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Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey #2645728
05/21/17 01:58 PM
05/21/17 01:58 PM
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Keselo Offline OP
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Last month, I started lessons with my new teacher, and she immediately made me ditch my current practicing methods. She teaches a very specific playing technique, as not to “corrupt” her efforts, my full effort was on learning her ways. We started working on Bartók's Mikrocosmos Book 1. I was four months in, having started this January, so I could read the first 10 or so pieces fairly easily. But that wasn't good enough. These pieces are so easy, that she required me to achieve two things:

1. Make every piece sound like music.
2. Don't (consciously) memorize a piece.

Making a piece sound like music is done by using the technique that she teaches; it allows me to play freely. A lot of practice is needed, both for making sure I adhere to her technique, and for getting the piece to sound just the way that I want. Using this technique is only possible when you're in control; it can't be executed without a proper balance between relaxation and tension.

Because I can't consciously memorize the piece, I'm forced to keep my eyes on the page if I want to play it. Yes, eventually I'll know the piece through sheer repetition, but by that time I've read the score 20, maybe even 30 times in about a week. I get a very good understanding of the piece that I'm playing. This is, I think, essential to becoming a better sight reader. Additionally, because of my high exposure to sheet music (I'm playing from a sheet about 95% of my playing time), I simply get more used to reading it. You start to recognize patterns, instead of seeing the individual notes. I think that learning to identify these patterns is more easily done by getting a deep understanding of one piece, rather than reading 10 different ones once. Anything you learn or reinforce with one piece, you'll take in some shape or form to your next piece. This is very apparent while working through Mikrocosmos.

Mikrocosmos starts out very simple. Both hands play in parallel motion, one octave apart. One note up or down at a time. Legato playing. These pieces were easy enough; I didn’t learn anything new from them, but I still reinforced the previously mentioned fundamentals.

From piece #9, things weren’t so easy anymore. New skills were added, one at a time. But still, lots of reinforcing. These new skills, things like syncopation, playing with alternating hands, and change of position, I could practice in an isolated manner. Because I only had one problem to solve, I could quickly play the piece through, sight reading it very slowly, making sure to always stay in control.

At piece #22 came counterpoint, something that tripped me up in the past and that I saw no way I could ever sight read. But, the very conscious and thorough practice of the previous #21 pieces, made sure that my fundamentals were up to par. It took two days of isolated hands alone practice (of course, sight reading the whole time), before I could play it through very slowly with both hands. One week later, and it was up to speed, sounded like music, and I’d stopped panicking every time directions started changing. This might have been due to me memorizing through sheer repetition, but regardless I did learn a lot from it.

Now, two weeks later, I have a pretty easy time with simple melodies containing counter point. It’s not yet at a point where I can immediately sight read them, but I don't need any hands alone practice, either.

It is these results that have gotten me curious as to where this might bring me. The benefits of playing a lot of different music is widely accepted here, but still, I feel like everyone is working on these big projects. What will happen if I continuously play this relatively easy material, without working on this harder material? Will I continue to improve as I have, both as a sight reader and overall as a piano player?

With this method, I question some widely recommended tips for getting better as a player, these include:
- One must play relatively hard material to improve as a player.
- Separately practicing arpeggios, scales, chord progressions, and similar things is a necessity to improving as a player.
- You improve as a sight reader by playing a lot of different material that you can sight read (relatively) easily. It is important not to play the piece more than once or twice before moving on.

That is what I will keep track of in this thread. I very much appreciate discussion on the subject, so do not refrain from commenting if you think that I’m being ridiculous or in other ways wrong. Do note that I am a beginning player, so the chances that I'm wrong are fairly realistic to say the least. Still, I think regardless there are lessons to be learned from a method like this.

Appropriate updates get posted in threads like FOYD and the 40-piece challenge, everything that doesn’t fit there, as well as general updates, will be found here.

Last edited by Keselo; 05/21/17 02:03 PM.

Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2645751
05/21/17 02:30 PM
05/21/17 02:30 PM
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Hi Kesolo,

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

There are similarities and differences in our manner off studies.

The fundamental similarity is that we are both cultivating our skills by continually studying the simple pieces and by doing this we develop deeper and deeper awareness of the music, the instrument, and ourselves.

Where we may differ is that I do not attempt to control anything, i.e. use willfulness. Nor do I seek balance between tension and relaxation. I only seek (feel) flow between my imagination and the instrument and then back again. Unobstructed flow (like water) achieves is own natural balance. It is very real and can be felt, but it a is much more ethereal (spiritual in nature) than muscular movements and permits my creative energy to flow unencumbered.

It takes time and patience to develop this flow, but for me it's worth it. Similarly, your own explorations will undoubtedly yield significant and worthwhile rewards. Wishing you the best with your studies!

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2645806
05/21/17 06:21 PM
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Quote
Last month, I started lessons with my new teacher, and she immediately made me ditch my current practicing methods. She teaches a very specific playing technique, as not to “corrupt” her efforts, my full effort was on learning her ways. We started working on Bartók's Mikrocosmos Book 1. I was four months in, having started this January, so I could read the first 10 or so pieces fairly easily. But that wasn't good enough. These pieces are so easy, that she required me to achieve two things:

1. Make every piece sound like music.
2. Don't (consciously) memorize a piece.


I do not have to read any more. I would advise you to hang on to this teacher. She will turn you into a fine player.

You are very lucky to have found her .... Good Luck


Don

Current: ES8, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD598 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2645810
05/21/17 06:38 PM
05/21/17 06:38 PM
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My vote is to stick with the progression of skills like you are doing with your teacher and not consciously go out and seek something above your level As the skills come, the difficulty level will naturally increase And you will find it to be a manageable task rather than a struggle that you cannot play well.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: dogperson] #2645862
05/21/17 09:46 PM
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I wouldn't get intimidated by what seems like big projects- they are, but that may not be all they are working on. I have some big projects, but I also learn a lot by playing easier pieces. There is always something to learn (and a reminder that I should be honest with myself in the bigger projects) - faster tempo, better hand positions, more accurate voicing of the parts - because I'm not tangled up in knots over the technique.

I second the opinion above - this teacher sounds like a winner!


Mason & Hamlin A ('97)
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2645903
05/22/17 01:30 AM
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Richrf, I think the end result of our methods in terms of technique might be more similar than you think; you simply managed to word it way better than I could.

dmd, I 100% agree with how lucky I am to have found her. Thanks for your encouraging words.

dogperson, that is indeed the point of this project. I can't be sure whether my teacher will desire me to aim a bit higher in terms of relative difficulty in the future, but I hope to keep on going like this. I might have worded it a bit poorly in my original post, but the three bullet points near the bottom are things I do not agree with.

Medved, bigger projects may not intimidate me as such, I rather question how time-efficient working on these projects is. If my hypotheses about these relatively easier pieces holds up, then working on bigger projects will hold back one's progress. I obviously can't be sure if this holds up, and if it does up until which level of ability, but I'm very keen on finding out.

Last edited by Keselo; 05/22/17 01:33 AM.

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] #2645939
05/22/17 08:03 AM
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I’m a sucker for completing things. I like the idea of completing something, of getting everything I can from it. This was very noticeable in my years before playing the piano; I was constantly playing video games and I was obsessed with completing so called ‘achievements’. These virtual medals provided me with zero value, other than a visual representation of a certain amount of time spent on a certain activity and a good feeling that I’d done it.

It is odd, in that regard, that I hardly ever completed projects like this. I liked the idea of completing something, but I would lose interest before I ever got to that point. With video games, this was usually due to a few of these achievements requiring an enormous amount of dedication. Dedication to a usually very dull, repetitive and non-interesting activity. I liked the idea of completing it, but I couldn’t be bothered to put the actual effort in.

So, for this piano project to be successful, things must change. Either internally or externally something must differ from the way I approached these goals in my video games. How can I make sure that I remain dedicated?

First, the internal process. I see this as changing myself or a mindset in some way, shape, or form. First and foremost, it’s of the utmost importance that I remain myself. It’s a lot easier than constantly making sure I’m being something or someone that I’m not, if that makes sense. Over the years I’ve tried, with mixed success, changing things about myself, as I’m very critical of my own behaviour, performances, and habits. The only changes that stuck, were changes that I made to my habits.

Internally, there’s only so much we can really change about ourselves. You can’t change who you are, and there’s only so much you can do to change what you like. To go on and dedicate yourself to something that you don’t believe in takes a lot of willpower, and takes away from the eventual satisfaction or happiness that you derive from it. To that end, I’m not trying to change anything about myself on that deep a level. So, let’s talk about habits.

Changing a habit is easy enough. Once you know how a habit works (Cue, Activity, Reward), it’s easy to identify a habit-cycle and change it to something desirable. Changing habits isn’t an unnatural process from a personality point of view. An undesirable habit may have formed from a personality trait that you don’t like about yourself, but, regardless of its origin, changing a habit does not equal trying to change who you are. As such, changing undesirable habits to desirable habits, or simply adding desirable habits into your daily life, is something sustainable. There’s a relatively low chance of inner conflict, as long as the will to change a habit comes from within, and not an outside force (parent, spouse, teacher, boss).

A good example of creating a new habit that many of you will be familiar with, is playing the piano. At some point, you started adding it into your daily routine, as daily practice is the best way of improving. Every day, you’d get some kind of Cue (i.e. thinking “I want to play the piano”, “I should practice”, seeing the piano, scheduling it and keeping to your schedule). This cue leads to the Activity, in this case sitting down and executing your practice routine for the day. When done with the practice, there is a Reward, and this can be all kinds of small things. A good feeling because you practiced, a nice cup of tea, watching your favourite show, logging practice hours on this website. It doesn’t have to be something big like eating a tub of ice cream, which, admittedly, is nice, but is recommended against for a variety of reasons.

What we do when we sit behind the piano is as much of a habit as the more general idea of practicing is. Think of it as a habit within a habit. You sit down behind the piano, because it’s your practice time (this is the “main” habit). For the next 20 minutes, you’re practicing scales, chord progression, and arpeggios, like you do every day (habit within a habit). This habit, most people know as practicing, is the first habit that has turned 180 degrees since I started my lessons. Since I’m constantly graduating material to the ‘done’ pile, my practice routine doesn’t change day to day, but the material changes daily. My thought process should always be: “what needs work today, and what doesn’t”, instead of: “what must I do today.”

This is a way which, hopefully, combats my inability to dedicate myself when I’m not interested in what I’m doing. By actively thinking, every day anew, what needs work and what doesn’t, I connect to my practice. Thinking about what I specifically want to improve, reviewing my practice at the end of the day, and having regular progress updates (recordings and lessons), help me in keeping my eyes on the prize, so to say. I don’t do things because I must do them, I do things because I want to do them.

To this end, it is very helpful to make progress that is easily and regularly measurable. My conclusion in this regard, is that working on 10 easier pieces will result in more regular and steady progress, opposed to working on 2 harder pieces. With a small piece, I start hearing music within a few days, and it’s ready to record in a week. If, at that point, I don’t like it, that’s fine. I’ve learned from it, I’ve completed it, and I can move on. If I do like it, great, I can add it to my repertoire and continue learning from it.

To come back to my video games analogy, a larger piece is the achievement which required a lot of dedication to one thing, often very repetitive and dull. Feeling like you must practice, because you might otherwise lose progress. Feeling that you make very little progress, when practicing the same 4 measures for weeks on end. Feelings of despair, when for every problem that you solve, two new ones arise. These easier pieces are more like the easier achievement. You put some honest effort in, make noticeable, daily progress and, after one or two weeks, you get the boost of having a satisfactory recording.

Back to completing things, where does this leave me? Well, hopefully, I get to a point where I routinely complete Opuses. At my current work rate, I work on getting anywhere between 10 and 20 pieces ready for recording. If I can keep this up, while also being able to play harder and harder material as time goes on, I get exactly what I want from a hobby. I get to complete stuff, I make measurable progress, and I have a lot of fun while doing so.


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] #2645940
05/22/17 08:06 AM
05/22/17 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Keselo

With this method, I question some widely recommended tips for getting better as a player, these include:
- One must play relatively hard material to improve as a player.
- Separately practicing arpeggios, scales, chord progressions, and similar things is a necessity to improving as a player.
- You improve as a sight reader by playing a lot of different material that you can sight read (relatively) easily. It is important not to play the piece more than once or twice before moving on.

1. I do not agree about playing relatively hard material to improve. Most of what you play should be at or below your current level of playing, adding one concept at a time. Once in a while, doing a stretch piece that you absolutely love is worthwhile, but the stretch should be reasonable - only 2 or 3 new concepts/skills. By "one in a while", I mean maybe once per year or even less frequent.

2. I do think that scales, chords and arpeggio practice is very helpful for many different genres. It is possible that your teacher will eventually add these to your practice routine. Every teacher has different ideas as to when to do these, but from what you've said, I would be very surprised if she never adds them. She sounds like a very good teacher.

3. I agree with this, however, the most benefit comes from learning pieces as a beginner, not sight reading them. Sight reading comes later, but being able to recognize patterns and execute them depends upon really having learned them, not just played through them once or twice. The practice of sight reading should generally happen a bit later in studies, maybe after a year or two. There's no harm in exposing oneself to playing different short pieces that are below your current level of playing for the sake of sight reading, but most of the improvement in this area comes from learning music.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Morodiene] #2645942
05/22/17 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene

1. I do not agree about playing relatively hard material to improve. Most of what you play should be at or below your current level of playing, adding one concept at a time. Once in a while, doing a stretch piece that you absolutely love is worthwhile, but the stretch should be reasonable - only 2 or 3 new concepts/skills. By "one in a while", I mean maybe once per year or even less frequent.

2. I do think that scales, chords and arpeggio practice is very helpful for many different genres. It is possible that your teacher will eventually add these to your practice routine. Every teacher has different ideas as to when to do these, but from what you've said, I would be very surprised if she never adds them. She sounds like a very good teacher.

3. I agree with this, however, the most benefit comes from learning pieces as a beginner, not sight reading them. Sight reading comes later, but being able to recognize patterns and execute them depends upon really having learned them, not just played through them once or twice. The practice of sight reading should generally happen a bit later in studies, maybe after a year or two. There's no harm in exposing oneself to playing different short pieces that are below your current level of playing for the sake of sight reading, but most of the improvement in this area comes from learning music.

I find it equal parts encouraging and confusing to find people agreeing with me here. I'm fairly active in another piano community (Reddit), and most of the people around there vehemently disagree with these thoughts.

As to your second point, maybe, probably, yes. While she has not yet talked about these exercises, this may indeed come at a later time. I do practice these things non-consciously when improvising, which is something else she actively encourages, so I do hope that acquiring these skills by improvising is feasible.

For your third point, I do not quite understand what the difference is between sight reading and learning pieces as a beginner (at least the way I'm doing it). If I actively read the sheet while playing, don't I essentially sight read while learning the music? As I said, the music isn't easy enough that I can immediately play it, so isolated practice is needed. But once that's done, I sight read the piece until I'm satisfied, no more than three times a day over the span of 1 to 2 weeks.

Last edited by Keselo; 05/22/17 08:22 AM.

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] #2645947
05/22/17 08:31 AM
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Sight-reading is, officially, to see a piece for the very first time and play it at once. The second time you see a piece you can't officially sight-read it anymore.

Some people think that sight-reading is playing a piece while keeping an eye on the music and never on your hands. But that's not sight-reading.

Last edited by J van E; 05/22/17 08:32 AM.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: J van E] #2645954
05/22/17 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by J van E
Sight-reading is, officially, to see a piece for the very first time and play it at once. The second time you see a piece you can't officially sight-read it anymore.

Some people think that sight-reading is playing a piece while keeping an eye on the music and never on your hands. But that's not sight-reading.


THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the most mis-understood concept that is discussed in this forum.

This should be set in STONE somewhere.

Sight-Reading is playing a piece of music at FIRST SIGHT !!!!!!!!!!!!! You can only do this ONCE on a piece of music.

The next time you look at the notation it is not at FIRST SIGHT because you have already previously seen it.

So from there on you are simply READING the music as you play it. You are not sight-reading it.


Don

Current: ES8, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD598 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: J van E] #2645955
05/22/17 08:52 AM
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Okay, so keeping that definition of sight reading in mind.

I feel like I improve my sight reading, without specifically practicing it. I can sight read material that I couldn't a month ago, which counts as improvement as far as I'm concerned. I don't go out of my way to play pieces which I can actually sight read, which is what is usually recommended when people want to improve their sight reading. Theoretically, my progress is not very strange; what I'm doing may not be sight reading (strictly speaking), but I'm still doing many of the same things. Playing while reading, recognizing patterns, playing relatively easy material.

That is what I want to keep on doing, by means of experiment. Continually play this material that's just beyond my sight reading capabilities, but still easy enough that I can read along while playing, and use this as a method to become a better sight reader (and, more broadly, a well-rounded pianist).


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] #2645963
05/22/17 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Okay, so keeping that definition of sight reading in mind.

That is what I want to keep on doing, by means of experiment. Continually play this material that's just beyond my sight reading capabilities, but still easy enough that I can read along while playing, and use this as a method to become a better sight reader (and, more broadly, a well-rounded pianist).



I believe I understand the skill that you are attempting to nurture to become a well-rounded pianist, but this goal may not be shared by everyone who is studying the piano. For example, in my studies, I am looking to learn to hear music clearly on my imaginative mind so that I can creatively express new music via my gestures through the piano which are non-habitual. The motivation to learn is not habit but rather is creativity (non-habit). In this way I hope to nourish the artist within myself. In a broad manner each person studying the piano may see their studies in a different light and thus approaches it in a different manner.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: J van E] #2645969
05/22/17 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by J van E
Sight-reading is, officially, to see a piece for the very first time and play it at once. The second time you see a piece you can't officially sight-read it anymore.

