Returning to piano after long break.

Posted by: Dustin Spray

Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 01:27 AM

Hello all,

I am going to be purchasing a Kawai CA65 and returing to the piano after about a 10-12 year hiatus. I was wondering what the best method is to get back into the swing of things and get back up to speed. I left off by playing many classical pieces (Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmininoff), hymn playing, and a small amount of accompaniment. Sould I start back off in a basic piano lesson plan and start scales and Hanon excerices? I tried playing Moonlight Sonata is the music store the other day after not playing it since my sophmore year in high school and struggled...... How long are people taking to regain their skills after taking a long break? Im guessing im not the first to take a long break.... Thanks!
Posted by: DameMyra

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 01:56 AM

You are not alone. My break was over 35 years. The first thing I did was find an excellent teacher.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 02:10 AM

Since you will be getting a new piano, that's the very first step. Second step, as DameMyra says is to get yourself a lovely teacher who will be understanding to your lack of experience in the hands, but perhaps not in the mind! smile

Enjoy your new life as a(n obsessed) pianist!
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 02:16 AM

Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Enjoy your new life as a(n obsessed) pianist!


thumb
Posted by: Dustin Spray

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 02:27 AM

Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Since you will be getting a new piano, that's the very first step. Second step, as DameMyra says is to get yourself a lovely teacher who will be understanding to your lack of experience in the hands, but perhaps not in the mind! smile

Enjoy your new life as a(n obsessed) pianist!


Very well put! Thats what I have going on. My mind is good as far as music is concerned but my hands are very weak. Do you think a teacher is needed? Or can I pull it together with scales and hanon exercises and go from there?
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 04:51 AM

Maybe it depends on the level you were at when you stopped.

I didn't really play properly (if at all) for decades after finishing university, though I'd take advantage of any opportunity that came my way, whether in hotel lobbies, churches, town halls, stately homes, ships, hospitals etc. - no matter what the quality of the piano. I finally bought a digital in 2010. After about a month, I was already better than the level I was playing when I last had regular access to a piano, simply because I could practise as much as I liked - I first relearnt all my old favorites (like Rachmaninoff's Op.23/5, Chopin's Op.10/12 and Op.25/1, Mendelssohn's Rondo capriccioso, Schumann/Liszt's Widmung etc), and then started adding new pieces regularly. I used my ancient volume of Geoffrey Tankard's Piano Technique (which my last teacher gave me, when he found my technical deficiencies) to practise from in between learning proper music. I never used Hanon, Czerny etc - none of my teachers ever asked me to play them.

If I'd encountered insurmountable problems in regaining my old technique (e.g. if I'd developed some bad technical problems that I couldn't resolve), I'd have got myself a teacher without hesitation, but luckily, I didn't. In fact, I went on to learn many new pieces that I never dreamt I could play when I was younger - back then, a glance at a score like Ravel's Gaspard would put me off even trying - but not anymore. I found that with proper practising (over weeks and months), it's possible to learn to play anything, if you've already got a thorough grounding in technique. As for musicianship, I developed it over the years simply from listening to lots of good pianists (on recordings and live in concert). Things that my teacher taught me started to make more sense over the years I spent listening - all away from the piano.

So, I think that if you last played at a high level, you probably won't have any difficulty regaining your old standard, and then improving on it. But if you still had a lot to learn in technical development, whether it's developing specific techniques in voicing, playing fast octaves and chords, repeated notes, thirds etc, when you left off, you'll definitely benefit from getting a teacher, to avoid developing problems if you learn them on your own. As for musicianship - playing with proper expression with regards to phrasing, voicing, rubato etc - I personally learnt a lot more just from listening to great pianists (and singers, and other instrumentalists) in a wide range of music than I ever did from any of my teachers. But I expect many people will disagree with me on this.
Posted by: Daffodil

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 06:13 AM

I went back to piano playing after 25 years. I found a teacher and was really glad I did, as I'd forgotten a lot more than I realised. It took me 18 months to get back to the same standard as when I left off.

I'm still improving (it's been about six years now) and I have to say having various teachers is good as they often have different ways of looking at the music. There is always something new to learn.

Also, there's nothing like having to face up to a teacher each week to keep you motivated and moving along.

Congratulations on your new piano, and good luck. smile
Posted by: griffin2417

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 09:12 AM


I went back to piano after a 35-year hiatus as well. I waited about 7 months until I realized I needed a teacher. I found an excellent teacher. However, I wish I had done this much sooner. I'd be much further along now if I hadn't waited.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 09:31 AM

Despite my own experience detailed above, I'd definitely stress that if you aren't making the progress that you expect when you resume your piano playing (no matter what the standard you were playing at when you last played regularly), or have any doubts at all, always get a teacher. Ironing out problems early on will save a lot of effort and time in the long term.
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 11:17 AM

I've said this before on PW, but it bears repeating. If you're seeking a teacher, please try to choose one who has at least comfort (and preferably some experience) in teaching adults.

