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#2007910 - 01/02/13 12:26 PM Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real?  
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ClsscLib Offline

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More on this old topic from the author of "Guitar Zero":

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/01/new-skills-for-a-new-year.html?mbid=nl_Daily%20(152)

I'm down with his approach of keeping one's expectations low and one's persistence high!


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#2007917 - 01/02/13 12:46 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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casinitaly Offline

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Well I think it is real in the sense that (like the owls) we are slower to learn new tricks. However, unlike (some) youngsters, we're pretty much doing it because we WANT to do it, and we're dedicated. That has got to create some balancing out, don't you think?

As for keeping expectations "low"..... I don't know if I agree with "low". Of course I don't think that a significant number of us are going to become world famous (ok, maybe "Piano World " famous smile ) --- but look at some of the "older" folks here who have done remarkably well - Jazzwee comes to mind first.

There are others who didn't play as children, and are doing amazingly well - but they are still pretty young (all things being relative smile )

I feel we have to learn about what "realistic" expectations can be, rather than setting "low" expectations. Don't expect "low" results - but work at getting an understanding of what is realistic. Also, keep in mind what is realistic now will be different than what is realistic next year!

I have no idea where I'm going to end up - but I'm already farther ahead in some ways than I expected to be -- in others not as far along as I'd hoped.

It is very true, I think, that the "small bites" concept is as valid for us as for the owls, and that persistence is what will get us through the tough spots!




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#2007934 - 01/02/13 01:09 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: casinitaly]  
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Stubbie Offline
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Originally Posted by casinitaly
Well I think it is real in the sense that (like the owls) we are slower to learn new tricks. However, unlike (some) youngsters, we're pretty much doing it because we WANT to do it, and we're dedicated. That has got to create some balancing out, don't you think?

As for keeping expectations "low"..... I don't know if I agree with "low". Of course I don't think that a significant number of us are going to become world famous (ok, maybe "Piano World " famous smile ) --- but look at some of the "older" folks here who have done remarkably well - Jazzwee comes to mind first.

There are others who didn't play as children, and are doing amazingly well - but they are still pretty young (all things being relative smile )

I feel we have to learn about what "realistic" expectations can be, rather than setting "low" expectations. Don't expect "low" results - but work at getting an understanding of what is realistic. Also, keep in mind what is realistic now will be different than what is realistic next year!

I have no idea where I'm going to end up - but I'm already farther ahead in some ways than I expected to be -- in others not as far along as I'd hoped.

It is very true, I think, that the "small bites" concept is as valid for us as for the owls, and that persistence is what will get us through the tough spots!




Agree. Realistic expectations for the adult starter are key. However, it may take some time/exposure to the piano to be able to make realistic expectations. Reading widely of people's experiences here at PW can be one input into this.

Starting late (what is late--30? 45? 60?) is starting late, especially if you are a true beginner (no lessons as a child). You have to put the time in, and unfortunately there is just less of it left to you.

On the other hand, starting late means you have given it serious thought and maybe even shelled out serious bucks, so you work at it with determination, persistence, and patience. In the end, you'll be thinking less about comparison to others (how we measure 'handicap') than the personal pleasure and sense of accomplishment you get from playing.


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#2007946 - 01/02/13 01:21 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: casinitaly]  
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When you are a young child, parents are able to keep you focused by removing things that could get in your way. As an adult, you have responsibilities that will disrupt your time you have allocated to practicing. Time is a criical element.

When you think of when you get up in the morning, go to school, or go to work and what time you have to pracice when you get home after dinner and then go to bed to sleep, it is 2 or 3 hours and that is all in a perfect day. Not a lot of time.
It is not a negative but it is a reality. Age is not a factor for anyone of any age. If you had a bad back, bad arm, bad hand, bad head or anything bad to do with the body, of course, it could slow you down from any activity in life including playing the piano. It seems that most people who have studied piano did so for 10 years, and it seems like a reasonable time, so adding 10 years of commitment is practical. Most twenty year olds are studing and dating or devoping a career and have an active life so it could be tough to find the time to practice, 30 and married can also be a busy time, too. It is very individual. So I repeat it is never age, but time.

The younger you are, you think you have a lot of time because if you are 20, 100 is a long time way. So the older you are, the more focused you are because 30, and 40 are young, but are 10 years from being half way to 100. That alone can make anyone very focused to accomplish things they want to do in their lifetme.

