewel."
Or to Leopold:
 Quote:
Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name: He has taste, and, furthermore, the most profound knowledge of composition
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#936178 - 12/14/08 09:34 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by TonyB:
In this thread, this post of Larisa's is the most down to earth and straightforward response on this subject area that I have yet seen. We as adult learners spend so much time with this baggage, that I strongly recommend we each print this quote and put on our respective music stands as adult learners regardless of the approach we are each choosing to take. Then we can leave this baggage behind and just enjoy the journey.

Tony [/b]
Except that the last paragraph is just the same shopworn "hard work will get you anywhere" bromide that people desperately need to believe in even if it sets them up for disappointment.

Even if you accept that "good" is a relative term, it's just not everyone's destiny to "get good" by dint of hours of effort alone if there is no aptitude whatsoever. But if you know "what you're good at and what you're bad at," you would probably know when you're spinning your wheels in vain pursuit of a hopeless cause, 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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#936179 - 12/14/08 09:55 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
TonyB Offline
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There are man aspects to learning to play a musical instrument. A particular approach to learning, certain aspects of one is approaching learning - these can be modified to advantage by understanding one's strengths and leveraging them. In other words, a person, through knowledge of one's strengths and aptitudes can adjust their approach to learning to play piano in various ways so as to make the results of their efforts more fruitful.

I wonder how many people REALLY "have no aptitude whatsoever". As Larisa pointed out, music seems to be unique in how people regard it as requiring genius to even pursue it. It is one thing to say that if a person puts in enormous hours, they are guaranteed to overcome any lack of "genius" and become a world class musician, and quite another to say that a person who puts in the effort could enjoy playing the piano at some level.

Tony
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#936180 - 12/14/08 10:03 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by TonyB:
There are man aspects to learning to play a musical instrument. [/b]
Are there women aspects too? Most students, young and old, are very wasteful of their practice time so, I think I agree with you and Larisa re: potential.
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#936181 - 12/14/08 10:08 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by TonyB:
I wonder how many people REALLY "have no aptitude whatsoever". As Larisa pointed out, music seems to be unique in how people regard it as requiring genius to even pursue it. It is one thing to say that if a person puts in enormous hours, they are guaranteed to overcome any lack of "genius" and become a world class musician, and quite another to say that a person who puts in the effort could enjoy playing the piano at some level.[/b]
Tony, I agree. And even those hypothetical people with zero aptitude—however few there may be—could find it an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. I don't think it can be overstated that it's the process, the journey, that matters.

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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#936182 - 12/14/08 10:15 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
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Learning is a satifying process in itself. My feeling is that by the time a serious student has put in enough hours to learn whether or not he actually has "talent," it will no longer matter. Lack of talent is I think most often an excuse given by those not willing to put in the time.
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#936183 - 12/14/08 10:18 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
TonyB Offline
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Keyboardklutz and Steven:

Keyboardklutz: Sorry, that was a typo. I try to proof-read before hitting RET, but sometimes I don't see every mistake. Yes, practicing is not an easy thing to get right. One of things I like about Duane Shinn is that he has lots of information about how to practice his materials. For the self-learner, that is EXTREMELY important.

Steven: My wife has thought all her life that she was "tone deaf" because as a little kid, the music teacher tested everybody for tone deafness by having them identify the higher or lower note. My apparently misunderstood what she was to do and was forever therefore labeled "tone deaf". These sad stories are amazingly common. My experiences teaching adults and kids guitar has made this subject a matter of high interest for me. As Sudnow says, there are many "myths" about music, and these myths tend to prevent the average adult from ever pursuing playing an instrument, despite an interest in doing so.

Tony
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#936184 - 12/14/08 10:26 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Gary wrote:
 Quote:
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.
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.
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#936185 - 12/14/08 12:47 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by sophial:
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.
[/b]
The studies certainly don't say this, so you are, in effect, only disagreeing with your own strawman.

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#936186 - 12/14/08 01:06 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by -Frycek:
Learning is a satifying process in itself. My feeling is that by the time a serious student has put in enough hours to learn whether or not he actually has "talent," it will no longer matter. Lack of talent is I think most often an excuse given by those not willing to put in the time. [/b]
Show me someone with lots of talent and I will show you someone who (also) put in lots and lots and lots of work when you weren't looking...

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#936187 - 12/14/08 01:10 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sophial Offline
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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."

Journey, I was responding to this statement of Monica's that it would make "anybody" into a professional pianist and as I said, I'm not sure I buy that based on evidence to date.

Also, if you read my post, I am not discounting at all the role that practice and years of focused hard work play in developing into an accomplished pianist -- what I'm not sure of is whether it is sufficient to that extent.

What is also clear is that we won't know how far we can get until we try.

Sophia

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#936188 - 12/14/08 01:14 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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Which is not quite the same thing as becoming a professional concert pianist.

Monica also indicated she did not have access to the materials when writing. I can heartily recommend them as reading (and reflection) -- especially since they are based on real people, real lives and real habits.

Perhaps we can start a separate thread later for debate by those who have actually read and thought about the same research?

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#936189 - 12/14/08 01:30 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
]Show me someone with lots of talent and I will show you someone who (also) put in lots and lots and lots of work when you weren't looking...
Having observed first hand for a number of years, and then discussed when adulthood was reached:
- a quest for efficiency from the beginning, wryly translated as a philosophy of laziness, i.e. the best and easiest way to achieve something
- starting the endeavour with intent and purpose from the beginning: wish to acquire proficiency
- keen powers of observation
- perfect pitch even before training, i.e. natural
- good physical coordination
- ability to plan, organize, set goals, follow through, willingness to do so
- ability to separate the chaff from the wheat
- practicing that was sufficient and appropriate (not excessive for the sake of filling hours)
- discernment
- ability to deal with stress of pressure, balance out life, realism
- working with teachers and getting the main point (again, discernment)

There was a strong philosophy that ran *against* long practicing, and toward sufficient and efficient practicing in order to achieve what you are trying to reach with as little effort (time use, straining, tension) as possible. I saw this in the beginner who only practiced 15 minutes if that is what it took, and 5 hours at university level if that is what it took.

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#936190 - 12/14/08 01:40 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
Which is not quite the same thing as becoming a professional concert pianist.

Monica also indicated she did not have access to the materials when writing. I can heartily recommend them as reading (and reflection) -- especially since they are based on real people, real lives and real habits.

Perhaps we can start a separate thread later for debate by those who have actually read and thought about the same research? [/b]
Are we not real people with real lives and real habits?

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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#936191 - 12/14/08 01:41 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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Dunno. You look like a rainbow Cheshire cat from NY to me. \:D
I was referring to the earlier comment that studies are narrowly defined and therefore somehow not extrapolatable to the real world (where many would-be expert pianists spend lots of time hanging out on internet fora instead of practicing intently?)

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#936192 - 12/14/08 01:46 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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But if we judged people by their avatars, you would be a blank.
 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
I was referring to the earlier comment that studies are narrowly defined and therefore somehow not extrapolatable to the real world (where many would-be expert pianists spend lots of time hanging out on internet fora instead of practicing intently?) [/b]
And could-be experts who are more endowed with indolence than talent.
 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
Show me someone with lots of talent and I will show you someone who (also) put in lots and lots and lots of work when you weren't looking... [/b]
Except when they're lazy or unmotivated.

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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#936193 - 12/14/08 01:47 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 Quote:
]Show me someone with lots of talent and I will show you someone who (also) put in lots and lots and lots of work when you weren't looking...
Having observed first hand for a number of years, and then discussed when adulthood was reached:
- a quest for efficiency from the beginning, wryly translated as a philosophy of laziness, i.e. the best and easiest way to achieve something
- starting the endeavour with intent and purpose from the beginning: wish to acquire proficiency
- keen powers of observation
- perfect pitch even before training, i.e. natural
- good physical coordination
- ability to plan, organize, set goals, follow through, willingness to do so
- ability to separate the chaff from the wheat
- practicing that was sufficient and appropriate (not excessive for the sake of filling hours)
- discernment
- ability to deal with stress of pressure, balance out life, realism
- working with teachers and getting the main point (again, discernment)

There was a strong philosophy that ran *against* long practicing, and toward sufficient and efficient practicing in order to achieve what you are trying to reach with as little effort (time use, straining, tension) as possible. I saw this in the beginner who only practiced 15 minutes if that is what it took, and 5 hours at university level if that is what it took. [/b]
How has that worked out for you?
In what field, domain or area of expertise are you generally considered by others to be an expert?

