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#2232160 - 02/15/14 05:43 PM Playing things that are far too hard  
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ece9600 Offline
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Hello

I'd welcome any advice. I started the piano in January, having previously played classical guitar as a child/teenager. I am really enjoying it and am preparing for grade 1.

I've also started playing a few pieces that are probably too hard for me, given that I've only been playing a month, eg Bach's Prelude No 1 from the WTC which I can play well enough to actually enjoy playing, if that makes any sense, and bits of the Chopin A Minor waltz (post.) which I can play the easy bits of at a snail's pace.

In your opinion, is it a bad idea to attempt things you're not really ready for? If I could, I'd far rather learn the piano by playing the music I love, not the stuff that's written for beginners. I realise that beginner's things often have a learning objective so I'm not neglecting them and am also working on exercises and scales etc. But is there a risk of developing bad habits if I try to run before I can walk?

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#2232171 - 02/15/14 06:13 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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Do you have a teacher? Can you read music well? Are you using a method book or collection of beginner level pieces?

Generally, *far* too hard is a bad idea.

Yes, it's normal to want to play the things you like, but at one month into piano--a little more time getting some basics in would serve you much better in the long run.

Patience, grasshopper.


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#2232173 - 02/15/14 06:21 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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I think you know the answers to your questions. You do what you have to do. Some people has to learn it the hard way. At least you are still learning. Let us know how you go in a year's time.

Good luck!



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#2232181 - 02/15/14 06:35 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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Thanks, both of you. I do have a teacher and we're doing the Carol Barratt course books. I can read treble clef but find that bass clef is an effort- my brain goes through a process of thinking "that looks like a C to me so it's really an E" which makes sight reading quite hard.

At the moment I'm trying to do 10 mins exercises, 10 mins scales, 20 mins on my assigned pieces and 20 mins on whatever I want (the harder stuff), aiming for 7 days a week but it tends to be more like 5 given work and children. I should probably spend longer on what I'm supposed to be playing, I think. I shall try to channel David Carradine ;-)




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#2232280 - 02/15/14 10:48 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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The harder stuff is great as long as it's stretching you and you're enjoying it. If you're getting stalled/frustrated then put it on the shelf for a while and visit it again later. It definitely is good to also have some pieces you can play beautifully and with confidence.


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#2232294 - 02/15/14 11:29 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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What Stubbie and hreichgott said.


So much music and so little time!
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#2232360 - 02/16/14 01:52 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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I self confess to being very similar in that I want to play the hard stuff but after playing for just over a year a couple of things have been learned. Firstly if you stretch too far then the piece begins to feel like a weight and you never finish it because of that one little thing (or several) you can't get right. If you stretch just enough then you feel a real breakthrough and some of the things you thought hard before seem easier. However attempting a piece you are not quite ready for generally means you will need to spend a lot more time on the piece to iron out one or more new technical requirements. If you have the time then fine but if you are time poor this needs to be re-thought.

After I read a post in which a teacher recommended learning up to 40 new pieces per year I did a bit more reading on the subject and had a change of heart in the direction I was going ie only learning a much smaller amount. I found I was constantly trying to force improvement by taking on harder and harder pieces to the point I was bogged down in technical challenges only getting a few of the pieces finished and having to call a halt on most of them. So now I am taking a different approach in that I am attempting to learn a few hard pieces, a few at what I consider my level and a lot more at a level below that. The reasoning is obvious, filling in missing technical gaps, satisfaction in learning a piece in under a week (and recording it), improvement to sight reading, as well as improving the way I learn which is a skill in itself and like everything in piano is leaned by repetition.

So my advice: yes take on a harder piece to stretch yourself and to find out what awaits you at higher levels, but keep a rein on ambition for the fundamentals you are learning now are very important. It is also a bit like the tortoise and the hare story, rushing too fast burns you out while a slow and steady pace gets you to the same place in better shape.

A final thought, for I remember well how difficult the first few (the first six for me) months are. It will get better and soon enough you will be attempting more interesting pieces. The Bach Prelude in C is a great piece and I have seen it rated as anything from grade 2 to 5. I recorded it for a recital here after five and a half months learning and I am not sorry I did as it was a much need confidence booster. I have the rest of my life to get it right lol


Problems with piano are 90% psychological, the other 10% is in your head.

