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Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? #2430695
06/11/15 11:33 AM
06/11/15 11:33 AM
Joined: May 2015
Posts: 10
Massachusetts
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richpink Offline OP
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Hi everyone,

I am pushing 71 and just started piano lessons. Having too much fun. Asked my teacher, who is too young to understand, about the potential limitations of my progress due to age; less flexibility, less speed.

Any and all thoughts? Personal experience? Any methods to push through, or practice through the problems?

Thanks in advance

Rich in Boston

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Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430698
06/11/15 11:44 AM
06/11/15 11:44 AM
Joined: May 2015
Posts: 750
New Orleans, LA
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Isabelle1949 Offline
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New Orleans, LA
Richpink, age is just a number! Flexibility will improve, but you must be relaxed. Tight muscles don't move as easily as relaxed muscles, it's a chemical thing. Speed will come with time, but you have to be patient. Learning slowly and accurately will help you achieve speed, again patience is necessary.

I didn't start studying with a teacher until I was about 39. I was a hot mess for quite some time. Piano successes take time and I can't think of a better way to spend the time I have on this earth.

I wish you the best. You can do it!!!

Happy piano playing!


Always working to improve "Chopsticks". I'll never give up on it.
Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430711
06/11/15 12:40 PM
06/11/15 12:40 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,129
Houston, TX
Ataru074 Offline
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I just entered the 40s so I don't have any experience about what happens in the 70s, but I can offer you some insight, being an adult returning to piano after childhood studies about what happened to me in a 20 years gap in the middle.

1) your body/brain is slower to react and learn.
2) a job and financial responsibilities are a distraction... if you are beyond that curve, you are ahead of the game.
3) slow, daily repetitions are your friend.
4) progress comes slow.

The best tricks in the bag are:

1) Hand separates to gain flexibility and speed... focus on the movement, the sound and the feel.
2) You think a small chunk to practice, do it smaller and don't over practice.... it won't come right in a single session, give it a good night of sleep and tomorrow will be better... repeat again, and again, and again.
3) Keep yourself interested. Not even piece needs to be perfect, divide in three groups. The ones you want perfect -now-, the ones you will come back later, and the ones you are just using to put mileage under your belt.



Private Piano Teacher. MTNA
working on:
Albeniz: Iberia
Beethoven: Op 53
Bartok: Mikrokosmos vol. 5
Debussy: Estampes
Moszkowski: Op 72
Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430718
06/11/15 01:09 PM
06/11/15 01:09 PM
Joined: Feb 2015
Posts: 81
Canada
Tone Deaf Offline
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Canada

Hi Rich in Boston, and welcome.

Age has nothing to do with limit when it comes to learning!

Yes, we may be slower, but I find we are more thorough and teachers,
at least mine, enjoys giving more detailed explanations which young students wouldn't understand or profit from.

I am just on the "right side" of 70 and I began my piano adventure 5 years ago. For me it has
been painfully slow. But having an exceptionally qualified teacher (Soviet trained) who loves
to teach, it is her full-time job, plus her having the patience of Job has made it very enjoyable.

Re limitations: we ALL get them sooner or later, but that shouldn't stop anyone. A good teacher will adapt the music pieces
and their teaching style to you. OA is my gremlin. I can reach 7 keys comfortably but an octave is a major effort
and even impossible at times. Having OA in the hands can slow down your playing. BUT the Good News
is, piano playing has significantly slowed down the progress of my OA (one of the main reasons I took up piano;
improving/maintaining brain function was the other). I find keeping myself warm while I pactice makes practice easier.
During the winter I play with a heating pad layed across my shoulders, and don't laugh,
but doing some gentle, easy upper body, arm and shoulder stretches can help prevent sore
muscles that can come from too much tension or poor posture while playing.