Some people think that sight-reading is playing a piece while keeping an eye on the music and never on your hands. But that's not sight-reading.
This is correct. It is often misunderstood the difference between reading music and sight reading music. I blame the term "sight reading", but since that is what it's called, we're stuck with it.

edited to add: While these two skills are obviously linked, "sight reading" specifically has to do with being able to play a piece at tempo the first time through, with dynamics and articulations. Sight reading is generally at an easier level (or two) below what you are capable of learning to play. Sight reading is not just being able to play a piece the first time but at a much slower tempo. This latter skill is what students do for pieces they are learning/reading.

Originally Posted by Keselo
I find it equal parts encouraging and confusing to find people agreeing with me here. I'm fairly active in another piano community (Reddit), and most of the people around there vehemently disagree with these thoughts.
Do you mean that the majority of people in this other community encourage playing hard material in order to improve? I'm not quite clear on what you're saying.


Last edited by Morodiene; 05/22/17 10:18 AM.

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: dmd] #2645971
05/22/17 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by dmd

Sight-Reading is playing a piece of music at FIRST SIGHT !!!!!!!!!!!!! You can only do this ONCE on a piece of music.


Except when your memory is as bad as mine. Then it's sight reading every time!


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2645973
05/22/17 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Keselo


To come back to my video games analogy, a larger piece is the achievement which required a lot of dedication to one thing, often very repetitive and dull. Feeling like you must practice, because you might otherwise lose progress. Feeling that you make very little progress, when practicing the same 4 measures for weeks on end. Feelings of despair, when for every problem that you solve, two new ones arise. These easier pieces are more like the easier achievement. You put some honest effort in, make noticeable, daily progress and, after one or two weeks, you get the boost of having a satisfactory recording.
If I perceived practice as never ending suffering and struggle and forcing myself daily to do some unpleasant activity in order to get high in the form of a recording I think I would avoid piano at all costs.

I view practice as an integral part of studying piano and, even bigger, studying music. What can be dull about that?

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2645975
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I aim to do the same things as you, Richrf. I do not consider a piece well learnt if I can play the notes in the correct order. Habit is not the end goal, nor is it as mechanical as it might seem from what I've written. Habit is an important component of being able to quickly pick up new pieces.The sooner my brain figures out which keys need to be pressed, the sooner it can focus on all the other stuff that comes with playing a piece of music. Of course, no two pieces of music are the same, so the way I press the exact same series of keys in two different pieces can, and indeed will, be different. Habit in playing is also not that set in stone. It is much more comparable to reading a text in English, where you learn to recognize words and phrases, but the way you interpret them always depends on the broader context.

Hearing the music on my imaginative mind, as you so eloquently put it, is one of the key components of my learning process. I find myself singing pieces more and more (I even choose to believe that my singing is improving, though that might just as well be wishful thinking), exploring the possibilities of the set of notes that the composer wrote down. Singing helps me identify exactly what the piece is in my mind, what I want from it, and helps me to translate it to the keys.


Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2645978
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Originally Posted by PerAspera
If I perceived practice as never ending suffering and struggle and forcing myself daily to do some unpleasant activity in order to get high in the form of a recording I think I would avoid piano at all costs.

I view practice as an integral part of studying piano and, even bigger, studying music. What can be dull about that?

Absolutely, I 100% agree with you.

It's not practice in general, it's the way you practice. I would despise the idea of having to do scales, arpeggios, and sight reading exercises for 30 minutes every day. The same thing goes for these relatively hard pieces that take months to get to a proper level, that would be extremely bad for my overall motivation. If I can make similar (or even bigger) improvements, but by doing things that I like, I prefer going that route.

That route is my current routine of just playing a load of relatively easy music, learning from every piece what I can. This all while maximizing the efficiency of the time I put into it. I improve, I have fun, and I get a load of satisfaction when I manage to get a good recording of the piece.


Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: dmd] #2646037
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Originally Posted by dmd
THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the most mis-understood concept that is discussed in this forum.

This should be set in STONE somewhere.

Sight-Reading is playing a piece of music at FIRST SIGHT !!!!!!!!!!!!! You can only do this ONCE on a piece of music.

The next time you look at the notation it is not at FIRST SIGHT because you have already previously seen it.

So from there on you are simply READING the music as you play it. You are not sight-reading it.

I'm not sure why such an emphasis, as though it had never before been stated. I have written about this innumerable times. I'm sure I haven't been alone. I do agree that this matters a great deal.

The more important thing is WHEN and WHY to aim for prima vista sight reading.
Imho, the first skills should be READING SKILLS - and that includes skills that go into reading skills. Sight reading is a specialized skill that is used, for example, by accompanists. The tricks used for learning to sight reading are contrary to - destructive to what is needed for getting primary reading skills. For example, skipping notes and not caring about wrong notes as you try to stay at tempo is not conducive to getting a handle on those notes. For primary reading skills you want to be able to associate a written note with the piano key, and be able to make an instant and accurate beeline for the piano key. You want to have an understanding of what you are doing before you spring into action, and that means taking the time to acquire it. Skimming past stuff for the sake of staying at tempo is counterproductive. It is a later skill.

There IS a READING skill that we do want to have early. When I have a new piece of music, I want to be able to study it, and explore this or that section of it to see what I need to work on, where difficulties are, etc. Here I might study the music - write in little notes - and go over it various ways. I want to be able to at least slowly play over sections, and I don't want to have to rely on a crutch like a CD or listening to it being played on the Internet.

"Sight reading" in the prima vista sense is a specialized skill that comes later.

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2646050
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What is 'later' in your opinion? When all notes are memorized and usually not missed during a go through of a piece? Or after a specific time frame? A year, two? I only ask because I just started a Sight Reading set of books by Bastien. I've been playing for about one year now. Maybe I should wait?


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2646052
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Originally Posted by PerAspera
If I perceived practice as never ending suffering and struggle and forcing myself daily to do some unpleasant activity in order to get high in the form of a recording I think I would avoid piano at all costs.

I view practice as an integral part of studying piano and, even bigger, studying music. What can be dull about that?

That route is my current routine of just playing a load of relatively easy music, learning from every piece what I can. This all while maximizing the efficiency of the time I put into it. I improve, I have fun, and I get a load of satisfaction when I manage to get a good recording of the piece.

Don't you get bored though? I mean, if I'm not playing something that is making my head really think while I'm playing, it just doesn't seem fun. Maybe I'm a masochist and don't know it. wink


~ M.P.

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: DutchTea] #2646055
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Originally Posted by DutchTea
What is 'later' in your opinion? When all notes are memorized and usually not missed during a go through of a piece? Or after a specific time frame? A year, two? I only ask because I just started a Sight Reading set of books by Bastien. I've been playing for about one year now. Maybe I should wait?
What repertoire are you playing? I think it should be not so much and emphasis until you get to intermediate levels.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2646061
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I'm certainly not playing intermediate pieces yet. So, hold off then? I'm fine with that; just don't want to neglect something that is helpful in learning piano in general.


~ M.P.

Learning piano on our patient Kawai baby grand who has been waiting for me to get serious for 10+ years. smile
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: DutchTea] #2646067
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Originally Posted by DutchTea

Don't you get bored though? I mean, if I'm not playing something that is making my head really think while I'm playing, it just doesn't seem fun. Maybe I'm a masochist and don't know it. wink

So far, every piece that I've played has had its challenges, both technically and in terms of expressing musicality. Working on the technical aspect is the first part of the puzzle, and takes anywhere from a day to a week. Once I'm more confident on a technical level, I feel ready to address the musical part. This has two levels of satisfaction.

1. The 'good enough'. I can comfortably read the piece and I can make it sound pretty close to the way I want. I don't demand perfection at this stage, as I feel that's setting yourself up for failure. The majority of what I play will be finished once at this point. This takes anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks (this is an assumption based on my current material, which has a maximum length of 32 bars, though my aim is to find a balance where this remains as stable as possible).

2. 'Repertoire'. A piece that I really like and have deemed good enough, gets added to my repertoire. Memorization comes easily, because I've read and played it for at least a week, multiple times a day. For these pieces, I demand that I learn to play the piece the way I hear it in my head and/or sing it. Can take anywhere from 1 week to, well, I don't know yet. I aim for no longer than a month, but I also want to make videos of these pieces, so that raises the bar quite a bit. My aim is, basically, getting the pieces up to performance level.

About 80% of my time is spent on getting pieces to level 1., the rest on acquiring and maintaining a repertoire. Of this time spent on 1., half of that is spent playing new (= first 3 days of playing) material. So 40% of my time behind the piano, I'm analyzing and familiarizing myself with new concepts and I'm playing new material. Every piece has its own challenges, and my fundamentals should be good enough to effectively solve the challenge in a reasonable amount of time.

I feel like this gets you the best of both worlds. You play a lot of different music, and through isolated problem-solving improve your technical abilities in an efficient way. It is more important to get a good go at 100 pieces, than to perfect 30. With the diminishing returns on quality (in terms of time invested), an optimal balance between quantity and quality must be struck. I do not yet know what it is, but I'll try my best to find out.


Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: DutchTea] #2646070
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Originally Posted by DutchTea
I'm certainly not playing intermediate pieces yet. So, hold off then? I'm fine with that; just don't want to neglect something that is helpful in learning piano in general.
I don't think you need to rush into sight reading exercises. It's not harmful, so if you enjoy it, then by all means spend a little time on it. But if not, it's OK to wait.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2646082
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I guess to me sight reading has been about practicing short pieces, e.g. pieces from the RCM sight reading books, playing through it at a somewhat reasonable tempo and not stopping, while also paying attention to the dynamics. This has certainly helped me to read and play music easier and faster. Is it prima vista reading? No way, I think I have to wait 15 years before that happens, if it ever happens. Then again, I'm not sure if I'll ever be put into a situation where a score is given to me and I need to play perfectly (or make it appear good enough) the first time around (except the sight reading excerpt I'll have to do for an exam).

So, in short, sight reading to me has been about trying to be a better/faster/more accurate reader in general, not really about prima vista reading. I still think there is part that I like to call "finger gymnastics", that needs to be practiced. Much like a gymnast or ice skater who knows their routine, but needs to train their bodies to articulate the right moves and gestures. But who knows, maybe with enough time and practice it will just happen and I'll play level 10 pieces without blinking laugh


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2646088
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Originally Posted by Keselo
With this method, I question some widely recommended tips for getting better as a player, these include:
- One must play relatively hard material to improve as a player.
- Separately practicing arpeggios, scales, chord progressions, and similar things is a necessity to improving as a player.
- You improve as a sight reader by playing a lot of different material that you can sight read (relatively) easily. It is important not to play the piece more than once or twice before moving on.

In regards to any specific must-do's, I would never go for such a rigid thing. There are skills we need to acquire and things we need to learn, but there is more than one way of getting there. You may have two teachers seeming to do the opposite things, and yet they are on the same path. You can have a teacher who overtly teaches each thing separately so you can tell what is being done, "Now we're working on scales.", "Now we're working on theory.", while another brings out that same knowledge / skills while "only working on pieces". How she teaches, what she asks you to do, and how - that is what makes the differences. You can even have teachers who on the surface appear very structured and skill-oriented, but it's all empty routine. If you're learning, growing, and improving, then it's probably right.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2647172
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I often give advice to fellow beginners. Because I’m in the same boat as them, I feel like they can benefit from my own (recent) experiences. The advice that I give, is nothing more than the advice that I have been given by better and more experienced players. However, time and time again it becomes apparent how easy it is to disregard the advice that you give others when playing yourself.

5 days ago, I started work on No. 32 from Mikrocosmos. It’s a one page piece, written in a Dorian style. It contains many of the concepts that are previously introduced in the book, and as such, when I started it I didn’t think it would be hard to learn. Because this was my mindset going into the piece, I got agitated when I just couldn’t get it right. Every day I’d try playing through start to finish, and there would just be so many hesitations, double checks, and wrong notes. It wasn’t until today, that I realized I did exactly what I always advice against. I kept beating my head against the wall, waiting for improvement to magically occur.

My tempo of playing was right (read: slow), but playing it through start to finish every time wasn’t efficient at all. That’s the change that I brought to my practice today. Instead of struggling through the entire piece, I did as little as splitting the piece into three separate sections. Starting at the last section, I played it through 5 or so times, before setting the piece aside. During my second practice slot, I did the same with the second section, before playing the two through a few times. Third slot, same story, but with the first section. In 20 minutes of practice I achieved what I couldn’t in the last 4 days, just by taking a step back and evaluating the cause of my lack of progress. It still needs some work, but at least I can play it through with a minimal amount of hesitation.

The main issue in all of this, I think, is that the method of playing it through start to finish works for most pieces that I’m learning. These pieces are not only shorter, but also easier by having more distinguishable patterns. The challenge for me at this stage is to get better and faster at recognizing the harder pieces, or at least recognize sooner when I’m not getting any further. Constant re-evaluation of both broader practice routines and specific pieces is a must, and something I should really get used to.


Tim

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2647186
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I agree. The key is "constant reevaluation". Being nimble in learning is as valuable as being nimble in playing. One of the outcomes of learning to learn is understanding that no one approach works in all occasions and over time it is possible to develop a toolkit of knowledge that can be utilized as needed.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2647390
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The act of practicing in multiple shorter sessions is something that isn’t unfamiliar to most of you. I still feel like it’s valuable to tell you about my practicing ways, with the hopes of shedding some light on the thoughts behind it.

On a typical day, I practice for anywhere between 1.5 and 2 hours. This time is spread out in sessions of 20-25 minutes. I never work on one piece for more than 5 minutes in one session. If I say I practice something for 15 minutes on a day, it gets practiced three separate times, thus it gets reinforced on three separate moments. I don’t have a routine in the sense of technical exercises (scales, arpeggios). I do practice my pieces in a somewhat set order. My pieces can be sorted into one of the following categories and practiced accordingly.

1. New. Piece has been practiced for less than three days and contains technical difficulties. Anything that needs isolated practice, gets isolated practice. New concepts or recently learned ones are the most often in need of isolated practice. I might be able to sight read parts of the piece (at a low tempo, which technically isn't sight reading, but please bear with me), but not yet the whole thing. Progress is measured in terms of getting small sections, that used to give me trouble, to a point where I can play them through without hesitation. In other words, I must tackle the technical difficulties of the piece, as these form the foundation on which the rest of the piece stands.

2. Needs work. Once there are no more problematic spots, the piece gets promoted to this category. Daily practice is limited to a few playthroughs on low tempo. These playthroughs can occur in one session, though I limit myself to 3 playthroughs in one sessions. They can also be spread over multiple sessions, which is done when a piece needs more work. Progress is measured in my increasing ability to play the piece more musically. Playing with musicality can only occur when I’m in control of the piece. As such, holes in my ability to handle the technical aspects of the piece limits progress made here. Pieces take around 3-5 days to get in the right direction, this also includes pieces that I just started working on which had no technical difficulties (and 'skipped; category 1).

3. Good enough. My first point of satisfaction with a piece. I can sit down and play an okay rendition of my piece. This is the point where I start trying to record a piece. This is to hear if it sounds like I think it sounds, as in my experience it sounds so much better when I’m playing. I also like to have audio recordings of my finished pieces, as I like the ability to keep track of my progress. Recording does add some extra layer of difficulty, so it can take some days to get a good recording. After this initial recording, about 70-80% of the pieces get abandoned. I’ve learned a good amount from the piece, both in terms of technical and musical aspects, and my time is better and more efficiently spent learning new, slightly harder material.

4. Future repertoire. Up until this point, everything that I play gets actively read of the sheet. Pieces that I like enough get memorized, which is a relatively easy process, since I’ve played it daily for a week or more. I basically work on a piece until it matches my expectations of how it should sound, within the limits of my own ability. Pieces in this category get 1 or 2 playthroughs every day, and a lot more time when I’m not behind the piano. I sing, hum, and use mental play to get a better idea of exactly what the piece means to me. Mental play is also what solidifies the piece in my brain. It helps to make sure you know what to do, instead of relying on 'muscle memory'.

5. Repertoire. Once a piece is deemed good enough, I make another recording, this time including video. This is the point at which I demand perfection. No ghost notes, no hesitations, musically sound. It takes at least one week in category 4 for a piece to become eligible for recording. Once I’ve recorded a piece, I keep it in my active memory. I’m experimenting with a system of flash cards, but it’s too early to say anything about the effectiveness of this system.

My first three sessions are usually spent playing material from category 1 and 2. I limit myself to having only two new pieces. As such,15-30 minutes are spent on technical improvement, and 30 to 45 minutes on reading music, playing pieces, and improving musicality.

As I get more satisfied with the pieces in 1 and 2, pieces from category 3 get added. I play these through once or twice, and turn on my mic to record. I give myself two tries (in one recording sitting) to get a good recording. If I don’t get one, I try again the next day.

Session 5 and 6 are usually filled up with the practice of (future) repertoire. There’s very little harm done if I can’t practice these on a day, and there’s always the option of mental play, which is why these come last. Time is spent on developing musicality, and really getting to know my piano. I’ve noticed that the quality of my touch has increased since I’ve started working on repertoire pieces, as more of my attention is on the keys.

Six sessions, means at most 30 minutes for a new piece in one day (I average more like 10-15 minutes). I work on 8-10 pages of music at one time. I’m playing some pretty short beginner pieces, so that’s 15-20 pieces at one time. Adding 5-8 new pieces every week, I’m exposing myself to a lot of different music, which is exactly the point of this journey.

