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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2664390
07/27/17 04:25 PM
07/27/17 04:25 PM
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dogperson Offline
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Hi Tim
The one question I have is: why are you keeping track of the number of times you have practiced a chunk? In my mind, at least, you practice it until it is right. If a problem measure, you may work on it 100 times, (certainly not all in one day! ) . for one that requires no effort to play, it may be a few times, and then it moves into the 'this is good, no reason to practice as a chunk ' category.

Anyway, just my thought. I use those post-it note arrows to mark the chunks I need to practice. When the chunk is good, the arrow goes away. It may take only a short while for the arrow to disappear or it may be a lingerer. No tracking of time or amount of work except for 'success'.

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2664394
07/27/17 04:41 PM
07/27/17 04:41 PM
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The Netherlands
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Keselo Offline OP
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Hello dogperson

It helps me in keeping track of what I practiced the previous days, and gives me an indication for how many times I wish to repeat the chunk before moving on.

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me, because I'm not certain how well a chunk stays with me once I can play it well. This was initially my reason for keeping count, practice it a certain number of days and it's good. These thoughts feels very counter-intuitive now, especially after writing about letting go of these rigid systems because they don't work all that well...

I was scared of having to relearn things if I let them rest for too long, but maybe that isn't really an issue. After all, I'm soon enough playing it again when tackling the entire piece, and I truly hope my brain isn't so terrible that things slip away in a week...

I like your idea of post-it notes, too, wish I'd thought of that. Luckily I've got a big eraser lying around, so I'll use that instead to clear the clutter.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2665391
08/01/17 07:28 AM
08/01/17 07:28 AM
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The Netherlands
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Keselo Offline OP
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Monthly Review - July 2017

July was the month of the accompaniment. It was a month which saw the introduction of no less than four new composers. It was also, by a proverbial landslide, my most productive month yet.

June ended with, among other pieces, two works from Bartók’s ‘For Children’ in progress. I continued to work on it for some more days, but after talking it through with my teacher decided to put them aside for later. There were too many instructions, primarily dynamics, which I could not yet execute. That’s why we decided more practice with easier pieces would be a better way to spend my time.

It’s summer break time, so there haven’t been any lessons for the last three weeks. Lessons will restart in less than three weeks, so it’s not too bad. I was given plenty of material to work on, and we evaluated the priority the books that I’m working on have.

Bartók’s Mikrokosmos book 2 ended up highest on the priority list. Since my progress as a piano player is largely measured by my progress through this book, and the difficulty progression of this book is not harsh at all, it seemed reasonable to spend most time on this. I was also starting to run out of suitable supplementary material, so there’s that…

Most of what I played from this book this month, has revolved around familiarizing with playing accompaniments. More specifically, one hand accompanying the melody in the other hand. It seems very useful to learn this early on in my studies, and, while it has taken a lot of practice, it seems like progress is going well.

Like Mikrokosmos, Kunz Op. 14 ‘200 Small Canons’ has a very friendly difficulty curve, while also being very beneficial to my development. There’s still plenty to work through, but I feel like I’m getting close to ready for some real Baroque music (a feeling with which Bartók disagrees, as he recommends a student plays The Notebook for A.M. Bach once they work on Mikrokosmos book 4).

Gurlitt Op. 117 ‘The First Lessons’ is coming to a grinding halt. There’s still some music left to play, but the difficulty quite suddenly increases at No. 24. I’m currently at No. 21, but I’ve decided to let it rest in favour of other composers. I will certainly revisit the book, as I see it as an introduction to Mr. Gurlitt’s other works (and, more broadly, Romantic music in general).

Kabalevsky Op. 39 ‘24 Little Pieces’ is also getting a rest. Like Gurlitt Op. 117, the difficulty of the remaining pieces is too high for me right now. I really enjoyed playing Kabalevsky’s music, though, so I’m very keen to eventually return to this book, as well as the other 4 works that are in the bundle.

One of the new composers in my practice hours is Feliks Rybicki. A 20th century Polish composer, recommended to me by my teacher. She gave me a copy of a piece by him which she thought I’d enjoy, about which she was right. ‘Sad Autumn’ is the name of the piece, and it’s quite lovely. A simple right hand melody accompanied by broken chords in the left hand (recurring theme, anyone?). The broken chords are more complicated than I had played so far, but proved to be a manageable obstacle.

I was given the green light to start on Streabbog Op. 63 ’12 Very Easy and Melodious Studies’. A set of 12 études by Belgian composer Louis Gobbaerts. The pieces are nice enough, nothing earth shattering, though extremely useful. My ability to play scales has already improved quite a bit. I’m also getting much faster at reading (broken) chords, something I attribute mainly to this book. Hand shapes for some of the easiest chords are starting to get ingrained, which carries over into a lot of other material.

Another of my teacher’s recommendations, is Löschhorn Op. 181 ‘Kinder Etüden’. It’s very good reading practice, great for getting 6th and 7th intervals into muscle memory, and the pieces aren’t half-bad to listen to, either. Especially considering it’s beginner material, I’m very happy to be playing these.

Lastly, on the very last day of July, I started work on Attwood’s ‘Easy Progressive Lessons’. A set of 4 sonatinas, the first of which looks to be just about right in terms of difficulty for me. It feels quite special to be playing a sonatina, though there’s still a way to go before it’s anywhere near ready. I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to pretty much sightread the A section of the second movement. The broken chords in the left hand I had already practiced in other pieces.

Repertoire

Only two of my three favourites for this month come from Cornelius Gurlitt’s hand, the third piece being written by Kabalevsky.



I really enjoyed playing this one. I discovered rolling chords and played around with that a lot. The surprise added near the end, if anything, does make it authentic.



Quite an easy piece with both hands playing parallel to one another. Nevertheless very beautiful. It’s also this piece with which my teacher introduced to me the concept of phrasing.