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#936194 - 12/14/08 01:54 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
But if we judged people by their avatars, you would be a blank.

Steven [/b]
Well, if you must judge others, it is more fair to start with a blank.

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#936195 - 12/14/08 02:04 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
How has that worked out for you?
In what field, domain or area of expertise are you generally considered by others to be an expert?
The young man in question went from beginner to successful entry into a music program at a top university within 5 years of having begun any music instructions at all, and under 3 years with the auditioned instrument.

That particular role model has only happened recently in a span of less than 10 years so it cannot apply to my particular pursuits that were carried out earlier. Why do you ask?

What I have listed include things that I have learned from and adopted when I found them more effective than whatever approaches I had before. This includes, but is not limited to, musical pursuits. I am still learning.

KS
addendum: I Saw "Adult beginner" and thought I was in the ABF. The question may still apply whether any of these attitudes or approaches might be considered effect ones by teachers.

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#936196 - 12/14/08 04:06 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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Registered: 02/03/08
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Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
(note that Mozart was not considered particularly special in his time, either). [/b]
I agree Larisa's post is excellent, but I can't let her get away with this. Here is Haydn on Mozart:
 Quote:
"If only I could impress Mozart's inimitable works on the soul of every friend of music, and the souls of high personages in particular, as deeply, with the same musical understanding and with the same deep feeling, as I understand and feel them, the nations would vie with each other to possess such a jewel."
Or to Leopold:
 Quote:
Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name: He has taste, and, furthermore, the most profound knowledge of composition
[/b]
Hmm, but is it fair to quote Leopold on this? He might be a bit biased. Haydn, sure. A good musician can always recognize another good musician.

But note that the Viennese public of the time was not terribly impressed. Mozart had to go all the way to Prague to get the kind of reception his operas deserved. In Vienna, he was one of many - perhaps, a talented composer, but hardly the object of worship that we view him as today.

LM

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#936197 - 12/14/08 04:29 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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Mozart was one of the top names in the music world throughout Europe in the 1780's. I wouldn't call that 'not considered particularly special'.
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#936198 - 12/14/08 05:06 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
 Quote:
Originally posted by TonyB:
In this thread, this post of Larisa's is the most down to earth and straightforward response on this subject area that I have yet seen. We as adult learners spend so much time with this baggage, that I strongly recommend we each print this quote and put on our respective music stands as adult learners regardless of the approach we are each choosing to take. Then we can leave this baggage behind and just enjoy the journey.

Tony [/b]
Except that the last paragraph is just the same shopworn "hard work will get you anywhere" bromide that people desperately need to believe in even if it sets them up for disappointment.

Even if you accept that "good" is a relative term, it's just not everyone's destiny to "get good" by dint of hours of effort alone if there is no aptitude whatsoever. But if you know "what you're good at and what you're bad at," you would probably know when you're spinning your wheels in vain pursuit of a hopeless cause, too.

Steven [/b]
Hmm. I still think that motivation will get you anywhere - and that no cause is truly hopeless. But I tend to be an optimist when it comes to music. And other things as well. It's always very satisfying to be proven right.

And what exactly is "no aptitude whatsoever"? As long as you can hear and distinguish sounds, you've got at least some musical aptitude already. As long as your fingers can move well enough to type, you've got some manual dexterity. Yeah, there are some disabilities that may limit you - and even so, some folks are not so limited. Here's an example:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=xhudXJepBAA

It's all about how much you want to play. If you really want it, you'll make it work for you. If you don't, well - no one to blame but yourself.

I took tae kwon do lessons for a while, when I was 24. I am very uncoordinated, and I was the worst student in the class (and all my fellow students were children and teenagers...) But I worked harder than any of my fellow students. It took me longer to progress through the colored belts, but I kept trying anyway. I am sure the whole class, and the teacher, were all laughing at me for being so slow - but I ignored it all. I just kept going. (until it became clear to me that I had to choose between piano and martial arts - but that's another story...)

In fact, I took that class exactly to see for myself what it was like to be the worst person in the class, and what it was like to have "no aptitude whatsoever." Academics had always been easy for me, and I was always near the top of the class; music, too. That martial arts class was the first time I encountered an activity for which I had no "aptitude". But all that my lack of "aptitude" meant was that it wasn't easy. It didn't mean I couldn't learn it. If my hands hadn't given out on me, I would be there still.

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#936199 - 12/14/08 05:15 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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Minimal aptitude, then. Sorry for the unnecessary hyperbole.

You mention the manual dexterity of typing, but any number of people are never able to learn to type with proficiency. The same goes for swimming, driving a car with manual transmission, learning a foreign language and probably innumerable other skilled tasks. They will never "get good," even if they enjoy the process of trying immensely.

That's what I meant by "no aptitude whatsoever."

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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#936200 - 12/14/08 06:43 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
Minimal aptitude, then. Sorry for the unnecessary hyperbole.

You mention the manual dexterity of typing, but any number of people are never able to learn to type with proficiency. The same goes for swimming, driving a car with manual transmission, learning a foreign language and probably innumerable other skilled tasks. They will never "get good," even if they enjoy the process of trying immensely.

That's what I meant by "no aptitude whatsoever."

Steven [/b]
Funny you should mention foreign languages. I came to the US at the age of 13 knowing no English. Everyone told me I was too old to achieve native-level proficiency. They were wrong.

My mother was 47 when we immigrated. "Everyone" (that same "everyone") told her she would never learn English well enough to teach. You guessed it - "everyone" was wrong. She is now retired from a long and satisfying teaching career; her English was just fine and her students understood her just fine.

Why did we learn English when others failed? We were both very motivated. I had to learn English because no one at my school spoke Russian. There were no ESL classes. It was sink-or-swim. I swam. My mother had to learn English because that was the only way she could teach. Again - no other choice, sink-or-swim.

It's all about motivation. If you really really want something, you'll make things work for you. But you have to be looking for ways to make things work for you - not excuses. If you look for excuses, you'll find any number of them. Excuses are easy to find.

And where are those people who can't learn to type with proficiency? Can we have a show of hands? Most people I know can type fairly well.

Actually, can I use a different example - how many of you live in the United States and cannot learn to drive? A show of hands, please? Driving is a complicated skill, you know. It requires a lot of aptitude and coordination. In many countries where cars are not so dominant, many people never learn to drive and consider it a complex sort of thing. So? Any untalented non-drivers here? Thought not.

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#936201 - 12/14/08 06:47 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Furtwangler Offline
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Larisa

Well said.

See my post above.

It's all about motivation.

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#936202 - 12/14/08 06:53 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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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
_________________________

"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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#936203 - 12/14/08 08:10 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
Steven, sure - let's agree to disagree. I do tend to be a bit of an optimist.

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#936204 - 12/14/08 08:17 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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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 Online   content
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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
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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. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
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.
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#936208 - 12/15/08 01:46 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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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
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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
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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
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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.
_________________________
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#936213 - 12/15/08 10:06 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
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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
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Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 540
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
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Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3446
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
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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: 540
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
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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
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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
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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. Offline
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I would agree with Steven here.
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#936222 - 12/15/08 10:53 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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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
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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

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#936224 - 12/15/08 11:43 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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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.
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#936225 - 12/16/08 12:06 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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Posts: 498
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 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. Offline
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 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.
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#936227 - 12/16/08 12:21 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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 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
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 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. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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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.
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#936230 - 12/16/08 12:56 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
james c Offline
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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
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 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
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You know, that's exactly how my teacher describes it.
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#936233 - 12/16/08 01:18 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Offline
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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? \:\)
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#936234 - 12/16/08 02:12 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
 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 [/b]
So, where are the examples of the "talented" top pianists for whom piano came "naturally" and they didn't have to spend much time at all learning, working or practicing? Aren't we simply moving the mysterious black box of "talent" up one meta-level...or might knowing how to practice and actually doing the practice be something that has more to do with e.g. "motivation" and "student-centered teaching" and "(family/social) support structures"?

One of the central points in my response to the OP as well as from the studies which Monica originally referenced is that one important key common attribute amongst those who progress at piano as adults and those who are top in their field, or "experts", etc. is that they:

1) practice properly and
2) practice enough.

