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#960046 - 07/24/08 09:11 PM adult older beginner question
profinatio Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/24/08
Posts: 1
Hi, Hope someone can give me some advice or feedback. I'm about to turn 50. I know my major and minor scales, my arpeggios and have some very basic sight reading ability. Now that I have time on my hands I'd really like to begin learning to play piano.

I really like the 20th century composers like Bartok, Prokofiev and Ginestera as well as atonal and avant garde stuff and would really like to play in that style. I've been listening to this stuff for many years and I know it takes years to learn but that is the direction I'd like to go in.

At my age I would prefer not to have to go through tedious years of learning Beethoven, Chopin and other "standard" classical stuff (even though I like them)and would like to get into learning the stuff that I like. If I was 20 years younger I'd learn it all but I dont have years to play around with any more. Is this possible to learn to play the "outside" stuff without the strict classical training and if so, does anyone have any advice as to how to go about the process? Thank you very much!

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#960047 - 07/24/08 09:19 PM Re: adult older beginner question
pianoexcellence Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
I say learn whatever interests you.

A good portion of the music that you described will make use of the scales that you have learned (although not always used within the traditional confines of a key).

You are a couple steps ahead.

Go for it!
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#960048 - 07/25/08 01:23 AM Re: adult older beginner question
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Check out Kabalevsky, though he is best with a teacher who understands him.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#960049 - 07/25/08 01:36 AM Re: adult older beginner question
Coolkid70 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/08
Posts: 378
Loc: Irvine, CA
Bartok has also written a great deal for students. You would be able to jump right in to his style of music.

I vaguely recall a set called "First Term at the Piano".
_________________________
Kawai K-3 (2008)

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#960050 - 07/25/08 01:49 AM Re: adult older beginner question
dvdiva Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 249
Loc: Manila
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
I say learn whatever interests you.[/b]
Exactly! My piano teacher started me out on Bach minuets and Clementi sonatinas, and while they were helpful, they didn't exactly interest me. I told her what I wanted to play (Debussy, Satie, Ravel, Gershwin) and it was fine by her. She picked out simple pieces for me by those composers, or at least simple arrangements, and even taught me some modern stuff (e.g. Yann Tiersen).

You mentioned Bartok -- have you checked out his Mikrokosmos[/b] series? It's a collection of pieces ranging from very easy and simple beginner etudes to very difficult advanced technical displays. The first few books might be a good place to start.

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#960051 - 07/25/08 07:56 AM Re: adult older beginner question
ddh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/06
Posts: 458
Loc: Abitibi
Hey Profinatio, welcome to the forum.

Bartok has a series of 153 progressive pieces from beginner to unplayable in his Mikrokosmos books (6). He introduces a different concept in each piece.

They are available Here

You might like to investigate :p

Good luck in Your search and Your journey.
_________________________
Daniel (Pramberger JP 208B)


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#960052 - 07/25/08 09:48 AM Re: adult older beginner question
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7355
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Then there's Khachaturian. Take a look at Pictures of Childhood (Sikorski 2144). This is all intermediate level, but it is a delight to play and has many surprising tonal surprises.
_________________________
"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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#960053 - 07/25/08 01:44 PM Re: adult older beginner question
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Bartok, Prokofiev, etc. is still classical
repertoire, not that far removed from
Chopin, etc. There are stylistic
differences, but you play it the same as
earlier classical repertoire. So a person
could skip all of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc.
and go right into 20th century music with
little trouble.

However, if your playing consists entirely
of scales, arpeggios, and "sight-reading"--
say, the Alfred Adult Course Bks. 1-3--then
you're going to need to take it slowly,
because, except for Bartok, these composers
didn't write anything on the intermediate
level. You could try Bartok's easier pieces,
but that wouldn't really prepare you
for anything in the 20th cent. repertoire;
it's just intermediate-level stuff that happens
to have been written by Bartok--and
presumably you've already done
intermediate-level work. Moreover,
commercial recordings of the work of these
composers is all advanced stuff, so if
this is what you want to play, then
you'll just have to dig in and start cold
with their advanced pieces.

