Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done...

Posted by: Ganddalf

Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/25/13 01:03 PM

Piano playing is my greatest hobby and has given me lots of pleasure (and some frustration) for more than 40 years. I always had lots of plans and projects, and ambitions were not always in accordance with my capabilities. Therefore I have used lots of time on incompleted projects. In most cases I just got to a point where I found it more interesting to start with something new and putting the current project on hold.

Earlier I was also much less self-critical than now. Already at an age of 20 I worked a lot on pieces like Chopin's 2nd Scherzo and 4th Ballade. I have also put a lot of effort into learning Beethoven Sonatas and lots of other great piano works. In most cases I had to realise that I lacked the technique to play these pieces well.

A few years ago I changed my way of working with the music, and at the same time I decided to choose simpler repertoire. Although this didn't solve all problems my playing definitely improved. Lately I have been considering starting anew with some of my unfinished projects. But I have to face reality. I don't have the time to learn more than a small fraction of what I really would like to do. And it is awfully hard to choose.

I would really like to play a Beethoven sonata. Actually I would like to play 7 or 8 of them. Op.22? Or perhaps Op.31/2. Or Waldstein, Op.53???

Then we have all the beautiful works of Chopin. Etudes, Scherzi or Ballades.... I also love Faure and Debussy. And I have a very clear idea of how I would like Ravel's Sonatina to be played.

It is difficult to be completely realistic about one's own skills. I can, of course, spend as much time as I like on whatever I want as long as I don't do it for a living. But much of the satisfaction is the feeling of accomplishment when realising that all the practice paid off. Therefore I have to be very careful when choosing new projects.

Just some thoughts, and maybe something to keep in mind for those of you who still have years to go before you start feeling the burden of age.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/25/13 03:20 PM

Interesting thread...

I too have the burden of old age creeping up on me. Yet, when I'm pounding out an oldies boogie-woogie or rock-n-roll tune on the piano it puts a smile on my face and gleam in my eye!

That is better than any medicine or home remedies for oldness that I know of... smile

Rick
Posted by: Sam S

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/25/13 05:53 PM

I'm a big believer in choosing pieces that are within reach technically. It saves a lot of frustration and time in the long run.

I do believe that it's about the journey, not the destination. I try to take pleasure in making music on a daily basis, or I will lose interest in playing the piano. Been there, done that. But I also need goals, and learning new pieces is something I take a lot of pleasure in. But not if it takes too long. So it's necessary to balance the desire to tackle new, harder pieces with the need to have fun playing every day.

I also think we need to recognize our technical strengths and weaknesses. For some reason I have a fair amount of finger independence, so difficult pieces that require that skill are easier for me. On the other hand, anything with fast runs or arpeggios is beyond the ability of my old hands, at least right now.

Sam
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/25/13 06:17 PM

"""...
Piano playing is my greatest hobby and has given me lots of pleasure (and some frustration) for more than 40 years. I always had lots of plans and projects, and ambitions were not always in accordance with my capabilities. Therefore I have used lots of time on incompleted projects. In most cases I just got to a point where I found it more interesting to start with something new and putting the current project on hold.

Earlier I was also much less self-critical than now. Already at an age of 20 I worked a lot on pieces like Chopin's 2nd Scherzo and 4th Ballade. I have also put a lot of effort into learning Beethoven Sonatas and lots of other great piano works. In most cases I had to realise that I lacked the technique to play these pieces well.

A few years ago I changed my way of working with the music, and at the same time I decided to choose simpler repertoire. Although this didn't solve all problems my playing definitely improved. Lately I have been considering starting anew with some of my unfinished projects. But I have to face reality. I don't have the time to learn more than a small fraction of what I really would like to do. And it is awfully hard to choose.

I would really like to play a Beethoven sonata. Actually I would like to play 7 or 8 of them. Op.22? Or perhaps Op.31/2. Or Waldstein, Op.53???

Then we have all the beautiful works of Chopin. Etudes, Scherzi or Ballades.... I also love Faure and Debussy. And I have a very clear idea of how I would like Ravel's Sonatina to be played.

