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Joined: Jan 2010
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Here's my situation.

I am an adult beginner since Sept 2009. I started with no musical background, except for the fact that I have been enjoying classical music all my life and developing over the years a profond desire to learn how to play piano.

I picked up 'Piano for Dummies' and watch numerous videos from Lypur ( great stuff ). I have to mention I do not have access to a teacher, I'd love it, but not possible for the moment.

Anyway, up to Dec.2010, I felt I was making great progress and learned to play some pieces like Fur Elise (sorry...), Bach's Prelude in C, Traumerei, Mendelssohn's SWW Op.30 No.6, Albinoni's Adagio and a few others.

Here is some of my problems since last December :

1- I am not consistent.
One minute, I play like an ass, and then can play pretty
good, at least well enough to impress myself.

2- I have hard times accepting that I am not good ( kind of a
perfectionnist ... )

3- I don't have enough feedback on my playing.

4- Right now, I am learning so many different pieces at the
same time, it's ridiculous. I can't concentrate on only
one at a time.

Because of all that, I feel I am not making progress anymore.

Well, that's about it folks.

I am welcoming any suggestions you may have for me.

Thanks in advance.

Regards





Last edited by Cohenfan; 03/16/11 03:01 PM.

Self taught adult beginner since September 2009 ( Man, I REALLY need a teacher ... )
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Hey Cohenfan!

Well, short of getting a teacher, the problems you outline are perfectly normal and you have a little psychological speed bump you need to get rid of, and you will, with time.

1) Consistency is one of the hardest things to achieve in any profession. Just look at doctors (patients still die - unfortunately), architects (buildings still collapse), and so on.

2) If you agree that being a good musician is like being a good anything else you know that it takes time for anything to evolve.

3) Post some recordings, this forum is golden. I just found the place myself and loving it!

4) Prioritize. You'll never end up on a piece and thing: "yeah, that sounds great" but you might say "that sounds good enough". Take into consideration the level you're at and then you can make realistic judgements about your playing, and just like I said above, you can't expect to rule at anything right from the get-go.

Just by playing and practicing, I can tell you, you ARE making progress. Even if you don't feel like you are. Your muscle memory is getting practice and you're reading music. That's progress even if you're only playing the same pieces.

Recording yourself will yield realistic views on your level and what you need to work on. Also getting a teacher will help immensely.

Cheers!

Last edited by Cee; 03/16/11 11:22 AM.
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Man, you REALLY need a teacher laugh

I was in exactly the same situation (consistency and all) when in November 2008, after 8 months of self-learning, I decided to get a teacher.

Originally Posted by Cohenfan

1- I am not consistent.
One minute, I play like an ass, and then can play pretty
good, at least well enough to impress myself.

Everybody has better or worse days, but it seems that you have fundamental problems with the technique and memory and you sort of rely on luck: one time it accidentally comes off, another time it doesn't. Play slowly and patiently, carefully observing the fingering, articulation, dynamics etc. Many, many times (tens of times during the session, thousands of times in total). Focusing on the trouble spots, not repeating the whole piece over and over.

Read this: Fundamentals of Piano Practice

Originally Posted by Cohenfan

2- I have hard times accepting that I am not good ( kind of a
perfectionnist ... )

Nobody is perfect. Next!

Originally Posted by Cohenfan

3- I don't have enough feedback on my playing.

You need a teacher. There were threads on alternative options instead of having a fully-paid, regular weekly lessons. For example, one poster translates materials for her teacher's doctorate in musicology (he is a foreigner) in exchange for free lessons. Or perhaps you can afford a lesson every two or three weeks? Posting your recordings for critical review (as mentioned above) is a good idea, but the feedback must be immediate, otherwise you learn with errors.

Originally Posted by Cohenfan

4- Right now, I am learning so many different pieces at the
same time, it's ridiculous. I can't concentrate on only
one at a time.