I shall post a detailed rundown of my current works in progress this weekend, hoping to make clear what I look for in a piece, how I look for overlap in different works, and how I look to improve.




Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2647504
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I spend my time on three different books, which all complement each other in many ways.

Bartók’s Mikrocosmos (book 1) is what my practice and progress is completely based around. My teacher uses the first two books with all her students, and students who enjoy Bartók will also work on 3 and 4. The pieces in this book are very much about introducing new concepts. Its pieces are the most complex, and my progress through this book is the bench-mark for other material that I play. My current works in progress teach playing intervals bigger than 2nds and playing separate melodies with both hands. At first glance, the pieces don’t seem very musical, but many of them are still very beautiful.

Mikrocosmos has taught me legato playing in both hands, repeated notes in one hand and legato playing in the other hand, simple counterpoint, imitation in canon form, not panicking when a piece is in a different key than C major, remaining in control when reading music and learning how to read in intervals.

Gurlitt’s The First Lessons (Op. 117) was added to my practice around 3 weeks ago. It’s a work from the Romantic period, and as such contains different elements compared to Mikrocosmos. It’s much more focussed on playing broken chords, the melody is more often in the right hand (though not exclusively), and it provides me with the practice of 8th notes and 2 note chords (dyads?). The material is quite a bit easier than Mikrocosmos; the patterns are more predictable, and it feels like both hands work towards the same goal. The pieces sound good, but oftentimes sound a bit too much like études for my liking.

The reading in intervals as learned in Mikrocosmos, carried over very well into the Gurlitt. I’ve felt in control reading broken chords, something which caused internal panic as little as a month ago. Quickly reading and recognizing chords is another thing that Gurlitt teaches me. It’s not an easy thing to do, but the way it introduces this concept is very well paced.

Kabalevsky’s 24 Little Pieces (Op. 39), I started work on just this week. It is more like the Gurlitt book than Mikrocosmos, and it’s the music that I enjoy listening to the most out of the three. It’s very heavy on staccato playing, which was a new concept, but I’m not having too many issues with it.

Kabalevsky just benefits a lot from the work I put into the other two. I’m not sure how far I can progress through it just yet, as I feel the progression curve is a bit steeper than the other two books.

My current practice pieces, as I will practice in the coming day, are as follows.

New: Mikrocosmos No. 33, Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 3, Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 11.

Needs work: Mikrocosmos No. 32, Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 2, Gurlitt Op. 117 Nos. 6, 9, 10.

Good enough: Mikrocosmos Nos. 29-31, Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 1.

Future repertoire: Mikrocosmos Nos. 16, 22, 23, 26, (29, 30, 31).

It’s worth noting there’s usually more material at the ‘good enough’ tier. Over the last two days, I’ve recorded 7 pieces which were at this point, which frees up quite a bit of time for other things. That’s why I’m adding three new pieces today. The Bartók piece uses many of the same concepts of No. 32, and I had a lot of trouble with that, so it might take the full three days to get to a point where I can play it start to finish. Kabalevsky No. 3 is very similar to No. 2, and I didn't have much trouble with that, so that might get to 'needs work' within a day. I'm reserving judgement for the Gurlitt piece. It doesn't look too spectacular in terms of difficulty, but repeating chords with the left hand while right plays 16th notes might pose quite a challenge.

I’ve been using this method for a month now, and so far, the results are pretty damn excellent. Listening back to my recordings, a very steady progress is easily identified, which truly encourages me to go on like this.


Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2648042
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This has been a handy read. I myself have been learning with lessons for just over a year now and will be curious to follow your progress. My teacher and I just decided to ditch the Alfred's Adult All-In-One and start working through easier Beethoven/Jazz/Classics by the Masters and introducing Bartok's Mikrocosmos for reading (volume 1/2) and technique using volume 3/4 pieces. My time is far more limited than yours so I haven't put enough focus into it but I plan to start now.

I did find however, using a similar method to yours, that I hit a wall at about 7 months using the Alfred's AIO due to its difficulty curve. I don't think it leaves enough time with easier pieces to let technique and reading become ingrained and I didn't use supplemental material soon enough to catch up. Hopefully this wall doesn't affect you!

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I'm glad that you enjoy it, Doc!

I've had the same issues with Mikrocosmos that you had with Alfred's AIO. I didn't quite feel like I'd hit a wall, but the difficulty of the pieces kept on increasing while I still felt that the easier concepts needed work. There might be a wall that I hit in the future, but I do feel like one can be avoided by pacing yourself with suitable supplemental material.


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] #2649152
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Monthly Review – May 2017

I think it would be fun to give you a monthly progress report, in which I talk about everything that comes to mind about my practice for the previous month. I’ll review what I’ve worked on, look back at the progress that I made, and formulate what I want from the near future.

May 2017 was the month of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, book 1 to be specific. It’s what my teacher uses with all her students who are new to the piano, and I must say I can see why. It’s a very thorough introduction to playing the piano, and focuses on teaching a new student many of the concepts that are absolutely essential to playing the piano.

I did get bored of just playing Mikrokosmos, though. I did enjoy the music, I still do, but I need to be able to change things up. Luckily, I didn’t have to search in my quest for supplementary material. I’d been working from Gurlitt’s Op. 117 (The First Lessons) before, and the first four pieces looked similar in difficulty to Mikrokosmos. The book introduces new concepts like broken chords, 8th notes, and chords, and, like Bartók, introduces all these concepts in a very gradual manner.

Another thing that I gained from Gurlitt’s book, is my (growing) ability to judge the difficulty of material relative to my own ability of playing. During my initial scan of a piece I first look for concepts that I’m familiar with. I then look for any new concepts that the piece might introduce.
If a piece has no new concepts, I’ll just try sight-reading the piece. More likely than not, I’ll trip up here and there, which means that I can learn something from the piece. A piece like this usually doesn’t take very long to learn, anywhere from 5 to 10 days, start to ‘good enough’. Most of the challenge with these pieces, is the matter of expressing musicality.
If a piece does have a new concept, I’ll first tackle that, before working on the piece as a whole.
Because I’m playing so much different material, I constantly expose myself to new music, and for each piece I first judge the difficulty. This is one of the most important things that you can learn as a beginner, as the ability to pick appropriate material is the first step in continually making progress.
I always ask my teacher before I start something new, as there occasionally are new concepts which I don’t see, and that’s one of the examples where having a teacher pays off tremendously.

I added Gurlitt to my routine on 4 May, and my practice was a balance of Mikrokosmos and Gurlitt. Mikrokosmos was still my main project, and Gurlitt filled any blanks that Mikrokosmos left, reinforcing older concepts along the way.

It was three weeks before I added yet another work to my practice. I felt like I was still limiting myself by only playing the works of two composers. I bought a bundle of Kabalevsky’s works, and his Op. 39 (24 Little Pieces) was added to my routine. Where Bartók provides progress and Gurlitt provides études, Kabalevsky provides just delightful music. In terms of concepts it’s a lot like Gurlitt Op. 117, but it sounds a lot more like music than the first pieces in Gurlitt do.

On 28 May, my last new work was added: Diabelli Op. 125, The First Lessons. It’s a useful little thing, but also my least favourite. I’ll probably still complete it, as it’s giving me too hard a time to ignore, but it will take some time. The progression in this book is tremendously fast, as Diabelli doesn’t shy away from adding multiple new concepts every piece.


Repertoire

Mikrokosmos No. 16 was the first piece which really made me feel like I was making music. I can see myself playing this for a long time, for it is very beautiful despite, or maybe because of, its simplicity.



Mikrokosmos No. 22 made me realize that you can play counterpoint without remaining in a state of constant panic. Bartók wanted me to play it faster, but I liked it nice and slow.



Mikrokosmos No. 23. I liked this one, then I recorded it, and stopped liking it. I’ve learned from it what I could, but I’ll probably let it slip out of my repertoire.




Looking forward

June will bring me a lot of new music. The average difficulty will definitely increase, but I hope my average time spent on finishing a piece stays roughly the same. Time will tell.

I’m hoping to complete Mikrokosmos book 1 to the point where all pieces are at least recorded once. It doesn’t feel like an impossible task, given that there’s three pieces left to start with.

I will continue my progress through Kabalevsky Op. 39 and Gurlitt Op. 117. There’s still loads more to do with both books, and the increase of difficulty in these works suggests that they might be completed along with Mikrokosmos book 2. Luckily, the pieces in Gurlitt Op. 117 are getting better and better. I’m already starting to enjoy some of them, and I will definitely have some of the pieces in my repertoire by the time I’m done with it.

It’s unlikely that I’ll start on more than one piece out of Diabelli Op. 125, because, as mentioned, the difficulty increase is just too damn high.

New additions in June will be Kunz Op. 14 and Beethoven WoO 86 (Ecossaise in E flat). Kunz wrote an excellent bundle of 200 small canons, which seems like it’s excellent supplementary material for Bartók and even better preparatory material for Baroque music. This book will provide me with practicing material for at least the rest of the year, probably even longer.

I’ll leave you with a little segment of graphs and numbers, because those two are among my favourite things in the world.


May By The Numbers

[Linked Image]

Good enough means I’ve got an initial recording, and stopped playing the piece. Future repertoire means that I want it to become repertoire, but it’s not there yet. Repertoire is anything that I have memorized, made a second recording of and can currently play. There are pieces which are still in progress, which eventually will become repertoire.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Last edited by Keselo; 06/01/17 10:29 AM.

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] #2649217
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What a detailed report! I enjoyed reading it, and also learned about new composers and their works while reading it. Thank you for sharing!

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: mel_lem] #2649230
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Originally Posted by mel_lem
What a detailed report! I enjoyed reading it, and also learned about new composers and their works while reading it. Thank you for sharing!

Thank you for reading, Melanie. I'm glad you enjoyed it. smile


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] #2649233
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Hi Keselo ....

I enjoyed your music.

I noticed that you are playing without the music on the piano.

Do you play like that when you take your lesson ?

I would have thought your instructor would like you to play while reading the music.


Don

Current: ES8, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD598 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: dmd] #2649237
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Originally Posted by dmd
Hi Keselo ....

I enjoyed your music.

I noticed that you are playing without the music on the piano.

Do you play like that when you take your lesson ?

I would have thought your instructor would like you to play while reading the music.


Hi Don. All the other pieces I play while reading the sheet, but these three are my repertoire pieces. I memorized them so I could fully focus on the musicality. You can't see it, but I play these pieces with my eyes closed. That way, I feel somehow more aware of exactly what my hands are doing, and I feel like I can better produce the sound that I want.

During my lessons my teacher asks me to play any new repertoire pieces, as a warm-up. She judges my technique and tone of playing from these pieces. The rest of the time, I'm playing while reading.


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] #2649474
06/02/17 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Keselo

- One must play relatively hard material to improve as a player.
- Separately practicing arpeggios, scales, chord progressions, and similar things is a necessity to improving as a player.


1 - I adhere to those words like bible, however, it varies from person to person and their priorities.
I intend to play piano professionally one day and I started late (At around 16) so I have already wasted quite a lot of crucial years. I feel like I need to get up there, and get up there fast. That is why, over the 2 years that I have been playing, and much longer periods of research, I've definitely concluded that the more difficult you go, the faster you'll climb the ladder up top. The simple reason is, the more you demand from your body, the more it has to provide, before it gives up. I've always kept my primary pieces way out of my league and spent hours and hours taking up their demands.

Now, there are a lot of ambiguities that I need to clear up whenever this topic arises.
- Tackling harder pieces always means a piece a few notches above your current level. Something you can imagine yourself playing.
- By the time you are done with that piece and have decided to move on to something else, you should be able to play the whole thing easily and know it like the back of your hand. Don't move on to something else if you're still sloppy with it or don't have control over the dynamics. Keep at it, even for a 15 mins a day. It'll come, eventually. The only valid reason for quitting a hard piece is that after trying it, you decide that you won't manage to master it after all, with your current level.

I honestly believe that anyone who says aiming for relatively higher pieces leads to a lot of gaps in technique probably hasn't done that right. When you dedicate yourself to a piece and make sure that every nook shines, you leave no holes in anything.
The simple answer is (competitively, of course), if we've both spent XX hours practicing on the instrument and if my technique is more advanced, i.e, I can perform more challenging pieces than you (of course, with the same finesse), then I've utilized my time more efficiently. Period.

Stretch your limits. Aim high and be dedicated enough to get there. The life is really short and there's a lot of extremely difficult music waiting for you out there. How will you advance if you stick to basics for months and years?

Exception - If you play challenging material consistently while at the same time enjoy basic easier pieces for honing your technique, then I think that's the most well rounded approach.

2 - The pieces will teach you everything you need to know if you keep at them. None the less, knowing your scales and being able to improvise arpeggios is a great skill to have. Much recommended. At least get the scales fluent, both hands, staccato and legato.
You'll learn arpeggios in your pieces. It's upto you how high you aim when it comes to arpeggios.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: luckiest_charm] #2649486
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Originally Posted by luckiest_charm
I've definitely concluded that the more difficult you go, the faster you'll climb the ladder up top. The simple reason is, the more you demand from your body, the more it has to provide, before it gives up. I've always kept my primary pieces way out of my league and spent hours and hours taking up their demands.

Now, there are a lot of ambiguities that I need to clear up whenever this topic arises.
- Tackling harder pieces always means a piece a few notches above your current level. Something you can imagine yourself playing.
- By the time you are done with that piece and have decided to move on to something else, you should be able to play the whole thing easily and know it like the back of your hand. Don't move on to something else if you're still sloppy with it or don't have control over the dynamics. Keep at it, even for a 15 mins a day. It'll come, eventually. The only valid reason for quitting a hard piece is that after trying it, you decide that you won't manage to master it after all, with your current level.

I honestly believe that anyone who says aiming for relatively higher pieces leads to a lot of gaps in technique probably hasn't done that right. When you dedicate yourself to a piece and make sure that every nook shines, you leave no holes in anything.

Exception - If you play challenging material consistently while at the same time enjoy basic easier pieces for honing your technique, then I think that's the most well rounded approach.

A student who employs a 'stepwise approach' (with a good teacher) by learning new skills and mastering them step by step (using a judicious choice of music - pieces that push his current skill level in some aspect, but not to the extent of being insurmountable within a few weeks) will always have a more rounded technique than someone who chooses pieces well over his level and keeps plugging away at them, and nothing else. Like choosing an advanced (or even intermediate-advanced) piece when he's only just developed hand independence. There have been such students who've posted here, and they all fell by the wayside, without ever completing what they started. I remember at least one who never posted in PW again, and another who resurfaced years later admitting that he'd given up piano because of injuries.

I also know a few people personally, who have glaring technical deficiencies because they only ever learnt a few advanced pieces they liked, took years over them, and can't play anything else. Sure, they eventually could get around most of the notes, but it wasn't difficult to hear what the problems were: inadequate finger agility and fluency (difficulty with trills, and especially ornaments, poor articulation etc), poor chord technique (notes in chords not reliably sounding together, voicing all over the place, notes 'disappearing' etc), 'weak fingers' with uneven passagework.

Quote
2 - The pieces will teach you everything you need to know if you keep at them.

No single piece encompass everything. Not even a selection of ten pieces, unless (probably not even if) they vary wildly in era and style - and if a student chooses the pieces himself, it's not likely that he'll have everything from Bach to Bartók via the Classical and Romantic in his selection. (Quite a few people here have very narrow repertoire range and keep learning pieces in the same style, for example).

Quote
None the less, knowing your scales and being able to improvise arpeggios is a great skill to have. Much recommended. At least get the scales fluent, both hands, staccato and legato.
You'll learn arpeggios in your pieces. It's upto you how high you aim when it comes to arpeggios.

Definitely, scales & arpeggios are the backbone of a lot of music, especially classical (with a small 'c'). Without decent fluency in them, a student will always come up against brick walls in piano pieces that's been composed for piano/keyboard (i.e. not arranged), unless he only ever plays what he can play.


"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: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: bennevis] #2649494
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Originally Posted by bennevis

I also know a few people personally, who have glaring technical deficiencies because they only ever learnt a few advanced pieces they liked, took years over them, and can't play anything else. Sure, they eventually could get around most of the notes, but it wasn't difficult to hear what the problems were: inadequate finger agility and fluency (difficulty with trills, and especially ornaments, poor articulation etc), poor chord technique (notes in chords not reliably sounding together, voicing all over the place, notes 'disappearing' etc), 'weak fingers' with uneven passagework.


No such issues here.
I am keen to learn beautiful intermediate pieces as well.

I noticed this before from a few of your previous posts regarding doing the entire ABRSM grade course from 1-8, sequentially with an year for each grade.
Taking that fact into consideration, I can conclude that you prefer the methodical and the supposedly 'well rounded' approach. That's perfectly fine if it works for you but to be frank, it never worked out for me. I live for a challenge. I love playing things out of my league and the sheer satisfaction of getting it right consistently is well worth the efforts.

Never had an issue with injuries. My hands stay extremely relaxed at all times with not a hint of tension (I consciously work on it should I ever feel tensed) while practicing, know the groundwork and got over it long ago. At this point, the scope of injuries is minimal to negligible, about the same as when doing anything else. It all depends on the mindset of a person. If I find a brickwall in a piece, I make every effort to get over it, by slowing down to a a crawl, by varying the rhythm of that tricky section, by isolating hands, by repetitions, and/or by just calling it a day and attempting it the next day. It has always worked out for me so far and I have consistently been able to conquer pieces well beyond my caliber. The improvement is swift, even if I have to drop a piece in rare cases because of it being just too difficult to manage, I've learned quite a bit from it and managed to come back to it and get it done. As of now, I have no dropped pieces in my repertoire and for someone who just got regular access to piano only an year ago, I got a decent number of pieces under my belt as well. I'm extremely satisfied so far.