This cradle song by Gurlitt took me way too long to complete to not include here. The first piece I completed in which the left hand accompanies with broken chords, something that is being thoroughly practiced in nearly everything that I play now. Despite a few small hiccups, I’m happy with how it turned out.

Looking forward

Piano lessons will resume, but first there will be a few more weeks of self-study. I’ll continue as I have for the past weeks, focussing the majority of my time on Bartók and Kunz.

July by the numbers

Since I’ve completely overhauled my ways of keeping track of pieces, these graphs will be a bit different from now on. Do not despair, it will lead to increased clarity, or so I hope.

[Linked Image]

At the start of the month I was still working on 17 pieces. I’ve made no distinction between pieces that I’m working on for an initial recording and for the video recording, both are grouped under ‘In Progress’. I’ve left out the two abandoned pieces from Bartók’s ‘For Children’.

The 32 pieces that I started working on in July, equal a total of 25 pages of music. It’s the same number of pages as back in May, but the difficulty of the pieces is definitely higher. This pleases me greatly.

[Linked Image]

This graph shows that most of my time this month was spent on Bartók and Kunz. I’m not too worried about the relatively high amount of works that are In Progress at the moment; this comes down mostly to my new practicing methods. I expect a lot of works in this category to get completed the coming week.

[Linked Image]

I’ve spent 57 hours behind the piano in July, just shy of a two-hour daily average. In the previous months this daily average was steady at 1.5 hours per day, so I’m extremely happy that I consistently managed an extra 30 minutes. My increased motivation due to getting better at playing definitely plays a big part in this.

If I had practiced for an entire month in the way I had for the last week, Mikrokosmos Book 2 and Kunz Op. 14 would’ve taken 50% of the total time spent. As said previously, Gurlitt Op. 117 and Kabalevsky Op. 39 will definitely get a lot less time in August, in favour of mainly Löschhorn Op. 181 and Streabbog Op. 63.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2669771
08/22/17 07:32 AM
08/22/17 07:32 AM
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Posts: 271
The Netherlands
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Keselo Offline OP
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The Netherlands
Lost and Found: Motivation

I have had terrible motivation problems in August. In July, I practiced for a total of 57 hours, so far in August I’m just up to 8 and a half. This also showed in my activity on this forum. I’d check it a few times a day, reading pretty much everything in the ABF, yet these last three weeks I didn’t feel the need to visit once. The difference is like night and day, and I found myself wondering what the cause of this loss of motivation could be.

Before, I couldn’t wait to get practicing, to make progress on my current works in progress. But for most of August, that feeling was nowhere to be found. If I sat down at the piano, I would lose interest within minutes, instead of having to drag myself away from the piano to take a much needed break.

For most of August, I thought this change was due to an inexplicable mood swing (either this, or a burn-out). I took quite a downswing, and since there was nothing that could hold my attention, why would the piano be any different? I accepted it for what (I thought) it was, confident that things would get better eventually, also bringing back my will to play.

Yesterday evening, I’ve thrown this explanation right out of the window. I had my first piano lesson in nearly six weeks, and while I had hopes that this would bring back my motivation, I knew it wouldn’t be a reliable and healthy source of motivation. Nothing motivates me more than me wanting to do something for myself; if I’d end up wanting to play to not disappoint my piano teacher, well, that wouldn’t last.

On my way back home from the lesson, however, I got thinking. With that thinking came explanations which seem to perfectly explain what’s been happening for the last few weeks.

The feedback loop had been cut.

While having weekly lessons, I would get swift feedback on my progress. I wouldn’t consider a piece completed until I’d played it for my teacher at least once; I greatly value her opinion, and the pointers which she gives prove time and time again to be the missing pieces which I couldn’t find myself.

I had been practicing for weeks, working on numerous pieces at a given time, but completing none. The act of completing pieces gives me a great deal of motivation; it’s one of the main things which keeps me wanting to learn new, harder stuff. Without her feedback, I felt like I wasn’t making progress. Rationally, I know I was making progress, but it didn’t feel like I was, and that feeling was a lot stronger than my rational thoughts.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2669786
08/22/17 08:58 AM
08/22/17 08:58 AM
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Pennsylvania
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dmd Offline
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Pennsylvania
you may be ready to take a break from the piano for a bit.

I would suggest not playing at all until you begin lessons again.

Hopefully, that will be sometime in September.

That might renew your energy and get you ready to begin lessons with great enthusiasm again.

Remember, this is a marathon (as in years and years).

I month off is not going to be critical to your progress in the long run, especially if you are sleep-walking through it.


Don

Casio PX-160, Mix 5 Five-Channel Compact Mixer, DR 880 Drum Machine, Spacestation v.3 Powered Stereo Monitor
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2669801
08/22/17 10:15 AM
08/22/17 10:15 AM
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The Netherlands
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Keselo Offline OP
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The Netherlands
I was indeed ready to take a break from playing the piano. I have already taken it, and can thus say that your advice strikes very true.

I've just finished my first proper day of practice in three weeks, and I once more felt the joy that I felt back in July. I had fun playing, experimenting, and learning, three things which couldn't hold my attention for even a bit the last few weeks.

I was very happy that it doesn't hinder progress to take a break. Pieces that were in progress are more easily played now than they were before my break. It's very motivating to know that it doesn't do any harm to take a break every now and then.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2669810
08/22/17 11:00 AM
08/22/17 11:00 AM
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Pennsylvania
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dmd Offline
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Originally Posted by Keselo
I was indeed ready to take a break from playing the piano. I have already taken it, and can thus say that your advice strikes very true.

I've just finished my first proper day of practice in three weeks, and I once more felt the joy that I felt back in July. I had fun playing, experimenting, and learning, three things which couldn't hold my attention for even a bit the last few weeks.

I was very happy that it doesn't hinder progress to take a break. Pieces that were in progress are more easily played now than they were before my break. It's very motivating to know that it doesn't do any harm to take a break every now and then.