As for method, I have been using the Alfred-all-in-one for adults. There other method books such as
John Thompson's Adult Piano Course which has several books or Bastien, etc. We all learn differently
and what works for one may not for another. Spend some time in a music store or library looking at
what's available. What has your teacher suggested? As true beginner, no previous muscial experience,
I found the Alfred books useful but my teacher always gives other material to supplement the method book.

I don't know your goals, but take part in recitals and play for others as much as possible. Some piano schools have monthly recitals. This will help improve your playing, plus it will encourage to memorize a fews pieces. When I was still in the work force I regularly gave presentations before large groups without being nervous. My first two recitals were a mess, but now it isn't a problem. Though I still find it difficult to play a different piano other than my teacher's or mine.

Should you need help, just ask. The members on this forum will gladly assist you.
Sorry to be so long winded.





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Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430726
06/11/15 01:47 PM
06/11/15 01:47 PM
Joined: Jan 2012
Posts: 155
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alans Offline
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Congratulations Richpink. It is always an inspiration to hear people begin to study music when they are older then children. Enjoy your studies and have
a wonderful time with it. Don't worry about your age, just enjoy yourself. It's
great you've decided to start now. What made you want to begin at this point in your life? Did you always want to play but didn't have the time before?

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430733
06/11/15 01:59 PM
06/11/15 01:59 PM
Joined: May 2015
Posts: 10
Massachusetts
R
richpink Offline OP
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richpink  Offline OP
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Massachusetts
Thanks everyone. Piano, so far is a solitary experience so I am so relieved to see that others have had and overcome the problems. Thanks all for sharing.

As for the Soviet Trained pianist/teacher, mine came out of that mold and fits the description. The lesson was at the end of a long day, with much effort at work. "We have two minutes left", she said. I was tired and said, "we don't have to be so precise." "We must be precise", she said.

I am learning a lot, she is a great teacher and she is determined to get things done.

Thanks again for all the help and support.

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430741
06/11/15 02:33 PM
06/11/15 02:33 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 4,703
*sigh* Salt Lake City
malkin Offline
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Originally Posted by richpink
..."We have two minutes left", she said. I was tired and said, "we don't have to be so precise." "We must be precise", she said...


That's charming!

I tell my teacher he can keep track of that stuff, because I just don't have the inclination.


Having power is not nearly as important as what you choose to do with it.
– Roald Dahl

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430766
06/11/15 03:50 PM
06/11/15 03:50 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 2,641
Georgia, USA
Sam S Offline

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I have to disagree - age does have an effect on learning. We learn slower and may not be able to do everything that we want to do. But there is a lot within our grasp.

I'm 61, so younger than you, but I have been facing my own set of challenges.

I've given up on memorizing pieces. It has gotten harder and harder and I had to ask myself who I was trying to impress. It was just too much effort spent that could have been directed elsewhere.

As a result, my reading skills have improved. I play some fairly difficult things (I have many years at the keyboard now), and use the music.

There are aches and pains that come and go. Wrist, finger joints, even back problems. I am lucky that none of them have been permanent - I suspect it is overuse that crops up now and then. I have the same problems with my feet, knees and hips, so it's not just piano related. I did an AT hike last year (2100+ miles) and that didn't help my joints any!

Vision is a difficlut problem. I have an extra pair of glasses with a prescription just for reading music. Strong light on the music is a big help.

But music definitely keeps me young(er) and it is a great joy to play every day. Don't give up because of age - there is much pleasure to be gotten from playing piano.

Sam

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430777
06/11/15 04:30 PM
06/11/15 04:30 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,129
Houston, TX
Ataru074 Offline
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Here it's a pretty long and informative article about adult learners from John Hopkins University.

http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/lifelonglearning/higher-education/implications/


some pertinent quick extract:

"Therefore, to say that one's ability to learn peaks at a young age and then tapers off slowly is generally true for most individuals, but it is also too simplistic and ultimately deficient in describing how aging affects the complex process of learning."