To help make the concept stick in people's minds and increase it's meme appeal (apparently the people behind the study have a "talent" for psychology or marketing) those behind the study talk about the to a degree arbitrary "10.000 hours" of dedicated, mindful practice under masters.

Two hours/day of self-taught piano or just playing through things or mindlessly repeating mistakes and bad habits or kidding yourself that the 30 minutes of work were really two hours or forgetting the three days you took off this week or spending time repeating what you already can do instead of working on what you can't do, etc. won't get you very far. Working like Larisa's internally motivated, carefully supervised and home supported 13 year old, might get someone very far, very fast. Working like the circle of adult learners I am friends with will get you from zero to ABRSM Grade 8 Piano with distinction in 4 to 5 years in your forties.

There is a brand of piano teacher that leaves what happens at home or in the practice room to chance and sees their role as taking place within the four walls of their studio. IMHO these teachers do more to destroy talent than any digital piano every could do.

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#936235 - 12/16/08 02:55 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
btb Offline
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First it’s that the chaps don’t practice enough ... then it’s dummies who bash the piano 2 hours a day and make no progress ... then, of
course, there are anti-social singers who internalise their rapture ... (whatever that means).

What a load of bunkum!!

And essentially the question was
"Does piano-playing increase in difficulty with more notes ... Morodiene quickly answered a logical ... "Yes".

But in the meanwhile ... the posters have added their views of the mountain which challenged their personal passage ... but essentially saying the higher the steeper ... (leaving pearls of wisdom by the exhausted practice wayside) ... amongst others:

1. Playing the piano is an integrating and synthesizing skill; you are building up a pyramid of interrelated capabilities

2. The path to competent intermediate level playing takes a minimum of 1,500 hours focussed, careful study, for most piano student

3. Daniel Levitin book certainly talks at length about the 10,000 hours

4. I think it’s worth re-emphasizing that the role of a natural facility for performance skill shouldn’t be dismissed, discounted or underestimated

5. The amount of hard work required to attain mastery, and the degree to which that work is perceived as hard, are inversely proportional to one’s innate gifts

However IMHO ... the common denominator to PROGRESS is directly proportional to PERSONAL AURAL MEMORY ... sadly a limited commodity.

Thus everybody has to make do with a limited repertoire ... each masterpiece requiring daily refreshment ... however, for what it’s worth in a personal observation ... strangely, there appears to be a unexpected corollary ... chappies with low aural memories are often found to be the most artistic.

Don’t judge a dog by it’s ...

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#936236 - 12/16/08 03:30 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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btb, Thank you for your opinion. Anything substantive to back it up? Don't forget about those who have practiced sight reading enough that they developed a talent for it too...

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#936237 - 12/16/08 06:18 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
btb Offline
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Thanks Amsterdam for the comment on "talent".

However, this ephemeral description of a superior ability sticks in my craw ... so often waffle ... an excuse for slacking.

The issue at the heart of the matter ... that of sight-reading has all too often been bandied ... only to fizzle inconclusively .

My evaluation involves both the reading and playing of a fresh piece of keyboard music ... but quality performance is dependent on
adequate preparation period (with diligent practice) to:

identify the notes,
sort out fingering and
ultimately gain the support of muscle and aural memory

Your comment on "talent" might be suggestive of a speeding up of the preparation period (days perhaps instead of months) ... but never the ultimate off-the-cuff short-cut.

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#936238 - 12/16/08 07:34 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Gary D.:
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.[/b]
Is it true that concerns of political correctness account for the reticence of so many to acknowledge the essential role of talent? Is it the worldwide cultural imperative that everyone has the right to feel good about themselves, and the wish to protect the sensitivities of those who might not have any talent?

Hard work is available to anyone as a laudable exercise of choice. Discussion of inborn traits, though, is practically taboo; it's very unfashionable to draw attention to the inconvenient ways in which we are unequally endowed.

Personally, I would never minimize or dismiss the role of personal effort in achievement. So even if talent happens to be an intangible, "mysterious black box," what exactly is the motivation of those who seek to suppress, ignore or invalidate its role? Why does its very existence seem to chafe? Is it jealousy, altruism, iconoclasm ... or what?

The cruelest twist must be when those who've been persuaded that hard work alone is sufficient to reach lofty goals find that they crash and burn instead despite their enthusiastic diligence. The mollifying indoctrination intended to protect fragile egos from the fact that individuals are "differently able" leads them to the inexorable conclusion that they have only themselves to blame for their failure because they just didn't try hard enough or work hard enough. Who picks up the pieces?

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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#936239 - 12/16/08 08:36 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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sotto, you seem to be the only one indicating that there are those arguing for hard work alone. I perhaps am missing who exactly is arguing here that talent does not exist...or deny it a role.

There is a difference between not assigning what we don't understand to black boxes and thinking in black and white terms. We all seem to agree that enough good practice would be a good thing for everyone. Presumably lots of talent would be a good thing too.

The point of contention seems to be what the definition of talent is and whence it comes. Is it 100% genetics, 50% environment/genetics. 33% genetics/environment/conscious effort or perhaps even much more motivation and conscious effort? Would you be willing to trust your personal decision on whether or not you ever touch the piano again on the opinion of a someone else as to whether or not you are "talented" enough ? Or do you love it enough to not want to miss practicing today and tomorrow?

I agree that since the time of eugenics, race studies, IQ testing and the popular culture illusion of equal opportunities for all, discussing inborn traits can be dangerous (e.g. it recently cost the President of Harvard University his job by even admitting that there are innate differences between men and women).

However, are we really able to say specifically and definitively what inborn traits would enable someone to be talented at the piano? Or can we only point at someone who has already done some work and after the fact make a personal, relativistic judgment that he or she is talented, based e.g. on speed of learning or musical result or comparing them to whomever else we are personally acquainted?

Clearly height is important to become a professional basketball player. Do pianists need to have big hands and/or long fingers to have any hope? Can someone who is not gay or Jewish really avoid a future as a bad pianist? Is there any hope of a career for someone who does not start by age 6? If it takes one twice as long as Sally down the street to progress through John Thompson does that mean one is less talented? How do we isolate innate traits from quality of practice or instruction? If one is told they are not talented should they stop? What if one really enjoys it or plays better than she? Or, what if one learns slower and also plays worse than she, should one stop practicing? Are there guarantees that these measurements of talent are objective, fixed or static or could they reverse as a person develops or practices.

Back to adults. Presumably, there are few thirty or forty + year old who decide to take up the piano because they expect a concert career. Their reasons are multi-faceted. However, if the student is doing it for themselves and not for others, I fail to see how being told in no uncertain terms "you have not talent for the piano" would have any relevance to their journey other than to nip it in the bud and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. What objective correlations and measures exist for traits, aptitude or talent? How many teachers are experienced in evaluating piano naive adults' aptitude? What if they are wrong? How could anyone possibly know if they can play piano without learning first how to play the piano?

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#936240 - 12/16/08 09:27 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
sotto, you seem to be the only one arguing for hard work alone. I perhaps am missing who exactly is arguing here that talent does not exist...or deny it a role.[/b]
I believe I understand the remainder of your post, but not this paragraph. I don't understand why you think I'm arguing for hard work alone, or how you don't see who is arguing that talent is unimportant.

I've never said achievement comes from hard work alone, and Otis S already expressed my sentiments better than I'm able to about the balance between natural facility and training that enable success. Larisa represents the viewpoint that talent is of minimal importance at best as well as the energetic insistence of its irrelevance that I've referred to.

I don't have the need to overanalyze the phenomenon we've loosely called talent or aptitude, or even the ability to analyze it at all. Rather than vainly trying to dissect what it is and what it is not, I am most interested in understanding what impulse prompts those who minimize its impact and downplay its existence to do so.

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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#936241 - 12/16/08 09:40 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
childofparadise2002 Offline
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There are lots of research on "intelligence" and "talent", musical or otherwise. The recent book by Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers) is a good read for the general public on talent, hardwork, opportunies and success--many similar books are out there.

But for the majority of students, a successful career is not what they have in mind when they start learning something. Many things, music included, are just part of a general education that everyone should get some if possible. For some others, they love something so much that they will study hard anyway regardless of whether they have the talent to bring about a successful career. If anything, identifying talent should not be used to discourage anyone, it should be used to encourage.