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#2232409 - 02/16/14 05:07 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: earlofmar]  
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thumb for what earlofmar said. Taking on pieces that are too far above your abilities can actually slow down your development of skills.

When I first returned to piano as an adult (I had a couple of years of lesson as a pre teenager) I jumped into advanced material very quickly. My teacher assigned Chopin nocturnes, Mozart K545, etc. I played them, but very poorly, and I worked on them for months. I realised I had big holes in my foundation and lacked the technical skill to do the pieces justice.

My second return to lessons as an adult was in Jan. 2011. This time I worked through the basics with a teacher, and built up my technique through scales and pieces at my level. Progress was much steadier, and now I can play the more advanced pieces much more effectively. I still learn a mix of easy pieces and a couple that are a grade or two higher than what is currently comfortable. We pick those pieces to address a specific technique that I need to acquire. Now I feel like I have a sold foundation and can progress correctly. So, at least for me, stretching a little, but not a lot, is the way to improve the quickest.

#2232411 - 02/16/14 05:13 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: SwissMS]  
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Originally Posted by SwissMS
So, at least for me, stretching a little, but not a lot, is the way to improve the quickest.


Agree, no point in getting stuck and frustrated, you need to see some improving. Pick one piece over your current level -not a virtuoso one!- and continue with the graded pieces. Once that one is done, pick another.


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#2232414 - 02/16/14 05:36 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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Originally Posted by ece9600
At the moment I'm trying to do 10 mins exercises, 10 mins scales, 20 mins on my assigned pieces and 20 mins on whatever I want
Have you been playing for a month or just taken lessons for a month but have played longer? Did your teacher assign the scales and exercises? What exercises?

Playing harder pieces is fine if they're just a part of what you do at the piano. Playing scales with less than a year's experience I'd be more concerned about. The exercises? That depends on the exercises.




Richard
#2232578 - 02/16/14 01:40 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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Originally Posted by ece9600


In your opinion, is it a bad idea to attempt things you're not really ready for?


Hi, Ece. For my part, I think that it's a good thing. I've always done it, and I've always had the impression that this is an important part of my progress. Never with the idea of really being able to play these pieces but just to read them if you like, to get to know them. It is fascinating to see how is constructed music that you listen to, it greatly deepens your appreciation of the music and of the genius of its author.

As for developing bad habits, could be, but having a good time on the piano is a good habit, definitely to be cultivated.

#2232640 - 02/16/14 04:09 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: landorrano]  
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Originally Posted by landorrano
Originally Posted by ece9600


In your opinion, is it a bad idea to attempt things you're not really ready for?


Hi, Ece. For my part, I think that it's a good thing. I've always done it, and I've always had the impression that this is an important part of my progress. Never with the idea of really being able to play these pieces but just to read them if you like, to get to know them. It is fascinating to see how is constructed music that you listen to, it greatly deepens your appreciation of the music and of the genius of its author.

As for developing bad habits, could be, but having a good time on the piano is a good habit, definitely to be cultivated.


I agree with this for the most part, but not for someone one month into piano. What you describe above is reasonable for someone with good sightreading and listening skills and some knowledge of how pieces are constructed, but not for someone still in the early stages of reading notes on both staffs.

Originally Posted by ece9600
Thanks, both of you. I do have a teacher and we're doing the Carol Barratt course books. I can read treble clef but find that bass clef is an effort- my brain goes through a process of thinking "that looks like a C to me so it's really an E" which makes sight reading quite hard.

At the moment I'm trying to do 10 mins exercises, 10 mins scales, 20 mins on my assigned pieces and 20 mins on whatever I want (the harder stuff), aiming for 7 days a week but it tends to be more like 5 given work and children. I should probably spend longer on what I'm supposed to be playing, I think. I shall try to channel David Carradine ;-)


Underlining mine.


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#2233162 - 02/17/14 02:24 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: Stubbie]  
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Originally Posted by Stubbie

I agree with this for the most part, but not for someone one month into piano.