It is difficult to be completely realistic about one's own skills. I can, of course, spend as much time as I like on whatever I want as long as I don't do it for a living. But much of the satisfaction is the feeling of accomplishment when realising that all the practice paid off. Therefore I have to be very careful when choosing new projects.

Just some thoughts, and maybe something to keep in mind for those of you who still have years to go before you start feeling the burden of age.
..."""

Starting with your last comment, feeling the burden of age, I am 63 and just a beginner. I have not learned enough to play any classics yet - that will happen when I get to my first classic on page 43 AIR from Mozart.

There will always be pieces we lack the technique to play no matter who we are. Life is all about appreciating, you have piano, you can play it, you have your hearing so you can hear your piano. I have a stoke and I am disylexic but fortunately I can still learn to how to play the piano. I just love playing the little tunes playing them best that I can. Being able to sit at a piano and play and listen to the piano is a priceless gift. You know when you go down the street and you see a person with a leg or arm dangling free, they have probably had a stoke and all that that means. It is never the destination, it is the journey. I have an express: "If you can't appreciate a coffee at home, you will appreciate a coffee in Paris." Love and appeciate the moment. Cheers and enjoy life.
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/25/13 06:27 PM

"""...
Piano playing is my greatest hobby and has given me lots of pleasure (and some frustration) for more than 40 years. I always had lots of plans and projects, and ambitions were not always in accordance with my capabilities.

Therefore I have used lots of time on incompleted projects. In most cases I just got to a point where I found it more interesting to start with something new and putting the current project on hold.

Earlier I was also much less self-critical than now. Already at an age of 20 I worked a lot on pieces like

Chopin's 2nd Scherzo and 4th Ballade. I have also put a lot of effort into learning Beethoven Sonatas and lots of other great piano works. In most cases I had to realise that I lacked the technique to play these pieces well.

A few years ago I changed my way of working with the music, and at the same time I decided to choose simpler repertoire. Although this didn't solve all problems my playing definitely improved. Lately I have been considering starting anew with some of my unfinished projects. But I have to face reality. I don't have the time to learn more than a small fraction of what I really would like to do. And it is awfully hard to choose.

I would really like to play a Beethoven sonata. Actually I would like to play 7 or 8 of them. Op.22? Or perhaps

Op.31/2. Or Waldstein, Op.53???

Then we have all the beautiful works of Chopin. Etudes, Scherzi or Ballades.... I also love Faure and Debussy.

And I have a very clear idea of how I would like Ravel's Sonatina to be played.

It is difficult to be completely realistic about one's own skills. I can, of course, spend as much time as I like on
whatever I want as long as I don't do it for a living. But much of the satisfaction is the feeling of accomplishment when realising that all the practice paid off. Therefore I have to be very careful when choosing new projects.

Just some thoughts, and maybe something to keep in mind for those of you who still have years to go before you start feeling the burden of age.
..."""

Starting with your last comment, feeling the burden of age, I am 63 and just a beginner. I have not learned enough to play any classics yet - that will happen when I get to my first classic on page 43 AIR from Mozart. There will always be pieces we lack the technique to play no matter who we are. Life is all about appreciating, you have piano, you can play it, you have your hearing so you can hear your piano. I have a stoke and I am disylexic but fortunately I can still learn to how to play the piano. I just love playing the little tunes playing them best that I can. Being able to sit at a piano and play and listen to the piano is a priceless gift. You know when you go down the street and you see a person with a leg or arm dangling free, they have probably had a stoke and all that that means. It is never the destination, it is the journey. I have an express: "If you can't appreciate a coffee at home, you will appreciate a coffee in Paris." Love and appeciate the moment. Cheers and enjoy life.
Posted by: jotur

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/25/13 07:34 PM

Re: the thread title - You ain't just whistlin' Dixie smile

Re: Sam S, enjoy the journey - it's that joy for me.

Cathy
Posted by: malkin

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/25/13 09:24 PM

Hey Ganddalf!

Enjoy the moment! Really, right now is the only time any of us has ever got.

You know, Carpe Diem, even if it is a crappy one.

(I spent a year in Norway on study abroad, but that was practically another lifetime ago!)
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/26/13 02:54 AM

Gandalf, you're right that there is an element of self-criticism that sneaks in and gets stronger as we get older. I think I'm a bit younger than you chronologically but musically speaking I'm in kindergarten!
Your words of advice are excellent - as adults we are not always realistic about what it is possible for us to learn - or to be more precise....I think we can learn anything, but the issue is, as you said: "how long will it take?"