An intermediate-level player doing this
is going to have to take it slowly, because
he won't have the strength to play such
pieces, and he'll have to develop it
gradually--on the job, so to speak. Say,
you want ot play a Prokofiev sonata or
concerto movement, etc. The way you
do it without the necessary experience
and training for it is to go slowly
at it, note by note. Such a piece, in
its entirely and at full tempo, is much too
difficult for you, but if you look at
it measure by measure, then any beginner
can play it--slowly. And if you can
play the first measure, then you can
play the second, third, etc., slowly. Continuing
like this you'll eventually get through
the first page, then the second, third,
etc., slowly, and finally the whole sonata
or concerto movement, slowly.

And if you can play something slowly, then
with practice you can play it a little
faster, and then a little faster than
that, etc., until it's up to speed--which
will take a long time with something as
long and difficult as this.

What you're shooting for with this procedure
is to get to the point where you've
developed enough strength and experience
to play the whole sonata or concerto movement
in one sitting, slowly--which will take
a lot of time and effort with difficult
stuff like this. When you can do that,
you've got it licked, so to speak, because
from then on it's just like any piece in
the Alfred Course: you then play it over
and over until it's perfected.

When I've made this kind of recommendation
before on these forums, it has drawn great
riducule from advanced players, because
they think you have to spend yrs. developing
the "right foundation" before you can
tackle advanced pieces. But I know this
can work because I have used this procedure
to work up a big-time Romantic Era concerto
movement to about 3/4 speed or better. When
I started on it, it was so difficult for
me that I had to go at it note by note,
one measure a day, initially. But over
time, plodding like this, I've been able
to gradually play it better and better,
and my overall strength and playing has
improved in the process as well, just by
virtue of working on stuff that is so
far above my level.

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#960054 - 07/25/08 05:28 PM Re: adult older beginner question
pianoexcellence Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:

What you're shooting for with this procedure
is to get to the point where you've
developed enough strength and experience
to play the whole sonata or concerto movement
in one sitting, slowly--which will take
a lot of time and effort with difficult
stuff like this. When you can do that,
you've got it licked, so to speak, because
from then on it's just like any piece in
the Alfred Course: you then play it over
and over until it's perfected.

When I've made this kind of recommendation
before on these forums, it has drawn great
riducule from advanced players, because
they think you have to spend yrs. developing
the "right foundation" before you can
tackle advanced pieces. But I know this
can work because I have used this procedure
to work up a big-time Romantic Era concerto
movement to about 3/4 speed or better. [/b]
No ridicule here...I've regrettably used that system many times over the last 20 years. It works, and it's simple, it's just very very painstaking.

I know what you are thinking Gyro...and yes, it is more painstaking than hours of technique practice.

Additionally, students who spend the amount of time necessary to build their technique through repertoire, usually are so sick of the piece by the time they can play it, that they cannot play it with musical vigor anymore, or their subconcious is so rife with "memory traces of failure" (A burton Kaplan term), that it is a quagmire of false starts, lurches, and missteps.

Does a professional sprinter spend more time on the racetrack, or in the Gym?
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#960055 - 07/25/08 06:01 PM Re: adult older beginner question
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
Additionally, students who spend the amount of time necessary to build their technique through repertoire, usually are so sick of the piece by the time they can play it, that they cannot play it with musical vigor anymore ....[/b]
I think it's misleading to characterize the Gyro method as building "technique through repertoire," though, without a significant clarification.

If I'm not mistaken, building technique incrementally through increasingly difficult repertoire is considered mainstream and pedagogically sound. And it works: one makes measured progress through gradually increased challenges.

Attempting a quantum leap in technique by struggling note by note through repertoire enormously beyond one's current skill level is something else. Apparently it works, too, if one's goal is playing a "big-time" virtuoso showpiece at 3/4 speed after many years (at the expense of the musicianship one could have gained and repertoire one could have learned to play well during that time).

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

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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#960056 - 07/26/08 03:21 AM Re: adult older beginner question
12Tone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/07
Posts: 11
Loc: Strasbourg, France
This is an interesting question and I would like to share my limited experience since the music of the 20th and 21st century is important to me and I want to develop these styles. A bit of background: I started playing piano at the age of 45. I had an excellent teacher who was a concert pianist taking time off for her family and who has a very broad love of all eras. I started with a beginner's book and then moved on to easier pieces from Bach, Chopin, etc. At the beginning we also worked on the earlier books from Bartok's Mikrocosmos, which was good at the time but which, frankly, I found monotonous after a while.

