Looking for guidance to improve

Posted by: OtherWyze

Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 04:36 PM

I took lessons for 10 years while in grade school, but my lessons were from the old piano lady in town, and so my education has a few gaps. I should be a heck of a lot better than I am. I only play for my own pleasure, but it's also a skill I list on my resume, so I'd like to get better. The trouble is, I have no idea how to progress, and having no direction is extremely unmotivating. Can anyone recommend a good way to continue my education and have guided practice? A theory book perhaps? I hope I haven't been too vague.
Posted by: kayvee

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 04:42 PM

...can you please provide less information? No, but really, we can't suggest anything until you say more than 'I used to play and want to get better.'

Get better at what? Sight reading? Theory? Improvising? Arranging?

Jazz? Classical? Rock?

What can you do now? Read music? Play by ear? How much theory do you think you know? Any technique?

As it stands now, I'd assume you know absolutely nothing and tell you to get a beginners' book and work through it to fill whatever these 'gaps' are. But I'm betting you don't need that. If you could provide more background and goals, I think everyone here would be able to give you PLENTY of paths to move towards.
Posted by: OtherWyze

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 04:54 PM

Lol, I knew I was being too vague.

I can read music extremely well, as I also play oboe and sing. However, I guess "accuracy" might be the best word to describe what I'm looking to improve. I can plunk my way through almost any piece, but the faster the piece and the more notes I have to hit, the more my accuracy suffers. This might have something to do with finger and wrist strength as well.

I mainly play from traditional sheet music, but I've also played from chord charts; I'd like to learn more about improvising from charts like this. Keyboard theory, I guess is what it's called.

As far as genre, I play a mix of everything.

Quote:
How much theory do you think you know?


Not quite sure how to answer this question; I can see the name of a chord and play it. And like I said earlier, I can read music very well.
Posted by: kayvee

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 04:56 PM

Can you name a handful of pieces you can play without any problems (the 'hardest' pieces, that is)?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 05:01 PM

The best thing would be to consult a decent teacher (first thing is to find one) and have that teacher diagnose what underlying things you need to work on. For example, your "accuracy" issue may be due to any number of underlying things, and once that is known, you will have goals to work toward, and ways of getting there.
Posted by: OtherWyze

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 05:01 PM

These may not be good indicators, but Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique (2nd movement), Moonlight Sonata, and Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring...but I still play these with multiple errors.
Posted by: kayvee

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 05:06 PM

With the obvious assumption that you can't get a teacher now (as I figure you'd either guess that or have attempted to pursue one or whatever the case may be), I'd suggest the following (which I suggested elsewhere, so I'll just edit that accordingly here):

1) Build a sight-reading routine. These could be sight-reading methods, songs that are below your level, a collection of hymns, whatever.

Work on them in a structured manner. Develop your counting abilities with the metronome, keep your eyes moving ahead, etc. That's why I'd recommend a sight-reading method first, and then move onto actual repertoire and hymns.

2) Build a technique routine, to include: scales (in 1, 2, 3, and maybe even 4 octaves), chords (to include inversions with 3 notes, broken chord patterns, and cadences/progressions), and arpeggios.

Pretty self-explanatory, but you need to be very conscious of this. Work on motion and speeding up while maintaining evenness. This will probably help you with your 'accuracy' problem the most.

3) Choose 4 'main' pieces you'll work on, one from each period: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary. These should be at your level, or perhaps 1-2 levels below. Work on these in little sections over the months to bring them to performance level. I'd suggest picking up a repertoire series and starting at easier songs. Every time someone mentions Moonlight Sonata, warning sirens go off in my head and I think "Playing songs that are too hard!" You mentioned slow songs, and that you play them with errors. I think you need to scale back a bit and work on technique.

I'd suggest:
a- pieces
-Bach Inventions
-Sonatina album
-A book of Romantic pieces

b- a repertoire series such as Keith Snell Piano repertoire, Level 7
Posted by: keystring

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 05:13 PM

Again, find out about decent teachers and ask one to observe you. Lack of accuracy can be due to technique, ways of approaching a piece, reading skills and approaches, ways of moving to a part of the piano, ways of approaching playing - a dozen things which a good teacher can turn around for you. Names of pieces in and of themselves don't tell that much, because a fancy piece can be played unskillfully and poorly, while a simple piece may be played with great skill. Especially if you are able to play other instruments, factors can be even more hidden because of what you already can do. (I have a t-shirt to loan out on that account).
Posted by: dmd

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/12/12 06:12 PM

It sounds like you have invested a lot of time and effort into piano playing and have achieved a very high level of accomplishment.

My advice would be to continue with high level instruction with a teacher and keep building your skill set properly.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/13/12 02:41 AM

Originally Posted By: OtherWyze
Lol, I knew I was being too vague.

I can read music extremely well, as I also play oboe and sing. However, I guess "accuracy" might be the best word to describe what I'm looking to improve. I can plunk my way through almost any piece, but the faster the piece and the more notes I have to hit, the more my accuracy suffers. This might have something to do with finger and wrist strength as well.


The existence of "finger strength" is a common misconception. These two resources might be of interest to you:

1)http://www.piano-ology.com/Technique/TheProperMindset.php
-as well as the rest of his site, which explains piano technique, as well as practice suggestions and things

2)www.pianopractice.org (a terrific free resource on almost everything piano-playing related, though it's not the be-all and end-all so read it with a grain of salt; would likely address a lot of possible questions)
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Looking for guidance to improve - 11/13/12 02:50 AM

Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: OtherWyze
Lol, I knew I was being too vague.

I can read music extremely well, as I also play oboe and sing. However, I guess "accuracy" might be the best word to describe what I'm looking to improve. I can plunk my way through almost any piece, but the faster the piece and the more notes I have to hit, the more my accuracy suffers. This might have something to do with finger and wrist strength as well.


The existence of "finger strength" is a common misconception. These two resources might be of interest to you:

1)http://www.piano-ology.com/Technique/TheProperMindset.php
-as well as the rest of his site, which explains piano technique, as well as practice suggestions and things

2)www.pianopractice.org (a terrific free resource on almost everything piano-playing related, though it's not the be-all and end-all so read it with a grain of salt; would likely address a lot of possible questions)

Seconded. The correct way to phrase "finger and wrist strength" issues is "technique" issues. I guarantee if you can move your fingers and hold a pencil, they're strong enough. You're not moving a fifty-pound key. It only weighs a couple ounces. What you will likely need to improve on is technique. Use less strength and better technique, and you will arrive at the correct note more often. wink

Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to diagnose which technique issue is giving you trouble. I'm guessing there are some twisting and interdependence issues, and maybe some shaping issues (because it's a natural resultant issue of the first two), but that is pure speculation.

The first thing I would focus on is playing with complete freedom, ease, and facility. No stress. No tension. No locking of fingers, joints, wrists, arms, anything. No rushing to reach a note. No stretching to reach a chord/note. Whatever you can play completely freely and without reservation, hesitation, or pause. I don't care if it's a five-note scale or a Liszt etude; that's your starting point. Take it up a notch from there and work until you can get that feeling just as "free". Then, another notch, and another, until you reach your eventual goal.

And of course, feel free to ask any and all specific questions about how to accomplish this within a passage, piece, etc. There are tons of knowledgeable people who are willing to answer those questions. And I'd be happy to try as well. smile