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Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2219872 01/24/14 07:16 AM
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I think it may be fairer to say I practiced the piece for roughly the last 300 times with the recorder running. I wasn't trying to get THE recording most of the time. I was trying to get over a very severe case of "red dot fever" which turns my hands into crab claws the minute the recorder is turned on. I only partially succeeded. I was made to participate in recitals when I was a child but they were so traumatic for me that I've literally blacked them out. I was only reminded that they had even taken place when my Dad asked me to go through some very old papers he had and I found a note referring to one from my piano teacher. The fact that recording is so difficult for me is just another reason I've decided not to participate in the recitals in future. The fact that most of you are getting acceptable recordings in five takes or less was a wake up call. Probably, I have no business even being in the same room as a piano.






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Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2219876 01/24/14 07:27 AM
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I think we need to establish a support group for people who suffer from the red dot syndrome! I'm probably end-stage but there's still hope.

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
bluem00n010 #2219879 01/24/14 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by bluem00n010
When we reach the age of 50 and above, piano playing should be studied/learned for enjoyment, fun and leisure.

When we reach the age of 50 and above, we should know what we value and insist on living our lives accordingly. It may be time to stop going with the flow if that is what we have been doing. That includes deciding whether we want the next thing we tackle to be only for enjoyment, fun, and leisure.

The thing is that regardless of our ultimate goals, there are ways of approaching learning an instrument, that will set us up for series of gradual small successes that add up, or the opposite. The same thing that can make simple music and playing for pleasure a fun thing because we can get at it, can also help us do more serious things. A foundation is a foundation. Good strategy that works is good strategy. And these are the very things that are often missing in lessons, especially for older students.

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
keystring #2219885 01/24/14 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by bluem00n010
When we reach the age of 50 and above, piano playing should be studied/learned for enjoyment, fun and leisure.

When we reach the age of 50 and above, we should know what we value and insist on living our lives accordingly. It may be time to stop going with the flow if that is what we have been doing. That includes deciding whether we want the next thing we tackle to be only for enjoyment, fun, and leisure.

The thing is that regardless of our ultimate goals, there are ways of approaching learning an instrument, that will set us up for series of gradual small successes that add up, or the opposite. The same thing that can make simple music and playing for pleasure a fun thing because we can get at it, can also help us do more serious things. A foundation is a foundation. Good strategy that works is good strategy. And these are the very things that are often missing in lessons, especially for older students.


I am 50 and took up the piano at age 42 with no musical knowledge whatsoever. I am a perfectionist. I HATE making mistakes and whether this is a problem or not, I look at the professionals and think, if they can do it so can I. But they are not me, and I am not them and we have different brains and we all learn differently. I am not an academic and do not find study and learning easy. I did not go to University because I hated school and wanted to leave as soon as I could and get a job. Now that I am older (and perhaps wiser)I like to learn things so I took up the piano and although I find some of the theory hard, I do like playing (and not simply chopsticks lol)

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2219909 01/24/14 09:23 AM
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I'm reading advice about playing through, playing fluidly, and similar. It depends on what you are doing while practising. If you are preparing for a performance or at the final stages, then yes, that's what you aim for. It is also right that you should not play through a section, stop where you stumble, go over those notes correcting them, and do that over and over. I see what you guys are saying and agree.

But there's more to practising. You may be working on three notes, getting the movement. You may be learning to read, and if it takes 3 seconds to coordinate note 1 to note 2, then take that time. This is the very thing that leads to fluidity later on. A lot of my practising even now has elements that sound most unmusical and unfluid, but they lead to skills, and they also lead to that fluid.

By chance I noticed a recording of practising a small section of the Grieg last month. It's a single measure, and starts with a middle beat, repeated a few times, then the preceding beat plus the middle beat, and finally the whole measure. There are two measures from entirely different sections of the music, isolated because they do the same thing in different keys. It's an example of not playing through, and it's a thing we do in practising.

https://app.box.com/shared/static/2vfeppvwb3ycjwsfhd4k.mp3

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2219922 01/24/14 09:45 AM
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Everybody struggles. Well, except me, but that's because my time is going towards my primary instrument rather than piano right now - but trust me I struggle on that one.

Re-read keystring's comments on projects versus process. That's a distinction that easily gets blurred, or is not made at all. And it's a bit different for piano than for guitar, at least IMO.