After about 18 months I made the comment that I wondered if any of the more contemporary repertoire would be within my reach in the foreseeable future. My teacher immediately jumped up and pulled out the score of Schoenberg's Six Small Pieces Op. 19 and in the next few months I had learned 3 of them - probably very badly since I felt I was on the edge of a precipice in terms of stretching my technique.

For various reasons I then had a break from piano for about 13 years but then started again. I have been fortunate to find a wonderful teacher who is a professor at the local conservatory and is very much into the modern repertoire. I am now revisiting the Schoenberg pieces, which I love and are short enough for my still limited attention span while playing.

Teachers may contradict me but it seems to me that there is little in the beginners/lower intermediate repertoire in the atonal sphere. You might be interested in a recent publication called the "Piano Project" by two teachers from Paris, Anne-Lise Gastaldi and Valerie Haluk, who approached various composers to ask them to write pieces especially for relative beginners. The book contains scores of short pieces by people like Kurtag, Boulez, Aperghis, Fedele, Jarrell and others. I have started working on this and it is very challenging since none of the pieces have been recorded.

I just say this to encourage Profinatio that there are pieces in this genre that you can approach at a relatively early stage. The main thing is to find a teacher who is sympathetic with the music you want to play.

If anyone else has suggestions for similar short pieces, I would love to hear them.

Martin

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#960057 - 07/26/08 06:10 AM Re: adult older beginner question
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5924
Loc: Down Under
Originally posted by 12Tone:
My teacher immediately jumped up and pulled out the score of Schoenberg's Six Small Pieces Op. 19 [/b]

Love these pieces! especially the first and the last.

Teachers may contradict me but it seems to me that there is little in the beginners/lower intermediate repertoire in the atonal sphere. You might be interested in a recent publication called the "Piano Project" by two teachers from Paris, Anne-Lise Gastaldi and Valerie Haluk, who approached various composers to ask them to write pieces especially for relative beginners. The book contains scores of short pieces by people like Kurtag, Boulez, Aperghis, Fedele, Jarrell and others. I have started working on this and it is very challenging since none of the pieces have been recorded.[/b]

I am indeed interested in this - who has published it?
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#960058 - 07/26/08 06:40 AM Re: adult older beginner question
12Tone Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/07
Posts: 11
Loc: Strasbourg, France
 Quote:
My teacher immediately jumped up and pulled out the score of Schoenberg's Six Small Pieces Op. 19

Love these pieces! especially the first and the last.
I have just finished the fourth. At first I was terrified by the martellato part but it wasn't as difficult as I thought.

The Piano Project is published by Universal Edition (www.universaledition.com. Here in Strasbourg there's an important festival of contemporary music in the autumn (Musica) and students from the conservatory will be playing all the pieces.

Martin

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#960059 - 07/26/08 05:00 PM Re: adult older beginner question
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Pianoexcellence, the words you use, "regrettably,"
"painstaking," "so sick of the piece," "cannot
play it with musical vigor anymore," and
"quagmire," show that we are not talking
about the same thing, and you have no
conception of what I am describing and
have never tried it. I am not talking about
merely building technique through repertoire.
I'm talking about the situation where you hear
a thrilling commercial recording of a
huge, monstrously difficult piece, by a
big-time player, and you want more than
anything to play the same piece, even if
it's so far above your level that it would
be out of the question to try to play it.

You realize you could practice forever
and never reach the point where you could
play it like the recording--this would, in
effect, mean that you could become as
good as the artist, which is not possible.
Nevertheless, you decide to play it--and
eventually, play it well, to boot.

When you try to play something like this,
you soon realize that the only way
that you're going to do it is by dogged
repetitive effort over a long time,
because you don't have the talent,
experience, and quality instruction that
would enable you to tackle it in a more
refined manner. Moreover, you're going to
have to take it at a snail's pace, maybe
one measure a day, very slowly, initially,
because you lack the strength and experience
to play it any other way--were you to
sit down and try to work it up fast, like an
intermediate-level piece, you would fry
your nerves and burn yourself out.