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#936242 - 12/16/08 10:01 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
I don't have the need to overanalyze the phenomenon we've loosely called talent or aptitude, or even the ability to analyze it at all. Rather than vainly trying to dissect what it is and what it is not, I am most interested in understanding what impulse prompts those who minimize its impact and downplay its existence to do so.[/b]
I will have to let someone speak then who is minimizing its impact or downplaying its existence.

 Quote:
Originally posted by childofparadise2002:
If anything, identifying talent should not be used to discourage anyone, it should be used to encourage. [/b]
Agreed. However, by definition, those who are withheld the judgment of talented in presence of those judged talented are in fact discouraged. For a studio focusing on building as many success stories as soon as possible as far as possible such discouragement can be desirable and advantageous for the studio.

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#936243 - 12/16/08 10:16 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
. However, by definition, those who are withheld the judgment of talented in presence of those judged talented are in fact discouraged. For a studio focusing on building as many success stories as soon as possible as far as possible such discouragement can be desirable and advantageous for the studio.
I am having trouble following the sentences. "judgment of talented in presence of those talented..." Can you differentiate which is student, which is teacher, who is judging, whose presence? I am assuming a private studio in which there are two people, teacher and student. "such discouragement can be desireable..." in what manner? But then, I'm still stuck on the first sentence.

In any case, many pages ago I wrote a description of a late starter in his teen years identified as talented by the third lesson by a teacher chagrined to find this ability at that age, who managed to succeed in auditions only a few years later against others with 3 times as many years training. Your only response was to ask me about my own life, which is something I still don't get.

The bottom line is that teachers must work with what is there, strengths and weaknesses, balancing out, using the good to advantage without allowing it to overpower what needs strengthening. Talent itself has weaknesses and can be considered a handicap at times.

Rather than asking whether a student has "talent", I am sure that teachers ask themselves a more mundane question: what strengths and weaknesses does this student at this time have, and where do we go from here?

A while back there was talk of a blind (jazz??) pianist who was very talented. I could not help noticing that he also was driven to persevere, and learn and learn and learn.

I'm not catching the point of this discussion, nor why it's being slugged out in the teacher forum.

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#936244 - 12/16/08 10:34 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 Quote:
. However, by definition, those who are withheld the judgment of talented in presence of those judged talented are in fact discouraged. For a studio focusing on building as many success stories as soon as possible as far as possible such discouragement can be desirable and advantageous for the studio.
I am having trouble following the sentences. "judgment of talented in presence of those talented..." Can you differentiate which is student, which is teacher, who is judging, whose presence? I am assuming a private studio in which there are two people, teacher and student. "such discouragement can be desireable..." in what manner? But then, I'm still stuck on the first sentence.[/b]
If a teacher believes and tells Sally she is talented and Harry that he is not, Harry will likely stop. That can be a good thing for the teacher (easier or more attractive workload) and desirable for the studio (more success stories faster). That doesn't necessarily mean it is good for Harry.
 Quote:

In any case, many pages ago I wrote a description of a late starter in his teen years identified as talented by the third lesson by a teacher chagrined to find this ability at that age, who managed to succeed in auditions only a few years later against others with 3 times as many years training. Your only response was to ask me about my own life, which is something I still don't get.
[/b]
I thought you were talking autobiographically including the idea of only studying just enough to get by. If this student also just studied enough to get by, I would be interested to hear the results he has finished with in his studies and if he is considered by others as an "expert" pianist.
 Quote:

The bottom line is that teachers must work with what is there, strengths and weaknesses, balancing out, using the good to advantage without allowing it to overpower what needs strengthening. Talent itself has weaknesses and can be considered a handicap at times.

Rather than asking whether a student has "talent", I am sure that teachers ask themselves a more mundane question: what strengths and weaknesses does this student at this time have, and where do we go from here?[/b]
That would indeed seem to be more productive approach and in the interest of all concerned.

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#936245 - 12/16/08 10:47 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
I thought you were talking autobiographically including the idea of only studying just enough to get by. If this student also just studied enough to get by, I would be interested to hear the results he has finished with in his studies and if he is considered by others as an "expert" pianist
Ah, that explains it. Would you mind reading my post again, because I wrote a lot more than about amount of study - and that amount did not reflect "enough to get by". It reflected efficiency.

I'm not sure if we shouldn't move this out of the teacher forum but here goes:

Efficiency, which could be called "laziness" of a different kind, is in fact one of the things needed to play music well. What is formally learned technique, fingering, if not efficient strategy and motion? If you do not take the time to learn good fingering, or examine and understand what it is about, you will be working harder with unsatisfactory results for the rest of your life. This kind of "laziness" - a quest to find the easiest way possible - is in fact a lot of mental and physical work in the beginning.

I'm not sure what the views on the nature of "talent" are. Is it seen as a kind of magic potion that sits within some people and when it's turned on they're able to do what others have to strive for? I don't think it's as simplistic as that.

I also don't know whether teachers actually do go around telling some students they are talented, and others they are not. I can imagine some teachers actually sitting on the fact of perceived talent, for fear that the student will end up trying to ride his talent, and lose any potential he may have. Is the common story not that such a student will be pushed even to the point of hating music, but not told what he can do? Have we not heard of talented students who are convinced they are terrible because their teachers are highly critical of them in an effort to maximize what they can reach?

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#936246 - 12/16/08 10:57 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
Ah, that explains it. Would you mind reading my post again, because I wrote a lot more than about amount of study - and that amount did not reflect "enough to get by". It reflected efficiency.[/b]
Not at all. Could you first send me a link to your original post, I would find that more efficient. ;\)

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#936247 - 12/16/08 11:09 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
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#936248 - 12/16/08 11:29 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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#936249 - 12/16/08 11:43 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
linking link [/b]
Thanks. I am not sure I completely understand the first sentence or the point you want to make with that post.

It does remind me of a story told to me by a pianist who I have befriended: As a boy and young man he was a bon vivant with varied interests and was told repeatedly by others that he was a born musical talent. He found that the most efficient way to go from week to week of piano lessons was simply to play through his week's assignment a half hour before his lesson. He was a keen reader and he didn't really need more than the half hour of work in order to impress his teacher (compared to her other students). This gave him maximum playtime on the schoolyard and still kept him in lessons.

After entering conservatory he was quite the party- and playboy and thoroughly enjoyed his years in school. For the most part he was able to continue working to minimum time requirements and getting by with much less work than other students. One of his similarly talented but obsessively practicing classmates became a successful international concert pianist particularly well known for his fortepiano work. My friend has had a rewarding career accompanying some of the top voices in the country as well as working schnabbels in B venues in the Benelux. However, one nagging question will remain with him all his life: how much better and how much further could I have gone had I combined my talent with the professional working habits of the other students?

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#936250 - 12/16/08 11:48 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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Larisa, your opinions about talent come as no surprise given that your past posts have refuted the idea that it has any utility, suggesting instead that raw effort is quite enough for success and that talent simply doesn't matter.

But it does exists independently of anyone's opinion or understanding of it, and it doesn't even need acknowledgment or validation. All the things that are wrong with the concept for you seem to be consequent to how it's handled and treated; I understand those concerns and why a teacher, in particular, would have them.

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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#936251 - 12/16/08 11:52 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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theJourney, I have subsequently defined that first sentence. Efficiency is defined as "laziness" in the sense that if you become efficient you no longer need to struggle. Acquiring efficiency actually requires effort. That is why I said the reference was a "wry" one. This young man does not in any resemble your bon vivant friend. It sounds as though he "rode on talent" rather than using it to its full potential.

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#936252 - 12/16/08 12:05 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
But it [talent] does exists independently of anyone's opinion or understanding of it, and it doesn't even need acknowledgment or validation. [/b]
Not to interrupt. I suppose, if it works and helps to label them talented and untalented, why not?

However, the above quote reminded me somehow of one the past threads in the teacher's forum where a teacher was arguing adamently how important it was to know the astrological sign of prospective students to be able to teach them more effectively according to the personality attributes of their sign.

I certainly believe more in talent than in the Zodiac, but for it to be a useful pedagogical or human development concept, I would like to see more scientific underpinning applied than there is today.