Hi Stubbie. You may be right. Maybe you is, maybe you ain't ... but if someone had told me that back when I was a month into piano I sure wouldn't have listened to them !!! No regrets!

#2233175 - 02/17/14 02:42 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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I have my own golden rule of attainable difficulties... a given piece you should be able to read and play it reasonably well at the pace of one page per week, if it's repertoire. Exercises and etudes are different and takes more time because they need to be beyond your reach and might even take 2 to 4 time as much... meaning.. even a month for the first page while you're tackling the technical difficulties.

from that 1 page per week, to "ready for performance" is a totally different story.

there is no shame on dropping one piece that is too hard to allow your growth and than go back and pick it up again after some time, sometimes months, sometimes years... I found out that if you spent enough quality time with a given piece, it will come back in a matter of hours at most.

For me is also true that you can make the opposite mistake... spend too much time on repertoire that is not too challenging for you and you won't develop technically... but you might develop musicality from an increased knowledge of the repertoire.

As practical suggestion, especially as beginner, aim to grow technically as fast as you can until you get beyond the level of pieces that you'd love to perform... the better you're, the easier becomes to accumulate repertoire and the amount of material that you can learn in a short amount of time becomes incredibly vast.



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#2233305 - 02/17/14 05:50 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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Thank you, everyone.

I was interested to see someone saying playing scales this early was concerning. Is that right? Scales are unavoidable if you want to do grades, surely?

#2233354 - 02/17/14 07:31 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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Yeah, I really believe scales are bad with less than a year's experience and especially so without a teacher and/or beginning with C major.

But if you're going the exam route the Grade 1 syllabus shouldn't begin without a year's foundation first and you should be with a teacher anyway, if you're going that route, who may (or may not) begin with B major so that you can work up to C, G, D and F (ABRSM Grade I scales).

I would also advise an adult to start at a higher grade if grades are going to be taken. There's less need for token markers of progress for an adult and a good teacher would ensure exam requirements are met well enough that fear of failure shouldn't be an issue. In fact, I don't even know anyone who's failed an exam below grade 6.

There are people who've posted here doing 30 minutes of scales every day as soon as they get their first piano. That is so dangerous as well as being a complete waste of time!

That's why I asked if it was your teacher who assigned the scales.



Richard
#2233372 - 02/17/14 08:06 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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I would second the delay in playing scales. At just fourteen months in to my journey I am better prepared to do scales today than I was in my first few months. After playing quite a bit of repertoire in my first year I think it prepared me for scales, particularity the fingering which makes more sense, intuitive actually, now I have some experience. I did start scales with my teacher in the first few months but dropped them until fairly recently. Now I see that not doing scales have not hampered my playing I am only doing them now to get used to the scale itself and not as a blind exercise.


Problems with piano are 90% psychological, the other 10% is in your head.

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#2233494 - 02/18/14 02:34 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: SwissMS]  
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Originally Posted by SwissMS
thumb for what earlofmar said. Taking on pieces that are too far above your abilities can actually slow down your development of skills.

When I first returned to piano as an adult (I had a couple of years of lesson as a pre teenager) I jumped into advanced material very quickly. My teacher assigned Chopin nocturnes, Mozart K545, etc. I played them, but very poorly, and I worked on them for months. I realised I had big holes in my foundation and lacked the technical skill to do the pieces justice.

My second return to lessons as an adult was in Jan. 2011. This time I worked through the basics with a teacher, and built up my technique through scales and pieces at my level. Progress was much steadier, and now I can play the more advanced pieces much more effectively. I still learn a mix of easy pieces and a couple that are a grade or two higher than what is currently comfortable. We pick those pieces to address a specific technique that I need to acquire. Now I feel like I have a sold foundation and can progress correctly. So, at least for me, stretching a little, but not a lot, is the way to improve the quickest.

+1
This my second time around as an adult returner as well. It's funny I did almost exactly what you did, SwissMS. I did 7 years as a child. My last piece as a child was Chopin's raindrop prelude. So I did not like to go back to "baby" pieces. Big mistake. I too took on Moz 545. Ahhh I still remember the tormentingly uneven scale. The more I play the worse it sounded. I thought I had never heard anything as horrible as this. I came back to piano 2009. This time I too took a step back. Did scales, arpeggio, exercises and went back to manageable pieces. It was much better.