"adult learners place a great deal of value on their experiences and if they cannot use those experiences, or, if those experiences are rejected, it may feel similar to being rejected as an individual. "

""past experiences can also be a handicap in acquiring new learning." This type of handicap could occur from past habits or old ways of thinking about some important issue. A preconceived way of thinking and doing something is not always easily changed, especially when it has been previously backed up by some perceived expert advice. "

"adults are often eager to learn and approach learning from a mentality of readiness, problem orientation, and time perspective. All of these factors contribute to an internal motivation to learn that is sometimes missing in children."

"Motivation is generally not a problem for the mature adult learner because they are ready to learn. They are often motivated to learn due to or in anticipation of a career change and desire to be successful in obtaining that goal."

few extract but somehow underlines that adult have some issue in learning speed but not in learning power, unless there are other underlining physical or mental issue ( brain oxygenation, endurance, sleep quality, hearing, vision.. all contribute to learning).
motivation is usually stronger and we are more focused than kids.



Private Piano Teacher. MTNA
working on:
Albeniz: Iberia
Beethoven: Op 53
Bartok: Mikrokosmos vol. 5
Debussy: Estampes
Moszkowski: Op 72
Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430787
06/11/15 05:13 PM
06/11/15 05:13 PM
Joined: May 2014
Posts: 212
United Kingdom
Alex MacPhee Offline
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Interestingly, my experience in some ways parallels that of Sam S, and in other ways diverges a little.

The memorisation issue is intriguing for me. I've a tendency to look to memorisation at the expense of sight reading, and when I'm approaching a new piece, I find myself memorising patterns ; patterns of sound, patterns of finger movements, patterns over the keys. And once the pattern 'clicks' and acquires a 'logic', I begin to use the score as more of an aide-memoire. I think one effect of this has been that might sight-reading progress has not been as solid as it might otherwise have been.

These differences of approach and experience here show that there's no such thing as a one-fits-all strategy, and that if one method doesn't work for you, another will.

What is certainly true, for those of us whose schooldays are long behind us, in a learning context, is that we're here because we want to be. We may be the horses who've been led to the water, but we want to drink it too.

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: Alex MacPhee] #2430795
06/11/15 05:48 PM
06/11/15 05:48 PM
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 2,182
First Town, First State
BrianDX Offline
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BrianDX  Offline
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Originally Posted by Purkoy
The memorisation issue is intriguing for me. I've a tendency to look to memorisation at the expense of sight reading, and when I'm approaching a new piece, I find myself memorising patterns ; patterns of sound, patterns of finger movements, patterns over the keys. And once the pattern 'clicks' and acquires a 'logic', I begin to use the score as more of an aide-memoire. I think one effect of this has been that might sight-reading progress has not been as solid as it might otherwise have been.

Same experience with me. At the Piano Guild ED level I have have no problems memorizing pieces, such as the five I had to learn for last month's Guild auditions.

So far so good for my vision, however speed and dexterity come slow for me. I'll be 60 soon, but these last 21 months have been a blast.

Go for it! smile


Yamaha C2X | Yamaha M500-F
Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
Curriculum: Faber Developing Artist (Book 3)
Current: German Dance in D Major (Haydn) (OF); Melody (Schumann) (OF)
Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430866
06/11/15 11:07 PM
06/11/15 11:07 PM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 1,822
Midwest USA
Stubbie Offline
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Midwest USA
I will turn 65 in a few weeks. I've been taking lessons for 1.5 years and self-taught a few years before that. I think it's really hard (and not terribly useful) to make generalizations about age and learning piano. So much depends on how time has treated you and how you've treated yourself.

Perhaps the greatest limitation of starting out late is that learning piano is an endeavor that takes a long time--time at the bench, practicing, playing, getting comfortable with the keyboard. There's just less time to get all that under your belt. But it doesn't matter, imo. It's always about the process, which for many, is a joy unto itself.


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Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: Stubbie] #2430869
06/11/15 11:16 PM
06/11/15 11:16 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,362
Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
It's always about the process, which for many, is a joy unto itself.