Sounds like you are back in the game.

That is the MOST IMPORTANT thing .... to stay in the game.

If you just keep practicing (with professional help) and forget about how FAST you are progressing, you will get better. That is a fact.

If you start feeling depressed because you are not progressing FAST ENOUGH, that can lead to quitting.

So ... Just keep going. Take encouragement from your teacher, from success moments, from how you enjoy playing just for fun, whatever ... just keep going.

We all progress at different rates and in different ways ... but if we don't quit ... we all progress.

Good Luck


Don

Casio PX-160, Mix 5 Five-Channel Compact Mixer, DR 880 Drum Machine, Spacestation v.3 Powered Stereo Monitor
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2670579
08/25/17 10:59 PM
08/25/17 10:59 PM
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Virginia
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For me playing piano is about the journey. I started about 3 years ago at the age of 54 after playing as a child. Progression is gradual, sometimes it is difficult to see our own progression. One way is to record yourself. The studio I go to, the owner told me I had taken lessons longer than any other adult who started there, most leave because they thought it was going to be easy. Generally she informed me adults stay less than a year. Playing is good for mental health, stress reduction, memory recall, and dexterity. Enjoy the ride, the health benefits, and the personal growth. I look at it as, I am better than I was 3 years ago and had fun along the way. Deb


Deb
"A goal properly set is halfway reached." Zig Ziglar
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2670582
08/25/17 11:27 PM
08/25/17 11:27 PM
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That's an inspiring and helpful post DFSRN. I can understand your point about people quitting so quickly. I've only played a short while but played guitar for quite a while. While the instruments are different, the frustration is the same. Each little chip of the block of progress is a swell feeling.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2670632
08/26/17 07:30 AM
08/26/17 07:30 AM
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Dear Carolina Keys, I had an article published in a peer-reviewed journal (2016) the title "Prescription for Music Lessons" if someone can tell me how to make an attachment to the form I will upload my article next week. My article is not about music therapy, which is entirely different, it is about the health benefits of playing an instrument for older adults. I would love to share it.

My friends husband (50 years old), and left handed since birth, never told anyone, until I bought my piano, he always wanted to play. When asked why he never said anything, he said I only have one arm. His wife who is a healthcare provider told him that is not a limitation and talked with me about helping her find a piano. His wife bought him a Yamaha U3 last year from my piano tuner who rebuilds pianos. He has been refurbishing for about 25 years. To top it off I recently found a master's prepared pianist in Chicago who teaches piano to people with physical challenges by Skype, he will start lessons with him soon. My friend showed me a utube video of a person the teacher taught playing right handed due to a stroke. If you listened only, you would never know she was playing with one hand.

I find people are their own limitation. I think it is because we live in a society today that wants things now, instant gratification. Think of how technology has allowed instant access. However acquiring a skill takes time, patience, and discipline. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to quit my PhD program, during my journey I had numerous people tell me it was a waste of time and money, that 50% of people in PhD programs will not finish. That time investment and self- discipline is what I think discourages people to accomplish what they want. What you want, you have to want with a passion. Thanks for your response. Deb


Deb
"A goal properly set is halfway reached." Zig Ziglar
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: DFSRN] #2670666
08/26/17 11:56 AM
08/26/17 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by DFSRN
The studio I go to, the owner told me I had taken lessons longer than any other adult who started there, most leave because they thought it was going to be easy. Generally she informed me adults stay less than a year.
Sometimes people leave a studio because they don't like that particular teacher, and they can move to a different one much easier and quicker than a child. Your teacher's statistics only reflect her inability to retain adult students for longer than a year and not that most adult beginners quit within a year. My former teacher probably also believes I quit but it could not be further from the truth.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: DFSRN] #2670676
08/26/17 12:38 PM
08/26/17 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by DFSRN
I look at it as, I am better than I was 3 years ago and had fun along the way. Deb


I think that's well said. Ask yourself where you were when you started, compared to where you are at now. Sure I get frustrated at times and want to beat the crap out of the piano with a bat, but then I remind myself where I was 2 years ago at this time. Considering I didn't have a piano, wasn't thinking about or playing any piano, I should be quite happy. If I can suck a little less than yesterday, then that's progress. It's just a hobby, keep it fun.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2673403
09/07/17 04:16 AM
09/07/17 04:16 AM
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The Netherlands
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Keselo Offline OP
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Just a quick update.

Yes, I’m still playing. In fact, I’m back to being my overly-enthusiastic self when it comes to piano-playing, and I have no issues sitting down behind the piano every day for an hour or two.

My 3-week hiatus from piano playing has paid dividends which I didn’t even expect it to pay. It might have nothing to do with this break, and be more of a general improving as time goes on thing. I’m noticing a huge, sudden leap in my reading ability. I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t go looking for an explanation of this happening, other than ‘practicing works’, which, to be fair, it does.

A big part of my resurfaced motivation comes from my piano lessons. The feedback my teacher gives me is invaluable and allows me to progress in a way which I could never do on my own. It also motivates me to go the extra mile with a piece; if I really enjoy the sound of something I want to share it with her as soon as I can. Right now, this piece is the first movement of Attwood’s first Sonatina in G Major. I’m still some ways off from playing it properly but it still sounds great, even when played poorly.

One work which I think has been very important in this recent improvement is Löschhorn Op. 181 ‘Kinder Etüden’. It has programmed into my brain how to keep track of two ledgers at once, and this seems to be carrying over very well into other pieces. The music is also very pleasant to hear and very satisfying to play; I can’t say this enough, as I think it’s the most important part of improving. If you can’t enjoy what you’re doing, it won’t last.