Of course, doing it this way is the
ultimate in crudeness and inelegance, but
yet there is never any "regret" in the process:
you want to play this more than anything
else, and every second you work on it--
even plunking note by wrong note, one measure
a day--is a thrilling experience that
you will never get "sick of." The word
you use, "painstaking," shows you have
never tried to do this. The process could
in no way be described as "painstaking,"
which implies care and accuracy. The
process is better described as "wallowing":
you cannot do it with care, because in
every measure you come across monstrously
difficult technical problems that you've
never dreamed of before. You can't tackle
them with care, because you have no idea
even of how to go about playing them. And
there is no accuracy in the process, because
you're going to have to experiment with
one solution after another until you
come up with one that seems to work.

And yet, over time, plodding like this
note by note, you gradually get better
at it, although glacially slowly. When
you get to the point where you can play
it though in one sitting, slowly and with
mistakes, you know that there's light at
the end of the tunnel, because it's now
just like any other piece, and you can
just play it over and over until it's
perfected. That juncture is really quite
unbelievable: you've now got this
monster of a piece, that you thought you
could never play, essentially tamed.
And now you tackle it with renewed vigor
because you know it's playable and
you're out of the hopeless quagmire that
it seemed to be at first.

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#960060 - 07/27/08 04:00 AM Re: adult older beginner question
Vince in Vegas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/27/07
Posts: 169
Loc: Las Vegas
Actually my experience is more in line with Gyro's. First of all thanks Gyro for advice that has really helped...I almost never look at my hands, I've stopped the endless scales and exercises and I've started playing pieces that I love but seemed a galaxy away for a person with my technique/skill set. I love it! Each day it seems that I am improving and I can't wait to go at it again because I can feel, hear and sense real progress. I don't find working at a tough score slowly in the least bit exaspirating. I enjoy it. I know from the comments that many posters here find Gyros views fool heardy but for me they have really helped. I found Gyros insights clicked with me. From his comments about digital pianos to his views about the old way of piano study I find real value in them. I've tried to play piano for twenty years and was stuck in a terminal intermidate state (just the state Gyro has described before) and I thought maybe he is on to something here and after twenty years what do I have to lose. I enjoy more than ever playing the piano and I look forward to the next session because I know that there will be improvement. Thanks Gyro

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#960061 - 07/27/08 12:28 PM Re: adult older beginner question
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Music is an art, and musicianship lies in the skillful practice of that art. To me, that's the most authentic basis for personal pride and personal enjoyment.

The notion that one can conquer anything, however outlandish, by dint of motivation alone—with no need for talent, technique, education or experience—appeals most to people who want to believe it. That's important when peddling snake oil; so is posturing as an anti-establishment outsider who is on to something big that nobody else wants you to do or even to know about.

What's the motivation of someone who hears a "thrilling" performance of a "monstrously difficult" "big-time concerto movement" and decides that he—or anybody!—can do it, too? A serious and mature artistic vision, or bragging rights that one has done some amazing stunt with no skills and no training? Is that really impressive and inspiring, or does it just help sell snake oil?

An intransigent mindset that insists that conventional wisdom about every subject is all wrong—repeatedly using the same predictable language at every opportunity—might suggest questionable credibility. But there's an audience for every message, just as there will always be a demand for snake oil.

We should be thankful that the no-skills, motivation-only approach hasn't yet been advocated for performing surgery or flying airplanes!

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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#960062 - 08/05/08 11:07 PM Re: adult older beginner question
pepper Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/13/01
Posts: 171
Loc: SF CA
oops

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#960063 - 08/06/08 04:34 AM Re: adult older beginner question
dorfmouse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/04
Posts: 56
Profinatio;
You might like this book, "Anthology of 20th Century Piano Music" ed. Maurice Hinson, Alfred Publishing.

It contains pieces from 37 composers of roughly intermediate to early advanced levels. I'm sure there are some pieces that you would find accessible and it should keep you going for a good while!

And , oh joy, it's spiral bound and a lovely clear print.

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