Wise words, and I would add that only those that are able to at least find some joy in the process will continue. Those that focus on what is not will usually give up in frustration.


private piano/voice teacher FT

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Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2430898
06/12/15 03:05 AM
06/12/15 03:05 AM
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Posts: 1,113
Norway
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Ganddalf Offline
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I turn 65 next week. I have long experience playing the piano, but I never had a teacher, and have developed my skills very slowly. I still work full time and have no plans to retire yet. Therefore I have limited time to practice, on average I spend 45 minutes a day.

I think I play better now than I ever did before. Maybe it is because my ability to judge my own performance isn't the same as it was.

My vision is not an obstacle. I normally wear glasses, but take then off while reading sheet music (as well as when I work at the computer).

I have no problem learning new pieces (within the limits of my technical capabilities). Maybe I spend some more time getting them up to full speed, but I don't actually feel that this is a problem.

I memorize just as well or better now than I did at younger age.

You may find it strange that I seem to be unaffected by the burden of age, but in my case I think I see improvement because I gradually got rid of a big obstacle - bad practice habits. It seems to me that it is possible to continue developing as a pianist at age well above 60. And I agree with Sam_S. Music keeps me young and it is a source of great joy and satisfaction.

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2431011
06/12/15 11:20 AM
06/12/15 11:20 AM
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ADWyatt Offline
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I'm just about 66 years old, and have been studying and playing the piano seriously for about two years, without a teacher. I'm using Piano Marvel (an internet training program for people with digital pianos) and have been using Hanon exercises. I plan on hiring a teacher in January 2016, and will take lessons for two years to become as skillful as I can.

But here's the thing--I actually can't play the piano, or at least I'm not supposed to be able to. Because of a slight genetic deformity my hands are always over-curled, although they have no trouble flattening out for the black keys or for octave jumps. I will never be Horowitz, in more ways than one, but I still can play fairly complex pieces with no trouble.

Age is a different story though. I've memorized quite a number of pieces that I play regularly enough so that they're musically in shape, but I can only play for so long at a time. After I've played memorized songs for perhaps as much as an hour I begin to lose it, and I start to make bad mistakes. At that point I hang it up and do something else, like watching a movie. Later on in the day, after perhaps taking an afternoon snooze, I can return to the piano refreshed, although I can't play for quite as long. But once I know I'm losing it in any session I quite immediately, because it won't get better by plowing ahead.

The fact of the matter is that for most of us seniors there are limits on our endurance and ability to learn. But after taking that into account, learning to use the piano to express the music in our souls makes it all worth the effort.

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2431012
06/12/15 11:21 AM
06/12/15 11:21 AM
Joined: May 2015
Posts: 10
Massachusetts
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richpink Offline OP
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Again, thanks to all. You have given me greater motivation to keep at it. Age has diminished some skills, but has enhanced others. I am much more focused and more receptive to input than as a younger person.

Now to convince my wife that I need a better, maybe Grand, piano.

I truly appreciate all the support and hoe that in the future I can offer similar supportive advice to the next person.

Rich

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2432091
06/15/15 02:03 PM
06/15/15 02:03 PM
Joined: Dec 2014
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Dan O Offline
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Age might or might not be a factor, but don't be distracted by it. I'm 67, and two months ago I had my first piano lesson in 55 years. I'm doing great, and any frustration is positive, meaning when I try something new it sounds messy at first but if I keep at it it's a more pleasant mess. My issues, which might or might not have anything to do with age:
- posture. My back gets tired long before my hands do. Sometimes I use a chair rather than the bench
- mental exhaustion. My brain gets tired long before my hands do.
Both of these mean about an hour and a half. That doesn't stop me from reading theory or intense listening.
- memorization. I don't think I have the memorization gene. I have a great memory (my wife has forbidden me to watch Jeopardy) but when it comes to tunes or even lyrics, it seems memorization has to happen by accident.
Just do what you can and don't worry.