On that note, I’ve taken a break from Kunz Op. 14 ‘200 Small Canons’. I will probably continue to preach this book, for I haven’t changed in my opinion that it’s a very useful book, but I grew bored of it. Playing through it became too much of an exercise, too much of a chore, and I try to avoid this. The time that I used to spend on this book has now become available for playing other music, which is quite lovely.

Mr Gurlitt has also made a reappearance. It’s been a month since I’ve played anything by him, and I stopped because his music suddenly got quite a bit more complicated. I can definitely notice improvement here, as after only three days of practice I’ve made quite a bit of progress on the first piece already.

There’s also a new composer in town, and I’m extremely happy to start playing some of his works. Op. 69 by Dmitri Shostakovich. He hasn’t written much material for beginning players, which is a shame, but what little he has written is a lot of fun. What I like about these 20th century Russian composers is how unique their works sound compared to anything else I play. This constant sensation of ‘What’s this then? Oh, wow, that sounds nice.’ It’s a feeling that’s very common when playing Bartók, and I imagine it will also be common when playing Prokofiev.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2680550
10/08/17 11:16 AM
10/08/17 11:16 AM
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Keselo Offline OP
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Speed vs Musicality

During my last lesson, I played the three movements of Attwood’s Sonatina in G Major. I’d been working for the past three weeks on getting it to speed; after all, the first and third movement are to be played ‘allegro’.

After I was done playing the first movement, my teacher asked me to evaluate. I told her how I’ve worked to get it up to speed, and while it’s getting there, I’m not completely happy with how steady it is, nor the fact that my left hand gets too loud at higher tempi. What followed was a 10-minute mini-lecture about how musicality should always be the leading factor in how you play. How allegro doesn’t mean ‘play so fast you sound like a robot’. How there are millions of people who can play a piece quickly, but they all sound the same, yet there are so very little people who can play the same piece beautifully, giving their audience an authentic sound.

I was very happy to hear all this. Not only did I find the process of slowly bringing the piece up to speed extremely frustrating, I was also very displeased about how my musicality was suffering. It’s true that I enjoy the Sonatina when it’s played at a higher tempo than I can currently manage, but only when it’s well played. Funnily enough, the only recordings that I liked were by professors, teachers, and advanced pianists.

So, I recorded the Sonatina this afternoon. It’s not as fast as I’d like, but in terms of musicality it’s the best I can do right now. Could I get it faster if I practiced for 2 months? Probably, yes. But to be quite honest with you, it’d drive me nuts. My teacher keeps assuring me that the ability to play at a higher tempo comes with experience, so I’m doing my best not to worry about it too much.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with the end result. Regardless of me not playing the “right” tempo, I’ve still learned a lot from this Sonatina.



Another piece for which I’ve done the same is Shostakovich’s Waltz from his Op. 69. The tempo marking in the book makes it a fast waltz, but I personally preferred it when played at around half that speed. It gave the waltz a more sentimental feeling, I think.



I'll try my best to care less about what the metronome marking on the page says, and more about what I think sounds good. Also accepting my current ability and not wanting to play better than I realistically can, as that will only end in poorly played pieces.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2681469
10/12/17 05:45 AM
10/12/17 05:45 AM
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Keselo Offline OP
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Catching up with graphs

This is an update that’s been long due. For some reason I never felt like typing it up. Part of this comes from setting the bar too high for myself; these monthly progress reports I’ve been posting are quite a bit of work to type up every month. I’m going to tone these down a bit. I’ll still specify my hours played, but I’ve stopped keeping track of exactly how many pieces I’ve played in which month. I’ll be able to provide you with some numbers on this by the end of the year, so if you are really excited about reading about that (lol), then you’ll have to wait some more.

Anyway, I’m still due the hours of August and September, so here they are. As said in previous posts, August wasn’t my best month in terms of piano playing, with motivation issues, depression, and a lack of lessons really taking their toll. With 17 hours of practicing my music, it wasn’t a great month.

[Linked Image]

I found my motivation in September. With 47 hours of practicing my music, things definitely went better.

[Linked Image]

Laying aside books

Onto the next matter. Two books that have features quite prominently these last few months will be laid aside indefinitely.

Löschhorn Op. 181 was a book that I was very enthusiastic about when I first started with it, but the last two weeks my opinion on the book has changed quite drastically. It’s good material for reading practice, but it just all sounds the same. I didn’t mind at first, because the sound of this work is unlike anything I had yet played, but as I progressed through the book every new piece just sounded like the one I’d just finished. And since I spent 20 minutes every day on this book, that got old pretty fast. So, I’ve laid it aside, in favor of Gurlitt Op. 101 and in anticipation of a big order of sheet music that’ll be delivered tomorrow.

Gurlitt Op. 117 will also not be finished. What I’ve played from this book made me very enthusiastic about Gurlitt’s music, but there were two issues here. The first and biggest issue is the fact that the music becomes really hard at No. 25. It’s like Gurlitt taught you how to bake a brownie, and suddenly expects you to bake a three-tier wedding cake. If I wanted to continue with this book, it’d have to wait a few months. However, therein lies the other issue: I like the sound of Gurlitt’s other music (Op. 101, 140, and 205) a lot more. And guess what? A lot of that is of a level that I can currently learn to play without too many issues.

Eating my own words


Back in May, when I started this thread, I said I’d try to prove that the following wasn’t needed to improve as a player.

Originally Posted by Keselo
Separately practicing arpeggios, scales, chord progressions, and similar things is a necessity to improving as a player.


I started a thread on Reddit two weeks ago, in which I asked about the benefits of these technical exercises. There’s some excellent advice in this thread, so I recommend anyone who’s interested in the subject to have a look at it. Long story short: it convinced me to suck it up and ask my teacher about scales and arpeggios. I’ve been practicing scales for 5 minutes every day, as we’re taking it slow to ensure proper technical execution.