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#2007956 - 01/02/13 01:43 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: Stubbie]  
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casinitaly Offline

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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by casinitaly



I feel we have to learn about what "realistic" expectations can be, rather than setting "low" expectations.



Agree. Realistic expectations for the adult starter are key. However, it may take some time/exposure to the piano to be able to make realistic expectations.


Boldface added by me smile

Exactly. I think that's one of the hardest things about being an adult beginner - whether you're starting from a true zero-music background or just new to the piano. There is a phase (long for some, shorter for others) where we struggle to figure out what we can reasonably expect.

I think that is one of the big reasons we talk so much about the journey rather than the destination --- we don't know what the destination is-- (or if we will get there!!)

I prefer to play the "go with the flow and work hard" idea and gradually start to set some goals - rather than set low expectations to start off with!


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#2007961 - 01/02/13 01:54 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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I'm a bit annoyed. I taught myself piano for a year about 5 years ago (when I was 23), and I'm trying to get back into it now and feel twinges and pains when I never used to before. Getting old?! I have to slow my progress to whatever my body can take even though my mind is racing...


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#2007962 - 01/02/13 01:55 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: casinitaly]  
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I do not know if I agree with the "keep expectations low" concept. I very much believe that you go where you look. If you do not think you are capable of much, then you are not. I am not saying that one should have unrealistic expectations, but I believe in aiming high and achieving the most that you can. I do not ever expect to rival a professional, but I want to push myself to be the best piano player I can be.

#2007965 - 01/02/13 02:03 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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The key thing in what he says, to me, is the lesson of the adult owls: breaking learning new tasks down into small pieces.

SwissMS, I am with you on aiming high. The adult owls suggest to me a way to achieve my high expectations.


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#2007969 - 01/02/13 02:11 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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Is playing the piano a competition?

An adult beginner might be "handicapped" if compared to a 9-year-old beginner. But the adult beginner has a huge leg up on an adult who decides playing the piano will take too long so he never even starts learning...


Current Life+Music Philosophy: Less Thinking, More Foot Tapping

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
#2007996 - 01/02/13 02:56 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: SwissMS]  
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Originally Posted by SwissMS
I do not know if I agree with the "keep expectations low" concept. I very much believe that you go where you look. If you do not think you are capable of much, then you are not. I am not saying that one should have unrealistic expectations, but I believe in aiming high and achieving the most that you can. I do not ever expect to rival a professional, but I want to push myself to be the best piano player I can be.


This is truth(well, for me anyhow). Well put!

#2008000 - 01/02/13 03:01 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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Quote
For me, much of the past year revolved around discussions prompted by a book of mine that was published in January, called “Guitar Zero,” about the science of learning and my own adventures in learning guitar at the age of forty. The basic premise was that the scientific evidence for a widespread view called the “critical-period effect” was far weaker than widely supposed.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/01/new-skills-for-a-new-year.html#ixzz2GqSzx46s


Casinitaly -- thanks for the honorable mention. smile

Finally! New studies to correct the "Age Plasticity" issue!

I think anyone tracking my progress can see that I'm progressing no slower than any adolescent when it comes to playing piano. My time on the piano is equivalent to a 16 year old (starting at 8). I'm certain I can outplay most 16 year olds. I'm still improving at the same rate every year and I see nothing that prevents me from reaching a professional level of playing jazz. Certainly it will happen before I get to the equivalent of being a 21 year old (5 years from now). This is another way of looking at it outside of the typical 10,000 hour rule.

The secret to my success is nothing more than (a) deep, deep interest, (b) intelligent practice (with a teacher) (c) and persistence.

So to all you older guys and gals: YOU CAN DO IT!


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#2008003 - 01/02/13 03:08 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: SwissMS]  
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Originally Posted by SwissMS
I do not know if I agree with the "keep expectations low" concept. I very much believe that you go where you look. If you do not think you are capable of much, then you are not. I am not saying that one should have unrealistic expectations, but I believe in aiming high and achieving the most that you can. I do not ever expect to rival a professional, but I want to push myself to be the best piano player I can be.


Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star. (W. Clement Stone)

Regards,
Kurt.-

Last edited by kurtie; 01/02/13 03:12 PM.
#2008051 - 01/02/13 04:44 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: jazzwee]  
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jazzwee,

Quote
My time on the piano is equivalent to a 16 year old (starting at 8).


I tend to think of it this way too. Whenever an acquaintance asks me how it is going with the piano I say something like, "great, I'm about an 8 or 9-year-old now." They usually laugh and think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

When I was a little boy my Dad used to tell me "don't worry, life begins at 10" whenever I was frustrated at something I couldn't do. Of course, he kept moving the bar as I got older. Eventually I got the message....just keep trying, there is always another "something" you wish you could do.


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#2008062 - 01/02/13 05:11 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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JimF,

On an interesting side note, I actually have two sons who started an instrument at the same time as I have. Both are in bands now and play Metal (Guitar). They are both quite good though not yet at a professional level. One shifted to Guitar from piano a couple of years ago and he caught up extremely fast technically.

In general, I'm more skilled than my kids (now 18 and 16) but I can attribute that directly to hours of practice. Definitely they are musically inclined and the only issue was hours. They also had teachers like me. They are not the gifted kids that learn everything by the time they are 10. But they show the skill level needed to be a professional musician if they continue their dedication.

I think it is interesting to see how we all grew in music because we're in the same household, connected genetically, and I have personal knowledge of their practice time (believe me -- you can HEAR when they are practicing DEATH METAL).

The older one is in College and has taken Music Theory, intending to get a minor in music.

So this is not a scientific experiment but it's interesting to do a daily comparison with your own children. It could have demoralized me but it didn't end up like that.



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#2008064 - 01/02/13 05:14 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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I'm going to adopt your way of thinking. I'm at age 7 if they started at 6.. LOL

I honestly think the whole old dog can't learn new tricks is just garbage. Learning is a lifelong everyday fact of life. We learn everyday, something new.

Mind you learning in little chunks sure does help as I grow older! wink


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#2008074 - 01/02/13 05:27 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: JimF]  
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I have high expectations but they are different to what I might have had if I really learnt to play when young. Young peoples' expectations are often about career, fame and money. I already have a career, so I do not need another one and there's no way I could become famous or get income from playing classical music starting at my age when all those really good pianists can't do it either. It might be possible if I was into something else like jazz or pop.

But my expectation are extremely high in another sense. Not necessarily to learn to play everything I want to play in high level, but to learn to play at least something in a way that will please me, which would mean quite close to perfection. My goals are more about the quality of playing and constantly getting better than about the amount or flashiness of pieces I learn to play. And from what I see, my age does not affect the quality of my playing that much, since the things I struggle with today are quite the same I did when I was very young. I just have a better teacher and more determination now, so I might be able to solve these issues with time and patience.

#2008082 - 01/02/13 05:39 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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My goal is simply to make musical sounds that please and thrill me. As often as possible and with as much variety of different tunes as possible.

I never could meet that goal in any sustained fashion on other instruments (fiddle, guitar, mandolin) but it seems a very achievable goal on piano. No doubt because those 7-8 years of lessons starting in second grade put some basic technique into my wiring, sitting dormant for decades while I played around with lesser instruments!


Current Life+Music Philosophy: Less Thinking, More Foot Tapping

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
#2008086 - 01/02/13 05:47 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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I find this very interesting. When I started taking lessons (3 months ago) I used to think about comparissons against kids: lower goals, less plasticity, worse muscle memory and all that stuff. I just don´t want to get frustrated, I prefer to enjoy the trip...but it`s not real, at least not completely.
I want to play well (well enough to sound close to the music I love :))some day, and this is my reason for working hard, as hard as I can.
I think that I (and most of us) have a baggage that no kid has. I've been 40 years listening to music every day (not just hearing it), music of all kinds played by the best musicians. I can sing or whistle in time thousands of songs, from Tom Waits to Paco de Lucía, from Michael Brecker to Mozart, like any other meloman (iac).I feel notes, rythms and chords way before I understand their harmonic function or the notes that form them.
And I'm convinced it has to be some kind of advantage, or at least some compensation.
And yes, I have to repeat somo things once and again, but like others said it could be more a matter of intelligent pratice. Work hard, but smart too.


Learning piano from scratch since September, 2012.
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#2008347 - 01/03/13 05:36 AM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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No one should underestimate the effect of sustained adult discipline. Rome wasn't built by kids.