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: malkin] #2432384
06/16/15 08:13 AM
06/16/15 08:13 AM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2,080
TwoSnowflakes Offline
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Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by richpink
..."We have two minutes left", she said. I was tired and said, "we don't have to be so precise." "We must be precise", she said...


That's charming!

I tell my teacher he can keep track of that stuff, because I just don't have the inclination.


LOL, I have the opposite problem. We'll go 15-20 minutes OVER and she won't have noticed. She gets excited when she sees progress, and usually at the end of a lesson, we're in the thick of it. I keep an eye on the clock, especially if I know she has another appointment after mine.


Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: TwoSnowflakes] #2432397
06/16/15 09:05 AM
06/16/15 09:05 AM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 2,618
Minneapolis, MN
griffin2417 Offline

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griffin2417  Offline

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Joined: Dec 2010
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Minneapolis, MN
Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by richpink
..."We have two minutes left", she said. I was tired and said, "we don't have to be so precise." "We must be precise", she said...


That's charming!

I tell my teacher he can keep track of that stuff, because I just don't have the inclination.


LOL, I have the opposite problem. We'll go 15-20 minutes OVER and she won't have noticed. She gets excited when she sees progress, and usually at the end of a lesson, we're in the thick of it. I keep an eye on the clock, especially if I know she has another appointment after mine.



I have a similar situation with my teacher. I'm one of his few adult students. I meet with him during school hours when the majoriy of his students are in school. We often go overtime because he gets excited about the progress we're making and we can easily look up at the clock and we're about 15 minutes past the scheduled lesson time.

BTW, TwoSnowflakes, this is the same teacher that held me back from doing Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C Sharp Minor because he didn't feel I was ready yet. I'm pleased to report that we begin work on the Rachmaninoff piece today!!! smile

Richpink, welcome to the PWF. You'll find a great bunch of people here and you don't have to feel alone on your exciting learning journey on the piano.

BTW, I restarted piano lessons when I was 62. I was away from the piano for 35 years prior to that.


Last edited by griffin2417; 06/16/15 09:11 AM.

Carl

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2432408
06/16/15 09:38 AM
06/16/15 09:38 AM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2,080
TwoSnowflakes Offline
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Congrats, Carl! You're going to have so much fun! Go super slowly and deliberately at first, especially in the middle section. I didn't respect the wrist movement and overall shape of the attack in that middle section enough before trying to speed it up, and I regretted it later! It feels like that piece is all about the notes, because there are just so darn many of them, and where there are not notes, there is speed! But it's totally not. It's all about fluidity and navigation. Then, the notes come and you can spend your time focusing on the voicing and phrasing, which ultimately is the most difficult part of the piece!

Have fun! And congrats again!

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2432431
06/16/15 10:41 AM
06/16/15 10:41 AM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 2,618
Minneapolis, MN
griffin2417 Offline

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Joined: Dec 2010
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Minneapolis, MN
Thanks so much TS! I truly appreciate your advice on approaching this piece and will definitely use it. I'm planning to send you a PM later this week after I've had my lesson. I don't want to hijack Richpink's thread with a discussion about Rachmaninoff. smile


Carl

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: Dan O] #2432550
06/16/15 03:19 PM
06/16/15 03:19 PM
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Posts: 1,091
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Originally Posted by Dan O
Age might or might not be a factor, but don't be distracted by it. I'm 67, and two months ago I had my first piano lesson in 55 years. I'm doing great, and any frustration is positive, meaning when I try something new it sounds messy at first but if I keep at it it's a more pleasant mess. My issues, which might or might not have anything to do with age:
- posture. My back gets tired long before my hands do. Sometimes I use a chair rather than the bench
- mental exhaustion. My brain gets tired long before my hands do.
Both of these mean about an hour and a half. That doesn't stop me from reading theory or intense listening.
- memorization. I don't think I have the memorization gene. I have a great memory (my wife has forbidden me to watch Jeopardy) but when it comes to tunes or even lyrics, it seems memorization has to happen by accident.
Just do what you can and don't worry.