I know how tough it is for us to accept the reality of our limitations, even when the limitations may be only a temporary phase.

It can be frustrating, and yet, I too feel the rewards you talk about. Even with the simpler pieces I play, there is a tremendous satisfaction when I realize that I've mastered something that previously seemed an impossibility.

I believe in working to recognize the excitement of the baby steps rather than looking at the miles and miles to go! One is thrilling, the other daunting!
Posted by: SwissMS

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/26/13 04:39 AM

Originally Posted By: casinitaly
I believe in working to recognize the excitement of the baby steps rather than looking at the miles and miles to go! One is thrilling, the other daunting!


This is what keeps it exciting for me. Recognizing the baby steps and the small successes. Everyday at the piano is a learning experience. It keeps our brains young and challenged. I am a sheet music junky. I have a whole bookshelf full of music, and I probably will not get to all of it in my lifetime. Still, each piece that I play teaches me something and I grow as a musician. That bookshelf is like a wonderland to me.
Posted by: FarmGirl

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/26/13 10:21 AM

Ganddalf - sharing your meeting with others may bring you incredible joy and sense of accomplishment. I recently had a piano party with eight amateur and hobby pianists in our city. It was the best party ever. 4 out of 8 is retired people. Retired or not, I think we were very hungry for human contact with music. It's not always so much fun to just track my own progress or absence of it. Piano could be a very solitary endeavor. When we are young, we are always driven by the goals, there's always next big piece we need to play, be it Ballard #1 or Scriabin. I suppose it will get you going for a while but I think at some point, it loses it's luster. That's where I find value in sharing with others. You can do it through the forum if there aren't many pianists you can get together in your community. Use ABF recitals(glad you are alteadt doing), PM is a good tool to share thoughts, start a thread (you have done this too), etc. It will expand your musical enjoyment. Let's have fun.
Posted by: dire tonic

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/27/13 05:24 AM

- I hear you! It's a matter of setting priorities and maybe moving them around from time to time. I won't do scales or work on general technique any more preferring to give extra focus on difficult passages as and when I meet them. There's so much music I never got round to playing so I'm going for bulk rather than refinement and lots more sight reading practice when I'm better organised.

I think there's a danger of feeling that we've missed the boat or wasted an opportunity but I can easily reassure myself that I was never going to be a great pianist. Playing the piano after a fashion is something we can do and perhaps something with which we identify as part of ourselves and therefore important to keep hold of for as long as possible.

Posted by: Ganddalf

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/27/13 07:10 AM

Thanks everyone. Many good thoughts here. Participating on this forum is very useful for me. Paticularly the recitals have been an inspiration. The desire of making good recordings helps focusing, but also makes me more self-critical. This may be good or bad, but in my case it is probably good, since I have been too little foocused and self-critical.

But I still want to play a Beethoven sonata.......
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/27/13 03:35 PM

Given your history of incompleted projects and the difficulty of Beethoven pieces, a Beethoven sonata seems not be the right place to start.

Maybe your teacher can indicate a few simpler pieces to get you prepared for Beethoven. Those simpler pieces might also be from your list of must-haves, and you should like them as much as the Beethoven. It's important for the progress and for satisfaction to complete a piece, including the polishing.
Posted by: Ganddalf

Re: Senior's dilemma: So much yet to be done... - 02/27/13 03:57 PM

Originally Posted By: wouter79
Given your history of incompleted projects and the difficulty of Beethoven pieces, a Beethoven sonata seems not be the right place to start.

Maybe your teacher can indicate a few simpler pieces to get you prepared for Beethoven. Those simpler pieces might also be from your list of must-haves, and you should like them as much as the Beethoven. It's important for the progress and for satisfaction to complete a piece, including the polishing.


Maybe you are right. But I have spent a period of two years now with lots of Bach, Haydn and Mendelssohn. I'm presently polishing the third Bach Partita, and this is comparable to some of the Beethoven sonatas in technical difficulty. I believe that if I select one and stick to it I can do it.