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#1961069 - 09/19/12 10:52 AM Reflexes and age  
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rintincop Offline
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I teach seniors beginning piano and I have come to the conclusion that most cannot develop speed and agility on the piano at their stage in life.

Reflexes do slow with age. Physical changes in nerve fibers slow the speed of conduction. And the parts of the brain involved in motor control lose cells over time. But the effect of age on reflexes and reaction time varies tremendously from person to person.

Reflexes do play a role in reaction time. Some people are born with faster reflexes. Electrical impulses actually travel more quickly through their nerves. But you can also speed up nerve conduction through practice.

The real key to reaction time is practice. By repeating the same movements, you make them almost automatic. That's why professional baseball players can dive to catch a sizzling line drive. And it's also why once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget.

These actions aren't classical reflexes, but with so much practice, your movements almost mimic a reflex, experts say. They are motor skills that have been etched into your nerves and brain so that those motor pathways are almost reflexive.

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#1961085 - 09/19/12 11:45 AM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: rintincop]  
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daviel Offline
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I retired this January - at 68. One of the reasons I practice and play now is to work on what you're discussing. I believe in the "use it or lose it" proposition; aside from enjoying practicing and playing.

Last edited by daviel; 09/19/12 11:45 AM.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas
#1961111 - 09/19/12 01:16 PM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: rintincop]  
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rintincop Offline
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Quote from another member:

"We also get the habit of thinking before we act, which can block spontaneity and stop us from doing things simply. If someone has never played an instrument before, he'll carry all of that into lessons. The single habit of thinking actions instead of doing actions surely must slow down reflexes and create awkwardness."

#1961195 - 09/19/12 04:20 PM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: rintincop]  
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keystring Offline
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Um, that's me you quoted. wink Well, if this is true, then other things can contribute to what you see as slowness in older beginner students. If you are a teacher or an older first-time student, and you become aware of this, then you can try to address it. How do you go about it?

I'm not old but I'm not a spring chicken either. When I was a kid I self-taught piano but stopped for 30 years. Then I took lessons on another instrument, got in trouble, and learned that how you do things makes a big difference. So when I got a piano again I saw how awkwardly I was doing some things. I'm relearning how move and do things. If that is happening, then "practicing" isn't the complete answer. You can do the same thing over and over in an awkward way.

Quote
The real key to reaction time is practice. By repeating the same movements, you make them almost automatic. That's why professional baseball players can dive to catch a sizzling line drive.

The fly in the ointment is "the same movements" --- getting at them. By extension, the professional sports people do perfect how they move. It is enlightening to watch golf tutorials where they start talking about aligning the body, what happens with the hips, etc. At which point we adults can over-intellectualize, over-analyze, and tie ourselves into different kinds of knots.

I guess the idea is that if your students are doing things to slow themselves down, rather than being slow, how do you counter that?

#1961222 - 09/19/12 05:30 PM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: rintincop]  
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daviel Offline
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One should never let thinking and analyzing interfere while playing. Practice and study enough so that what you know comes out automatically. Try thinking "how to do it" while swinging a baseball bat, tennis racket or golf club. Playing is no different.


"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas
#1961489 - 09/20/12 10:32 AM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: daviel]  
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keystring Offline
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Originally Posted by daviel
One should never let thinking and analyzing interfere while playing. Practice and study enough so that what you know comes out automatically. Try thinking "how to do it" while swinging a baseball bat, tennis racket or golf club. Playing is no different.

I'm of two minds about this, and I think that is because it is a two-sided answer. The actions of professionals such as golfers are not random. They find the best way to move, and seem to understand how the human body works. But they don't intellectualize during their golf swing. Nonetheless some kind of training for the best kind of movement takes place, and they allow this to become a trained habit - a reflex but one that is not random.

When I was self-taught I was also unaware. If I heard a crisp staccato in my head, I made that sound happen, and it was convincing. But at the same time, I was tightening my whole arm and jerking my hand away as if the keys were burning hot. This tightening and jerking also prevented me from doing other things such as playing fast, or moving instantly into a soft legato passage. So I am learning to move in new, counterintuitive ways, and I do have to relearn how to use my body. That's the fine line: how do you get into better ways without getting caught in "talk" while playing? Both poor movement and intellectualizing slow us down. I suspect that the answer is in good guidance.