Slow down and do it right.
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#2008391 - 01/03/13 08:37 AM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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Agreed. But, please, let's think about something that don't take us seven hundred years to achieve, like Rome.


Learning piano from scratch since September, 2012.
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#2008450 - 01/03/13 10:57 AM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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Does it matter? What's the alternative? Don't play? Sit on the couch and vegetate?


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#2008635 - 01/03/13 05:35 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: mabraman]  
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Originally Posted by mabraman
Agreed. But, please, let's think about something that don't take us seven hundred years to achieve, like Rome.


OK, more like digging the Panama Canal.


Slow down and do it right.
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#2008672 - 01/03/13 07:19 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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Starting late is a real and measurable handicap. It is, though, no slower than the opposite one of starting too soon, say, in childhood.

The main difficulty is being ready for the concert platform by the early twenties when recording contracts are in the offing and the audience are more willing to accept you as an up and coming performer.

Very few concert pianists are that much better before their dotage than in their youth save a little shorter in strength or stamina. It takes so many years to reach the playing equivalent of "critical mass" and is largely unchanged however late the starting age. The starting age, then, is unimportant compared to the quantity and quality of practise.

Continuing to learn (anything) results in an exercised brain and is the biggest boost to progress for late starters of piano.

Myths about late starting are the biggest source of failure - they are, like insults, so much easier to believe.



Richard
#2008707 - 01/03/13 09:16 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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Worrying about this is self defeating.


Ron
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#2008742 - 01/03/13 10:18 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: Plowboy]  
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Originally Posted by Plowboy
Does it matter? What's the alternative? Don't play? Sit on the couch and vegetate?

"Vegetate"? Not happening.

I have my goals for playing piano. I'm trying to set them somewhat high - playing well in front of family and friends, and doing well in recitals. And I think I can achieve them. To quote Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right."

I'm 65 and I'm a beginner. I'm starting lessons with a good teacher one week from tomorrow. My one year goal is to do something that most adult beginners won't do (according to my teacher) - play in a recital. Frankly that scares me. But I believe that if you're not a little afraid of failure or embarrassing yourself, then you're not setting your goals high enough to grow.

Just my opinion.

Regards,

Dan.


#2008744 - 01/03/13 10:24 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: Dan Clark]  
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I am not a born performer but I did play in my teacher's year-end recital last year. There were a couple of "young adult" students and lots of kids. I was certainly the only one in my 50's (or 40's or 30's for that matter). I played decently but not as well as I had hoped but it was not particularly nerve wracking. Mostly because it was a song I'd played about a million times in the weeks leading up to the recital!

P.S. My teacher has both voice and piano students so a handful of the recital performances were singing rather than playing. Talk about scary. Singing in front an auditorium full of people must be 10x more intimidating than playing a tune on the piano. Can't really imagine taking that up as a late-adult beginner but maybe some folks do.

Last edited by Brent H; 01/03/13 10:30 PM.

Current Life+Music Philosophy: Less Thinking, More Foot Tapping

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
#2008749 - 01/03/13 10:42 PM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: ClsscLib]  
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I say some people are more musical than regardless of age. I have seen people started late play very musically. True it takes time to master technique to play complex music for any one. But you get there through practice. What not so easily obtainable is your innate musicality that makes you rock with the rhythm, feel the pathos in the notes and express it. If you are one of those gifted, starting late should not set you back. I'm one of non-gifted, so I will go practice now.


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#2008839 - 01/04/13 05:07 AM Re: Is the Handicap of Starting an Instrument Late Real? [Re: FarmGirl]  
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mabraman  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 541
Valencia, Spain
Well, I could be one of the gifted (perhaps I shouldn't say so, it sounds so arrogant). I played in my school's Christmas audition last month, and I was the only adult who dared to be "exposed naked". I failed (of course) a couple of measures but I did manage to overcome. Just like kids did. But what called my attention most was the absolut lack of musicality those kids had.They played like robots.
This is exactly what I was trying to explain in my previous post: most adults come to piano lessons with a certain musicality to start with, with a full and operative musical memory and a background history where music and emotion are tightly united. As not everything is technique (which should be a servant of musicality)we have that work almost already done.


Learning piano from scratch since September, 2012.
Kawai ES7.Kawai K-200

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