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#1030252 - 09/18/04 12:08 PM Self-esteem and expression in piano
sleepingcats Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/04
Posts: 982
Loc: Oregon
Hi everyone,

I wondered if many of you have had problems with your lessons because of self-esteem problems. I've had that problem - maybe a combo of low-self esteem and just plain introversion. I was extremely shy even as a baby.

It wasn't until I first entered college that I started coming out of my shell (25 years ago), but there's still a bit of the self-esteem problem that lingers, and I see it manifest itself when I don't have a lot of feeling and expression in my playing. It's almost as if I'm afraid to hit the keys. (By the way, my self-esteem problem isn't a result of bad parents, friends, husband, etc. - all have been wonderful. However, I did get picked on a lot by a few "bullies" in middle school because of my shyness, and rather than having a lot of friends, I had a small circle of good friends).

Anyway, with my current teacher of 6 weeks, I've been learning to not be afraid of showing my emotions and really expressing myself with more body movements, really loosening up the arms and wrists. I'm not afraid to play the fortissimo sections as I used to be. I also have a lot of tension in my shoulders, which I'm trying to work on to help.

Anyway, anyone suffer(ed) similar problems? \:\( \:\)
"Cats make purrfect friends"

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#1030253 - 09/18/04 01:05 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
David Kirkham Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 159
Loc: Provo, Utah

I have never been accused of being shy, but...

This is what I think nonetheless.

GO OUT THERE AND PLAY A FEW FFF AND DO IT ANYWAY! When the sound finally knocks you off the bench you can at least land with a smile.

Most of the world is mired in the swamps of mediocrity...just the fact you are practicing and have a teacher puts you ahead of 99% of the world.

Just do it!

David \:\) \:\) \:\)
David Kirkham
Kirkham Motorsports
I bought my piano from www.pianocraft.net

#1030254 - 09/18/04 06:44 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
jdsher Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/04
Posts: 643
Loc: Plano, Texas
Sleepingcats: I definitely had this problem when I first started playing. I would play everything pianissimo, very tentative. And then about 2-3 months ago I was working on this piece that I love that really demanded fortissimo playing. I showed up at practice having spent all week learning this new piece and I just dove in. My teacher was shocked and delighted. "That was very musical" she said. That little bit of encouragement bolstered my playing to where I now love to add expression to my playing. Especially on my teacher's awesome Chickering grand.
If I could recommend anything, I would say to find a piece of music you love and try playing around with it. See if you can make it your own by adding something to the tempo or the force of the particular passages. Have some emotion going into the piece. Think about how your cats make you feel and add that to the music. Playful, sleepy, mischievous, put these things into your music.
See what happens. \:\)
"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein

#1030255 - 09/18/04 08:14 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
sleepingcats Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/04
Posts: 982
Loc: Oregon
Thanks David and Jon for your encouragement!

I am really trying.........I guess that's why I've been having so many problems with my dynamics being noticeable from "pp to ff". When I played Solgeggietto by CPE Bach at my last lesson, my teacher demonstrated how loud she wanted the "ff" section to be, and I almost felt like I couldn't do it, but have been trying to "overexaggerate" it at home just to get myself used to it. I'm feeling bolder now.............and encouraged. Thanks! \:\) \:\)
"Cats make purrfect friends"

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#1030256 - 09/18/04 09:15 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
LadyElton Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 521
Loc: Southeastern Pennsylvania
Self-esteem is the main issue in being terrified to take up lessons again. I took lessonsw for a while then took a break because I had moved away. I also ****ed up my recital, main due to stage fright, it still hurt me thyough. I also find myself afraid to express my reue emotions on the piano. I always find an excuse not to play or practise - carpal tunnel syndrome, old injury to my left thumb. One of my biggest fears is that I have no talent. Even though I love music and I love the piano. Take care.