Same age here and started with similar memorization situation. Great memory for anything but music performance stuff.
I used to bring out the sheet music to play a C major scale ha
It bugged me a lot, so decided to make a study out of it and explore why.
I'm not great at it yet, but always memorize now anytime I start with a new piece. When I feel that I have had enough of one piece and also have memorized it, I move on to the next without worrying whether I remember the old piece or not and do the same thing with the new one.
I'm not doing large pieces, that takes too long and are out of my league for now, only shorter pieces or studies.
I will concentrate on that for now, and I think I can confirm with confidence that the memorization process gets better with use.
Use it or lose it.


Czerny's Piano School Vol. 1. Reviewing basics/ear training/analysis in interesting exercises.
Opus 599. Now at #77 and giving it a break.
Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2432907
06/17/15 03:53 PM
06/17/15 03:53 PM
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AZ, USA
Tuneless Offline
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Seventy here, and I am currently unable to memorize any piece of music past about 5 to 10 bars. But this inability is not limited to my current age. I tried to memorize a modest piece or 2 on the piano 30 years ago and couldn't, so gave up on the piano. But, given I still had the piano and took it out of moth balls about 2 years ago, I decided to go strait to reading music, and have made progress on playing from sheet music, but excruciatingly slowly. Hope you have better abilities than me.


Cynthia

Roland FP-50
Conover Upright, 1888/9, but a very low mileage piano. http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/conover_upright_piano__1888_or_9 .
Tuneless = Don't play piano yet but getting there.
I'm technically very capable. I love my piano and love tinkering with it.
Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: Tuneless] #2432928
06/17/15 05:15 PM
06/17/15 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Tuneless
Seventy here, and I am currently unable to memorize any piece of music past about 5 to 10 bars. But this inability is not limited to my current age. I tried to memorize a modest piece or 2 on the piano 30 years ago and couldn't, so gave up on the piano.

Memorization is grossly overrated. The vast majority of people making their living from music today don't memorize anything - including collaborative pianists, accompanists, répétiteurs, teachers......in fact, anyone who isn't a (solo) concert pianist. The ability to sight-read fluently is far, far more important.

I didn't memorize any piece of music for the first nine years of my time as a piano student, during which I went through Grades 1 to 8 of the ABRSM exams (I didn't skip any, and did one a year - I had no musical talent worth speaking of, but I loved classical music, which meant that I loved playing the piano). But I developed good sight-reading skills, simply because I'd have a go at anything that took my fancy, and learnt many, many pieces by myself that my teachers never knew about.

Then I went for my performance diploma, and had to memorize my pieces. And promptly forgot them afterwards grin.

It's much more important that you learn to read music well. It's like any language - if you learn to read well in that language, you can read anything. If you memorize a book (gasp!) - you can only quote stuff from that book......and that's about it, if you can't actually read well.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: Ganddalf] #2432981
06/17/15 07:45 PM
06/17/15 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Ganddalf
You may find it strange that I seem to be unaffected by the burden of age


It's in your blood. I wouldn't mess with this guy, would you? wink

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Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: bennevis] #2432990
06/17/15 08:18 PM
06/17/15 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

Memorization is grossly overrated. The vast majority of people making their living from music today don't memorize anything - including collaborative pianists, accompanists, répétiteurs, teachers......in fact, anyone who isn't a (solo) concert pianist. The ability to sight-read fluently is far, far more important.


It's much more important that you learn to read music well. It's like any language - if you learn to read well in that language, you can read anything. If you memorize a book (gasp!) - you can only quote stuff from that book......and that's about it, if you can't actually read well.


Carve this in stone ... and place it on the door of every piano studio. I can't emphasize the importance of note reading enough. It is the KEY. Because it opens to the door to truly enjoying your music. Today I can pick up anything and play it well enough to decide if I want to spend more time on it.