Now, I will definitely consider your words regarding the scope of dropping out of piano in future due to some catastrophe, or about the people who gave up for some reason, if you care to elaborate why exactly?

-------------------------

That aside, I regularly transcribe music by ear, and I spend quite a bit of time everyday doing that. I love transcribing music. Do you think I would have to go through a period where my "repertoire" is "limited"? Where I spent a few years doing only a few hard pieces and ignoring everything else? I'm not strictly a classical pianist going "only" by sheet music.

As I said, the best approach is to aim high by keeping a primary difficult piece for practice, and balance it out by playing whatever else you want to play, an intermediate ballade, a soft waltz, a movie song, or just transcribe in your free time to widen your exposure beyond the shell. It's what I do and follow. Actually, I'm considering learning Shostakovich's 2nd Waltz once I find some time.. It's really catchy!

I still believe nothing boosts technique and technical skill more than a hard piece can. I then use the same things I learned from that piece in my own transcriptions, or other pieces. A win win situation.
Anyways, I await your response regarding the possible future events that would supposedly lead to an adverse impact on my piano playing, after considering what I wrote above.

Last edited by luckiest_charm; 06/02/17 09:14 AM.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: luckiest_charm] #2649646
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Originally Posted by luckiest_charm

I noticed this before from a few of your previous posts regarding doing the entire ABRSM grade course from 1-8, sequentially with an year for each grade.
Taking that fact into consideration, I can conclude that you prefer the methodical and the supposedly 'well rounded' approach. That's perfectly fine if it works for you but to be frank, it never worked out for me. I live for a challenge. I love playing things out of my league and the sheer satisfaction of getting it right consistently is well worth the efforts.

Actually, if you go further back in my posts, you'll know that when I was a student, I had (from the time I could read music well enough to do so) regularly picked out pieces to learn by myself, with no regard for their difficulties. Like Chopin's Heroic Polonaise, when I had no chord technique, let along octave technique.

They were what I regarded as my 'fun' pieces, that I was trying out in my spare time (alongside playing pop songs by ear, improvising, playing chamber music with friends etc), not music I was going to keep plugging away at bar by bar regardless of how laborious they turned out to be. I was learning piano with my teacher all that time, spending much more time on what I should be learning (and those pieces were all chosen by my teacher to help me improve my skills). BTW, I soon realised that Op.53 was way, way beyond me, and so I put it to one side, and periodically brought it out again to see if I could get further with it as my skills improved. After some three years, I was able to play it reasonably well from beginning to end (by which time I'd developed a strong chord and octave technique from many other pieces and octave scales etc).

To put things another way, all my learning & practicing was with pieces I was learning with my teacher - pieces which were progressively harder and/or which contained stuff I needed to master. They could be anything, ranging from complex polyrhythms & cross-rhythms to voicing techniques to finger agility in 4th & 5th fingers to fast chords to advanced pedal techniques. As for the ABRSM exams, I had no talent (and knew I had none), and my teacher never suggested skipping grades, so that possibility never occurred to me. I followed my teacher's advice in everything - after all, she had been teaching successfully for decades. I did know that a couple of my friends were doing two grades a year, but they were far better than me.

Whereas the pieces I was trying out on my own were purely for my own satisfaction and enjoyment, and ranged from the fairly easy (which I'd probably just sight-read rather than learn) to the impossible. At my high school, I had easy access to volumes of music scores, which any music student could borrow. There was everything from Bach's Magdalena Notebook to big concertos (in full score as well as piano reductions) to Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps for piano duet, and I read through almost all of them volume by volume, and picking out pieces that I liked, to learn by myself. Or tried to.



Quote
Now, I will definitely consider your words regarding the scope of dropping out of piano in future due to some catastrophe, or about the people who gave up for some reason, if you care to elaborate why exactly?

There were people who posted enthusiastically here about wanting to learn something (like Chopin's Ballade No.1), then finding things very difficult, and then no further posts about their progress. Or just stopped posting altogether.

-------------------------

Quote
That aside, I regularly transcribe music by ear, and I spend quite a bit of time everyday doing that. I love transcribing music. Do you think I would have to go through a period where my "repertoire" is "limited"? Where I spent a few years doing only a few hard pieces and ignoring everything else? I'm not strictly a classical pianist going "only" by sheet music.

As I said, the best approach is to aim high by keeping a primary difficult piece for practice, and balance it out by playing whatever else you want to play, an intermediate ballade, a soft waltz, a movie song, or just transcribe in your free time to widen your exposure beyond the shell. It's what I do and follow. Actually, I'm considering learning Shostakovich's 2nd Waltz once I find some time.. It's really catchy!

I still believe nothing boosts technique and technical skill more than a hard piece can. I then use the same things I learned from that piece in my own transcriptions, or other pieces. A win win situation.
Anyways, I await your response regarding the possible future events that would supposedly lead to an adverse impact on my piano playing, after considering what I wrote above.

You have to decide on your own priorities about what you want to do now, and a few years down the line, which way you want to take your piano playing. And how much time and effort you are willing to give to each aspect.

My student years were mapped out for me by my teachers: I learnt everything they gave me to the best of my ability, while I was also doing stuff by myself (and with friends) that I never told them about. (Things were pretty straightforward for all music students - everyone was expected to do ABRSM exams and attain Grade 8 before they finished with high school. The teachers there only taught to Grade 8, so lessons ceased once you'd reached it.) As far as I was concerned, what I did in my 'spare time' was my own business. Just like I wouldn't tell my English teacher that I was reading adventure books in my spare time, while also studying Shakespeare and Wordsworth........ grin


"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: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2649858
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Beethoven Ecossaise in E flat WoO 86. The easiest piece written by Beethoven, from what I’ve seen of it, it shouldn’t give me any trouble.


I may or may not have said this in my latest FOYD update, and this goes to show either:
-How terribly easy it is to overestimate yourself, or
-How terribly hard it is to accurately judge the difficulty of a piece.

Let us have a look at the piece that is Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat. See if we can find exactly what makes the piece harder than it initially looks, and why I thought it would be easier.


The key

It is written, as the name of the piece kind of gives away, in the key of E flat major. At this stage in my piano playing journey, any key other than that of C major mustn’t be underestimated. It isn’t terribly hard to get used to playing in a different key, especially once you figure out the logic behind which keys are flat/sharp in the different keys, but it is something time must be spent on. I would tackle this by improvising for a few minutes every day in the key of E flat major.


The black keys

Up until now, most my key presses are those of white keys. There is the occasional black key, but it isn’t the norm. So, along comes this Ecossaise, in which Beethoven requires you to use a key with three black keys. These black keys make the fingering fairly awkward; it isn’t at all as intuitive as the Bartók pieces are.


The right hand

There’s two different kinds of measures for the right hand in this piece. There’s the quarter note followed by two 8th notes, and there’s four 8th notes. That’s all I looked at before deciding the right hand wouldn’t give me any trouble. After trying to play this for 20 minutes, however, difficulties arose.
-The right hand doesn’t stay set during the piece.
-The fingering of the 8th notes can be awkward.
-Me wanting to play legato wherever possible is a huge crutch, and limits mainly my ability to smoothly play these 8th notes.


The left hand

I saw a two-note chord followed by a single quarter note, and, again, thought that it would be easy. I didn’t consider that the chords move down, but the quarter note stays put(most of the time). This considerably limits my ability to play these notes legato.


The tempo

I was unable to tell this by looking at the sheet, but every performance of the piece that I could find was played very fast. So fast, that I have doubt in my own ability to produce a similar tempo within a reasonable amount of time.


The verdict

At first glance, this piece introduced no new concepts. After further analysis, this piece introduces at least four new concepts, which is simply too many. These concepts are more of a continuation on previously learned ones. Regardless, it’s a lot to keep track of. I will wait at least two more weeks before re-evaluating my ability to start work on this piece. I don’t mind a challenge, but right now the challenge that this piece brings me is too big.

Luckily, some of the difficulties that this piece has, will come back in other pieces that I will start work on the coming days. Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5 has moving hands. Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 4 teaches me to not play everything legato. When I can sufficiently play these pieces, the difficulties of the Beethoven piece will be brought back to two new concepts, which should be a lot easier to tackle.


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: bennevis] #2650003
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@bennevis - This was a much better response as compared to your initial one. I find your approach towards piano a particularly good one and it's bound to give great returns if done right. Playing heroic with expression is something extremely commendable to say the least.

What I do with my approach is to go with what gives maximum current yield. If and when something feels like it's not working, I quickly change it with something which does, so at the end of the day, I play purely by my logic and what I feel should do the trick. Varying my technique for every single passage of every single piece. The approach is always different for me, depending on the piece in question.

So far it has worked brilliantly and I'm hoping it will in future as well.

On a concluding note, I would like to remark that your reference towards the players who chose extremely difficult pieces (Chopin's ballades) while being beginners themselves is incorrect here, because I never choose a piece way too difficult for me to manage. I wouldn't even go as far as certain Chopin's nocturnes, let alone the ballades. I even mentioned clearly in my initial post (point #2) that one should always choose a piece which he can actually, realistically imagine himself playing in near future and not choose a difficult piece just because it sounds good. Or we'd have a lot of La Campanella beginners roaming around, ha?
None the less, was great trading punches with you (can I call it that? wink).

Last edited by luckiest_charm; 06/03/17 02:25 PM.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: luckiest_charm] #2650007
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Originally Posted by luckiest_charm
So far it has worked brilliantly ....


You know, Lucky ... what would go a long way toward showing that your methods are working well is demonstrating how you have learned the piece you mentioned about intending to work on in your very first post ..... Minute Waltz ....

If you can play that, you are indeed, doing very well and no question should be made of your methods.

So ... how is that coming ?


Don

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: luckiest_charm] #2650222
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Originally Posted by luckiest_charm
.... That is why, over the 2 years that I have been playing, and much longer periods of research, I've definitely concluded that the more difficult you go, the faster you'll climb the ladder up top. The simple reason is, the more you demand from your body, the more it has to provide, before it gives up. I've always kept my primary pieces way out of my league and spent hours and hours taking up their demands
.......................

Stretch your limits. Aim high and be dedicated enough to get there. The life is really short ....

2 - The pieces will teach you everything you need to know if you keep at them. ....

It is a mistake to equate things in this way. Kesolo is describing what is being taught by his teacher. That teacher has a plan. A teacher who is a full and well rounded musician, as well as competent in teaching, will be picturing everything that is needed to become a good pianist. The first thing that exists is that inner map carried in the head of the teacher, of what needs to be learned and developed, and how it fits together. Then the teacher designs what she will teach, what she will have her student do and how, and what material she will use. The chosen pieces are the material, the teaching is done through the material, and then what the student is asked to focus on - how to practice etc. All of that goes into the original map carried in the head of the teacher.

There is a fundamental wrong idea out there. Pieces don't teach. Syllabuses don't teach. It's not what you play, but what you learn and what you do. If you are with a good teacher, the teacher - not the piece - teaches. An excellent teacher will draw things out of any repertoire, to give you what you need. A lousy teacher can take the best material out there, and ruin your learning.

When you are against step-wise programs: you are not actually comparing two opposites. It's the same thing. If you are talking about pieces doing the teaching, then whether you talk about step-wise programs, or getting at advanced material early, it's still the wrong premise of "pieces do the teaching". What we really want to get after are things like skills and knowledge. The knowledge includes understanding genres, learning to listen and to hear, a million things.

Kesolo is at the beginning of his journey with this new teacher. When we are students, we draw conclusions about what we're doing and what is working. Several years down the line we may have different insights. And when you talk to seasoned professionals, they may muse "So that's what my old teacher was really doing!" In fact, in your own journey, you may have new views in retrospect ten years later. I have no doubt that you are learning from what you are doing, because of the care you are taking. But advanced material as the only road to growth is not a sound idea, imho.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650224
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I think it's the concepts that these piece contain which make you better as a piano player, not the pieces themselves. It's also important to realize that coming across a concept once, doesn't mean you can play it in any variation, in any context. Repetition and exposure to many different ways of doing one thing, is what makes sure that it sticks with you. After all, when we learned math in school, we didn't advance to the next concept after we'd solved one problem. There was always repetition, and even when new concepts would stick their head around, the old concepts were still used (thus, reinforced, but also required).

I usually don't like comparing playing the piano to math, as that sparks all kinds of discussion about how playing the piano should be science-free, but in terms of learning they are very much alike.

Quote
When we are students, we draw conclusions about what we're doing and what is working.


That's well put, and you're definitely right in me doing this. I know I have for the last 5 months, so chances are I still do. I do not feel like I'm very far from the truth with my 'theory of concepts', to call it like that. It's also what I read in your post, keystring, just worded a bit differently.


I'd also quickly like to add that I do find this discussion very interesting, but I didn't react up until this point, because I didn't feel I could contribute to it much. I disagree with luckiest_charm's way of doing things, but I can't be certain from personal experience that my way is any better. As such, I decided to keep on the sidelines, and just read it all.


Tim

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650231
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As there are quite a lot of posts after mine, I won't quote but reply in a general sense.

First of all, regarding the minute waltz. The progress since I uploaded it for the most recent recitals is quite a lot. I feel more confident. The entire mid cantabile section is much more intuitive by now and is up to speed. I added the grace notes to it and the stumbling moments have gotten much rarer.
Overall, if you sit down by me, I can play you a halfway decent version of the whole piece right now. Give me a week to hammer out a few chinks here and there (mostly related to phrasing) and get a little more confidence in my fingers and I'll record my best version for a comparison since the recitals.

Now, my teacher is a really unique guy as well. All he ever really taught me that made sense was how to extract as much information from a piece as possible, and then adding my own taste to it.
He just showed me that every single piece out there wants to tell you something and got me capable enough to learn from a sheet of music myself, for he said he won't be with me forever.
90% of our conversation is, "This is what this section wants to tell you. I highlighted it for you. You couldn't see it 2 minutes ago, can you see it now? If such a situation arises again, will you be able to make it out yourself then?"

After enough exposure to his ways of teaching, I've gotten more self reliant and in a way, the piece itself teaches me everything I need to know about it by now. I listen to different renditions of it by performers to get a feel for it's atmosphere and get in. That's all.
Granted, it would be impossible if my teacher only taught me how to play every piece note by note. But whenever he is teaching me, he always plays a section as a whole 3-4 times and expects me to do everything else by myself without ever coming back to it, moving on to the next section. The whole thing overwhelmed me more times than I can count and he was blazing fast most of the time, at concert speed, but by now, I'm glad he did.

I got quite a lot to say about Kesalo's review of the Beethoven's piece in question, but maybe some other time. The only little thing I'll point out - C major is the hardest key to play music in (to me and I think to the majority here as well), precisely because of absence of any black keys. Db major or Ab major (more black keys) are much more intuitive and easier. Try playing a beginner piece in one of these keys to know the difference, of course after consulting with your teacher. I don't mean to affect the path she envisioned for you.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650232
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When I've got a piece to the point where I can play it without the sheet, then it doesn't matter how many black keys there are in a piece. When I'm actively reading the piece while playing it, and the piece is in a different key than C major, there comes an aspect of quickly identifying which notes on the sheet must be flat/sharp. In that sense it's easier to play in C major, where I know the only sharps or flats that I must play are accidentals, and those don't give me any trouble.

I have played some pieces in different keys, and these have all taken longer than average to get decent at, precisely because of the added difficulty of having to actively consider the key in which the piece is written.


Tim

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: luckiest_charm] #2650236
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Originally Posted by luckiest_charm
As there are quite a lot of posts after mine, I won't quote but reply in a general sense.

First of all, regarding the minute waltz. The progress since I uploaded it for the most recent recitals is quite a lot. I feel more confident. The entire mid cantabile section is much more intuitive by now and is up to speed. I added the grace notes to it and the stumbling moments have gotten much rarer.
Overall, if you sit down by me, I can play you a halfway decent version of the whole piece right now. Give me a week to hammer out a few chinks here and there (mostly related to phrasing) and get a little more confidence in my fingers and I'll record my best version for a comparison since the recitals.

Now, my teacher is a really unique guy as well. All he ever really taught me that made sense was how to extract as much information from a piece as possible, and then adding my own taste to it.
He just showed me that every single piece out there wants to tell you something and got me capable enough to learn from a sheet of music myself, for he said he won't be with me forever.
90% of our conversation is, "This is what this section wants to tell you. I highlighted it for you. You couldn't see it 2 minutes ago, can you see it now? If such a situation arises again, will you be able to make it out yourself then?"

After enough exposure to his ways of teaching, I've gotten more self reliant and in a way, the piece itself teaches me everything I need to know about it by now. I listen to different renditions of it by performers to get a feel for it's atmosphere and get in. That's all.
Granted, it would be impossible if my teacher only taught me how to play every piece note by note. But whenever he is teaching me, he always plays a section as a whole 3-4 times and expects me to do everything else by myself without ever coming back to it, moving on to the next section. The whole thing overwhelmed me more times than I can count and he was blazing fast most of the time, at concert speed, but by now, I'm glad he did.

I got quite a lot to say about Kesalo's review of the Beethoven's piece in question, but maybe some other time. The only little thing I'll point out - C major is the hardest key to play music in (to me and I think to the majority here as well), precisely because of absence of any black keys. Db major or Ab major (more black keys) are much more intuitive and easier. Try playing a beginner piece in one of these keys to know the difference, of course after consulting with your teacher. I don't mean to affect the path she envisioned for you.