Try to learn fewer pieces at a time laugh .
Generally it is normal than one studies in parallel a number of pieces at different stages of preparation. But not too many, perhaps three, not counting ready pieces being refreshed.

Good luck!


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My main suggestion is the one that you already know is the answer to your challenges. Find a teacher to help guide you.

Any problem can be solved, although it appears you've dismissed this as having no solution. If it is problem financially, reassess your priorities. Give up something else in your budget that is less of a priority to take the place of lesson fees. Get a part time job. Work overtime. See if a teacher is open to a barter arrangement. If it is problem logistically, see if you find a teacher who can teach you over the internet (Skype lessons). Most problems have a solution, if you put your mind to it. Sometimes you have to be creative in finding it or make personal sacrifices. As they say, "Nothing is easy."




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This thread got me to thinking a new thread where people can post you tube videos of their playing so others can give feedback on fingering/timing etc would be helpful. If it was set up so that the majority are those that don't have access to teachers for one reason or another rather than a recital type of thread I think it could be a great resource. There are so many people here that can give good constructive criticism.

People could post either the link or the actual video.

Videos would need to be such that hands could clearly be seen.


Thoughts?



Sorry to sort of hijack, but I think it would help the OP.


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Sorry to join the chorus here, but your best move is to overcome the obstacles to getting a teacher. Without knowing the details, I'm going to suggest that they may nob be quite as serious as they seem.

Otherwise, use this resource. You'll find that generally people are extremely helpful, especially here at the ABF. Start a thread with some youtube videos of your playing, or put them in the piano bars, or something, and you're bound to get some helpful feedback.

Edited to add: A teacher might also help guide you to a more appropriate repertoire. If they aren't simplified arrangements, the pieces you mentioned are not necessarily beginner material. They're not impossible; they're just challenging. I think it was Horowitz that said that Traumerei was the most difficult piece he played.

Last edited by EmptySpace; 03/16/11 12:30 PM.
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Cobra:

Not a bad idea; the piano bars seem to do about the same thing, but there would be a different flavor to a thread designed for people to seek advice and instruction.

I think it should be made clear that those with thin skins need not apply, though. Tactful honesty can sometimes seem like harsh criticism; would hate to see a noob abandon the piano because of some input that was meant to be helpful.

I vote yes.

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From what you are saying, I think you need to cut down on the amount you are trying to do at once. You will learn better by having fewer things to focus on. Otherwise you end up not having enough time and it becomes a stress to you when it should be enjoyable.

I'd suggest picking two pieces of music and ones that aren't too complicated, and focus on these. Work out a realistic practice plan, and try and incorporate some scales in this as it will help improve your technique long term.

Also don't practice for too long, short bursts are far more effective.

But most importantly don't be disheartened as you are still doing well and remember you haven't been playing for that long.
Keep up the hard work and Enjoy what you are learning. smile

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Thanks everybody for your advice and useful informations.

Regarding the teacher situation, I live far from any big city and in my area, I just can't find any.

Akira, never heard of Skype Lessons, I will take a look.

I looked at the Member's recordings section but seems to me it is not the place for a beginner to post a recording of it's shaky Fur Elise :-)

The perfect place would be where you can get an honest feedback of your playing AND some tips / hints for improvement.

Regards


Self taught adult beginner since September 2009 ( Man, I REALLY need a teacher ... )
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Cobra1365,

I think you have a very good idea. It could be a place like 'Teacher's Corner' where you post your video or Mp3 and then get feedback of your playing. There is a lot of wonderful people on this forum that could be of great help.

But again, if you look at the other side, It's the Internet, and you don't really know who you are dealing with.

Someone could be mean just for the sake of it.

Well, nothing's perfect I guess.

Regards


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These vids might give you feel for what Skype internet lessons are like. Good luck.




