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#2045677 - 03/09/13 09:31 PM One year and The Passage of Time  
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,362
Sand Tiger Offline
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Sand Tiger  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,362
Southern California
It is my one year anniversary for piano keyboard. For the many true beginners reading this, let me say that I thought I would be terrible at piano. I was weak at sight reading (still am), despite many years on other instruments. When I was in choir, I always wanted to sing the melody line, so did not like harmony. Coming from melody instruments, I didn't know how to play a single chord. Factor in chronic physical problems with hands, wrists, neck, and shoulder, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and it seems like long odds for an adult beginner.

Yet here I am at one year and counting with a modest digital piano, and enjoying the journey. I encourage other one year beginners, especially those that have been reading along for this whole year to post about their story, their journey.

This is a long post, the abstract version follows:
* I logged about 300 hours of time on the instrument, probably another 300 or more on tutorials, books, other online materials.
* I am comfortable with two cover pieces: Ashokan Farewell, Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
* I have written or collaborated on nine original pieces, working on a tenth, The Passage of Time.
* Currently working on: Canon in D (level 1 arrangement), Misty Mountains Cold (easy version)

Some useful tools or resources (some links at the bottom of this post):
* MuseScore composition software (free)
* free online Yale course on music appreciation
* book: The Musician's Way
* dozens upon dozens of Youtube tutorials and performances
* the Trillian archive
* And of course the Piano World forum, which led me to many of the resources above. I have no commercial interest or affiliation with any of the mentioned resources and only mention them because others may find them to be valuable. After all, someone else writing about them is is how I found many of them.

I started in March 2012 with a 61-key Yamaha NP11. I upgraded to a Casio PX-150 digital piano in January 2013. Other useful hardware includes a Sony Voice Recorder, headphones, external speakers, an Android tablet (Archos brand). I use the tablet for sheet music PDFs and tutorial videos. What got me interested, is a tablet app where you poke at a keyboard on screen. I had so much fun with that, I wanted more, and bought the 61-key Yamaha NP11. I have over 10 years on penny whistle and in songwriting, and over five years on Irish flute (though I am hack on flute). I can span an octave on the piano, but have to really stretch to get to an eighth.

Because of physical problems, I limit my practice time to about an hour a day, even when my schedule might allow for more. Cold packs, soaking in warm water, wearing gloves are all things I do to manage the physical problems. I limit my exposure to loud noises because of the tinnitus. I will not go to venues where they blast the music. During the fall, my schedule was busier and practice time was more like 20 minutes a day for three months, but I kept at it.

Comparisons can be discouraging or encouraging. Some people want to know where they are in relation to other beginners. I believe I am in the vast middle, below the top 20%, above the lower 20%, for those that have a similar 300 hours of time logged. I am fine with that. Some observers might tell me that I am near the bottom in terms of technique for those sharing on the latest recital, so how can I believe that I am in the middle? Well, I believe that those that share on the recital, tend to be in the top 10%, not the average beginners, so I don't let that discourage me.

I am sure that I would be further along if I had put in 900 hours (3 hours per day, six days per week). Yes, there is process, how one practices. However I am sure I would have done less, had I put in only 100 hours (20 minutes a day) no matter how well I spent that time. While time and results are not linear, there tends to be a correlation for most people, especially the average person. Learning piano tends to be time intensive. I would rate piano easier than being an adult beginner on some other instruments such as flute. On flute and some other instruments it may take a year of dedicated practice just to get a decent sounding scale. On a piano, the average person can bang out a few notes, and get it to resemble a known song after a few weeks or a few months at the outside.

For a self-directed learner, practice habits and time, are the factors that a person can control. The Musician's Way book helped me structure my practice time. The book lists five zones: new material, developing material, performance material, technique, musicianship. I break it down to 40% on new material, 20% old material, 20% technique, 20% musicianship. This is a rough outline and I don't log the time, but I find it to be a useful guide. In addition to 300 practice hours, I probably spent another 300 hours, viewing tutorials, listening to performances, doing the Yale course, reading the Musician's Way book, attending live concerts, and that was time well spent. A more recent endeavor is reading the notes out loud from sheet music away from the piano.

The most useful tip from the forums is to slow it way down and practice accurately. Another important idea is that each person is different. Each person learns at their own pace, and in different ways. There are times when breakthroughs occur, and times that feel more like a short term plateau or even a step back. There is visual (sheet music and watching another person demonstrate), aural (learning by ear), muscle memory (touch), and each person tends to have a combination of what works for them, and it will vary person to person. There are many roads to Rome.