There’s nothing wrong with being wrong, as long as you’re willing to do something about it.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2681763
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My music arrived. laugh

[Linked Image]

I reckon this should keep me busy for a week or two. Started working on Satie, Boyle, and Grechaninov.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2685255
10/26/17 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Keselo
My music arrived. laugh

[Linked Image]

I reckon this should keep me busy for a week or two. Started working on Satie, Boyle, and Grechaninov.


What's the publisher? I'm partial to Baerenreiter.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: JazzyMac] #2685277
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Originally Posted by JazzyMac
Originally Posted by Keselo
My music arrived. laugh

[Linked Image]

I reckon this should keep me busy for a week or two. Started working on Satie, Boyle, and Grechaninov.


What's the publisher? I'm partial to Baerenreiter.

It's all published by ABRSM. It's part of their series called 'Easier Piano Music'. According to my teacher they're very good publishers, and their focus on easier music is very welcome for me. I don't think Bärenreiter has much, if anything, of these works in their catalogue.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2686225
10/31/17 02:51 PM
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Monthly Progress Report – October 2017

As the final hours of October (spookily) come to an end, it is time for me to look back at the month of October in terms of piano practice. I’ve gotten a lot of practice done, worked on and completed a lot of material, and feel like I’ve made some good progress.


Practice routine

The first thing that comes to mind when looking back, is the fact that I’ve been using the same method of practicing for close to two months. Short sessions (20-30 minutes), which is a true and tested foundation of my practice, divided into 5-10 minutes parts. During such a part I practice one piece. I break every piece into chunks, which can be as small as one bar and as big as a whole section, containing multiple phrases. These chunks get practiced in isolation, and I focus on accuracy of notes played more than anything else, and I aim for playing five times with full accuracy before moving on (with the tempo being as low as needed). Ideas on phrasing and dynamics get introduced quite early, though what I want this dynamic and phrasing to be like mostly gets decided upon away from the piano. On paper, the only time I should play the entire thing through, is when I can get close to 100% accuracy with proper dynamics and phrasing. In reality, I still catch myself playing through something too often; it’s just so much fun.

I mentioned working on a piece away from the piano, this occurs in multiple ways. First, I record every piece which I can accurately play, to hear what it really sounds like. This often helps in getting my phrasing the way I want it. Also just reading the sheet, humming and really thinking about what I want from a piece can be really useful, and I should definitely be doing this more often.


New music

Not wholly unimportant, the music that I worked on this past month. With the arrival of a load of new material, it should be no surprise that a lot of new material gets played, and some older material was (temporarily) laid aside.

The first book that has been demoted to the coffee table is, perhaps surprisingly, Mikrokosmos book 2. There’s just 6 pieces left for me to play in this one, but I was getting a bit tired of it. Towards the end of the second book the music really failed to grab my attention, and it was with some reluctance every time I opened the book. That’s why I decided to lay it aside for a month. I’m looking to pick it back up towards the end of November.

Streabbog Op. 63 has also been laid aside for the time being. The material was simply getting a bit too advanced for me; I’ll get back to it in a month or three. Same story for Shostakovich Op. 69, though that may take a few more months.

Now, onto the new material. On the 4th I started working on Beethoven’s Russian Folk Song, as part of Reddit’s monthly Piano Jam. This is somewhat like the quarterly recital here, except that there’s a set list of material to choose from. The easiest piece on the list was, for the first time since I’ve started playing, easy enough for me to give it a go. Quite a lovely piece it turned out to be, giving me some good practice in playing repeated notes with alternating fingers.

On the 11th I started working on Gurlitt’s Op. 101. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the easiest pieces in this book were easier than the later pieces in his Op. 117, and a lot more fun. No. 2, Morning Prayer, is what I started working on first, which will be the piece I’m going to submit to the quarterly recital. I really love being able to play from this book now; when I looked at it six months ago I remember how hard to play it looked and it makes me realize how much progress I’ve made over these months.

On the 13th my big stack of music arrived, and on that day, I started working on three books. Satie’s albums for children, which I’ve played through already; it was kind of easy and not very interesting material, so I'm done with it. Boyle’s ‘In Times Past’ is a lot more interesting. It’s an album of modern music which has a very nostalgic sound to it. I think it’s right around grade 2 in terms of difficulty, and I’m loving every minute of progressing through it. Lastly, there’s Grechaninov Op. 98. I hadn’t heard of Mr Grechaninov before I unpacked these books, but I instantly fell in love with his writing. He has a quality which many of these 20th century Russian composers possess: making unique-sounding and hauntingly beautiful music. In fact, I like this album so much, I’ve gone right ahead and ordered another two books of his.

On the 14th I realized I had time to start working on some extra material. As I spent like 10 minutes on each book per day (this is mostly up to 15 now), I got to play a wide variety of styles. I started working on Salter’s ‘Easy Going Pieces’, which are a bit on the hard side (lots of hand movement), but the pieces are quite nice. Then there’s Dunhill’s ‘First Year Pieces’, which is absolutely lovely. It’s very impressive how some composers can do so much with so little notes, and Dunhill is definitely one of the better ones in this regard.

Then, on the 27th, which was when I ditched Mikrokosmos for the time being, I wanted to work on some preparatory Baroque material. I showed three books to my teacher: early Mozart, Haydn minuets, and Hässler Op. 38, and she decided that Hässler was the most appropriate for me now. The first three pieces were very easy, but the fourth is a very simple minuet which, despite its simplicity, gives me more trouble than I like. Means it’s good practice, though!

Today, I started working on Tansman’s ‘Happy Times Book 1’, but I have not played it enough to have formed an opinion on it to share with you folks.


Old music

Despite all the new music, there’s also some works from previous months that I’ve been working on.