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#936253 - 12/16/08 12:21 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
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QUOTE]Originally posted by Larisa:
4. "Talent" tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. There was a study once, involving elementary schoolkids. The teacher was told that half of the class (chosen at random) were "gifted". They weren't, really - but by the end of the school year, they were doing significantly better than the other half of the class. If you tell a student he's talented, he'll work harder to prove you right; this has always worked for me with my students.

The only time I ever even mention the world "talent" is when someone tells me about their 3-year-old who is so fascinated with music, and so eager to make music, and is always singing and banging on the piano, and should the parents get him music lessons? In that case, the correct answer is "Yes, your child has musical talent, get him some lessons." But for an adult? Why do that? [/b][/QUOTE]

Never underestimate the power of suggestion. I was the toddler fascinated with music. My parents did their best by me but they are non musical and unsophisticated in that respect. I had the sort of teachers one might expect to find in an Appalachian poverty pocket and learned no more than to read the notes. For a very brief span I had one good teacher who remarked sadly that she "might have done something" with me if she'd gotten me a bit earlier and had me a bit longer. Thirty years later that bit of faint praise was all that kept me going when I returned to the piano. Preseverence is the saving grace of The Ungifted but a little encouragement can do wonders.
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#936254 - 12/16/08 12:28 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
childofparadise2002 Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by sotto voce:
[qb]
I certainly believe more in talent than in the Zodiac, but for it to be a useful pedagogical or human development concept, I would like to see more scientific underpinning applied than there is today. [/b]
Good for you! \:\)

Do you mean the scientific evidence that people differ in their level of talent, or how to teach people with various levels of talent? I don't know much about musical talent--I'm aware of books and articles on how to identify musical talent from a young age but haven't read them. On general intelligence there is a vast amount of research both on identification and teaching, done with both case studies and statistical analysis. How scientific these are, I'm sure people would make different judgments based on the yardstick that they hold. On the other hand, while it might help to categorize kids into ability groups in a regular classroom so that the teacher can give the kids different levels of challenge, the one-on-one nature of music lessons means that grouping/categorization might not be as important. Private teachers deal with one student as a time, no matter what level the student is at (because of either talent or hard work or both), the teacher will tailor the teaching to the student anyway. But of course if a teacher wants to "weed out" those who will not go very far that's a different matter...

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#936255 - 12/16/08 02:26 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica K.:
Well, the Daniel Levitin book certainly talks at length about the 10,000 hours, and he cites other researchers in the chapter. The latest Malcolm Gladwell book ("Outliers") also talks about it. [/b]
Outliers seems to be generating a lot of attention lately.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16brooks.html?em

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#936256 - 12/16/08 02:30 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by childofparadise2002:
Good for you! \:\)

Do you mean the scientific evidence that people differ in their level of talent, or how to teach people with various levels of talent? [/b]
I am particularly interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the confluence of circumstances that generates opportunities for people to exhibit behavior that we call talent.

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#936257 - 12/16/08 02:34 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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But what is talent?
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#936258 - 12/16/08 02:36 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
theJourney Offline
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Whatever you want it to be? You might want to check out the last few pages kbk and see if you can bring us some clarity.

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#936259 - 12/16/08 02:44 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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I have been loosely following it but getting on with more non-loser activities (as the young, recently departed (again) Danny used to say). You'll get nowhere until the 'What is talent?' question gets answered and how do you do that?
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#936260 - 12/16/08 03:23 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
I am particularly interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the confluence of circumstances that generates opportunities for people to exhibit behavior that we call talent.
Leopold Auer, whose students included Jasha Heifetz, believed that two attributes that were important were poverty and possibly, coming from a large family.

"But one thing they must be - they must be poor! And it is best that they come from a large family."

"They should have known want; they should have known hunger. Zimbalist, Elman, Heifetz, Rosen, Seidel - they all came of poor people. There is something, I know not what, that is bred in the soul by poverty. It is something mystic. To feel this terrible need is the motive power that drives genius. It develops feeling; it makes both force and tenderness."

The full article:
http://www.web-helper.net/PDMusic/Articles/91919/article2.asp

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#936261 - 12/16/08 04:09 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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That's really the problem with "musical talent" - no one seems to know what it is.

I vaguely recall a story about a music student who came to a virtuoso on that instrument and asked if the virtuoso could listen to him and tell him if he had talent. The virtuoso did so, and told him that he had no talent and that he should not become a musician. The student went off, discouraged, and quit music.

Years later, he met the virtuoso again, and asked him how he could tell whether or not he had talent, and how he could be so certain. And what the virtuoso told him was that he always told people that they should not become musicians - because then, only those who really could not live without music would continue to play.

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#936262 - 12/16/08 04:17 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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Larisa, your supply of anecdotes to support the idea that talent just doesn't matter seems endless. \:\)

Why does it matter what it is? I'm reminded of when the U.S. Supreme Court couldn't define what pornography is, but acknowledged that it's something that one knows when one sees it. In response to your statement that no one knows what it is, I would say that everyone knows what it is.

Talent isn't the only intangible in life that's hard to quantify. How about beauty, for instance?

In any event, why doesn't a textbook (well, dictionary ;\) ) definition suffice?

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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#936263 - 12/16/08 05:33 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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Steven, it matters because these definitions can be, and are, used to hurt, and that countless students are turned away from music because of such definitions. I think the world needs more music-makers, not fewer, and that the world needs fewer miserable people who realize, too late, that their childhood piano teacher was wrong and that they did have "talent" after all.

As for "everyone knows what it is" - only in obvious cases. Yeah, if you've got a kid who can play a piano arrangement of a symphony after hearing it once, it's easy to tell he's got talent. What about the example I cited earlier - my father? Is he "talented"? How would you tell? And what would you tell him if he asked you? What about a random 8-year-old who comes to you for lessons? How do you tell if he's talented, and does it matter? Would you teach him any differently if you knew he was "talented"?

Are you talented? How do you know? Who told you, and how did they know? How did that affect you, and how did that affect the instruction you received? As a grownup, do you think they were right?

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#936264 - 12/16/08 07:19 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
Steven, it matters because these definitions can be, and are, used to hurt, and that countless students are turned away from music because of such definitions. I think the world needs more music-makers, not fewer, and that the world needs fewer miserable people who realize, too late, that their childhood piano teacher was wrong and that they did have "talent" after all.

As for "everyone knows what it is" - only in obvious cases. Yeah, if you've got a kid who can play a piano arrangement of a symphony after hearing it once, it's easy to tell he's got talent. What about the example I cited earlier - my father? Is he "talented"? How would you tell? And what would you tell him if he asked you? What about a random 8-year-old who comes to you for lessons? How do you tell if he's talented, and does it matter? Would you teach him any differently if you knew he was "talented"?

Are you talented? How do you know? Who told you, and how did they know? How did that affect you, and how did that affect the instruction you received? As a grownup, do you think they were right? [/b]
That people may allow themselves to be defined by the judgments of others would seem to be the problem, then, and I don't know how that can be changed; it seems like it's human nature to scrutinize and to judge. But if shielding people's egos from the ways in which we are all different were the criterion for what's considered appropriate and acceptable, there would be no beauty contests, no athletic competitions, no spelling bees, no academic scholarships, no game shows like Jeopardy!, and certainly no talent competitions.

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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#936265 - 12/16/08 07:44 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
there would be no beauty contests, no athletic competitions, no spelling bees, no academic scholarships, no game shows like Jeopardy!, and certainly no talent competitions.
One step closer to paradise! How wonderful if that could actually happen. Imagine if such folly could leave our planet.

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#936266 - 12/16/08 07:47 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 Quote:
there would be no beauty contests, no athletic competitions, no spelling bees, no academic scholarships, no game shows like Jeopardy!, and certainly no talent competitions.
One step closer to paradise! How wonderful if that could actually happen. Imagine if such folly could leave our planet. [/b]
Hey, not so fast! A new season of American Idol is revving up to begin next month! (Oh, and if it weren't for academic scholarships, I wouldn't have gotten my degree, either.)