I observe some of my strengths and weaknesses. Strengths include my willingness to performing in public and a slightly above average ear that serves me well when I write original music. Weaknesses include the physical problems that limit practice time, tinnitus, and poor aptitude for sight reading. I am good at breaking large tasks into many smaller ones. I tend to be organized, and have posted continually to the AOTW thread, even when my time was limited. The weekly posts help me gauge my progress and process the frustration when no progress seems to be occuring. The posts serve as a reminder that there are peaks and valleys, that when I get discouraged by the difficulty of learning something, that I have felt that way before and have overcome before. While not every hill on my road has been summited, the weekly journaling helps give me better perspective, and lets me decide if this particular hill is worth pushing to the top of it or not. It is supposed to be a hobby, so while effort is required, it is supposed to be fun, not a second or third job.

There are certainly times when I have been discouraged. I spent 14 weeks on Ashokan Farewell then crashed and burned during a public performance, unable to complete a single play through, even with the music in front of me. If a person is posting on the Adult Beginners Forum, the odds are high that music is a hobby. Again, hobbies are supposed to be fun. I just had a conversation today with another musician. He talked about those moments when playing music when time seems to stand still. There is a book, The Sweet Spot in Time, that mostly writes about athletes. However, I believe many musicians have also felt those moments. I certainly have, even with my limited skills on piano. Those moments are what keeps many of us going.

An analogy from another forum beginner, is that learning to play piano is like aspiring to climb Mount Everest. True beginners start at sea level. Many have some background or training so start higher. My background in songwriting and melody instruments gave me a head start. After a year, I feel like I have traveled a great distance. However, there remains an unimaginable amount to learn. The more I learn, the more I discern, so what used to be passable now sounds poor. There is another point, that not everyone wants to climb to the mountain top, or may have very different goals in mind.

I find joy in playing. I can sit and play even random notes or simple scales and find it satisfying at some level. I perform at the local Songmakers hoot every two months. That and the Adult Beginners Forum quarterly recitals give me a performance or recording date to focus on and that is a motivator.

My goal below is derived from a John Coltrane quote. It may sound all puffy to some, and probably won't make much sense to others. However, those that have felt those moments in music when time seems to stand still, will understand:
My music is a spiritual expression of who I am.

Some links follow, again I have no commercial interest in any:

Adult beginners forum:

Songmakers a Southern California music group

Trillian tune archive. It can be an excellent resource for Christmas songs and folk tunes. ABC is popular in folk music, the site will produce sheet music PDFs, MIDI files and other formats.

MusesMuse songwriters forum

How Music Works (part 1 of many)

Tutorial on New age music

Tutorial on meditation music

Elton John writes music for an oven manual
(it illustrates the gap between the top pro songwriters and the rest of us)

I've viewed countless other Youtubes tutorials, movie clips, performances. There is a lot of chaff out there, but a lot of good information, and amazingly interesting stuff as well.

I've compiled all my uploads at my signature link. Listening to the recordings that I make is another way to gauge my progress.

For those interested in composition I collected some tips on getting started in this thread:
link to thread

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#2045685 - 03/09/13 09:56 PM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 2,206
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014
rnaple  Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014

Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 2,206
Rocky Mountains
Gee...You're competing with Rossy for longest post. smile
Seriously....congratulations. Been a good year for you...huh?
Now here's the real test. Can you play better than the virtuoso in the thread: Think he's ready for prime time?

Last edited by rnaple; 03/09/13 09:57 PM.

Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon
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#2045774 - 03/10/13 04:05 AM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 1,393
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014
Bobpickle  Offline

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Joined: May 2012
Posts: 1,393
Cameron Park, California
Congratulations on your first year and may there be countless more to come smile . I enjoyed reading about it.

"[The trick to life isn't] just about living forever. The trick is still living with yourself forever."
#2045786 - 03/10/13 04:39 AM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 504
justpin Offline
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justpin  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 504
Holmes Chapel
I am 5 days away from one full year.

Looking at my note book, I've logged about 790 hours playing time since I have started.

I thought I would be great at piano because I can type monsterously quickly without looking at my hands, I was kinda wrong.

But my personal progress is:

I can do scales up down, side by side apart, together, all of them.
I can read sheet music (though I do it in a strange don't know the note but know the key to hit on the piano)
I can play all the pieces rated upto D in the casio music book.

Things to work on:

Hand strength independence, I only ever play at F in both hands or ppp in both hands.
Speed, Vivacissimo – Allegrissimo – Presto – Prestissimo all too fast for me right now.