PS - Sorry fpr any typos. Never type while drunk.
Hilary aka LadyElton


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"Looking like a true survivor..."
-- Sir EJ/BT '83

#1030257 - 09/19/04 10:00 AM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
teachum Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/19/04
Posts: 2918
Loc: idaho
Sleeping Cats - I have had a self-esteem problem all my life too. ALthough most people would label me as an extrovert (and I am), that doesn't accurately reflect the feelings inside at times. I have overcome a lot as I get older, but I understand where you are coming from. TO the point - my sister said to me recently - you play too timidly - "Attack that piano - it won't bite back!" I am trying to put that advice into action. Go for it and enjoy your new piano! Mine comes in FIVE DAYS BTW!
You will be 10 years older, ten years from now, no matter what you do - so go for it!

Estonia #6141 in Satin Mahogany

#1030258 - 09/19/04 10:14 AM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
apple* Offline

Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
I don't have an esteem problem and that presents problems too.

I have found that confidence in playing is directly correlated to how prepared I am, how much I have practiced.

Altho, I'm playing at church again... I'm surprised that I am nervous at times... It can be nerve racking. The more nervous I am - the worse I play. sometimes I can take a breath and shout inwardly RELAX! Sometimes it works.
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

#1030259 - 09/20/04 12:50 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
Mikester Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/17/04
Posts: 1254
Loc: Minneesooota
Just to be in control. The audience wants you to do well. They came all that way to root for you. Use your ears and just play the music and not worry about hitting the wrong notes or whatever.

Horowitz once said, every time he performed he made love to his audience, his actual words were, "I was f***ing them". The piano was his lovemaking "instrument", if you will. Just go out there and carve out a thing of beauty for the audience to fall in love with. The piano is your chisel.

#1030260 - 09/25/04 12:45 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
dorfmouse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/04
Posts: 59
Dear Sleeping Cats
You might like to check out this site:
You'll find sensitive analysis of all sorts of problems and emotional baggage that adult learners bring to their lessons. There are moving and telling stories as well as a lot of down to earth practical advice. As a lifelong adult learner I find the readings on this site challenging, affirming and motivating. I hope you will find food for thought!
All the best

#1030261 - 09/27/04 07:09 AM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
Also remember, that unless you are a professional concert pianist putting on a performance to a sold out theatre, (i.e your performance is a recital or something) - the folks who are there probably love you, and it is likely that you know your piece much better than anybody in the audience. So just relax and give it your best!

"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer

#1030262 - 09/27/04 04:42 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
sleepingcats Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/04
Posts: 982
Loc: Oregon
Thanks to all for your encouragement and personal experiences! It helps to know I'm not the only one. My teacher is really understanding of these problems as well. Most of the time, the only person in the audience is me, and I'm my own worst enemy; however, I'm noticing a difference in my expression in playing. \:\)

dorfmouse, that website is interesting - thanks! I've only started looking at it........

My husband and I stayed at a hotel at the coast for 2 nights last week. They had an old upright in the room off the lobby. No one was in there so I started practicing (took 3 pieces to practice), then all of a sudden a group of women entered, waiting for their room to be ready. Although all the chatter was distracting, I was able to focus better than I thought. What helped was that I didn't look at them when they came in (just continued to play), so I couldn't see any faces in my mind, just pretended I was at home alone at my own piano. Another thing that helped was knowing they weren't there specifically to watch me, but waiting and talking among themselves.

There's reassurance in the back of my mind from everyone's postings and the words of my teacher! \:\)
"Cats make purrfect friends"

#1030263 - 09/27/04 05:08 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
jdsher Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/04
Posts: 643
Loc: Plano, Texas
Great job at the hotel Sleepingcats. I knew you had it in you. I always check out the pianos at the hotels I visit. I've never sat down and started playing one though. Did you have to ask permission to do this?
"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein

#1030264 - 09/27/04 05:30 PM Re: Self-esteem and expression in piano
sleepingcats Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/04
Posts: 982
Loc: Oregon

Yes, I called the hotel in advance because I noticed a piano in their brochure; however, when I actually went to play it, I didn't ask - just relieved no one else was there. It was a Janssen, made in NY, and at least 50" tall, real ivory keys, and easy to play.

Oh, I forgot to add......my husband later went down for the free wine tasting which I skipped, opting catch a few Zzzzzzzzzs..........when he returned to the room, he said he talked to some people who mentioned enjoying the piano playing by some woman that was down there earlier \:D - that was nice to hear!
"Cats make purrfect friends"


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