But I have a confession ... embarrassing to the max. I acquired three degrees and the coveted Canada Council grant and couldn't sight read. At Juilliard I had no trouble with the required secondary courses ... but to learn something new was agony. Because I'd faked it for years. My first teacher wanted me to love my music so she was lax about those sight reading exercises and allowed me pieces WAY beyond my abilities. I loved the music so much I would spend hours on three or four measures just so I could hear myself play them. I spent a couple of years on the Pathetique. ( That Pathetique paid for my education. Oh I played it WELL .... but couldn't sight read anything else for beans)

Only years later after a hiatus of twenty years in Asia when I returned to the West and began teaching ... did I learn to read those damned notes. And it was a long-delayed miracle. Today ... Oh how easily I could prepare for a recital or performance, how easy it would all have been if only I had learned those notes earlier.

Thank YOU Bennevis ... Hear hear everyone! laugh

( My father climbed Ben Nevis many years ago ... and loved it)


Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: bennevis] #2433032
06/17/15 11:23 PM
06/17/15 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis


It's much more important that you learn to read music well. It's like any language - if you learn to read well in that language, you can read anything. If you memorize a book (gasp!) - you can only quote stuff from that book......and that's about it, if you can't actually read well.


I could not agree more. The irony is that I was born with a disability that makes fluent reading while playing impossible. So I am stuck with learning ways to memorize which is also really difficult, but somehow manageable with time and patience. For any average person I would definitely recommend to concentrate on learning to read.

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2433093
06/18/15 05:30 AM
06/18/15 05:30 AM
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Georgia, USA
Sam S Offline

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I've been thinking about the memorization issue, and it is a misstatement to say that I don't memorize anymore. It's more correct to say that I always play with the score, and that I intend to look at the score much more than I look at my hands. But I do unintentionally "memorize" parts of each piece - it would be hard not to when I practice something for months.

For instance, I am working on a piece for clarinet and piano (Pocket Sonata by Templeton), and in one troublesome passage I have the right hand memorized while I direct most of my attention to the jazz chords in the left hand. But I am looking at the music while all this is going on. I didn't set out to memorize that passage - it just "happened" as I worked toward my own solution to playing this piece.

Sam

Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: bennevis] #2433096
06/18/15 06:01 AM
06/18/15 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Tuneless
Seventy here, and I am currently unable to memorize any piece of music past about 5 to 10 bars. But this inability is not limited to my current age. I tried to memorize a modest piece or 2 on the piano 30 years ago and couldn't, so gave up on the piano.

Memorization is grossly overrated. The vast majority of people making their living from music today don't memorize anything - including collaborative pianists, accompanists, répétiteurs, teachers......in fact, anyone who isn't a (solo) concert pianist. The ability to sight-read fluently is far, far more important.

I didn't memorize any piece of music for the first nine years of my time as a piano student, during which I went through Grades 1 to 8 of the ABRSM exams (I didn't skip any, and did one a year - I had no musical talent worth speaking of, but I loved classical music, which meant that I loved playing the piano). But I developed good sight-reading skills, simply because I'd have a go at anything that took my fancy, and learnt many, many pieces by myself that my teachers never knew about.

Then I went for my performance diploma, and had to memorize my pieces. And promptly forgot them afterwards grin.

It's much more important that you learn to read music well. It's like any language - if you learn to read well in that language, you can read anything. If you memorize a book (gasp!) - you can only quote stuff from that book......and that's about it, if you can't actually read well.


-And so the war goes on. What about being able to do both? grin

"It's like any language - if you learn to read well in that language, you can read anything. If you memorize a book (gasp!) - you can only quote stuff from that book......and that's about it, if you can't actually read well."

-And there are story tellers, esp. in the past. I would rather listen and see one that knew the story by heart, and who could concentrate 100% on expressions and interpretation, rather than reading a story from a book.
I see so many YouTube video presenters of different information reading from some kind of prompter and always think: Why don't I get to read this myself? sleep

"The vast majority of people making their living from music today don't memorize anything - including collaborative pianists, accompanists, répétiteurs, teachers......in fact, anyone who isn't a (solo) concert pianist."