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I hear what you're saying about consistency. I might also venture to suggest lack of direction.
A very helpful thing for you at this stage (even though you've been at it for a year and a half) is to get a good adult programmed course such as Alfred's All in One and PLAY IT FROM THE BEGINNING.
I recently did that, even though I've been playing off and on for a number of years, and it's made a tremendous difference.
And I would encourage you to keep going back to your roots from time to time, not just moving on page after page as if in a competition to finish. Too often we think that, because we've successfully passed page 20 in the workbook, we need never go back to it again. Nothing could be more wrong. What gave you difficulty in week 1 will seem surprisingly easy in week 10. And in week 25 you'll be making it sound flowing and musical.
Finally (though there are a thousand more things that COULD be said), in the absence of a teacher you might want to make frequent use of YouTube. It's amazing to note how many of the pieces we want to play--even from elementary workbooks--have been recorded competently and posted on YouTube. When you're uncertain as to how a piece SHOULD sound, you can just give a watch and listen and discover just how far short you've come. Then you have something to aspire to.


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My apologies if I missed a post mentioning this, but, in addition to pieces, pieces, pieces, five finger exercises, scales, arpeggios, studies may help. It's amazing how repeating the same passage over and over again, when the passage at the start is a little way beyond our comfortable ability can make pieces suddenly easier!
It may not be quite as fun as "real" music, but it teaches you the trade, the skills, and can speed up progress on what you really want to play.

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What you're describing sounds very familiar. Most people, that is, those with about average ability, which is just about everyone, will be able to progress fairly easily to about where you're at, that is, pieces like Fur Elise, Prelude in C, Traumerei, etc. This would be true whether you were self-instructing or learning under a teacher.

At about where you're at, things start to get more difficult. These pieces are fairly difficult in themselves, and are not easy to play perfectly, even for advanced players. And anything more advanced takes much more effort. So you're not experiencing anything unusual.

This thing about being able to play well at times, but not at others, also sounds familiar. This is typically the result of "zoning." That is, you're relying on an adrenaline rush to play. If you can manage a big adrenaline injection before you play, then you'll be able to play quite well under the influence of this "dope," like an athlete can perform better under the influence of banned substances. But this is hazardous to your physical being, and so your body will not allow you to do this continuously, and when you can't inject a big adrenaline dose, your playing falls to pieces.

The HP 305 is a perfectly fine piano, essentially an electronic emulation of a grand piano, and so don't blame it for your problems. You would have exactly the same problems if you had a $100,000+ concert grand to practice on.

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Well, again, thanks to everyone of you that took the time to answer this post.

You gave me a wealth of information that should be very helpful in the future.

I am glad to hear that even Horowitz found that Traumerei was not an easy piece, it is just so difficult to have this piece 'sing'.

Regards


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Originally Posted by samasap
From what you are saying, I think you need to cut down on the amount you are trying to do at once. You will learn better by having fewer things to focus on. Otherwise you end up not having enough time and it becomes a stress to you when it should be enjoyable.

I'd suggest picking two pieces of music and ones that aren't too complicated, and focus on these. Work out a realistic practice plan, and try and incorporate some scales in this as it will help improve your technique long term.

Also don't practice for too long, short bursts are far more effective.

But most importantly don't be disheartened as you are still doing well and remember you haven't been playing for that long.
Keep up the hard work and Enjoy what you are learning. smile


This was the best advice (other than get a teacher IMO).

You'd do better to choose a couple of easy pieces to work on (and no, Fur Elise is not an easy piece... we're talking little minuets and sonatinas) while choosing one more difficult you'd like to learn.

You learn the difficult song little by little. If it doesn't take you a long time and it was your difficult piece, chances are, you're not playing it well.

The easier songs will go by much quickly, facilitating technique and reading ability. That's why we learn them!

The problem with self-teaching is people tend to do the 'big pieces' and then get frustrated just like this. Sure, some can manage it, but overall, the forum is riddled with people who had the same complaint.

Let yourself flutter around the lower levels for a while. Play A LOT of music that is capable. Trust me - everything later on will become easier if you do that.

The Alfred AIO suggestion is probably a good route.