Pieces for this year to be decided soon.
#2233700 - 02/18/14 01:06 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: zrtf90]  
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
Yeah, I really believe scales are bad with less than a year's experience and especially so without a teacher and/or beginning with C major.


Originally Posted by earlofmar
I would second the delay in playing scales.


I take the opposite point of view, I believe that scales are really good, from day one. Better with a teacher, even better with a good teacher, and even better with a real good teacher, but that's so with pretty much anything.

And beginning with C-major. Parallel motion, contrary motion, one two three four octaves. All tonalities, it needn't take a long time. An adult, if he's got a little free time, can get to doing all tonalities in a couple of weeks, even in a day or two.

It's a great way for you and your piano to get to know each other, with possibilty for stable relationship if affinities! Better than spending weeks and months and years just hopscotching around middle C. I mean, you've paid for 88 keys: use 'em !!!

Plus, lt's a great musical exercise, and an excellent help with reading.

#2233908 - 02/18/14 08:32 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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I find that my main reason for taking on pieces beyond me is that the boiled down 'easy piano' versions often are unrecognizable. I'd rather fight for a week or two and play the song as it was intended than poke through some of the modified versions.
I have a truly horrible adaptation of In The Mood by Joe Garland that I would rather use to light a campfire than play.


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#2236206 - 02/23/14 02:56 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ShannonG]  
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Originally Posted by ShannonG
I find that my main reason for taking on pieces beyond me is that the boiled down 'easy piano' versions often are unrecognizable. I'd rather fight for a week or two and play the song as it was intended than poke through some of the modified versions. I have a truly horrible adaptation of In The Mood by Joe Garland that I would rather use to light a campfire than play.


I agree with this. I've been playing some easy note piano music and it's horrid to listen to and some parts are downright unrecognizable. If the number 1 reason to play the piano is for enjoyment, I think I get the most enjoyment out of actually producing music that is pleasant to my ears, not an abortion of an interpretation, even if it takes a little longer to learn.

#2237250 - 02/25/14 09:00 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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Seems to me that we all long to play the hard ones...to effortlessly float through beautiful music. I climbed Long's Peak (a 14ner here in Colorado) once and the view was incredible, the feeling of accomplishment amazing, indescribable. Glad it wasn't my first climbing experience however. I needed to learn and strengthen first. Once you get past basic beginner taking on a challenging one is inspiring. Once I got to all challenging ones it was overwhelming. There were specific skills I didn't have as solid as I needed so now I play so lower level pieces to build speed and mastery and work on a more challenging one too. You may have to experiment a bit to find what works for you.


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#2237271 - 02/25/14 10:03 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: Cristian88]  
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Originally Posted by Cristian88
Originally Posted by ShannonG
I find that my main reason for taking on pieces beyond me is that the boiled down 'easy piano' versions often are unrecognizable. I'd rather fight for a week or two and play the song as it was intended than poke through some of the modified versions. I have a truly horrible adaptation of In The Mood by Joe Garland that I would rather use to light a campfire than play.


I agree with this. I've been playing some easy note piano music and it's horrid to listen to and some parts are downright unrecognizable. If the number 1 reason to play the piano is for enjoyment, I think I get the most enjoyment out of actually producing music that is pleasant to my ears, not an abortion of an interpretation, even if it takes a little longer to learn.


Then seek out better arrangements. I agree there are some that aren't recognizable, and then there are some that you can add a few things or change them slightly to make them sound better, and some you just avoid. But don't forget, there is tons of awesome music out there at any level in any style. It may not be recognizable, but very enjoyable and fulfilling.


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#2237278 - 02/25/14 10:12 AM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
But don't forget, there is tons of awesome music out there at any level in any style. It may not be recognizable, but very enjoyable and fulfilling.