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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#936267 - 12/16/08 07:59 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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I missed the scholarships - reminds me of "Five of these things belong together..." of Sesame Street. Haven't watched t.v. in about 3 years so I'll take word for it. \:D

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#936268 - 12/16/08 08:32 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
That people may allow themselves to be defined by the judgments of others would seem to be the problem, then, and I don't know how that can be changed; it seems like it's human nature to scrutinize and to judge. But if shielding people's egos from the ways in which we are all different were the criterion for what's considered appropriate and acceptable, there would be no beauty contests, no athletic competitions, no spelling bees, no academic scholarships, no game shows like Jeopardy!, and certainly no talent competitions.
[/b]
But would there still be piano instruction? Generally, one chooses to enter a competition, and one is free not to. For example, I know I am not especially beautiful, so I do not enter a beauty contest. But what if, every time I went to the store to buy makeup, the salesperson would yell at me "Why do you need makeup for that ugly mug of yours?!!!" Factually, it is true - I am a possessor of a singularly ugly mug. Factually, there is such a thing as beauty, and some folks have it to a greater degree than others do. But is it relevant to my purchase of makeup? And is the salesperson's insult "appropriate and acceptable," and what result is it likely to produce, other than make me even uglier?

We're not talking about piano contests or other such things, where people voluntarily sign up. We're talking about people who want to play the piano. These are not necessarily people who want to compete with others - they are people who want to acquire a particular skill. Piano is not a competitive sport.

Personally, when I sit at the piano, I am competing with myself. I want to play better today than I played yesterday. I know there are people around who are more talented than me, and people who are less talented - but so what? It doesn't change the fact that every day, I must sit down at the piano and practice. If someone told me tomorrow that I have no talent whatsoever, I'd still sit down and practice. If someone told me that I am the most brilliantly talented musician who ever lived - I'd still sit down and practice.

In fact, it was competing with others, way back in music school, that made me lazy, which is a habit I'm overcoming now as an adult. Music was easy for me. I was easily at the top of every music class I took, and I didn't have to do very much. So I didn't do very much.

Now that I am competing with myself rather than with others, I have to practice and work hard. Because my standards are now set by myself rather than by others, I set them high - high enough that I have to work hard to meet them. For the first time in my life, I'm encountering musical tasks that are hard, that I have to work to master (switching from classical to jazz is tricky...) And I am mastering them, and I am proud of mastering them. I don't care whether I am doing so faster or slower than other people, or whether anyone else thinks it's even possible for someone to do this. It's simply irrelevant. If someone told me "You're such a moron - jazz is much easier for everyone else!" - would I have to quit? Nope.

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#936269 - 12/16/08 10:58 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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Meanspiritedness certainly isn't a part of the acknowledgment of talent, beauty or any other trait or propensity; nobody's talking about yelling at people that they are ugly or untalented or rubbing their noses in their deficiencies in any other manner.

Is it really so self-defeating just to be realistic and honest about our relative strengths and weaknesses? You know, like "I must have talent because this comes so easily to me, but I still have to work hard to be on top of my game" or "I'm not naturally any good at this, so I have to work harder and longer than some people to get results."

It can be hard to look oneself squarely in the mirror and face reality, but doesn't self-acceptance, and the avoidance of self-deception and self-delusion, require as much? Isn't that the kind of self-appraisal that's going on when you acknowledge that you're not considered beautiful and therefore won't be entering beauty contests? How would people choose courses of study, careers or make other important decisions without recognizing and assessing what they're good at and what they have no affinity for at all?

Steven
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"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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#936270 - 12/17/08 12:49 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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Well, we aren't talking "I'm not naturally good at this so I have to work harder" - we're talking "I'm not naturally any good at this so I will never be as good as the 'talented ones', so I may as well not bother." That's different. And we are talking about telling someone they have no talent and that no matter how hard they work, they'll never get good, not about telling them they have to work harder.

And we aren't talking about self-appraisal either; we are talking about appraisal by others. Not an internal evaluation of strengths and weaknesses - an external (and binary) evaluation of "talent" or "no talent." I'd trust my own internal evaluation of my own strengths and weaknesses (though even that excludes the possibility of growth and change) - I don't think I'd trust an external one.

Here's an example, related to choosing a course of study. All my life, I've been told that I was no good at public speaking. And then I went to law school. We had to do an oral argument exercise our first year, and I was absolutely terrified because I knew I was no good at public speaking - everyone had told me that. I was shocked to find out that I loved the oral argument, that I was far better prepared than my opponent, and that I did very well. Sometimes, you never know until you try. Since that experience, I participated in a legal clinic and won both of the cases I had to handle, and loved the experience.

Incidentally, had I "looked myself squarely in the mirror and faced reality," I would never have gone to law school. I knew - everyone told me - that I was not very competitive, that I was no good at public speaking, that I didn't have the detail-oriented mind that one needs to be a lawyer. "Everyone" was wrong. Again. Generally, when people say "face reality," they mean "face my vision of reality, and my vision of you, which is that you can't do this."

This is wandering far afield of the original question, and I'll be happy to continue this in email; sorry to clog everyone's bandwidth.

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#936271 - 12/17/08 01:29 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
Well, we aren't talking "I'm not naturally good at this so I have to work harder" - we're talking "I'm not naturally any good at this so I will never be as good as the 'talented ones', so I may as well not bother." That's different.
Larisa, that would be terrible, but are you sure anyone is saying this? Or remotely advising ever saying that?

Are you sure YOU are not sharing YOUR feelings here?

I, for instance, am quite capable of torpedoing myself with that kind of negative thinking. I am literally my own worst enemy. But I would never do that to someone else. I don't think Steven would either.
 Quote:

And we are talking about telling someone they have no talent and that no matter how hard they work, they'll never get good, not about telling them they have to work harder.
Again, I'm not sure who said that. As a teacher I am well aware that some people will have to work much harder to achieve what others get, far easier. You have already said that you yourself were such a person. But I will never tell anyone to stop playing or stop having goals because I don't see major talent. And of course I may always be wrong. After all, kbk said that we really should start off defining talent. This time I sort of agree with him, except that it is impossible.
 Quote:

And we aren't talking about self-appraisal either; we are talking about appraisal by others. Not an internal evaluation of strengths and weaknesses - an external (and binary) evaluation of "talent" or "no talent." I'd trust my own internal evaluation of my own strengths and weaknesses (though even that excludes the possibility of growth and change) - I don't think I'd trust an external one.
That cuts two ways though. On one hand, I agree with you. There have been people who have tried to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and have been horribly wrong. On the other hand, I've seen people encouraged to push on in something that ultimately they failed at because something was missing. There is much to be said for a dose of reality, now and then.

That's why I say it cuts both ways. I err on the side of too much encouragement, perhaps, because I don't ever want to do anything to stop someone from succeeding because I make a negative evaluation that is wrong. But I can see that potentially back-firing too. I encouraged two students who did not make it, on the university level. To this day I'm not sure whether that was my fault, or the fault of negativity coming from the university. Both students were accepted and also encouraged, based on what they showed, but coming from my teaching. Then rejected because they could not learn fast enough, did not show enough independence. I personally thought both might have done well, with just a bit more patience, since both started late. One started with me just a year before college, and he did not read before working with me. I still think he DID have talent. But maybe not. I still am haunted by this one case, decades later.
 Quote:

Here's an example, related to choosing a course of study. All my life, I've been told that I was no good at public speaking. And then I went to law school. We had to do an oral argument exercise our first year, and I was absolutely terrified because I knew I was no good at public speaking - everyone had told me that. I was shocked to find out that I loved the oral argument, that I was far better prepared than my opponent, and that I did very well. Sometimes, you never know until you try. Since that experience, I participated in a legal clinic and won both of the cases I had to handle, and loved the experience.
I've had similar experiences, but I'm still not sure where you are going with this. There are times when all sorts of lame brains make wrong assumptions about what we can or cannot do. Life is not fair. Part of life is learning how to take such punches and work through them. We won't always be encouraged, though it would be a very nice world if we were.
 Quote:

Incidentally, had I "looked myself squarely in the mirror and faced reality," I would never have gone to law school. I knew - everyone told me - that I was not very competitive, that I was no good at public speaking, that I didn't have the detail-oriented mind that one needs to be a lawyer. "Everyone" was wrong. Again. Generally, when people say "face reality," they mean "face my vision of reality, and my vision of you, which is that you can't do this."

This is wandering far afield of the original question, and I'll be happy to continue this in email; sorry to clog everyone's bandwidth.
What are you saying but that you were right to trust yourself and not listen to other people? Again, that's part of life. This does not say that you have no talent for speaking in public, or no talent for any of the things you mentioned, only that people make very wrong assumptions.

No one has talked about telling any beginner, "No, you have no talent, no matter what you do, you will never be good."