-That makes sense to me also, because it takes time and pain to memorize for most.
It's far more productive money-wise to read it right off the sheet music if you can get away with it.
But many of us who are just enjoying and finding piano/keyboard interesting to learn are not dependent on the keyboard skills for a living.
Some enjoy the extra challenge of memorization, and some get a high of having conquered a piece that way (me included).
I can spend more time on a piece and enjoy the process of really getting inside it and see how it's put together and remember it, at least temporarily, without worrying about the monetary profit.
I don't worry the least if I can still remember it next week, or even until I'm well into the next piece. Once learned, it can be relearned easier next time around. If there is a next time.


Czerny's Piano School Vol. 1. Reviewing basics/ear training/analysis in interesting exercises.
Opus 599. Now at #77 and giving it a break.
Re: Older Student Starting Out - Expectations??? [Re: richpink] #2433098
06/18/15 06:22 AM
06/18/15 06:22 AM
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Ireland (ex England)
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zrtf90 Offline
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My thoughts...

Clearly if someone can get a degree from Juilliard without sight-reading ability or Grade 8, ABRSM, without memorising then sight-reading and memorising are both academically non-essential skills but if 'to learn something new was agony' there is clearly a benefit for good general reading. For any non-ear player reading is the first skill to learn.

Most students, from what I gather, spend long times on most pieces and short times on very few. This is a shortcoming of the teachers and one the 40-Piece Challenge was designed to address.

Spending weeks or months on a two page piece does nothing to improve reading ability, whether we try to read as we play or not, and rewards the memorising-to-avoid-reading ploy.

We memorise whether we're good at it or not - otherwise we'd play all our pieces only as well as if we were sight-reading. Performing without the music, on the other hand, is simply an extension of the process and if such performance is intended then memorising from the outset is the most efficient way to go. For many, internalising the music and reciting it without the score is a necessary liberation for a personal and sincere interpretation.

It would be beneficial to exercise reading, memorising, sight-reading, mechanical skills (scales, arpeggios, chords, trills, etc.) and technical skills (phrasing and interpretation) each day.

Reading will improve, as will the general playing ability, by learning around fifty different pieces, pages or fragments a year, one a week, and typically easy enough to get playable in a couple of days without having to reach full tempo.

Memorising will improve by memorising one new phrase or snippet each day, the same phrase for a few days depending on ability. Schumann's Traumerei, for example, is only six phrases, two of which are the same. It could be memorised in five weeks, assuming the technical skills aren't tested by it. The whole thing doesn't have to be played through from memory, though it's no harm if it's taken that far.

Sight-reading will improve by taking a new phrase or two each day, spending a minute or two audiating it and/or analysing it and then playing it once or twice, either from memory or from the score, unpractised. Playing instantly from a previously unseen score, around five minutes of music a day, is a fine skill to have if the library is exhaustive enough and if collaborative skills are wanted but is over the top for the average player and for the ABRSM exam requirement and will improve automatically as the reading, sight-reading and playing skills get better.

Scales, chords and arpeggios are expected to be played from memory. They are the bedrock of piano technique and for the first year or two, depending on the student, should be an exercise in facility and relaxation more than velocity. Trills, leaps and double notes can be added over time.

Only after these "essential daily exercises" are done with easy enough material - they need only take ten to twenty minutes - should work begin on 'stretch' pieces that are going to take weeks/months to learn and polish. The learning process might itself be seen as preparatory work for the polishing skills that typically take the most time and are themselves another 'essential daily exercise' that might be applied one or two phrases at a time.

Playing through a whole piece in performance style, with or without the score, is not a daily requirement despite it being the main focus of our attention. It can be left to the end of the practise session or left to the end of the week. It should not be done with music that hasn't been sufficiently practised.



Richard
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