I'm trying to understand your teachers methodology. What I'm reading is he plays it for you three or four times, but he does not ask you to duplicate the section? If I'm reading this correctly, I had difficulties understanding how this would work: at least it would not work for me. I can understand something in theory, but still not be able to execute it myself. For that, I need to execute it for my teacher and receive feedback and maybe repeat demonstration. It may become a problem-solving issue: do I need to curve my fingers more, do I need to change fingering, do I need to play more legato??


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: dogperson] #2650240
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Originally Posted by dogperson


I'm trying to understand your teachers methodology. What I'm reading is he plays it for you three or four times, but he does not ask you to duplicate the section? If I'm reading this correctly, I had difficulties understanding how this would work: at least it would not work for me. I can understand something in theory, but still not be able to execute it myself. For that, I need to execute it for my teacher and receive feedback and maybe repeat demonstration. It may become a problem-solving issue: do I need to curve my fingers more, do I need to change fingering, do I need to play more legato??


I can understand your doubts. Perhaps due to lack of clarity in my previous post.
It went like we started on a section and he would play the whole section for me LH and RH at concert speed 3 or 4 times and expect me to grasp the expression, the thoughts conveyed from the piece, the dynamics, the phrasing and everything else I couldn't figure out by reading the sheet kept in front of us.

Initially, during the "kindergarten" exercises of my first 1-2 weeks, he assisted me with playing the C major scale and other rudiments but beyond that and up until now, he has always followed the above approach. In our half an hour lesson, he would play a section for me about 3 times in a row, I would try my best to keep up with the truckload of information he's trying to throw my way and grasp as much as I can for the 3 or 4 sections we managed to cover in 1 class. Later on, I would recall the feeling he invoked in me with his playing of the sections and try my best to replicate them. While I couldn't exactly copy his playing, this practice encouraged me read the sheet myself for notes, correct any mistakes myself, work on fingerings myself (with exceptions of really tricky fingerings of course), get the dynamics as close to his version as possible and of course, at the end of the day, what I demonstrated to him in the next class was "my" version, because I could never mirror his playing as he never gave secondary repeat demonstrations. If I missed the first 3-4 times, I was on my own, recalling as much as I could from those demos. I never asked him for a 5th demo, and he never provided one either.

This got me really self reliant with everything. I think this is what he wanted from me. It was tight, required extreme concentration and memory from my part, but the results are astonishing.

He still says to this day that he never tried this approach with any other student of his in his 25 years of teaching experience and that I am the first student with whom he experimented such an approach. He still teaches other students every piece note by note and actively monitors them while they try to play the piece in front of him and keeps a check on their hand movements to correct them at an early stage (what you said your teacher does). He never needed to do all that with me.
Part of the reason was my financial instability. I told him after a week of joining that he would need to speed up with me because I can not afford to waste my precious class time by practicing the same thing over and over again in front of him just so he can correct my mistakes. I told him that he can give me much higher loads in a single class and I'll still manage to get it right by next week. That encouraged him to take a wild approach with me.

Last edited by luckiest_charm; 06/04/17 06:23 AM.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650241
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Is to play the piano the ability to replicate your teacher, or to find your own meaning in a piece of music and work on expressing that?


Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650243
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Dear charm
I think you misunderstood my post about what my teacher does to instruct. She does not correct normal notation problems that I can fix on my own by my playing these over and over , but if it is a skill that needs to be learned, or if I'm not executing the section correctly, then we need to figure out why and address it as a problem solving/training issue. I'm not seeing that you're getting that foundation, and I find it concerning. I'm actually fairly self sufficient about learning, but there are skills that I need to learn that require my teacher's education and experience in teaching the skills to me. Maybe I misunderstanding but I don't see you getting that. If you are, my perception does not matter at all.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650244
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Last edited by dogperson; 06/04/17 06:39 AM. Reason: Duplicate

"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650246
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Is to play the piano the ability to replicate your teacher, or to find your own meaning in a piece of music and work on expressing that?


The goal should never be to replicate your teacher or any other pianist , but rather to obtain the skills needed to play the repertoire, to work on the expressions of your own within the context of the composer's intent.

An example from my last week's lesson: I viewed a couple of measures as expressing resignation on the part of the composer. The question then for my teacher was 'is this the sense that you got as a listener? What if I accent the first three notes in the measure: what effect does that have? '

There is a statement that has been attributed to more than one concert pianist, but I will attribute it to Horowitz to his student Byron Janis.
'You don't want to play like a bad Horowitz, you want to play like a good Byron Janis'. 😊


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: dogperson] #2650248
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Dear charm
I think you misunderstood my post about what my teacher does to instruct. She does not correct normal notation problems that I can fix on my own by my playing these over and over , but if it is a skill that needs to be learned, or if I'm not executing the section correctly, then we need to figure out why and address it as a problem solving/training issue. I'm not seeing that you're getting that foundation, and I find it concerning. I'm actually fairly self sufficient about learning, but there are skills that I need to learn that require my teacher's education and experience in teaching the skills to me. Maybe I misunderstanding but I don't see you getting that. If you are, my perception does not matter at all.


I believe I am. So far, it's been a smooth sailing.
In the half hour we spend together, he focuses on techniques, exercises, etc as well. He has given me more tips than I can count on how to play something right. He just never demonstrates too much on the piano but gives verbal knowledge. Something along the lines of, "See, this is how I would interpret 45th - 48th measures. *plays it* Notice how I played this pp and got back with a forte for a dramatic comeback. You can take a rubato here if you'd like as well, it gives it a more intimate feel, I think."

I really think he's the best teacher I could ever find. Just tells me what I need to know and leaves everything else up to me to figure out by myself.

@Kesalo - You're correct. But quite a lot of students admire their teachers and do try to imitate their expressions. There are many teachers who force everything on their students until they reach the standards they envisioned, from note accuracy to even the kind of feelings conveyed. It would feel like played by soul to you, but it would all turn out to be meticulously choreographed.

I'm glad my teacher leaves it up to me to deal with all that. Actually, initially I tried to imitate him during the first 2 months, I think. After that, I figured out that after so little exposure I get of his playing, I won't manage to imitate him either way so I gave that up. Now I just take pointers and hints from what I heard of him, and make up my own for the rest.

Last edited by luckiest_charm; 06/04/17 07:06 AM.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: dogperson] #2650249
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Originally Posted by dogperson

'You don't want to play like a bad Horowitz, you want to play like a good Byron Janis'. 😊


What an excellent quote. This beautifully captures my feelings about what music is all about. Which is why I feel it's so great to work on music that you grasp without needing outside help. My teacher is there to correct technical mistakes, and at most make suggestions (i.e. "Have you considered playing it like this", "What if you accent these notes"). She never plays through a piece to show me how it should sound; everyone is different in that regard and she doesn't want to 'corrupt' me with her interpretations.


Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: luckiest_charm] #2650268
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Originally Posted by luckiest_charm
Give me a week to hammer out a few chinks here and there (mostly related to phrasing) and get a little more confidence in my fingers and I'll record my best version for a comparison since the recitals.


That sounds great !!! I look forward to it.


Don

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650283
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Originally Posted by Keselo
With this method, I question some widely recommended tips for getting better as a player, these include:
- One must play relatively hard material to improve as a player.
- Separately practicing arpeggios, scales, chord progressions, and similar things is a necessity to improving as a player.
- You improve as a sight reader by playing a lot of different material that you can sight read (relatively) easily. It is important not to play the piece more than once or twice before moving on.
I think you're right to question them. Harder material will test and develop more mechanical or technical ability but actually playing better is what makes us better pianists, regardless of the difficulty of the music. The real question then becomes how to play better.

There typically four kinds of difficulty that I encounter in my music, reading difficulties that can vary between poor print quality or too many notes over too small an area or too many accidentals that aren't clear, without close scrutiny, which notes, usually in a chord, are being altered. Once the number of beams increase within the same phrase it's also difficult for me to read which note the rhythmic change begins on, for example. I don't believe this is a sight-reading issue for it often involves picking up the score to examine closely and using pencil marks to make distinctions.

Then there are mechanical difficulties such as leaps, stretches, rapid weak finger work, finger substitution and awkward configurations, technical issues such as managing different dynamic levels between hands and voices, sometimes between phrases, and bringing out the music or understanding difficulties where the accents shift inside a phrase, for example. This can be as much a listening and hearing issue as a playing one.

There is no doubt that practising some skills in isolation will benefit the playing as a whole but it is difficult to identify where that investment begins to pay back and how much is useful before it takes away time from the very material it's designed to support.

Originally Posted by Keselo
Is to play the piano the ability to replicate your teacher, or to find your own meaning in a piece of music and work on expressing that?
I take it this is in response to how luckiest is learning with his teacher. Imagine looking at a photograph of a face, say, the 1947 portrait of Einstein by Philippe Halsman. You might see a nose and draw it on paper. A teacher might show you, by copying the photo that the right side of the nose isn't visible as a line. On the left side of the nose there is a visible line where it joins the face but if you copy that line as it is, without the shading on the wall of the nose, the nose will look too big.

By copying the drawing of the teacher, in relation to the photograph, you won't be copying the teacher or trying to imitate him, but using that example to see the photograph better. That, I think, is how luckiest's teacher is working. My own teacher used similar methodolgies now and then.

And if luckiest has been playing for only two years he is definitely getting benefit from his instruction. I would currently support his teacher.


Richard
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Is to play the piano the ability to replicate your teacher, or to find your own meaning in a piece of music and work on expressing that?


A high value-per-word post !

If you didn't see something in your teacher's playing that you wanted to emulate, why would you study with them?

It's pretty hard to be a perfect clone of someone. Your teacher will put their stamp on your playing, no doubt, but your fortes and foibles will still make your playing yours.


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Originally Posted by Whizbang
If you didn't see something in your teacher's playing that you wanted to emulate, why would you study with them?


Because the teacher can teach you how to express yourself based entirely on who you are.

In this case the student and teacher would be sharing a common perspective and attitude.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650307
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@Richard, thank you for your insight. I always love reading your comments and I will definitely consider what you've posted. Your explanation about his teacher makes a lot of sense.

@Whizbang, I definitely see a lot in my teacher's playing that I'd like to be able to do. This is all in terms of her technique, how she strikes the keys, etc... I'm not actively looking to copy what she does, but through her teaching methods I'm still steered to her way of playing. I'm not looking to copy any phrasing that she does, though. I'd rather see what I can figure out by myself, and during the lesson have her give me pointers, or make me consider things that I hadn't thought of yet.

@Richrf, that perfectly describes my relationship with my teacher, and that's how she sees it, too. This is why I consider myself so incredibly lucky to have found her.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Whizbang] #2650334
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Originally Posted by Whizbang
Originally Posted by Keselo
Is to play the piano the ability to replicate your teacher, or to find your own meaning in a piece of music and work on expressing that?


A high value-per-word post !

If you didn't see something in your teacher's playing that you wanted to emulate, why would you study with them?

It's pretty hard to be a perfect clone of someone. Your teacher will put their stamp on your playing, no doubt, but your fortes and foibles will still make your playing yours.

While we can certainly get pointers from listening to other's interpretations, I do find that it is not common that a teacher will help you find your own sound, rather than just have things you can imitate.

Of course, in the beginning, imitation is not a bad idea. But even then you can cultivate a person's own sense of what they want to express musically and how to execute that. If a student is just learning how to express, then I may give them a couple of options of what they might want to do, but I always encourage them to choose and experiment, and how to go about experimenting.

All too often I see this impulse get squashed by a teacher assuming the student is not musical at all, and nothing could be further from the truth: we are ALL musical because we are human beings with feelings. The problem, therefore, is learning how to express that feeling through your fingers.


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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Whizbang
Originally Posted by Keselo
Is to play the piano the ability to replicate your teacher, or to find your own meaning in a piece of music and work on expressing that?


A high value-per-word post !

If you didn't see something in your teacher's playing that you wanted to emulate, why would you study with them?

It's pretty hard to be a perfect clone of someone. Your teacher will put their stamp on your playing, no doubt, but your fortes and foibles will still make your playing yours.

While we can certainly get pointers from listening to other's interpretations, I do find that it is not common that a teacher will help you find your own sound, rather than just have things you can imitate.

Of course, in the beginning, imitation is not a bad idea. But even then you can cultivate a person's own sense of what they want to express musically and how to execute that. If a student is just learning how to express, then I may give them a couple of options of what they might want to do, but I always encourage them to choose and experiment, and how to go about experimenting.

All too often I see this impulse get squashed by a teacher assuming the student is not musical at all, and nothing could be further from the truth: we are ALL musical because we are human beings with feelings. The problem, therefore, is learning how to express that feeling through your fingers.


I really appreciate this type of approach. I believe it is not only healthy and enjoyable for the individual but for society at large. Unfortunately, growing up in a mega-city any attention to individual creativity was in short supply, and I wasn't able to begin cultivating my own until my 50s. It's nice to hear this approach being presented on a forum by students and teachers.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650340
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Originally Posted by Keselo
@Richard, thank you for your insight. I always love reading your comments and I will definitely consider what you've posted. Your explanation about his teacher makes a lot of sense.

@Whizbang, I definitely see a lot in my teacher's playing that I'd like to be able to do. This is all in terms of her technique, how she strikes the keys, etc... I'm not actively looking to copy what she does, but through her teaching methods I'm still steered to her way of playing. I'm not looking to copy any phrasing that she does, though. I'd rather see what I can figure out by myself, and during the lesson have her give me pointers, or make me consider things that I hadn't thought of yet.

@Richrf, that perfectly describes my relationship with my teacher, and that's how she sees it, too. This is why I consider myself so incredibly lucky to have found her.


Thank you. Likewise I appreciate your thoughts and the thread that you developing. Lots of very nice and interesting thoughts being shared.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: luckiest_charm] #2650343
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I'm going back to the dialogue involving Luckiest Charm. LC, I found your description of how your teacher is working with you, helpful in getting insight into the bigger picture. It also makes sense that your teacher is working with you in a unique way, because of who you are and where you are as a student.
The ability to play music on an instrument has many components that work together, especially when you also add musicianship rather than some bland right notes/right time etc. thing. A good teacher will transmit these components but individually and working together, and get the student to know how to use them for his own music making. The student has his job in acquiring them, and working with the teacher. In turn, the teacher has to understand the material she is teaching, as well as having a feel for her student. So Kesolo may be taught one way, LC another, dmd another, myself another, each according to the makeup of his/her teacher(s) and also where that student is at.
It seems that Kesolo's teacher is building the components (skills, polyphonic hearing, etc. etc.) via the music described here which was actually written to teach, and probably stressing things in it, and giving feedback and guidance. LC is given advanced music in which his teacher demonstrates things, and LC then works with all of it, and extracts the components. The way I'm working is still another variation, and so it goes.
If it stayed at trying to imitate a teacher, that would not be a comfortable state of affairs. But if it is a teacher's way of introducing components, by getting the student to discover and become aware of them, for future guidance going who knows where, then that is fine. We cannot judge how any fellow student is learning, based on how we are learning.

I don't know whether hearing anyone's playing can give a good indication of whether they are working in a good way. At times (often) there can be signs and insights. But you don't know the teacher's whole plan. It's like taking a pie out of the oven mid-way through baking and criticizing the mushiness of the crust.

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Further to my last:

A simplistic example of the danger of judging how a student is being taught/is working, based on a recording.

Teacher A: gets her student to discover, explore, and understand things. Maybe some of the interpretation is the student's, with the teacher giving feedback to further guide the student. Maybe more time is taken to hone reading skills.
Teacher B: tightly choreographs the student's playing, spends a lot of time on one piece making it perfect, doing everything for the student.

You hear a recording of A's student and B's student. It is likely that the playing of B's student will sound more impressive than A's student. Which one is being taught better, and working in a better way (in the long run)? I'd say, not the one who sounds better.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650368
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That was very insightful, keystring, thank you.

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We cannot judge how any fellow student is learning, based on how we are learning.


I must admit that I tend to do this, though I try to restrict myself to berating helping people who use stuff like Synthesia, or those feared self-taught players who start with intermediate material. I refrain from trying to teach people who are more advanced, though I welcome everyone to learn from my own experiences.

@Richrf, I agree that this thread is turning into a wealth of information. Especially the discussions started by people with different points of view spark some very interesting discussion, and there's much to be learned from both sides of the argument.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650387
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Originally Posted by keystring
I don't know whether hearing anyone's playing can give a good indication of whether they are working in a good way. At times (often) there can be signs and insights. But you don't know the teacher's whole plan.
It would depend a lot on what you can hear and what else you know. Knowing the teacher's plan doesn't mean much because it's for the future and won't affect how the student's currently working and it may also change in the interim. A good teacher would be flexible on forming plans.

Originally Posted by keystring
You hear a recording of A's student and B's student. It is likely that the playing of B's student will sound more impressive than A's student. Which one is being taught better, and working in a better way (in the long run)? I'd say, not the one who sounds better.
I'd be cautious of judging the teacher or their methods by their student's ability without knowing where the student's been. It looks like you're giving the nod to Teacher A because her student sounds worse! smile

Are you including the insight into how the teachers are working with the recording?


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Why judge a player by his current ability, no matter the methods of learning? A recording is nothing more than a point on the timeline, it is what was before this recording and what comes after it that gives it significant meaning. Compare today's recording with last month's, and you got a lot more to work with. You can judge the amount of progress that's made. Maybe the 8th notes are more rhythmic or the chord progressions are smoother.. It's hard, at least for me, to judge someone's technical proficiency from a single video, but it's fairly easy to see and hear these technical improvements over a period of time.