No one has said that. But others have suggested that talent, even if we can't define it, does exist, and that right now it is rather PC to act as if anyone can accomplish anything, just with hard work, will-power, and organization. Or something to that effect.

It's a Catch 22 thing. If we tell people they can't reach their goals, even if some goals are ridiculous, SOMEONE is going to be denied, and that's not good.

But if we tell everyone they CAN reach their goals, some people are going to be very disappointed when they work their butts off only to be passed by others who do very little work but who most definitely are talented, gifted, or whatever you want to call it.
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#936272 - 12/17/08 01:33 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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Larisa, I don't think there's anything to say that hasn't already been expressed. I guess it demonstrates the futility of trying to talk about talent, after all, as what you're saying and what I'm saying are dramatically different.

Several posts ago, I said that the real issue seems to be with people allowing themselves to be defined by the judgments of others. And indeed, some do, and they may be crushed by the experience. But I honestly think that most people are able to transcend that. We have to; it's a survival skill! Furthermore, because children can be especially cruel, I think most of us learn those lessons early in life.

The last time we agreed to disagree, you mentioned that you tend to be a bit of an optimist. I'm not usually accused of being an optimist, and yet I wonder if my expectations of people's unfettered ability to see and judge the world and themselves clearly aren't actually higher than yours appear to be.

Steven
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Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
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#936273 - 12/17/08 01:36 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
And what the virtuoso told him was that he always told people that they should not become musicians - because then, only those who really could not live without music would continue to play.
Everything is correct about that story -- I believe the *musician* (not merely a virtuoso) was Jasha Heifetz.

"Living without music" was not the point at all. Attitude was. The answer was something like "If you even have to ask that question, you will not succeed in pursuing this career."

The *question* was wrong. Going around asking other people if you will make it is wrong. Choosing that this is what you want to do, finding out how you go about learning how to do it, and then doing it, is where it's at. THAT was the point.

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#936274 - 12/17/08 01:38 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
currawong Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
And we are talking about telling someone they have no talent and that no matter how hard they work, they'll never get good. [/b]
Who is saying we should tell anyone this?

(=short summary of Gary's excellent post \:\) )
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#936275 - 12/17/08 01:44 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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I know a piano teacher who told her daughter at a very young age that she didn't have talent. Years later, after a concert, the daughter said to her mother 'You see, I do have talent'. The mom's comment had, and still does (the daughter's now 65), affect both their lives.
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#936276 - 12/17/08 02:05 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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Um? Could you guys clarify what you are arguing about, Larisa and Steven? I am totally lost. What is the point, and what does it have to do with deciding to learn to play the piano and managing to do so? Or what is it about, in fact (it might not be that)? What does competing with anyone - including yourself - have to do with trying to achieve something?

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#936277 - 12/17/08 02:09 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
ll Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
I know a piano teacher who told her daughter at a very young age that she didn't have talent. Years later, after a concert, the daughter said to her mother 'You see, I do have talent'. The mom's comment had, and still does (the daughter's now 65), affect both their lives. [/b]
Why do you always say something to make me sad? \:\(

;\)
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#936278 - 12/17/08 02:18 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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Life is not a bowl of cherries (for some).
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#936279 - 12/17/08 02:26 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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#936280 - 12/17/08 08:20 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
Really, I think the best thing to tell "everyone" is that we don't know whether or not they can reach their goals; and then, that we are going to get out of their way. Because we really don't know. Unless you're inside my head, you don't know what my true capabilities are. Heck, I don't know what they are, half the time, and they change depending on my self-confidence levels. And if what the person wants is to take lessons, why bother them with all that "talent" nonsense? They'll figure it out on their own soon enough. The teacher's job is to teach.

When I took beginner ballet lessons, no one talked of "talent". It just never came up. The teacher showed us the technique we were learning, we tried our best to do it, and he walked around the room correcting us if we were doing it wrong and praising us if we were doing it right. That's all a teacher needs to do.

Did I notice that other people in the class were doing better than I was? Of course I did. I'm not stupid or blind. Why does a teacher need to tell me something I can see for myself? And why should I be "disappointed" to see others learn faster than I? I'm not that petty, and I don't think that pettiness of this sort should be encouraged or sanctioned. [/b]
"All that 'talent' nonsense"? Yipes. It's time to repeat my own words from earlier in this thread.
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
But it does exists independently of anyone's opinion or understanding of it, and it doesn't even need acknowledgment or validation. All the things that are wrong with the concept for you seem to be consequent to how it's handled and treated; I understand those concerns and why a teacher, in particular, would have them. [/b]
Larisa, I don't mean to be rude or insensitive, but I have to make a comment at this point based on the abundance of your self-referential anecdotes and your candor about your own background as an emigree from the former Soviet Union.

You've had experiences that most readers here have not, and I have to wonder to what extent your convictions about this subject are a by-product of the social philosophy of totalitarianism to which you would have been exposed in your formative years. I find it impossible to read such doctrinaire missives here and not get a sense of unrelenting dogma concerning the denial of individual differences and enforced supposition of social equality. This honestly seems to confirm the worst stereotypes Westerners used to have about suppression of individuality under Communism.

I believe that for most people it suffices to admit that talent is nebulous, that it can be a blessing and/or a curse, and that the effects of overemphasizing it (or even acknowledging it in some situations) can be deleterious. The vigor of your assertions, on the other hand, compels me to wonder about the reasons for it; the temptation to try to connect the dots is irresistible.

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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#936281 - 12/17/08 01:22 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
MAK Offline
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I wanted to play the piano ever since I was a little kid. However I never tried as I was told by my mother that I had no musical talent. And you know what: I probably don't have much talent. But finally, in my mid-40's I thought, "what the heck" and started taking lessons. I bought an inexpensive digital piano. Now, a few years later, and I am enjoying playing Chopin, Bach, Schubert and other music that I really enjoy. And I have a nice little Bosendorfer grand in my living room. I get enormous satisfaction out of working on a piece and then being able to play it after a few weeks or months. Maybe I am not Rachmaninoff or Horowitz, or even the high school music major living down the street, but when I come home at night, and can sit and play a Chopin prelude over and over again, it makes my night! Hey, that's ME playing Chopin and those chords sound wonderful! Lesson: don't ever let someone tell you that because you have "no talent" you should not try something that you think you will love.
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#936282 - 12/17/08 02:03 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
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I've got no talent either but playing the piano is still the most satisfying thing in my life.

(So there. Stamps foot. Think I'll flounce off and go practice.)
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#936283 - 12/17/08 02:11 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
sotto voce Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by -Frycek:
(So there. Stamps foot. Think I'll flounce off and go practice.) [/b]
Time for an off-topic tangent!

I love the rich vocabulary of English, and the number of colorful words we have to depict ways of moving is a great example of it.

Flounce, traipse, sashay are among my favorites. Can anyone hear these terms and not have a corresponding and distinct mental image?

Does anyone remember the episode of The Simpsons in which Bart and Lisa argue about whether they are going to amble or saunter around the block?

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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#936284 - 12/17/08 02:16 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
playadom Offline
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Ahh yes, there's nothing like gallivanting down the street on a summer's day, hand in hand...something like that...
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#936285 - 12/17/08 02:34 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
childofparadise2002 Offline
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Topics related to talent are always tricky... However one wants to define it, whether one believes that it exists, it's simply true that people are all different, what name we give to the differences is less important than how we deal with it. It's simply not true that we can all accomplish the same things given the exact same amount of hard work. But whether talent matters depends on one's goals: if your goal is to enjoy music, whether you have musical talent is irrelevant; if you want to become one of the top pianists in the world, talent matters a lot. And of course hard work ALWAYS matters.

Whether it's bad for a teacher or a parent to tell a kid that "you lack the talent" probably should also depend on the kid's goal. If the goal is too unrealistic, blind encouragement will only hurt.

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#936286 - 12/17/08 02:38 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keystring Online   content
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I still don't get the debate on talent between our two horn-locked peers, but in regards to telling someone they do or don't have talent - what is the point of that? Anyone trying to learn to do anything will have a set of strengths and weaknesses which will be bolstered, exploited, strengthened, brought into balance over the course of time. Even talent (consisting of any number of things) has its disadvantages that must be brought into balance. You define the goal, you work toward it, and you see what you are working with which is a thing that will also change as you grow.