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If I might make an analogy with a totally unrelated activity--skiing--it may shed a little light here. I know we've all experienced similar things.
When I first went out skiing over 20 years ago, I spent the first morning on the bunny slope. Having "mastered" turning and stopping on that easy run, I believed myself ready for a more challenging run later in the afternoon.
So I got on the chairlift and ascended about eight miles into the stratosphere (OK, it seemed like it). As soon as I started down the mountain, I realized I was way way out of my element. Every skill I had learned on the lower slope was totally useless on this steeper one. I skied totally out of control, yelling at people below to get out of the way because I couldn't stop, until I neared the bottom and simply fell over to stop. Otherwise I would have crashed into the lift line.
The point??
As adults we're used to being very good at things. We are usually competent at our jobs, reasonably so at relationships, skilled at driving, etc. We expect that competency and maturity go hand in hand. But they don't. Learning a new skill takes a long long apprenticeship. There's no way around it. Play a few easy things over and over to get those skills in your fingers. Then gradually progress. You will be happier, and your playing will reflect it.
Oh, and the skiing?? Well, I spent the next few weeks on the bunny slope, experimenting with all kinds of turns and stops. The next time I went up on the intermediate, it was way way easier. AND I HADN'T PRACTICED ON THE INTERMEDIATE AT ALL.


I'm getting there--note by note.
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I have my own skiing anecdote:

I self taught on skis and had been skiing for a couple of years. I was having trouble moving from intermediate runs to the more advanced runs. Out of frustration, I finally signed up for a lesson. In 5 minutes the teacher saw the problem, gave me an exercise in skiing with the poles laid flat over my forearms and transformed my skiing forever. I have no objection to self-teaching on principal. It just that it's too rare to see it work beyond a basic level and life is just too short to spend much time floundering.

Rachel Jimenez does lessons via skype. Based on her web videos and her posts here, I bet she's an excellent teacher.

Kurt



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It's too bad you can't find a teacher. What I've learned from my teacher is that playing the right notes is the easy part. Making music is the hard part. For example, she has me working on Chopin's e minor Prelude. It looks simple too play, a stupidly simple melody, a droning accompaniment and a slow temple. But making it musical, not so easy!

Somehow you need feedback. Maybe the Skype lessons are the way to go. Best of luck.



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Originally Posted by Michael Steen
If I might make an analogy with a totally unrelated activity--skiing--it may shed a little light here. I know we've all experienced similar things.
When I first went out skiing over 20 years ago, I spent the first morning on the bunny slope. Having "mastered" turning and stopping on that easy run, I believed myself ready for a more challenging run later in the afternoon.
So I got on the chairlift and ascended about eight miles into the stratosphere (OK, it seemed like it). As soon as I started down the mountain, I realized I was way way out of my element. Every skill I had learned on the lower slope was totally useless on this steeper one. I skied totally out of control, yelling at people below to get out of the way because I couldn't stop, until I neared the bottom and simply fell over to stop. Otherwise I would have crashed into the lift line.
The point??
As adults we're used to being very good at things. We are usually competent at our jobs, reasonably so at relationships, skilled at driving, etc. We expect that competency and maturity go hand in hand. But they don't. Learning a new skill takes a long long apprenticeship. There's no way around it. Play a few easy things over and over to get those skills in your fingers. Then gradually progress. You will be happier, and your playing will reflect it.
Oh, and the skiing?? Well, I spent the next few weeks on the bunny slope, experimenting with all kinds of turns and stops. The next time I went up on the intermediate, it was way way easier. AND I HADN'T PRACTICED ON THE INTERMEDIATE AT ALL.

Michael,

This was a great analogy and very well written. I can still feel the pain when I unsuccessfully tried to negotiate the "Superstar Express" at Killington before I learned how to parallel. Same with piano, as a rediscover of the keyboard I immediately went out and purchased a difficult Mozart Sonata, staggered my way through about 1/2 of it and gave up. It's definitely best not to try pieces beyond your reach.


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