Don't just look at how good you are today, but also look back at where you come from, and look ahead to see what you would like to do.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: zrtf90] #2650407
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
Are you including the insight into how the teachers are working with the recording?

I don't think you understood any of my post, Richard. You're missing the point and responding to I don't know what. I don't know how to fix that. Can you try rereading, maybe? smile

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Originally Posted by Keselo
Why judge a player by his current ability, no matter the methods of learning?

I don't think there should be judging, period. But if I understand correctly, dmd wants to hear Lucky Charm play, and when LC uploads his performance, I think dmd wants to judge whether LC is working in a good way / is being taught in a good way. I am trying to warn against that.

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Originally Posted by Keselo
Why judge a player by his current ability, no matter the methods of learning? A recording is nothing more than a point on the timeline, it is what was before this recording and what comes after it that gives it significant meaning. Compare today's recording with last month's, and you got a lot more to work with. You can judge the amount of progress that's made. Maybe the 8th notes are more rhythmic or the chord progressions are smoother.. It's hard, at least for me, to judge someone's technical proficiency from a single video, but it's fairly easy to see and hear these technical improvements over a period of time.

Don't just look at how good you are today, but also look back at where you come from, and look ahead to see what you would like to do.



The reason they judge is because they are a bunch of bullies who like to push people around and stand in judgement of people. They are nothing more than cowardly online bullies who run people off this forum and then bemoan that so many people have left. I just received a very polite PM from yet another sweet and very well meaning member who is leaving. This is what years of their training has created. Disgusting, obnoxious, online bullies who want this forum for themselves. Something special for their decrepit lives. It feels like grade school back in Brooklyn growing up among thugs.

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Originally Posted by Richrf
The reason they judge is because they are a bunch of bullies who like to push people around and stand in judgement of people. They are nothing more than cowardly online bullies who run people off this forum and then bemoan that so many people have left. I just received a very polite PM from yet another sweet and very well meaning member who is leaving. This is what years of their training has created. Disgusting, obnoxious, online bullies who want this forum for themselves. Something special for their decrepit lives. It feels like grade school back in Brooklyn growing up among thugs.

I have personally not come across anything that I'd say is bullying. People give advice, people have discussions, and when you are limited to typing your words over the internet, lots of things can be wrongly interpreted.

If someone places a reaction that sounds a bit harsh or snappy, I can't help but shrug. I remember that there's a person on the other side of the connection, they have their daily lives, and their own worries. Sometimes that slips into a reaction, often without the person even realizing it happens (I've had it happen myself).

Short story even shorter: this is the Internet, don't take things too personally.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650437
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Originally Posted by Richrf
The reason they judge is because they are a bunch of bullies who like to push people around and stand in judgement of people. They are nothing more than cowardly online bullies who run people off this forum and then bemoan that so many people have left. I just received a very polite PM from yet another sweet and very well meaning member who is leaving. This is what years of their training has created. Disgusting, obnoxious, online bullies who want this forum for themselves. Something special for their decrepit lives. It feels like grade school back in Brooklyn growing up among thugs.

I have personally not come across anything that I'd say is bullying. People give advice, people have discussions, and when you are limited to typing your words over the internet, lots of things can be wrongly interpreted.

If someone places a reaction that sounds a bit harsh or snappy, I can't help but shrug. I remember that there's a person on the other side of the connection, they have their daily lives, and their own worries. Sometimes that slips into a reaction, often without the person even realizing it happens (I've had it happen myself).

Short story even shorter: this is the Internet, don't take things too personally.


At this time none if it has been directed at you. Since I've been on this forum I've seen it v directed at several members who left shortly after. Bullying doesn't affect everyone, just those who are being targeted.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650440
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Originally Posted by keystring
I don't think there should be judging, period. But if I understand correctly, dmd wants to hear Lucky Charm play, and when LC uploads his performance, I think dmd wants to judge whether LC is working in a good way / is being taught in a good way. I am trying to warn against that.
Ah, now it's making sense. You wrote this...
Originally Posted by keystring
Which one is being taught better, and working in a better way (in the long run)? [b]I'd say, not the one who sounds better.
...which I read as: Which one is being taught better? I'd say the one who sounds worse! But in fact you wouldn't say at all!

Don may not be able to judge the teaching process but he should be able to judge LC's progress by the improvement in the playing (and I know his playing has already improved!). Don posted this...
Originally Posted by dmd
You know, Lucky ... what would go a long way toward showing that your methods are working well is demonstrating how you have learned the piece you mentioned about intending to work on in your very first post ..... Minute Waltz ....
...and LC submitted a performance of the Minute Waltz to the ABF recital just gone. He has also, in his short time with us, given us a good few insights into his abilities and his relationship with his teacher through his 100+ posts, some of which Don seems to have read. That should 'go a long way toward' giving Don an idea of how LC's method is working.


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Originally Posted by Keselo
I have personally not come across anything that I'd say is bullying.
This forum is very well moderated and I can assure you any appearance of bullying would be investigated. The 'Report' button is very accessible and the mods here are very responsive and responsible. I'd ignore intimations to the contrary.


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Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by keystring
I don't think there should be judging, period. But if I understand correctly, dmd wants to hear Lucky Charm play, and when LC uploads his performance, I think dmd wants to judge whether LC is working in a good way / is being taught in a good way. I am trying to warn against that.
Ah, now it's making sense. You wrote this...
Originally Posted by keystring
Which one is being taught better, and working in a better way (in the long run)? [b]I'd say, not the one who sounds better.
...which I read as: Which one is being taught better? I'd say the one who sounds worse! But in fact you wouldn't say at all!

I write in a style that I was taught many years ago, where each idea is in a paragraph, and a set of paragraphs work together. I think it was called essay style, and used to be common. But these days people seem to grab one or two sentences and then extrapolate. I was giving an example. If Teacher A has the student working only on one piece, choreographed to the hilt, then the student will play in a way to impress others for that one piece, and also make the teacher look good - but that student has not learned much. This is the transfer student who comes in to the new teacher playing two pieces brilliantly and then can't find middle C. The bottom line is that we cannot tell how well someone is being taught, or is working, based on how they play. Teacher B's student may be developing a number of skills (in my example) so that this student will be on secure footing later on.

That was the point I was trying to make.

Quote
Don posted this...
Originally Posted by dmd
You know, Lucky ... what would go a long way toward showing that your methods are working well is demonstrating how you have learned the piece you mentioned about intending to work on in your very first post ..... Minute Waltz ....

I saw that post, and it puzzled me. He suggested that Lucky demonstrate how he worked. A performance is not how you work; it is the result of your work. I wondered how LC was supposed to demonstrate how he worked. If I did so, maybe you would see me circle things on a page, and try out some things that I circled. You might see sections played at various stages of development. I'm not sure that I could create such a demonstration, and it would be boring to watch. And even if you see how someone works, will you understand it?

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dmd did not ask lucky to "demonstrate how he worked." He asked lucky to demonstrate "that [his] methods are working well."


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Regardless of your point, which I think I understood, the last line you wrote stood out to me as making a judgement, the 'I'd say'. But I had no idea your previous points were referring to Don's post. I had thought they might have something to do with my remark about supporting his teacher based just on his recent recital submission. But never mind. I think we're good on that now. smile

But Don wasn't asking LC to demonstrate how he worked - just whether they were working well.


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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
dmd did not ask lucky to "demonstrate how he worked." He asked lucky to demonstrate "that [his] methods are working well."


Direct quote: ".... what would go a long way toward showing that your methods are working well is demonstrating how you have learned the piece."

When a teacher asks me "Show me how you learned this piece." then he expects me to show the steps or process that I took. I have been asked to do this by more than one teacher. Those times that I still teach or troubleshoot in teaching, I will ask this as well.

That is why I understood it as I did. The word "how" suggests it, I'm thinking.

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Ah, I read his post as missing the 'well', as in "demonstrating how well you have learned the piece", which is a common phrase in the context.


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Ah, I see. So while Don wrote "What would go a long way toward showing that your methods are working well is demonstrating how you have learned the piece." you think he intended to write "What would go a long way toward showing that your methods are working well is demonstrating how well you have learned the piece."

Thinking about this:
I went by what had actually been written, and what had been written "how you learned the piece" also made sense. Because if you want to know if a method is good, you first have to understand it, and we didn't know much about that method yet. If you want to get a feel for a method being a good one, a demonstration of that method - in stages - is a good thing. So the request, as it was written, made sense - but didn't seem that easy to carry out. Then also, is the person asking for this capable of judging if the method is good, when demonstrated? I was quiet about it, because it seemed puzzling.

Now in what you both (PS88, Richard the 1st), (we now have a 2nd Richard wink ) both understand. ..... "how well you have learned the piece" ...... What does "learning a piece well" mean? If there are particular criteria in mind, are those the right criteria, and do they actually reflect whether a methodology is good or bad? For this, I would point again to my example of Teacher A and Teacher B.

I also felt uneasy about the question, because if somebody is working with a teacher and feels confident about what that teacher is doing, then is it up to members in this forum to try to judge whether that teacher's methodology is good, by judging how well the piece has been learned, according to what we think we ought to hear?

I did not respond to that post when I saw it, because there were too many doubts; writing anything would just add to the confusion.

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I'm also thinking that if this thread is about what Kesolo is learning with his teacher, we've sort of gone adrift, and that may not be fair to K.

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I'm waiting to see if there will be a command performance.

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Originally Posted by Richrf
I'm waiting to see if there will be a command performance.

Yours? wink
(Kesolo has already posted two videos from what I have seen.)

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: keystring] #2650613
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Originally Posted by keystring
I'm also thinking that if this thread is about what Kesolo is learning with his teacher, we've sort of gone adrift, and that may not be fair to K.

I think it's also unfair how everyone spells my name wrong (though I do see plenty of unique variation!) laugh

I don't mind a discussion which sheds light on one's piano practice, as I think much can be learned from it, but I do agree with you that it has slightly drifted off-topic.


Tim

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650633
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Originally Posted by Keselo
1. Make every piece sound like music.
2. Don't (consciously) memorize a piece.

Making a piece sound like music is done by using the technique that she teaches; it allows me to play freely. A lot of practice is needed, both for making sure I adhere to her technique, and for getting the piece to sound just the way that I want. Using this technique is only possible when you're in control; it can't be executed without a proper balance between relaxation and tension.

Because I can't consciously memorize the piece, I'm forced to keep my eyes on the page if I want to play it. Yes, eventually I'll know the piece through sheer repetition, but by that time I've read the score 20, maybe even 30 times in about a week. I get a very good understanding of the piece that I'm playing. This is, I think, essential to becoming a better sight reader.

Ok, getting back on topic (or starting on it in my case), let me first say that I'm not attacking the method but I do have points that I'd like to draw out and discuss.

Making every piece sound like music is excellent and I have no issue with that but I would like to know more about the techniques. I don't have an issue with not consciously memorsing it, either. But being forced to keep the eye on the page is rubbing with me - the interpretation of point 2 - and the assertion that it might improve sight-reading.

When you first read a piece, what we call prima vista or reading at first sight, there is a benefit in keeping the eye on the page and the mental process is quite involved, taking a symbolic language and translating it into a sound and an action. An advanced reader is likely to hear it in his head first and then play it, while a less experienced player is more likely to not know how it sounds until it's played.

The second time through, though, it's no longer being translated into sound and action even with an attempt to "read" it because the player already knows how it sounds, has done the necessary translation and has associated the symbols with that sound and with the figuration of the hands and basic fingering. Even in this second time through there aren't the issues faced the first time. You can't stop the brain learning this just by not consciously trying to.

By the tenth time, though, most of what's being done is memory work and the score is being used as a cue. The process won't improve future reading at all but is more likley to frustrate it because the translation process hasn't been exercised for the last nine repetitions.

Not consciously memorising a piece doesn't mean don't memorise it. You will memorise it even without conscious effort and keeping your eye on the score will not improve reading. It will improve awareness of the keyboard topography a little but not to the extent that it will improve sight-reading because it is still relying on the muscular actions already learnt to assist hand placement and finger sequences.

I'd like to hear more about 'the technique that she teaches' to make it sound like music. That, I think, would be of benefit to others.

I use a systematic method to build a foundation that the music has to fit into and leave the experience of playing the piece to massage it around that framework. I'd be interested in knowing how Tim's teacher goes about it.


Richard
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: zrtf90] #2650649
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Originally Posted by zrtf90

Ok, getting back on topic (or starting on it in my case), let me first say that I'm not attacking the method but I do have points that I'd like to draw out and discuss.

Making every piece sound like music is excellent and I have no issue with that but I would like to know more about the techniques. I don't have an issue with not consciously memorsing it, either. But being forced to keep the eye on the page is rubbing with me - the interpretation of point 2 - and the assertion that it might improve sight-reading.

When you first read a piece, what we call prima vista or reading at first sight, there is a benefit in keeping the eye on the page and the mental process is quite involved, taking a symbolic language and translating it into a sound and an action. An advanced reader is likely to hear it in his head first and then play it, while a less experienced player is more likely to not know how it sounds until it's played.

The second time through, though, it's no longer being translated into sound and action even with an attempt to "read" it because the player already knows how it sounds, has done the necessary translation and has associated the symbols with that sound and with the figuration of the hands and basic fingering. Even in this second time through there aren't the issues faced the first time. You can't stop the brain learning this just by not consciously trying to.

By the tenth time, though, most of what's being done is memory work and the score is being used as a cue. The process won't improve future reading at all but is more likley to frustrate it because the translation process hasn't been exercised for the last nine repetitions.


I'll use Mikrokosmos Book 1 Nos. 32, 33, 34 as my example. These are the three pieces that currently give me the most difficulty. Why? Because it feels like both hands are kind of doing their own thing, and because I have to play notes that are further than a 2nd interval apart. So, every day when I play these pieces, I have to read these intervals. I do not know (consciously or unconsciously) what to play next without reading the sheet, which means that every time I play the piece I'm reading these intervals. I make my brain get used to reading these intervals. Because I read and then immediately play, there's also the tactile aspect of how my arms, hands, and fingers feel when I play such an interval.

I understand what you are saying, but I haven't been able to sight read a single piece on the first try, yet the material that I can get decently right on my first try keeps getting increasingly more difficult.

Originally Posted by zrtf90

Not consciously memorising a piece doesn't mean don't memorise it. You will memorise it even without conscious effort and keeping your eye on the score will not improve reading. It will improve awareness of the keyboard topography a little but not to the extent that it will improve sight-reading because it is still relying on the muscular actions already learnt to assist hand placement and finger sequences.


I definitely agree that I do memorize my pieces, even when it's not a conscious process. This becomes very clear with material that I eventually want to add to my repertoire. If it's a canon or a piece with counterpoint, it's a bit harder, but when there's some very clear patterns it takes little to no effort. I do not feel like this memorization comes from me relying on muscular actions which I've picked up (something I associate with 'muscle memory', which I do not think is a healthy or beneficial way of learning). If it were this muscle memory, I would play the piece the same every time, and if I wanted to add different dynamics to the piece, I would have to relearn parts. This is not the case. I can play any part of a piece that I can play from memory softer or louder at will. I can slow down, and I can speed up as fast as my current abilities allow me to. This does not come from memorization through muscle memory. Memorization comes from the understanding of what I'm playing.

Originally Posted by zrtf90

I'd like to hear more about 'the technique that she teaches' to make it sound like music. That, I think, would be of benefit to others.

I use a systematic method to build a foundation that the music has to fit into and leave the experience of playing the piece to massage it around that framework. I'd be interested in knowing how Tim's teacher goes about it.


I do not see myself fit to teach others the technique that she teaches me. For one, I'm barely two months in. The first month, she made me play in a very relaxed way, so if I were to tell people how I'm taught, I'd say to play from relaxation at all times. The last two lessons, however, we're moving more towards finding a balance between relaxation and tension. It helps me produce a more consistent and clear sound, but I can not explain how to achieve this, not in person, and definitely not over the internet.

What I can say is this. This method where relaxation is root of playing, where tension is held only for as long as it's needed, that is what helps me express my musicality. It's what makes me feel in control of what I'm playing, and as such, I feel in control of the music. I hear a piece of music in my head a certain way, or I have certain expectations of it, and this technique allows me to express exactly that.


Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650679
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Originally Posted by Keselo
...it feels like both hands are kind of doing their own thing
Yes, this will be with you for a while. Hand independence comes slowly.

Originally Posted by Keselo
...every time I play the piece I'm reading these intervals.
Yes, I see that. You're not working with diatonic music here so that helps to make hard to remember. This is why modern atonal music is still played in concert with the score.

I wouldn't worry too much about not being able to sight-read it. That will come long after hand independence. My points were aimed at the general assumption that keeping the eyes on the score would improve sight-reading. In Bartok's case it's less applicable until you're as familiar with modal music as you are with diatonic.

Originally Posted by Keselo
...something I associate with 'muscle memory', which I do not think is a healthy or beneficial way of learning
I don't want to sound like I'm nit-picking when I'm just trying to clarify but there's nothing wrong with muscle memory. It's not unhealthy at all it's just unreliable if that's all the memory there is. We actually use several kinds of memory when we're learning, there's aural, visual and tactile memory assisting the muscle (implicit or procedural) memory. If you can play be ear aural memory will sort you out in performance and knowing the start of each phrase may be enough to restore 'where you are' from muscle memory. But deliberate (explicit or cognisant) memory is almost bulletproof in performance and this is the best to have. But all forms of memory are healthy and natural.