With very careful choice of repertoire, doing enough projects will eventually teach you process. But piano is unusual. It's not just a linear increase in process skill, like you might expect from other instruments. It also requires mastery of small difficulties. These are different for each piece, and that's why learning one piece doesn't give you the ability to play the next one at the same level. There are purely process skills such as fluency, dynamics, etc. that apply to everything, but you may not notice your progress with those when the individual piece difficulties get in the way. Or, you may not be making progress with those.

I have a couple of friends who have been taking lessons for years, and who I know practice regularly, who are not making progress on process skills. My diagnosis is poor teaching, and I think you need to consider that too. Learning piano as an adult is hard; it's supposed to be hard! but it is not impossible. You've been at it a year now. The first two years are a struggle for all of us. But if you're not making progress by then, you need to seriously consider a teacher change.


gotta go practice
Re: Beginner Frustrations...
TimR #2219959 01/24/14 10:53 AM
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I am the OP on this thread and just wanted to thank everyone for their input. Boy am I glad I found and joined this forum! For me, there's nothing like trying to learn the piano to make you feel there is something wrong with you! I keep thinking I should have my head examined to either see if there is something physically wrong, or for trying to learn this thing at my age in the first place smile It's almost as if everyday is my first day learning. I can practice a piece or a measure many times and eventually get it, but the next day, I have to start over with it. My teacher gets upset when I say I don't want to make mistakes, she says I should concentrate more on touch, technique, and the overall sound rather than worrying about hitting the correct notes. But when I hit a clunker, it sounds so awful. I liken playing the piano to playing a video game. The bad guys are coming at you and you've got to be on your game to get them before they get you. Once you start playing a piece the notes keep coming at you at THEIR pace not YOURS so you better be ready. She tells me I should love the piano but I feel more like I'm going into combat! I've heard that adults need to take lessons and practice daily for at least two years before they can play anything that someone wants to listen to. So I have another year to go. Thanks again for all of your input smile

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2219963 01/24/14 11:05 AM
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I am late joining this conversation 88, however, I don't think you are not experiencing anything different than all of us feel from time to time. Even after playing for over 40 years there are days the notes come faster than the brain can process. The piano has such a wealth of literature that you can continue to challenge yourself for your entire life and live at the edge of learning the whole time. Or after a few years you can sit back and enjoy a nearly life time supply of music available right at your level. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2219982 01/24/14 11:44 AM
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Your teacher sounds very wise to me! Hold on, it gets better - or so they tell me wink

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2220034 01/24/14 01:34 PM
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Random thoughts from this thread:

1) Every once in a while, my lesson with my teacher is less teaching and more "assisted practice." We just sit down and instead of me showing her what I've accomplished this week and her making corrections and tasking me with the next elements to be mastered, we sit down and do it together. She'll slow me down over one measure, and repeat and repeat and repeat, then she will add am easure back, a measure forward, put it together, then repeat. If there are mistakes or problems, she'll either cut out how much lead in or lead out, or slow it down. Staccato practice, or some such thing. Things to show me how to tackle things when she's not with me.

It helps.

2) I struggle mightily to record myself. I haven't yet submitted anything because, in addition to the fundamental inconsistency of my playing at this point, the red light drives me absolutely bonkers. I've tried to jsut let the thing run and pretend it's not there and not try to start and stop the thing between "takes" but no luck. I just use at least 25% of my concentration trying not to concentrate on it.

I am getting better at this. I have to relax. Slow down. And give myself permission to make mistakes, but not enough permission to play sloppily or too fast overall.

And then, the shame of it is, even if I do end up with a take that is mistake-free, I'll hate the interpretation. It then will lack in some way whatever else it was I wanted to do with the piece.

Mistake free and exactly as I want it to sound?

I fear I will never get there.

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
TwoSnowflakes #2220044 01/24/14 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
She'll slow me down over one measure, and repeat and repeat and repeat, then she will add a measure back, a measure forward, put it together, then repeat. If there are mistakes or problems, she'll either cut out how much lead in or lead out, or slow it down. Staccato practice, or some such thing. Things to show me how to tackle things when she's not with me.


That is a very powerful device. You work on a small difficult spot, then you bring the easy spot that comes just before it into it and continue to the easy spot that comes after it. Later when you play the whole piece or a larger section, you don't end up hesitating at "oh oh - here's that hard part", because you have already practised gliding in and out of it.

You sound like you have an excellent teacher.

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
peterws #2220055 01/24/14 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by peterws


I`m doin` that all the time. Been playing for years. EVERYBODY makes mistakes. You learn to charge through them and come out the other side still smiling even if you face is red. Much more fun!