This is absolutely true. Of course we would all like to be able to play the masterpieces of piano music but even an easy piece can be very interesting to learn and master. It can offer a lot of room for interpretation and be very enjoyable to play.
There is just no direct correlation between the difficulty of a piece and its appeal in my opinion. It's just that we know the masterpieces much better than the easier repertoire because they are what we are hearing all the time on the radio etc.


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#2646502 - Yesterday at 07:07 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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I think you need a mix. Ideally, and leaving aside large variations in individual attitude and ability to handle frustration etc.., you would want most pieces you learn to be just a bit harder than your current level - sufficient to pose a challenge and make progress, but not insurmountably difficult leading to bad habits or despair. There is an argument for variability within that, though; the reward of learning and really polishing to perfection a slightly easier piece can be highly encouraging even for experienced pianists, while the challenge of learning something excessively difficult is one that some people relish. Heinrich Neuhaus, who knew a thing or two about piano teaching(!), told a story of a pupil of his who insisted upon trying to learn the Hammerklavier Sonata. Neuhaus knew that she would never be good enough to successfully learn it, but encouraged her to do so anyway because in making the attempt, she was improving her playing substantially, which allowed her to learn others slightly less difficult works that would otherwise have struggled with. Sometimes, after attempting something very hard, our more typical pieces do seem easier.

#2646524 - Yesterday at 08:22 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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The OP last posted 3 years ago. I wonder where s/he is at now... 3 years is comfortably enough time to get to the level of the repertoire mentioned in the first post.

Moral: Learning piano is more like a marathon than a sprint.


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#2646527 - Yesterday at 08:31 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: ece9600]  
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Posts: 710
Originally Posted by ece9600

In your opinion, is it a bad idea to attempt things you're not really ready for? If I could, I'd far rather learn the piano by playing the music I love, not the stuff that's written for beginners.


I suffered the same dread of beginner music that you refer to. Luckily, there are mountains of interesting scores, written for beginners, that are beautiful. And, they exist in all styles of music (baroque, classical, romantic, etc.). I cured my itch for music to love that is also within my beginner's reach by doing a lot of research. Anytime I encountered something in some beginner book that sounded nice, I researched the composer's other works. From one single piece appearing in the RCM Level 1 Repertoire book, I found a treasure trove of music I absolutely love, by Alexander Tansman. In the year following, I have joyfully played about 15 of his pieces, with more to come.

I also do topical searches on some of the big online databases. One method that has been very fruitful for me is using search terms such as "enfants", "enfantine", "beginners", "kinder*", and other words connoting youth that frequently appear in titles of the works of composers who took the time to write for beginners. You will uncover an endless stream of interesting works at IMSLP, Scorser, and the NAXOS music library using these search terms. I have accumulated so much interesting beginner music this way, that I will never get around to playing it all.

Having some beautiful music that stirs you is a tremendous help in carrying you through the tiresome beginner book fare. Good luck to you!

Last edited by Ralphiano; Yesterday at 08:34 PM.

Ralph

Casio Privia PX-760
Pianoteq Stage
Pianist since April, 2015
#2646533 - Yesterday at 08:52 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: Qazsedcft]  
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 1,545
Whizbang Online content
1000 Post Club Member
Whizbang  Online Content
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 1,545
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Moral: Learning piano is more like a marathon hiking the Appalachian Trail than a sprint.


Whizbang [Linked Image]
amateur ragtime pianist
https://www.youtube.com/user/Aeschala
#2646539 - Yesterday at 09:01 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: Whizbang]  
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 2,255
Sam S Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Sam S  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 2,255
Georgia, USA
Originally Posted by Whizbang
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Moral: Learning piano is more like a marathon hiking the Appalachian Trail than a sprint.



Been there - done that! Only took 5 months and 5 days. I've been at the piano now over 8 years...

Sam

#2646547 - Yesterday at 09:21 PM Re: Playing things that are far too hard [Re: Sam S]  
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 1,545
Whizbang Online content
1000 Post Club Member
Whizbang  Online Content
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 1,545
Originally Posted by Sam S
[Been there - done that! Only took 5 months and 5 days. I've been at the piano now over 8 years...


I might've had someone in mind when posting that.


Whizbang [Linked Image]
amateur ragtime pianist
https://www.youtube.com/user/Aeschala
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