Explicit memory comes from deliberate recall whereas implicit memory responds to cues without deliberate recall. What strengthens explicit memory is struggling to recall the memory. The struggle builds more neural pathways to the memory and makes recall very secure. When you have something in implicit memory you only have to start it off and there's no struggle to recall it. This is why when you want to memorise a recital piece it's safer to memorise it deliberately from the beginning and not wait until it's in implicit memory. It's not that implicit memory is bad or unhealthy - it's that it makes deliberate memorisation harder to achieve - by removing the struggle. smile

Originally Posted by Keselo
The first month, she made me play in a very relaxed way, so if I were to tell people how I'm taught, I'd say to play from relaxation at all times.
Ah, so it's a physical thing. That's fine, Tim. I was expecting an intellectual approach as to how to find, understand and shape a phrase and get at the music that way but it seems you're being taught a way to allow an instinctive response to the music to just come through you to the keys. I understand that and you're right, it's not something that can be discussed easily in words.

My way of getting to the music would be easier to discuss (though not so much with Bartok wink ) as it's an intellectual exercise that can be done away from the piano and that's what I thought your teacher's techniques might involve.


Richard
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650683
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I wouldn't worry too much about sight reading at this time. You are learning to read by playing pieces. You are playing a lot of pieces, which imo is a plus for learning to read well. All these piano skills take years to learn. A lot of times, seems like beginners get way ahead of themselves concerning themselves with issues an intermediate player would be working on. Piano world just encourages that! I wonder if the teacher always teaches relaxation, or just saw that you personally were rather tense. Or maybe because you're an adult (you may have said, but I'm not going to re-read the whole thread). It is customized instruction when you have an experienced teacher.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650699
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@Richard, I'm glad that you nit-picked on the muscle memory part, because you managed to word my thoughts better than I could myself. I do indeed mean that I want to avoid having muscle memory as my main/only way of memorization. I'm aware that there's a response from the brain to the hand when I see a certain interval, and I can definitely see the benefits to that. A few days ago, when I played through a Kabalevsky piece for the first time, I had to play a fifth chord (D A), for which my left hand had to move two or three keys over to the left. I saw it and my hand automatically moved over and played the right keys. To be quite honest with you, it left me shocked for the remainder o the day, and it only happens when I'm truly focused.

I've read through most of the FOYD thread, so I've read a fair bit about your methods of learning a piece. I've used a somewhat similar method (which was infinitely less analytical, but still lots of memorization from the start and away from the piano), but at this point in my playing I definitely feel like my current method is more efficient.

@Pianocat3, I try not to worry about my sight-reading ability, ever since someone made a similar point to yours earlier in the thread. My reading ability is improving by leaps and bounds, and that's more than enough for the time being.

I do know that she teaches this method for all her students (she only teaches adults), but you are right in your assumption that there was a lot of tension in my body. My body reacts incredibly badly to stress or prolonged tension, and if I do not deal with them momentarily I'll get pains through my entire body. It's quite annoying in my daily life, but it's quite handy when trying to learn the piano. The instant feedback has saved me from developing a bad habit or two. Anyway, due to this issue, I asked her to monitor my technique more closely, and she really does do so.


Tim

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650712
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Originally Posted by Keselo
...at this point in my playing I definitely feel like my current method is more efficient.
Another thing that's easily overlooked is that all the efficiency in the world isn't worth the effort if you're not comfortable with the process. You have to grow into these disciplines. It's taken me years - I sincerely hope you get there quicker than I did - and I still try other methods in the hope of finding one only 'slightly' slower but more enjoyable.

It takes a lot of discipline to adopt these efficiencies and you have to see the success on a continual basis to recognise the worth of it. I still take shortcuts to the music even though I know it'll take longer to learn a particular piece but it has so much more immediate appeal - and that itself is an efficiency! smile

We each have to make our own compromises between efficient and enjoyable and while piano playing is more journey than destination the efficient can take a back seat more often. The important thing, really, is to know what works when it matters and for that a written and dated journal can be priceless.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: zrtf90] #2650720
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
Another thing that's easily overlooked is that all the efficiency in the world isn't worth the effort if you're not comfortable with the process. You have to grow into these disciplines. It's taken me years - I sincerely hope you get there quicker than I did - and I still try other methods in the hope of finding one only 'slightly' slower but more enjoyable.

You're absolutely right. In that regard, I consider myself very lucky to have found a method which yields good results and is very enjoyable. I just love working on multiple pieces by multiple composers at a time, but I also know that I will lose interest after I've played a piece for too long. What "too long" exactly is, differs per piece, but so far there has been only one piece which I wanted to get over with. I think I'm very lucky with how broad my musical tastes are, there's enough that I want to play to last me a lifetime and then some.

I try and stick to my method, but it would be arrogant to think you can't learn anything from the approaches of others. I apply what I think might be a good addition, or at least keep them in mind for future evaluation. The way I do things may slightly change over a period of time, but the bigger picture remains the same. I'm not looking for a perfect method, I'm looking to get good at working with one method, and make that method better when I can.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650725
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Originally Posted by Keselo

.....I also know that I will lose interest after I've played a piece for too long.....


That concerns me. Over the 2 years of exposure I had acquired of piano, I realized that there are some aspects of a piece which take a lifetime to cultivate.
I started on a grade 2 piece (Comptine D'un Autre Ete) after 1-2 weeks of my first piano class. My teacher assigned it to me. I could play the whole piece fluently within a month. I got it to a point where I could get distinction for it's performance in a piano exam, in no more than 2 months of starting it. That was when my piano exposure was half of what yours is currently.
Could I impress an audience? Yes. Could I make them cry? No.
I got the notes right, it was an easy piece to play fluently with no real technical challenges, but that piece takes a lot of emotional maturity to bring out everything from it. It's been nearly 2 years now, and 6 months ago I couldn't play it as beautifully as I can play it now, and 6 months into future, I'll probably be able to play an even more beautiful version of it than I currently can.
This is the same with all of my pieces. I regularly practice each and every piece I learned so far and manage my time accordingly. Try not to loose interest and abandon a piece once you manage to play it sufficiently good. Chances are, you are capable of bringing out much more from it, if you still keep at it for a few years.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650731
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I don't have the time or energy to bring all my pieces to such heights. The ones that do really interest me, I can probably play for the rest of my life, but if I don't 'feel' what the composer meant, or if I can't appreciate a piece for what it is, then I'm not going to spend my time on it.

If I decide to commit to a piece, it must always be because it's special in some way to me. If it doesn't make me happy to play it, I'm not going to keep on doing so just because of the time that I've invested into it. Whether I like it or not, when I abandon a piece I've made an initial recording and learned many of the things that the piece teaches. It is also worth mentioning that the material that I play right now has some room for growth, but the truth is many of these pieces are very simple.

There are pieces that I've learned by now that I can see myself playing well into the future, and there'll be only more pieces added as time goes on. There's so much that I want to play that is out of my reach right now, and I want to find a path which leads me to a point where I can play these pieces. One such goal is Grieg's Op. 12, his first Lyric Pieces album. I love all 8 pieces, and my two favourite Lyric Pieces (#2 Waltz and #3 Watchman's Song) are on that album.


Tim

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650746
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Originally Posted by Keselo
I don't have the time or energy to bring all my pieces to such heights. The ones that do really interest me, I can probably play for the rest of my life, but if I don't 'feel' what the composer meant, or if I can't appreciate a piece for what it is, then I'm not going to spend my time on it.

If I decide to commit to a piece, it must always be because it's special in some way to me. If it doesn't make me happy to play it, I'm not going to keep on doing so just because of the time that I've invested into it. Whether I like it or not, when I abandon a piece I've made an initial recording and learned many of the things that the piece teaches. It is also worth mentioning that the material that I play right now has some room for growth, but the truth is many of these pieces are very simple.

There are pieces that I've learned by now that I can see myself playing well into the future, and there'll be only more pieces added as time goes on. There's so much that I want to play that is out of my reach right now, and I want to find a path which leads me to a point where I can play these pieces. One such goal is Grieg's Op. 12, his first Lyric Pieces album. I love all 8 pieces, and my two favourite Lyric Pieces (#2 Waltz and #3 Watchman's Song) are on that album.


I totally agree with not needing to hang onto every piece. Yes, there can always be room for improvement (even over decades), but sometimes the goal of the piece is not to add to your repertoire, but to learn the associated skill. Once the skill is learned, you can move on. For those that you want to retain, you can work on the interpretation for months/years/decades.
IMHO, it is important for me to make this distinction as I cannot continue to polish every new piece or keep it at performance standard.

In fact, don't concert pianists even make the distrinction about what they want to retain in their repertoire?


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650752
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This discussion about keeping pieces or polishing pieces or how long one has been working on a piece makes me think: I am always practicing, and never getting to play the piano for fun. Also from practicing I now have a critical attitude towards my playing, even when I'm trying to play through a piece for fun, where stumbles really bother me and I'm afraid I'm ruining my playing by playing through them.

I recently had occasion to listen to my (4 years ago) Grieg recital pieces and there were imperfections in them, but they weren't critical and didn't affect my enjoyment of listening to them now. Watching (I videotaped them) and listening, I was mostly struck by a fluid sense of ease.

I feel like I've gone backwards in terms of ever feeling good about my pieces like that.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650758
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PianoStudent88: To turn off the 'critic' in ourselves and just enjoy is really difficult for all of us-- as we spend so much time 'practicing', 'working of problems', 'working on polishing'.
The ONLY thing that works for me to is to mentally say to myself 'NO CRiTICISM ALLOWED THIS AFTERNOON. YOU WILL JUST PLAY FOR FUN (without stopping and correcting)
I just need to do it more often! P.S. You won't ruin your playing to tell the internal critic to go take a nap smile

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I'm sorry I forgot to exclude exercises and other similar pieces from my initial comment because I never practiced exercises apart from during the first 15 days of starting piano maybe.

I really played about 6-7 pieces off of sheet music so far that I can recall, so I can keep track of each one individually.
If you got a lot of pieces in your repertoire, it'd be stupid to practice each piece regularly. My apologies for the misleading post.

I was talking about the pieces you love only. I love each and every piece I took up so far dearly. I never take a piece up if I don't find it dear to me. So, give due years to the pieces you wish to convey your emotions with and keep up the good work. wink

Edit - I'm kind of guilty of criticizing myself during practice too, even when I don't want to. It just feels wrong somewhere that I am playing just for fun and plowing through the wrong phrases and mistakes instead of correcting myself, or playing at concert speed with a flurry of mistakes instead when I clearly know that I'm not up to the job yet. I wish I had that turn off button you got, dogperson.

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650771
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Originally Posted by Keselo
I don't have the time or energy to bring all my pieces to such heights. The ones that do really interest me, I can probably play for the rest of my life, but if I don't 'feel' what the composer meant, or if I can't appreciate a piece for what it is, then I'm not going to spend my time on it.

If I decide to commit to a piece, it must always be because it's special in some way to me.

A few thoughts came into my mind from your posts.

I agree there's no point in spending time on polishing pieces to performance standard that you aren't particularly interested in, or that you're not planning to perform or keep in your rep. All the pieces you're currently learning are 'learning pieces' (which was Bartók's aim), and designed to build skills, so if your teacher is satisfied that you've got what you needed from them, move on to new pastures to build more skills.

Most advanced pianists (including concert pianists) learn many pieces that they never polish, because they don't intend to perform them in public. For myself, the only pieces I polished to that degree as a student were my exam pieces, and the pieces I really liked, for my own personal satisfaction. (I never performed in recitals as a student).

Also, I agree with your teacher about playing from the sheet music, whether or not you've got some of the notes into your memory. Repeatedly reinforcing the association between notes on the score with the notes you play on the keyboard helps imprint them into your memory, your ultimate goal being able to read whole groups of notes at a glance and play them on the piano instantly. But that's a long way off. The first step is to be able to play any note you see on the staff instantly, without having to count intervals etc.

Also, 'muscle memory' doesn't restrict you to always playing the notes exactly the same way. You will still be able to change the way in which you play them, whether in the articulation, dynamics or tempo. Most of the pieces I've memorized are fast, full of notes and leaps, and I play them predominantly using muscle memory. But I can vary the way I play them in any way I like, while still remembering the actual notes. It's the notes that I've memorized, not the dynamics. Not even the rhythm - there're a few Baroque pieces that I experimented with double dotting, ornaments etc, while playing from memory, though when I memorized them, they were single dotted and without ornaments.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: bennevis] #2650797
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Also, I agree with your teacher about playing from the sheet music, whether or not you've got some of the notes into your memory. Repeatedly reinforcing the association between notes on the score with the notes you play on the keyboard helps imprint them into your memory, your ultimate goal being able to read whole groups of notes at a glance and play them on the piano instantly. But that's a long way off. The first step is to be able to play any note you see on the staff instantly, without having to count intervals etc.


I'm still quite a way off from being able to play a note without any point of reference instantly; the time it takes to determine my starting position can take embarrassingly long. Still, I've made some big improvements in the reading-while-playing department.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Also, 'muscle memory' doesn't restrict you to always playing the notes exactly the same way. You will still be able to change the way in which you play them, whether in the articulation, dynamics or tempo. Most of the pieces I've memorized are fast, full of notes and leaps, and I play them predominantly using muscle memory. But I can vary the way I play them in any way I like, while still remembering the actual notes.


Right, that make a lot of sense. I've always thought of muscle memory as someone relying on his muscles to play the next note, without actively knowing what it is. I like your definition a lot better.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Not even the rhythm - there're a few Baroque pieces that I experimented with double dotting, ornaments etc, while playing from memory, though when I memorized them, they were single dotted and without ornaments.


You completely lost me there, I'm afraid.


Last edited by Keselo; 06/05/17 01:58 PM.

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] #2650823
06/05/17 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Keselo


Originally Posted by bennevis
Not even the rhythm - there're a few Baroque pieces that I experimented with double dotting, ornaments etc, while playing from memory, though when I memorized them, they were single dotted and without ornaments.


You completely lost me there, I'm afraid.


Have a listen to the start of these:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQHgtWmk0Zg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3K27AmNo-XI

Believe it or not, they're playing the same piece grin.


"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: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2651041
06/06/17 04:39 AM
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When I started out with lessons every piece I learnt was a repertoire piece and took longer to get to grips with than it did to memorise so it was automatically memorised and retained. Later on I began to pick up 'petty' pieces that were playable before they'd been memorised and became more readily discarded as passing fancies.

I now retain a number pieces that are kept ready to perform without notice and change the list around every so often.

I use well learned pieces to develop higher technique than is possible in pieces that are still being learnt. I do think it's well to keep a small number of pieces at the fingertips but I agree that it needn't be every piece we learn.

Dogperson also raises an important point. Playing through wrong notes is an important skill for performance and known repertoire is ideal for that as it doesn't interfere with the more cautious learning process.


Richard
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2651431
06/07/17 02:09 PM
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I don’t thank everyone who replies to my questions or contributes to the discussion, but please do know that I truly appreciate the time and effort each one of you puts into their posts. Even if I don’t react to your post, do know that I’ve read it (probably more than once). I just want to make sure that half this thread isn’t me thanking people for their time and effort, as I think that’s rather pointless, just so long that you all know that you’re very much appreciated.

I’ve decided to keep track of my weekly goals / progress in this thread, instead of the FOYD. I generally feel like it fits better in this thread, and maybe allows for discussion. If nothing else, keeping all my reports in one thread makes it easier for me to keep track of everything.

Week 6


I initially felt like I made relatively little progress this week, and like things lacked behind a bit. However, now that I’ve read back my last post, I’ve achieved nearly all my goals, which is nice.

My Mikrokosmos pieces are coming along splendidly. No. 32 is probably ready for performance this weekend, and Nos. 33 and 34 would be close, if it weren’t for the higher tempo which trips me up. I’m starting to enjoy this book less and less, though. I hope it’s just because the last few pieces are fairly long and difficult, and that book 2 brings back the joy that I felt for the first 30 or so pieces.

Gurlitt Op. 117, The First Lessons, on the other hand, is getting better and better. No. 11 is such a lovely little piece, and it’s getting close to ready. I’ve started work on Nos. 12, 13, and 14, which came very easily to me. Some scales, lots of 8th notes and the occasional interval of an octave. I feel like I’m really benefiting from this book, as I’m getting faster and faster at reading 8th notes.

Kunz Op. 14 is something I can recommend every beginning to intermediate pianist should get. It’s great sight reading material or, if you’re as bad as me, just ordinary playing material. Playing a canon while reading the score is fairly tricky, but it’s also very much learnable. I’m starting to feel more in control when I play these pieces. I’ve played the first 9 this week, but I do expect that my progress through this book will slow down from now on.

Diabelli Op. 125 I’m starting to seriously dislike. I’m probably abandoning this, as I feel it adds little and I’ve got enough material that I do enjoy.

Kabalevsky Op. 39 gave me the most trouble. No. 4, a cradle song, gave me some issues last week, but my teacher gave me some pointers and I instantly got it. No. 5 is pretty tough: one hand at a time, staccato, B flat major, and the hands move. I find it’s very hard to keep track of where my hand is when playing staccato; I’m not touching any keys so I have to really focus to keep track of where I exactly am. It’s getting better, and I suppose it just needs a lot of practice, but it’s something to keep in mind.

I want to work on the following material the coming week. New pieces will be added evenly throughout the week, though most work on these is done in the weekend. Needs work will need at least another week. Good enough pieces are at the point where I try and get an initial recording during the weekend. Future repertoire I will try and get a second recording of this weekend. Repertoire has been recorded twice, uploaded to YouTube, and is maintained by spreading out the frequency at which I practice them.