Gotta work on removing my lead foot when playing digital piano from the pedal too

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#2045788 - 03/10/13 04:51 AM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: justpin]  
Joined: Jan 2011
Posts: 2,055
SwissMS Offline
2000 Post Club Member
SwissMS  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Jan 2011
Posts: 2,055
Costa del Sol
Congratulations on your one year anniversary, SandTiger. I have enjoyed following your journey on the AOTW thread. You have come a long way. Thanks for the list of learning references, too!

#2045791 - 03/10/13 05:06 AM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 6,688
casinitaly Offline

Gold Supporter until March 1 2014
casinitaly  Offline

Gold Supporter until March 1 2014

Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 6,688
I've been waiting for this post smile

Congratulations on your piannoversary Sand Tiger.
I really enjoyed reading how you've worked and how you measure your own progress.

I liked "the more I learn, the more I discern". How very true that is! What was acceptable six months ago is becomes a new starting point!

I also really like your thoughts on not worrying about where we are in comparison to others. These feelings certainly crop up around Recital time, but also in other moments..and it is human nature to try to compare. The important thing is to just enjoy the music and the journey.

Thanks for sharing so much insight on your journey and so many useful and interesting links!

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#2047307 - 03/12/13 10:27 PM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,362
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Sand Tiger  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,362
Southern California
Thanks for all the well wishes.

For all those that read but didn't respond, I hope you got something out of my story and the links. Especially those that may have started in the past few months and are just getting their feet wet.

#2047322 - 03/12/13 10:41 PM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,289
mr_super-hunky Offline
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mr_super-hunky  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,289
You have lots of great information for beginners or anyone in your post Sand Tiger. I especially like your attitude towards why you play and how you go about doing it. Your percentage breakdowns of different performance skills is invaluable as so many (myself included) drop the ball in areas other than simply hitting the correct notes.

Congratulations on your accomplishments thus far and well wishes on your continued journey.

#2047463 - 03/13/13 04:30 AM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 13
Kevf Offline
Junior Member
Kevf  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 13
thank you for this great post! It's helping me in bringing structure to my piano-playing smile It's nice to read how you approach playing the piano and what resources you find helpful.

#2047488 - 03/13/13 06:39 AM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,595
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014
sinophilia  Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014

Joined: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,595
Congratulations, and thank you for your post, which makes a very useful reading. The beginning of March was also my one year (and about 300 hours) anniversary, and I also find myself thinking back at these past months and what I was able to do and what I didn't manage to do.

In February I drafted a schedule for my second year at the piano and after just 3 weeks into it I've already had to pare it down, lower my expectations, take one book out and reduce the number of pieces in my sight-reading practice, but I think I'm finding my way through it. I want to have fun but I don't want to waste time. I work from home as a freelancer, so I have no problems with self-discipline, and this is helping me a lot.

It's great that you're writing your own music. I don't think I'll ever do that. But it's probably one of the best ways to learn "deeply" and interiorize things.

Diana & Wally - Yamaha W110BW
To create a beautiful sound, one must imagine it at first and then learn to produce fluid physical motions that breathe life into music. (Shirley Kirsten)
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#2056248 - 03/29/13 01:20 PM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,362
Sand Tiger Offline
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Sand Tiger  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,362
Southern California
For those that missed it on the AOTW thread, I recently performed The Passage of Time, live on a Kimball grand piano. Link is to audio from the live performance


As a hobbyist musician I tend to count live performances with minor flaws as successes, and this one is in that category. There are many minor things that I can hear and want to improve upon, but I am pleased with the overall performance.

#2056343 - 03/29/13 04:28 PM Re: One year and The Passage of Time [Re: Sand Tiger]  
Joined: May 2010
Posts: 311
Cobra1365 Offline
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Cobra1365  Offline
Full Member

Joined: May 2010
Posts: 311
Great post!

I am 3 years into playing now. But, only approaching 1 year with lessons.

I am only comfortable with two (maybe three songs)...Theme from Ice Castles (Dan Coates Arrangement), I need you Now...Lady Antebellum, and am so so comfortable with Autumn Leaves.

My instructor challenges me each week with new songs.

I still have trouble with keeping a steady rythm with the left and playing melody with the right (think 12 bar blues). I can start a bass line easy enough but when I add int he right hand, either the right wants to do the same thing the left is doing or vice versa!

Playing on a Yamaha YPG-635. Would like to upgrade but probably not in the cards for a while. I will likely buy an NP-11 for portable practice though.

I spend about 30 mins a day practicing...usually longer on weekends. I know it will be a long time at that rate before I am anywhere near an accomplished player. But, my sight reading is getting better and I never wanted to play a gig anyway. This is for myself.

Started Playing May 2010 at 51 yrs old, Some Self Learning, Lessons X 3yrs

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