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#936287 - 12/17/08 10:53 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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It's true that my background, growing up in Soviet Russia, has something to do with my assertion, but not what you think - not a totalitarian byproduct (and don't you think that someone who barely managed to escape from a totalitarian regime will be anything but a totalitarian?), but a cultural assumption. In Russia, no teacher would even take a child as a student unless they had "talent". The idea was that a teacher didn't want to waste their time teaching someone who was never going to become a concert pianist, or a professional ballet dancer, or an Olympic gymnast.

The problem with that is that sometimes, these evaluators of "talent" would be wrong. How can you tell, with a 5-year-old? It's not always that easy. So, you got stories about musicians who were rejected by the "establishment" but who picked up music at a later age and got really good. Such stories always entailed a certain amount of pain, of lost opportunity. Why do that to someone? It took me years, long into adulthood, to learn to enjoy physical activity, after a determination of "no talent" made when I was 5.

So yeah, people have different abilities, and everyone is different, and so on. But lumping it all into "talent" oversimplifies the issue.

And moreover, isn't it nice to have the freedom to learn whatever skills you want to learn without the teacher making this kind of arbitrary judgment about you? Would you want your piano teacher telling you that you have no talent? This is one of the things I really like about the United States - that here, anyone, no matter who, can learn a musical instrument. No one will stop you, even if you are tone-deaf and missing 8 fingers; as long as you want to learn, you can learn.

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#936288 - 12/17/08 11:20 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Gary D. Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Larisa:
The problem with that is that sometimes, these evaluators of "talent" would be wrong. How can you tell, with a 5-year-old? It's not always that easy. So, you got stories about musicians who were rejected by the "establishment" but who picked up music at a later age and got really good. Such stories always entailed a certain amount of pain, of lost opportunity. Why do that to someone? It took me years, long into adulthood, to learn to enjoy physical activity, after a determination of "no talent" made when I was 5.
I understand very well what you are talking about. If people in this forum are doing that, to me it is wrong. But I have no heard of anyone doing such a thing, not here. So in this context, it remains a potential problem.

For the record, I have NEVER told someone not to play, to study, or to dream by saying, "You don't have what it takes." Not for reasons of potential, what I might guess. I have warned people about lack of motivations, hard work, etc.

Instead, I warn everyone that making money in music is very difficult. I continued with music because I just could not stand to do anything else. I don't even think I made a wise decision. It just seemed the only path for me.

As I suggested before, I feel that you are creating a straw man here. I don't disagree with many of your points, but I don't think your points are responding directly to what any of us have said.
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#936289 - 12/18/08 12:00 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
I still don't get the debate on talent between our two horn-locked peers, but in regards to telling someone they do or don't have talent - what is the point of that? Anyone trying to learn to do anything will have a set of strengths and weaknesses which will be bolstered, exploited, strengthened, brought into balance over the course of time. Even talent (consisting of any number of things) has its disadvantages that must be brought into balance. You define the goal, you work toward it, and you see what you are working with which is a thing that will also change as you grow. [/b]
That was my point, in fact. Thank you for stating it better than I have.

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#936290 - 12/18/08 03:58 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
keyboardklutz Offline
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Actually I've only just remembered (it can't have been that important), the same mother and daughter declared I was not 'musically talented' (but the mum always insisted I was a genius otherwise - quite a compliment from her!). I think it's the Eastern European thing of sorting wheat from chaff at the age of 5 that Larisa mentions - not the sort of talent I'd be interested in anyway.
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#936291 - 12/18/08 09:12 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by childofparadise2002:

Whether it's bad for a teacher or a parent to tell a kid that "you lack the talent" probably should also depend on the kid's goal. If the goal is too unrealistic, blind encouragement will only hurt. [/b]
You know, I think that what got me going in this discussion in the first place was the sentiment expressed in your last sentence. I've been thinking about this quite a bit today, on a long train ride, and came to a few realizations.

First of all, I like unrealistic goals. I always set them for myself (and sometimes I meet them). Goal-setting is one place where realism will hold you back. When you're punching a punching bag and you want to give it your strongest punch, you are advised to visualize your punch going right through the bag, in complete and total defiance of the laws of physics. If you visualize your punch "realistically" - i.e. complying with the laws of physics and stopping shortly after you hit the bag - it won't be as strong. Try it on a pillow or something - it really works. Goals work similarly, in my experience.

I am a pragmatist. If visualizing myself performing in Carnegie Hall will get me practicing more and get me to play better than a "realistic" visualization of myself performing for my parents and friends, I will visualize myself performing in Carnegie Hall. My goal is to coax the best possible performance out of myself, by any means necessary, and if manipulating my subconscious will get me there, I will do so. In my case, and in the case of a lot of other people (including my students), unrealistic praise gets much better results than "realistic" assessments of their talents. People are not robots, and their performance - including their level of "talent" - is very much affected by their teacher's assessment of their ability (there have been countless psychological experiments that prove this). I refuse to handicap my students, and I refuse to handicap myself. No one gives out gold stars - or competition prizes - for the most "realistic" assessment of one's ability. Gold stars are given out for results.

Also, while blind encouragement can, and does, hurt sometimes, blind discouragement hurts a lot more often. There may be a few deluded souls out there who think they're the next incarnation of Liszt, despite having only mastered "Mary Had a Little Lamb" with one finger - but how many do you really think there are? And do you really think they'll listen to you if you tell them they have no talent? On the other hand, there are lots and lots of people who have some talent who are told they have no talent, and whose talent shrivels away as a result. This, I think, is far more common and far sadder, and if one must err, it's better to err on the side of encouragement.

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#936292 - 12/21/08 02:45 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Lisztener Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/12/06
Posts: 921
Greetings,

After just finishing every word of this marvelous discussion, you all have sated my voracious appetite that began with the first word of the thread and ended as a satisfying meal of mind food. Bravo! This discussion should be stickied and made required reading upon registering for access to PW.

Sotto Voce and Larissa,

I commend each of you for eloquently projecting your viewpoints on the nebulous concept of talent. I must say that I am particularly taken by Larissa's point of view because she personalizes and makes applicable that which otherwise is always subjective and abstract. The viewpoints expressed by all are most valuable, but the act of encouraging talent rather than debating its existence, valiantly carries the day for me.

Thank you all for your knowledgeable and thought provoking insights.

Happy Holidays to all.

Sincerely,

Lisztener
_________________________


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#936293 - 12/24/08 02:32 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
ahvat Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/08
Posts: 125
I've been told I'm talented, But I just take it as an encouragement. I started late learning piano at age 19. I forget how I started. There is so much to learn about music.

I dont know if talent really exist. There are those who are good and something others aren't good at. Everyone is different. Experience? Talent? gee, I don't know. I can only stand with my statement "practice"

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#936294 - 12/25/08 02:50 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Bex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/08
Posts: 95
Loc: Southern California
We've probably all been told that we're talented. Mostly by folks who don't know that much about music, but like to hear us play. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-)

And it doesn't really matter, anyway. I practice daily nonetheless, and I'm making progress.
_________________________
On the piano stand:
Widmung
Partita in c minor
Jardins sous la pluie

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#936295 - 12/25/08 06:52 AM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
I think it's the Eastern European thing of sorting wheat from chaff at the age of 5 that Larisa mentions -[/b]
My Russian friend told me it wasn't worth my taking the piano back up a few years ago. (I'd had about 12 years of lessons growing up - they were very bad lessons but that's another story). She was horrified that I was treaching myself Chopin. When I finally got up the nerve to let her listen to my recording of 10/12 as bad as it is, she was perceptive enough to recognize it as a work in progress and actually cried and smiled as she listened. She hugged me and told me to keep working. That meant a lot. She was a "failed" violinist. She practiced "at least four hours a day" for eight years as a kid and then apparently didn't make the cut. She went on to be a big time scientist, an MD with two Phd's but the violin business still hurt I think. She never touched a violin again. I think that's very sad. Think how much she lost. Russia may well have lost something as well.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#936296 - 12/26/08 06:04 PM Re: Realistic Expectations for Adult Beginner
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
I think that this Russian system is responsible for more pain and grief than any "blind encouragement" ever could be. So many people who love music, who could be fairly decent musicians, were just abruptly told "You have no talent", "You failed", or whatever - and that was that. How could anyone do that to someone's soul?

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