Maybe a lot of people here are doing classical music , but in other genres when you're doing gigs you just have to keep on playing. You can't let the mistakes affect you. Mistakes are just a part of it - sometimes your fingers slip, sometimes you forget where you're at, sometimes you start out in the wrong key, and so on.

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
Michael Martinez #2220066 01/24/14 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael Martinez
... sometimes you start out in the wrong key, and so on.


I am *so* glad I'm not the only one who's ever done that smile

Actually, I've seen so many musicians laugh out loud when they do this that we could start a club laugh

Cathy


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Re: Beginner Frustrations...
TimR #2220073 01/24/14 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by TimR
And it's a bit different for piano than for guitar, at least IMO.

With very careful choice of repertoire, doing enough projects will eventually teach you process. But piano is unusual. It's not just a linear increase in process skill, like you might expect from other instruments.

I'd say that process and repertoire flow into each other, and knowing which to emphasize depends on where a student is at, and maybe also the makeup of the student. What I mean by "flowing into each other" is that when you work on a piece, you need to get the technique in order to play it. If you want to learn technique, you need a piece for applying it. The same is true for anything else. Which will you put first?

If you do go along repertoire, you need to make sure that you know how to approach it. You can play piece after piece after piece, doing the same ineffective thing in all of them - then what have you accomplished? But if you learn how to approach things in each piece, you have that for the next one. That's what makes or breaks a repertoire-based approach.

I have to ask, Tim - Knowing that you play a brass instrument, did you first have to get some technical things (such as - how on earth do I produce a Bb and how do I buzz my lips? - how do I breathe) before doing any pieces? How did the technical and the musical jive when you began? I don't play any brass instruments.

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
Michael Martinez #2220076 01/24/14 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael Martinez

Maybe a lot of people here are doing classical music , but in other genres when you're doing gigs you just have to keep on playing. You can't let the mistakes affect you.

The same is true for classical performance. But we're talking about practising and learning. I'm sure that non-classical musicians will also work on small sections if something is sticky, and do other, non-performance things as they work on their music.

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2220599 01/25/14 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by eighty80eights8s
I can almost play about 22 songs but NEVER make it all the way through without any mistakes. I recently recorded myself play Scarborough Fair, a fairly simple song in the Alfred book and it took me 38 attempts before I got it right. I think I have a good teacher


This right here is indication that you don't have a good teacher if they're letting you waste your time practicing inefficiently like this. A good teacher would be able to teach you how to practice songs/tunes - especially simple ones - so that they can be played mistake free and musically. And they would never take for granted that you know how to practice like so many do because the fact is, doing so correctly is neither intuitive nor common knowledge.

At any rate, here's a short introduction to the topic of practicing efficiently and effectively: http://kantsmusictuition.blogspot.com/2007/09/secret-on-how-to-practice.html

Re: Beginner Frustrations...
eighty80eights8s #2220728 01/25/14 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by eighty80eights8s
Hello all,

I started taking piano lessons 1 year ago when I was age 57, now I'm 58. I have played the guitar for years so I had some musical knowledge when I started piano. I take 1 hour lessons weekly and practice at least 3 hours daily. At this point I am frustrated that I am not better at it. I just completed Alfred's Adult All-In-One Level 1 course. I can almost play about 22 songs but NEVER make it all the way through without any mistakes. I recently recorded myself play Scarborough Fair, a fairly simple song in the Alfred book and it took me 38 attempts before I got it right. I think I have a good teacher; she gives a mixture of learning songs, exercises, and lessons. But for some reason it feels like I am learning songs one by one, not learning to play the piano. I can read the music and struggle through the fingering to learn/memorize the songs and play from memory while blankly staring at the music but don't actually play from reading the music in real time. If I get stuck or lose my place, it's a real struggle to restart. I wind up starting from the beginning of the song. Am I being too impatient? Is it an age thing? Any input would be appreciated?


It's not age (I started later than you). It's that you are at that slow, excruciating stage of beginner-dom. Remember, too, that learning piano (or a piece) is rarely linear. We feel like we're treading in place for *forever* and then we make a big jump, seemingly overnight, but it's the product of all that came before.

Don't expect to play error-free at this early stage. Be patient. It will come.

The pieces in Alfred's AIO are gradated--new things are added gradually. Are you clear in your mind what new thing (key, note type, rhythm, etc) is featured in each piece? If not, ask your teacher. Your teacher should be able to point it out immediately.

Good luck!


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