Attwood’s Four Sonatinas is one of these books. I’ve been working on it for three months now, and it has really helped me certain aspects of my playing. Thanks to the frequent use of an Alberti bass accompaniment, I can pick this up very quickly in new material. While I still can’t play most of the material at the ‘desired’ tempo, I’ve definitely gained in terms of speed (without it costing me in terms of musicality). And, despite it being from the Classical period, I love playing it with rubato for expression. It’s not how it’s meant to be played, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t fun. Some parts just really lend themselves to a good slapping of rubato, though I’m always toning it down once I’m getting close to finishing a piece.

Khachaturian’s ’10 Pieces for Young Pianists’ plays nicely into my love for 20th century Russian composers. I’ve finished the first piece from the book, and I’m now getting close to finishing the second, which will become repertoire material in the future.


Favourite pieces

I’ve finished a lot of material in October, and managed to record and upload 14 of these pieces to YouTube. My favourite three from this month are the following.

Khachaturian’s ‘On The Trampoline’. A happy, bouncy piece which I almost abandoned after a week of practicing. Focused practice of small chunks is what made this piece eventually come together.



Boyle’s ‘The Governess Takes A Walk’. I found this quite a funny piece. It was easy to learn, allowing me to follow the dynamic markings.



Beethoven’s ‘Russian Folk Song’, which was simply too much fun to play to not mention.




Graph


[Linked Image]


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2686261
10/31/17 06:12 PM
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very interesting. very colourful !

you seem to have made a nice blog to keep your motivation going. just a word of warning, don't make the mistake i did and assume that numbers of pieces equals progress. i didn't have such a detailed analysis at all but i suspect you will see a change when you progress. i would expect that later you will you have to spend more time on pieces and do less of them. the more i have played, the more time i spend on pieces. i know it is counter-intuitive. i think this can be hard to learn, as you can think (at least i did) that doing less pieces means slower progress. this is perhaps why many give up. you can get frustrated as you are expecting to move on, but you are going slowly which is what you should be doing. after a long time i have learnt that going through piano in very small details is what makes you play a piece very well, as opposed to ok, so spending lots of time on a piece can be very good. going over and over and practicing sections, doing the dynamics, mentally can be hard. but this detailed practice is what makes music. i often spend 3-6 months on a piece with a teacher, nice music takes time like a tree. so in a year my number of pieces is quite small, but often what it takes. as some one said, think marathon not a sprint !

enjoy your journey!

Last edited by Moo :); 10/31/17 06:19 PM.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2686306
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Hello Moo, thank you for your comment.

I try to be wary of keeping a healthy quality vs quantity ratio going, and I expect myself to play a piece, within the limits of my current piano playing abilities, at least in a musical sense before I finish it. This month I managed to complete a lot of music, simply because it was a grade below my current ability, so it took relatively little time to learn and get to a good level. If I were to bring a piece to a 'recital-standard' (something I'll start doing with some pieces), I suspect I would indeed spend 6 months on it. This will include breaks during which I don't play the piece, to sort of let it rest like a fine wine.

Something which I want to try with how I approach this journey, is to not let harder material in the future take me longer. If it suddenly starts taking me 10 hours to learn a page of music, instead of the 3 hours it takes now, I'll simply assume I'm not ready for it. I don't know whether my vision will hold up, but that's part of the fun I think; not knowing whether you're right or not.



Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2688092
11/08/17 02:57 PM
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Using the metronome

These past few months, I generally shied away from using the metronome. Per my teacher’s advice, mostly, as my technique suffered once I turned the metronome on. Now that my technique is better ingrained, I feel ready to make use of this excellent tool. These past few days, I’ve made a start, netting some good results already.

I’ll mainly use it when practicing Hässler Op. 38. These Classical minuets really lend themselves to playing with a steady pulse and at a higher tempo than I usually manage. It feels like a training both physically and mentally. Learning how to properly play at a faster tempo without getting unneeded tension is the obvious thing that gets worked on. However, I was surprised that most of the barrier in getting to a higher speed is a mental one. The ability for your brain to process more and more quickly what’s on the page and how that translates to the fingers.

As with so many piano-related things, patience is key. Some days I can up the metronome by 10, sometimes just one or two ticks or even nothing at all. Only once I feel in control will I up the tempo. I mustn't rush or play unmusically. I’m okay with it sounding somewhat worse than without a metronome, but I must at least be able to adhere to my preferred dynamics and phrasing.

There’s a lot of room for me to improve on and benefit from my metronome usage. Aside from the Hässler Op. 38, I’m also using it with Salter No. 1 (a piece with lots of hand movement which is to be played quite fast. Upping the tempo little by little every day seems to be doing the job) and a Lullaby by Gurlitt (Op. 101 No. 6). This one is still rather counter-intuitive to me. I’m so tempted to play lullabies very slowly. The tempo marking in the book suggest it is played in a minute, yet it took 3 minutes to play. I wanted to work on the tempo mainly because I have no idea how it sounds when played faster, and I don’t want to listen to other people’s recordings as not to cloud my own vision of the piece. So, metronome practice seemed the only solution, and it works.

I realize that this is some of the most common advice given, but it often feels like you need to experience the benefits yourself before you can truly appreciate and utilize said piece of advice.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2693643
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Monthly Progress Report – November 2017

The eleventh month of the year has ended and so has my eleventh month of piano playing. A month in which I discovered the necessity of using a metronome. A month in which I restarted my work on repertoire material. And, a month in which I absolutely smashed my best month yet in terms of productivity.

Metronome practice

I already touched on this back on the 8th of November, but I’ve started working on practising with a metronome. Back then, I originally planned on using on just a few pieces. It took only a few days, however, for me to implement it on every single piece that I practice. You simply gain so much from being able to play a piece in a controlled way, at a low tempo, while actually staying in the proper rhythm. It adds maybe a bit of extra time to get a piece up to a standard which satisfies me, but the pieces are much better as a result. Which, coincidentally, has led to me upping my own standards on what I expect myself to achieve.

Repertoire

I’ve also reconsidered how I wish to treat pieces of music which I really like. This is the idea right now; I don’t know how it will hold up in the future, but since it spans 6 months, I’d rather talk about it right now.