#1961518 - 09/20/12 11:44 AM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: rintincop]  
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daviel Offline
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Woodshed after the guidance and groove it into your nervous system.


"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas
#1961520 - 09/20/12 11:50 AM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: daviel]  
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keystring Offline
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Originally Posted by daviel
Woodshed after the guidance and groove it into your nervous system.

Yes, exactly. Getting the guidance is the tricky part. smile Generally agreed.

#1961535 - 09/20/12 12:18 PM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: daviel]  
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Originally Posted by daviel
One should never let thinking and analyzing interfere while playing. Practice and study enough so that what you know comes out automatically. Try thinking "how to do it" while swinging a baseball bat, tennis racket or golf club. Playing is no different.


i'd like to quote your other post too.

Yes, indeed. I've been branded as talented, just because im stuburn enough to sit down and concentrate on getting my fingers and hands to essentially behave in a pianistic manner. The woodshed is key. They say there's no shortcut or "magic feather" but if you understsand the woodshed is the key, you can make it appear so to the outside world.

Last edited by Farmerjones; 09/20/12 12:21 PM. Reason: puncuation

view my profile for a link to my YT page.
#1961756 - 09/20/12 07:18 PM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: rintincop]  
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Originally Posted by rintincop
I teach seniors beginning piano and I have come to the conclusion that most cannot develop speed and agility on the piano at their stage in life.
Speed and agility" seems to be a relative thing. Do you mean they can't play an Art Tatum transcription(of course some seniors can)or can't develop the technique to play a two page George Shearing arrangement?

In classical music, one's technique tends to decline after a certain age, but the best pianists can still play highly virtuosic music way beyond 65 but with perhaps less ease than when they were 30.

#1961757 - 09/20/12 07:20 PM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: Farmerjones]  
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keystring Offline
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Originally Posted by Farmerjones

Yes, indeed. I've been branded as talented, just because im stuburn enough to sit down and concentrate on getting my fingers and hands to essentially behave in a pianistic manner.

How do you know when they are behaving in a pianistic manner? This is not rhetorical.

#1961797 - 09/20/12 08:59 PM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: rintincop]  
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Originally Posted by rintincop
I teach seniors beginning piano and I have come to the conclusion that most cannot develop speed and agility on the piano at their stage in life.


I have read studies that say that the fine-motor neural/muscle skills connected w/music and playing the piano are no longer created after a certain age, I think it was 17 or 18.

Over and over, I have seen the results of this in my teaching...adult re-starters who had lessons as a child/young adult are able to play, to move their fingers, despite their age; But adults who never had piano as a young person are as you say, they "cannot develop speed and agility on the piano".

So I am not so sure it is an "age thing", where the ability to move the hands/fingers is gone at that age, but rather a "piano lessons as a young person thing."

ps...I don't have the study available, and so just want to drop in this comment on this thread for my completely un-scientific observation.



Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#1962022 - 09/21/12 10:38 AM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: keystring]  
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Farmerjones Offline
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Originally Posted by keystring
How do you know when they are behaving in a pianistic manner? This is not rhetorical.

Probably off topic but hopefully not rhetorical -

Forgive the psoriasis, i don't really drag my knuckles.


view my profile for a link to my YT page.
#1962622 - 09/22/12 03:03 PM Re: Reflexes and age [Re: rocket88]  
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rintincop Offline
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Originally Posted by rocket88
Originally Posted by rintincop
I teach seniors beginning piano and I have come to the conclusion that most cannot develop speed and agility on the piano at their stage in life.


I have read studies that say that the fine-motor neural/muscle skills connected w/music and playing the piano are no longer created after a certain age, I think it was 17 or 18.

Over and over, I have seen the results of this in my teaching...adult re-starters who had lessons as a child/young adult are able to play, to move their fingers, despite their age; But adults who never had piano as a young person are as you say, they "cannot develop speed and agility on the piano".

So I am not so sure it is an "age thing", where the ability to move the hands/fingers is gone at that age, but rather a "piano lessons as a young person thing."

ps...I don't have the study available, and so just want to drop in this comment on this thread for my completely un-scientific observation.



This affirms my observations.


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