If you can't find one, then be prepared to try out a couple of teachers (a few lessons with this one, a few lessons with that one), before you make a real commitment. Or else just check in with a teacher once a month, rather than weekly.

Many piano teachers are clueless and lousy when it comes to fostering the adult pianist.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 12:11 PM

I don't know what other people's experiences are like, but when I needed a teacher while at university to follow on where I left off at boarding school (where instrumental teachers are allocated to the students - who can change teachers if they request, but noone ever did), I enquired at the music department of the university, where I was using the practice rooms by special permission (as my course had nothing to do with music). I was given the name of a teacher who lived locally and taught many private students, mostly advanced young adults who'd finished with school but wanted to continue learning the piano, whether or not they intended a music career, plus some adult beginners.

He had just the right attitude with teaching adults (or near-adults) - I had no aspirations to have a career in music, so he taught me music that I enjoyed and wanted to learn, plus introducing me to music that I hadn't thought of playing but which expanded my horizons (thus from Chopin Waltzes and Nocturnes that I was playing to Etudes, Polonaises and Ballades, and on to Scriabin; from Rachmaninoff's Op.3/2 to Op.23 and Op.32, from Brahms's Op.117 & Op.78 to Op.118 & Op.119, from no Schumann at all to his Carnaval, Kreisleriana, Fantasy...). This was completely different to the way I was taught while at school, where my teacher gave me music to learn that she felt would improve my musical understanding and technique, rather than music I'd have chosen to learn myself: Bach Inventions followed by Preludes & Fugues, Debussy etc. So, I was learning Romantic music (Chopin and Rachmaninoff) - which I preferred - by myself, but realized now that I'd probably never have played any Bach or Debussy if it hadn't been for that teacher, other than what I needed to pass piano exams.
Posted by: riley80

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 08:03 PM

My hiatus was roughly 35 years. I got out all my old scales, studies and pieces and struggled thru them. Things got quite a bit easier tho after about a month. I had to force myself to develop correct fingering.
If you can afford it, get some assessment lessons from a teacher who can point out deficiencies.
Posted by: Rudy99golf

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 09:09 PM

Hello Dustin,

Get a good teacher, and get back to work.

And welcome to the club of lost & found. ha
Posted by: gooddog

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 09:24 PM

Good ideas above especially: find an excellent teacher and find one who likes working with adults.

I had a 38 year hiatus from lessons. I continued to play on my own when I was able to find a spare moment while raising a husband grin and 3 kids. When the kids were all in their teens I returned to practicing in earnest and I was pleasantly surprised how quickly my technique returned. A great teacher gave me the tools to progress rapidly.

Good luck!
Posted by: Dustin Spray

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 09:32 PM

Thank you kindly for all the warm welcomes and great advice! I'm very excited and can't wait to get back into the grove of things. Im gunna start playing scales and Hanon exercises and start off slow. And then try to brush up on some basic hymns and work back into some classical pieces I used to play several years back. I would rather not go back to taking lessons unless it is absolutely nesessary. I know my weakness is going to finger dexterity and proper fingering. I may be a little weak on my reading skills but I expect that to come back fairly quickly. Again, I'm excited to be re-united with the piano and look forward to talking to you fine people on this forum. Thanks again for all your help!

-Dustin
Posted by: Arghhh

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/14/13 10:48 PM

You asked how long it would take to get back to your previous level. I am pretty sure that I am a lot more critical of my playing as an adult as I was as a teen. So even though I probably got back to my previous level within 3 months (after 10 years of irregular playing), I didn't feel like I did.
Posted by: woodog

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/15/13 07:30 AM

Originally Posted By: Dustin Spray
... I would rather not go back to taking lessons unless it is absolutely nesessary. ....

-Dustin


You could be missing out. Lessons as an adult are a completely different experience than lessons as a student. Well, they certainly SHOULD be different.

at any rate, welcome back!

Forrest
(also back after 22 years)
Posted by: Gerard12

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/15/13 08:00 AM

Don't be in a hurry to get back to the more difficult rep that you worked on 10 - 12 years ago.

Chances are that your perception of how you use yourself at the instrument is the same as it was then. In reality, you've gone through much physical evolution (for lack of a better word) - not all of it has shown up on your mind's radar yet.

This has been my observation as a teacher to many people who have taken breaks as little as 3 years long. (In teens, as little as 1 year long!)

I, for one, hope that you decide to connect with a qualified teacher. Congrats and best of luck with yoiur return!
Posted by: FarmGirl

Re: Returning to piano after long break. - 01/15/13 11:19 AM

I came back to piano after 20 years as well. I was probably intermediate when I quit piano in high school after 7 years of lessons. I noticed immediately that I needed a teacher but that's my experience. One thing we all seem to agree, yes you can get back to the level where you left off (with all the same bad habits if you had any). It's like bicycling. I remembered how surprised I was when I noticed my fingers remembered the 1st movement of moon light and also raindrop prelude (pieces i played in recitals). Childhood memory is amazing. Welcome and good luck to you.