Once I finish a piece for the first time, which most of the time means uploading it to YouTube into my Piano Progress playlist, I will let a piece rest for a month. After a month, I start working on it again. I start by playing the piece slowly (with a metronome) to make sure the memorization process which follows is entirely conscious. At this point, I’ll work on it up to a point which I feel is my limit as of right now. I’ll play it for my teacher and lay it aside for another two months. This is as far as I’ve gotten as of now, so I’m not sure how it will work out after these two months.

The idea is that I’ll have to do some additional memorization, though not as much as the first time. I hope that by memorizing a piece of music up to three separate times, it ends up being much better internalized in the end. So, after two months I do the same thing of bringing it to my current limit and then laying it aside, this time for three months. After three months, the same thing, again bringing it to whatever I’m capable of. At this point, I hope to have a piece of music which I can proudly and properly call a repertoire piece. I’ll upload to YouTube a much more definitive version of the piece, and try to keep it at the top of my head.

Music

This month’s biggest project was Gurlitt’s Op. 101. This children’s album contains music ranging from the late beginner to early intermediate stages, and I’m very pleased to make good progress through this book. On top of it all, his music is such fun to play. The pieces really feel like music which can stand on its own, which is quite refreshing after ploughing through some perhaps less interesting material for a few months.

I’ve also worked on the third sonatina from Attwood’s bundle of four easy sonatinas. Perhaps not the most interesting material, but I’ve learned lots from this book. I’ve finished the first three sonatinas now, and have laid the book aside for now. I’ll learn the fourth one in due time, but it’s a bit too hard for me as of now.

I’ve picked up Kabalevsky’s Op. 39 again. After allowing myself to work on some other material for a few months, I seem quite ready to work through this book to the end. His music is so delightful, like that of many of his Russian contemporaries.

The second book of Mikrokosmos has also found its way back into my practice routine. I only needed two or so weeks away from it before I began missing it. This book especially benefits from metronome practice as the pieces get quite hard, and speeding up too soon makes the pieces seem impossible while being patient and slowly upping the tempo bit by bit makes it a lot more manageable and enjoyable.

Grechaninov Op. 98 remains one of my favourites. The material is definitely some of the harder which I play, but it’s also very effective when played slowly. It’s simply perfect, and it makes me very excited to eventually start working on his other works, five of which I’ve recently bought.

Boyle’s ‘In Times Past’ is progressing surprisingly quickly. It doesn’t introduce many new concepts, though it does present old concepts in quite unique ways. It’s very encouraging to find I can quickly pick these old new things up.

With Dunhill’s ‘First Year Pieces’, I notice the value of playing material that is a grade or two below your current abilities. I’m able to put so much expression into these pieces, and since the pieces are absolutely wonderful, I look forward to practising this book every single day. I truly recommend this book, published by the ABRSM, to any beginning piano player.

Hässler Op. 38 I thought of as my preparation for Baroque music. It turns out to be closer to the Classical period, but it’s still good fun to play. The only downside is its quick progression curve, so I’ll end up picking it up and laying it aside quite frequently.

Tansman’s ‘Happy Times’ book 1 is one of my teacher’s favourites, which was reason enough for me to buy and try it. I do like the music. It’s very unlike Bartók, except for the fact how unconventional it is, which is the biggest difficulty the book presents. Still, the music is very nice, lots of it has a melancholic quality to it.

Favourite pieces

Of the 12 pieces that I’ve put recordings of on YouTube, these three are my favourites.

Hässler Op. 38 No. 4. This is the piece which best shows the value of practising with a metronome. I would have never managed to play it as fast or as evenly without it. With the help of my teacher, I’ve also managed to put in a tiny bit of expression without breaking the pulse of the piece.



Gurlitt Op. 101 No. 6. A lovely Lullaby. For some reason, Gurlitt wants his lullabies to be played quite fast; the tempo at which I play it is less than 50% of the intended tempo. I think it’s much more effective this way.



Dunhill ‘On the River Bank’. I ended up having to choose between the three Dunhill pieces which I’d recorded this month, and it was a proverbial coinflip which made this one come out on top.




[Linked Image]


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2693666
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Good work as always. I went back to the Aug post on motivation and read thru it and the replies again. There’s all kinds of good advice in those. I went thru the same motivation issues recently. Again, great job. Mb


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: monkeeys] #2693680
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Originally Posted by carolinakeys
Good work as always. I went back to the Aug post on motivation and read thru it and the replies again. There’s all kinds of good advice in those. I went thru the same motivation issues recently. Again, great job. Mb

Thank you very much!

It makes me so sad when I go through a period of low motivation, and in a way, it's good to know that others also go through it. You're never alone, and there are always folks ready to share some great advice. I hope you're back to the old you, giving that piano the love it deserves! laugh


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2694090
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I am thankfully. I have a back and arthritis issue that slows me at times but it’s lack of motivation , aka laziness, mostly. It comes and goes. I’ve noticed that when I’m in that rut sometimes I’ll hear something or run across things here in PW that will spark me. It’s not a constant battle as I love music but at times it’s depressing. Win or lose we keep on moving.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2694513
12/05/17 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Originally Posted by JazzyMac
Originally Posted by Keselo
My music arrived. laugh

[Linked Image]

I reckon this should keep me busy for a week or two. Started working on Satie, Boyle, and Grechaninov.


What's the publisher? I'm partial to Baerenreiter.

It's all published by ABRSM. It's part of their series called 'Easier Piano Music'. According to my teacher they're very good publishers, and their focus on easier music is very welcome for me. I don't think Bärenreiter has much, if anything, of these works in their catalogue.


On the contrary, you might want to check them out. I spent some time combing through their "Easy Pieces" selection once. It's debatable what one considers easy, however there is an overlap of composers with ABRSM and Baerenreiter. Check them out if you have time. I have posted a link where you can check out Debussy, but there are many under the same "Easy Pieces" title.

https://www.baerenreiter.com/en/shop/product/details/BA6573/

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: JazzyMac] #2694521
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Originally Posted by JazzyMac

On the contrary, you might want to check them out. I spent some time combing through their "Easy Pieces" selection once. It's debatable what one considers easy, however there is an overlap of composers with ABRSM and Baerenreiter. Check them out if you have time. I have posted a link where you can check out Debussy, but there are many under the same "Easy Pieces" title.

https://www.baerenreiter.com/en/shop/product/details/BA6573/

Thank you for the link. Unfortunately, the music by Debussy that Bärenreiter calls easy piano music, I call early advanced (late intermediate at best), which simply is too difficult for me.

I will peruse their site to see if they have some good additions to my collection (as if I don't have enough sheet music as is laugh ).


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2694651
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Originally Posted by JazzyMac

On the contrary, you might want to check them out. I spent some time combing through their "Easy Pieces" selection once. It's debatable what one considers easy, however there is an overlap of composers with ABRSM and Baerenreiter. Check them out if you have time. I have posted a link where you can check out Debussy, but there are many under the same "Easy Pieces" title.

https://www.baerenreiter.com/en/shop/product/details/BA6573/

Thank you for the link. Unfortunately, the music by Debussy that Bärenreiter calls easy piano music, I call early advanced (late intermediate at best), which simply is too difficult for me.

I will peruse their site to see if they have some good additions to my collection (as if I don't have enough sheet music as is laugh ).

I agree, and as of now, the "Easy Pieces" collection I have are merely just part of my library--never read. Perhaps I'll check out the ABRSM instead!

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2706547
01/19/18 03:55 PM
01/19/18 03:55 PM
Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 271
The Netherlands
K
Keselo Offline OP
Full Member
Keselo  Offline OP
Full Member
K

Joined: Mar 2017
Posts: 271
The Netherlands
First of all, I decided against posting a review of December 2017. Not a lot of new things happened during this month, I didn't start any new books, and I recorded only three pieces. I did, however, buy a new piano, which is pretty nice. It got tuned two days ago, and I'm looking to start recording again tomorrow. Whoo!

End of the Year Review

When I started playing the piano just over a year ago, I decided to keep track of some things regarding my practice. The recordings that I’ve made throughout the year are part of this, and another part of this is me keeping track of my hours practised. I’ve made some simple graphs to review my piano playing year of 2017, which is what I’ll share with you here. Any commentary will be added below the image.

[Linked Image]

By far the biggest chunk of my time went to learning new music. Since this is the main focus of my “nothing is too easy” approach to the piano, this is hardly surprising. All in all, I’m very happy to have clocked 555 hours practising during my first year of studies.

For 2018, I’m looking to spend more time on my technique. This is something I’m already working on.

[Linked Image]

This is what it looks like per month. In February I nearly injured myself trying to play material that was too hard for me. In March I tried to self-teach, and in April I started with my new teacher. The dip in August I’ve talked about quite a bit in this thread already.

[Linked Image]

This is to give you an idea of what I did during my first three months. Lots of material that I couldn’t finish for various reasons, and four more pieces which took 8 to 14 hours to learn. During the final three quarters of the year there was not a single piece of music which took nearly as long.

All the following graphs only apply to April-December 2017.

[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

My total time per piece sorted by book and by composer. It isn’t very surprising how Bartók dominates both lists; I use his Mikrokosmos as my method book, after all. These graphs don’t say too much by themselves, and it indeed gets more interesting when we dive a bit deeper.

[Linked Image]

My pieces per composer, which adds up to 235 pieces of music learned in 9 months. This, in turn, sums up quite well what I’ve been trying to do for the last 9 months. Learn lots of relatively easy material to improve technique in a controlled manner and constantly work on reading and expression. Do note that quite some pieces are very short (8 measures), but I didn’t feel like adding a minimum length for something to count as a piece, so I just went with this.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Finally, my average time per piece sorted by book and by composer. The comparison between these graphs and the one of the first 3 months is especially striking. Not just in terms of amount of material learned, but also when looking at the average time per piece. Even the clear outliers, Petzold’s Minuet in G and Rybicki’s ‘Sad Autumn’, don’t come close to the four biggest pieces of the first months. That demonstrates quite well the difference between using your reading ability to learn new music, and solely relying on memorization.

Now, there are a few outliers in these last two graphs.

The piece from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach is something I just completed (waiting for my piano to get tuned to record it). This took a lot of time to learn because it was the first piece to introduce ornaments. Ornaments ain’t no joke, but I’ve gotten a lot better at them.

Rybicki’s Sad Autumn was another piece that was, at the time, relatively hard. It has a quite complex left-hand accompaniment, which was very hard to read.

On the right side, you’ll find Kunz Op. 14. These are the 8 measure pieces I was talking about. Many of these took just one or two weeks to learn, with two or three minutes of practice per day. Türk and Satie also very little time per piece. The first few from the Türk book were also 8 measure long pieces, which I’ve learned a few weeks ago. Had I learned these 6 months ago, they would have definitely taken longer, though. Satie was just very easy (though, I now realize I didn’t get from this book what I could and should’ve.

I’m actually fairly surprised by the number of books which have an average of 1-1.5 hour per piece. The books by Kabalevsky, Boyle, and Gurlitt definitely feel harder than they appear to be here. This probably comes down to these three books all starting very easy.

The pieces that took 2-3 hours on average is what I’d call the true level-appropriate material. Challenging, but not too much so. Now, as the books include more pieces, the easier material at the beginning compensates for the harder material near the end. The prime example here is Mikrokosmos Book 1; the first 20 or so pieces were very easy, while the last five were, in relative terms, perhaps the most challenging things I've learned thus far.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
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