This is the list that I use and update on a daily basis, and ever since I've started using it I've found my practice is more purposeful.

New
- Mikrokosmos No. 35
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 15
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 6
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 10, 11, 12

Needs work
- Mikrokosmos Nos. 33, 34
- Gurlitt Op. 117 Nos. 14
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5
- Kunz Op. 14 Nos. 7, 8, 9

Good enough
- Mikrokosmos No. 32
- Gurlitt Op. 117, No. 11, 12, 13
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 3, 4
- Kunz Op. 14 Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6

Future repertoire
- Mikrokosmos Nos. 30, 31
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 10
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 Nos. 1, 2

Repertoire
- Mikrokosmos Nos. 16, 22, 23, 26, 29

Kabalevsky No. 6 is a little piece with simultaneous 8th notes in both hands, the majority played staccato, so I expect that will not be too easy. Gurlitt No. 15 is a page long piece, the first in the book, and contains chords and hand movement. In theory, there shouldn’t be anything new in it, but I’ve learned to be more careful when judging a piece by its cover, so to say.

To end this post on a sad note: no piano lesson this week. Boo hoo. cry


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] #2653546
06/14/17 03:58 PM
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Week 7

I made better progress than I initially expected, which mostly comes from my growing love for Gurlitt's music.

Mikrokosmos (Bartók) keeps chugging along. I’m starting to pick up pieces with intervals of 4ths and 5ths more easily now, though I have a lot of trouble when I try to bring these pieces up in tempo. My brain can’t process it fast enough, at least not all the time. Still, it’s getting better, so I’m happy. I managed to record No. 32, and started on No. 35. The second to last piece in the book, it continues where 32, 33, and 34 left off.

The First Lessons (Gurlitt) gets better every week. I felt like the first pieces were a little too much like études. One third through the book it gets a lot better; I’m very tempted to memorize every piece from No. 10 to 17, except for 12. The melodies are simple enough to let me experiment with tempo, rubato, and volume, which in turn makes it that much more enjoyable to play.

I wanted to start on No. 15, but wasn’t sure how hard it would be. Turned out it was very easy; Mr. Gurlitt very clearly reused things that were introduced in previous pieces. The sensation of my hand automatically playing a chord just upon seeing it was quite the sensation, and it gives me hope that I’m on the right track. I’ve also started No. 16, which was my favourite new piece of the week. What a beautiful piece to play around with, definitely one to stay. No. 17, a cradle song, is a bit harder than the previous pieces (lots of left hand movement in the second part). That one is still very much in the new category.

200 Small Canons (Kunz) is a fine book, and as close to an exercise as I currently play. Some canons are somewhat satisfying to play, but for the most part it’s training my ability to read ahead. It’s doing a fine job at that, though.

24 Little Pieces (Kabalevsky). After a week of slow(er) practice of No. 5, I’m finally starting to get it. It’s very challenging with the staccato, accents, and hand movement, but also proved a great introduction to the next pieces in the book. 6 and 7 are also heavy on staccato with hand movement, but they very clearly benefitted from the work I put into No. 5.

For my lesson tomorrow, I’ll bring two books with me. First Lessons in Bach, and 12 Very Easy and Melodious Studies (Streabbog). I’m curious if my teacher thinks I’m ready to start on either one. I personally think Bach is still a bit beyond me, but the first Streabbog piece looks manageable.

The coming week will look something like this in terms of material. Gurlitt lets the hands move a bit more, Bartók is more of the same, Kabalevsky ventures into the lands of legato playing, and Kunz starts mixing staccato and legato playing. I think this perfectly illustrates my philosophy of controlled exposure; no major new concepts, instead looking to take small steps every week.


New
- Mikrokosmos No. 36
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 17, 18, 19
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 7, 8
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 12, 13

Needs work
- Mikrokosmos No. 33, 34, 35
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 15
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 11

Good enough
- Mikrokosmos No.
- Gurlitt Op. 117, No. 13, 14, 16
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 6
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 9, 10

Future repertoire
- Mikrokosmos No. 30
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 10, 11
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 1, 2

Repertoire
- Mikrokosmos Nos. 16, 22, 23, 26, 29


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] #2654617
06/18/17 02:01 PM
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Playing with rubato and dynamics

During my lesson, last Thursday, my teacher told me that I should try and play more freely. I was limiting myself by playing just what the sheet said, without giving any meaningful own interpretation to it.

The next day, I played around with it. Adhering to the notes on the paper, but that’s about it. No two playthroughs are the same like this, and instead of trying to get everything perfectly, I react to what’s happening right now, using my ears to judge when the next note should be played. It’s something that, like pretty much everything else piano related, still needs a ton of work, but it’s encouraging that I can do it in a way which sounds satisfying (to me).

The first two pieces to which I could apply this newly introduced way of playing were two pieces by Gurlitt, from his Op. 117. No. 13 ‘Morning Salute’ and No. 14 ‘Going to School’. I had very little trouble learning both pieces, as they didn’t introduce any new concepts, and this is why (I think) I can play around with dynamics and rubato with these pieces.

While neither piece is perfect, it’s a very real representation of my current ability of playing. As I continue to grow as a player, there’s no doubt I can make these pieces sound better, but for now I’m more than satisfied.





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] #2654662
06/18/17 05:52 PM
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I believe that the former of the two pieces has a march like rhythm to it. I just played through the whole piece with a faster tempo and that seemed to fit in with the composition's nature.

If you're feeling comfortable with the piece, how about going a little faster?

Also, that much rubato isn't desirable, in my humble opinion. If the whole piece is played with frequent rubatos, it feels inconsistent and rhythm gets shaky.
Pieces like these benefit from being stood tall, while at the same time, being consistent and delicate. There are thick, march like chords providing a strong rhythmic drive here, so it's better to follow that, even though played slowly.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2654730
06/19/17 01:29 AM
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You're probably right that this much rubato isn't desirable. I reckon that looking back at this in a couple of months will make me cringe pretty badly, but since this was meant as an exercise in doing my own thing, I don't really mind (for now). But yes, I definitely need to learn how to give a dash of rubato, instead of a whole heap like I did here.

I've tried playing it faster, but I think it sounds better when played more slowly. I've played it like a march in my head, but that makes it sound very static, which imo doesn't fit in the piece. I imagine a kid, excited for the new day that has dawned, his attention constantly jumping between the hundreds of things that he wants to do. This carries over into No. 14, when he needs to go to school, but he'd rather do other things. Imagine a fight with his mom, but in the end he gives in and goes.


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] #2654745
06/19/17 03:37 AM
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Keselo, I suspect that you are doing exactly the right thing in that recording, and above all, the feedback you need is that of your teacher, who told you to do this at this time for a reason.

Babies grow up to become dancers, orators, singers, mathematicians, engineers, cooks. But what they do first as babies is to experiment wildly, crazily. They explore their world, their senses, their actions in right, wrong, and exaggerated ways. Then later these get honed into "right ways".

You said that you played the music literally as it was written and your teacher has asked you to do rubato. You won't get that rubato perfect first time round - you're the exploring baby. Before learning the fine control of a tool, you just have to get used to it. Last year I discovered agogic accents - a way of slightly moving the length of a note for expression like an orator. I stuck agogic accents all over the place and sort of felt there were too many and most were not in the right place, but couldn't always tell where that right place might be. But I got help and guidance, it got refined, and then I started to get the feeling of it.

In a few pieces in the past I kept vacillating between rubato, and the pulse fell apart, and strict pulse, and the piece was boring. Finding the sweet spot, the balance, is hard.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2654753
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Hello Keystring,

What a beautiful analogy. It makes a lot of sense that the best way to learn something, is by doing it a lot, whether it’s the wrong or right way. Learning how the right way should sound is much easier when knowing how the wrong way sounds. I can’t say that I feel like a baby (I don’t remember how being a baby felt), but I do indeed feel like a child when playing and experimenting with rubato (and dynamics).

In terms of pulse, that is all over the place. It’s something very tricky to establish, and while I feel like I’m doing fine without any rubato, once rubato is introduced my pulse trips over itself. I don’t worry too much about it, and instead add it to my never-ending list of things that need work.


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] #2655373
06/21/17 03:24 PM
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Revisiting Beethoven's Ecossaise in E Flat Major.

On 3 June, just under three weeks ago, I’ve shared with you a thorough look at Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat. I thought I could handle it, and then realized that I couldn’t. I decided back then to lay it aside and revisit it once I’ve familiarized myself with some of the concepts in the piece. Since it’s now two and a half weeks later, I’ve decided to once again look at it, see if I’m in a better place to tackle it.


Originally Posted by Keselo

The key

It is written, as the name of the piece kind of gives away, in the key of E flat major. At this stage in my piano playing journey, any key other than that of C major mustn’t be underestimated. It isn’t terribly hard to get used to playing in a different key, especially once you figure out the logic behind which keys are flat/sharp in the different keys, but it is something time must be spent on. I would tackle this by improvising for a few minutes every day in the key of E flat major.

The black keys

Up until now, most my key presses are those of white keys. There is the occasional black key, but it isn’t the norm. So, along comes this Ecossaise, in which Beethoven requires you to use a key with three black keys. These black keys make the fingering fairly awkward; it isn’t at all as intuitive as the Bartók pieces are.


Kabalevsky is the composer who’s provided me with the most relevant practice in this regard. The five pieces that I’ve worked on over the past two weeks are written in four different keys. I feel more confident in my ability to quickly switch between keys, though it remains to be seen if this will hold up for the key of E flat major, which is new to me.

In addition, Bartók is really fond of accidentals. It will not help me much, but I may benefit from this in one way or another.

Originally Posted by Keselo

The right hand

There’s two different kinds of measures for the right hand in this piece. There’s the quarter note followed by two 8th notes, and there’s four 8th notes. That’s all I looked at before deciding the right hand wouldn’t give me any trouble. After trying to play this for 20 minutes, however, difficulties arose.
-The right hand doesn’t stay set during the piece.
-The fingering of the 8th notes can be awkward.
-Me wanting to play legato wherever possible is a huge crutch, and limits mainly my ability to smoothly play these 8th notes.

Again, Kabalevsky is of big help in resolving these issues. Nos. 4 through 8 from his Op. 39 (it’s not in the public domain, but you can find it on Google if you want to see what I mean) all have moving hands, and my hands having to move now gives me noticeably less trouble than it did two weeks ago.

The awkward fingering is probably still awkward, that’s okay.

Stopping myself from playing everything I come across that isn’t staccato as if it is legato is something my teacher and I have worked on during my last two lessons. I’ve worked on it every day, and I’m confident in my ability to apply this newfound skill to a new piece. I’ve practiced this with works from all four composers that I play, most notably Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 4.

Originally Posted by Keselo
The left hand

I saw a two-note chord followed by a single quarter note, and, again, thought that it would be easy. I didn’t consider that the chords move down, but the quarter note stays put(most of the time). This considerably limits my ability to play these notes legato.

I haven’t come across this concept in any other piece. Though I expect my practice with hand movement to be beneficial to tackling this. My initial expectation is that this will need some isolated practice (and a constant reminder that I needn’t play everything legato).



Originally Posted by keselo
The tempo

I was unable to tell this by looking at the sheet, but every performance of the piece that I could find was played very fast. So fast, that I have doubt in my own ability to produce a similar tempo within a reasonable amount of time.

This is the only thing that is probably still beyond my reach. I’ve played a fast piece (Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 6), but both hands play in symmetry, which is a lot easier than this piece.

Originally Posted by keselo
The verdict

At first glance, this piece introduced no new concepts. After further analysis, this piece introduces at least four new concepts, which is simply too many. These concepts are more of a continuation on previously learned ones. Regardless, it’s a lot to keep track of. I will wait at least two more weeks before re-evaluating my ability to start work on this piece. I don’t mind a challenge, but right now the challenge that this piece brings me is too big.

Luckily, some of the difficulties that this piece has, will come back in other pieces that I will start work on the coming days. Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5 has moving hands. Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 4 teaches me to not play everything legato. When I can sufficiently play these pieces, the difficulties of the Beethoven piece will be brought back to two new concepts, which should be a lot easier to tackle.

I’m glad to see that I rightly judged the benefits the Kabalevsky pieces would have. I’m even happier that I managed to progress beyond what I expected in that book and got a lot of meaningful and relevant practice. I think I've benefited from the other composers, too, though that is more a matter of generally getting better at playing the piano. Two weeks isn't very long, but I've noticed with my recordings that meaningful progress is made in such a short time.

I must be aware of my habit of constantly overestimating my own abilities, no matter how conservative I think I’m being. Still, I think I can give this piece an honest try, I’ll just have to settle for a slower than perhaps desired end-result.




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] #2655869
06/23/17 04:16 PM
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Week 8

I’ve had two lessons since my last weekly update, and quite a bit has changed since then. Both lessons were very productive, during which I’ve gained many valuable insights. It’s weeks like this that I’m so very grateful that I’ve found my teacher.

Mikrokosmos (Bartók) is where the biggest change occurred. I was way too focused on getting the pieces up to the tempo that’s written down in the book, which was quite a negative influence on my playing. I got demotivated when I couldn’t get it much faster without tripping up, and my focus on bringing the tempo up caused a loss of musicality. During last week’s lesson, my teacher basically told me to ignore the tempo markings. These pieces trip up all her beginning students, and no one ends up playing these pieces in tempo. This helped me in thinking less critically of myself, and brought back the enjoyment I get out of Mikrokosmos. I’m satisfied with every piece but the very last one of the book, which is fair enough, since I’ve been practicing it for a week now.

Oh, and I'll start on the second book as well! How very exciting.

The First Lessons (Gurlitt). Progress halted a bit, as No. 17 is quite tricky. It’s a cradle song, where the melody in the right hand is simple enough, but the broken chord accompaniment in the left hand is quite a bit trickier. Not only does the left hand move positions throughout the piece, different chords get broken, and I’ve had great difficulties reading it quick enough. I would focus on the first note of the broken chord, and attempt to read the other two notes by reading the intervals. This way of playing went fairly well while at home, but it fell completely apart during yesterday’s lesson. Luckily, my teacher, being an amazing teacher, had a very good solution for this.

She explained to me a concept she called ‘grouping’. Left hand alone, play the broken chords in the left hand as normal chords. When playing the chord, slightly press the fingers into the keys, settle into the keys, and then release. Don’t play repeat chords, but look for the next one which is different from the last. Never guess, making sure to always identify the chord on the sheet, identifying the notes on the keyboard, and then playing it. This also teaches a much better way of reading broken chords; reading the entire chord instead of the bottom note and going from there.

I could apply this technique today, and it made a huge difference. I’d play through the left hand like this once or twice, and then try the piece. The broken chords that tripped me up yesterday, felt very natural today. Only at the end I'd hesitate a little bit, so that will get isolated practice this weekend. I also had a much easier time keeping the left hand softer than the right. In one day, I’ve made more progress than during the last 7 days combined.

200 Small Canons (Kunz) remains very solid material. I played it during my lesson yesterday, and my teacher commented how pleasantly surprised she was to see me playing from this book. A very solid book, that’s criminally underplayed, for which very few players have the patience to work through, and an excellent introduction to baroque music (because it’s so good for training hand independence); that's how she described it. I’m very glad to hear from her how I feels about this book, especially the part about the baroque music. I’m keen on playing baroque music, but it’s too hard for now. Still, the idea that I’m working on some good introductory material is good to hear. The canons are getting just a tad more complex every week, but also more pleasant to the ear. No. 12, 13, and 14 I really enjoy the sound of, and I will probably record these as repertoire pieces.

24 Little Pieces (Kabalevsky). I’m finally getting a grasp on No. 5, and I’ve started work on No. 8. It’s fairly easy, but also very beautiful. Definitely my favourite from this book so far.

Last week, I also said I’d ask my teacher if I was ready for either First Lessons in Bach or Streabbog Op. 63. I thought I could start on Streabbog, but she quickly brought me back to earth. I have enough to work on for now, anyway. Goes to show, once again, how easily I overestimate myself. She did give me the green light on starting the Beethoven piece I reviewed two days ago.

This is what the coming week will look like in terms of material. There’s a lot of initial recording to do, but no new repertoire pieces. That’s okay, though, after recording 7 last Sunday. I've also decided to abandon a few repertoire pieces. I enjoyed learning them, but I don't enjoy maintaining them. That should open up some hard drive memory for the future.

New
- Mikrokosmos No. 37
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 18, 19
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 9
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 14, 15
- Beethoven Ecossaise in E Flat

Needs work
- Mikrokosmos No. 36
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 17
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 13

Good enough
- Mikrokosmos No. 33, 34, 35
- Gurlitt Op. 117, No. 15, 16
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5, 6, 7, 8
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 9, 10, 11, 12

Future repertoire

Repertoire
- Mikrokosmos No. 16, 23, 26, 29, 30
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 11, 13, 14
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 1


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] #2656261
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Continuing with rubato and dynamics

This is a follow-up on my post from last week, when I first explored the use of dynamics and rubato in two pieces by Gurlitt. I was very enthusiastic, resulting in an overload of rubato throughout the pieces. Keystring very eloquently compared my experimentation with the way a baby experiments; very exaggerated, trying everything that comes to mind and then some.

It’s now a week later, and I’ve continued to practice these two pieces. I’ve got a better idea about what I want from both pieces, and letting them settle for a week has brought them closer to what I expect from them.

I let my teacher listen to my interpretation of the pieces, and she had some nice pointers, which I’ve tried to incorporate into my new way of playing these pieces. I’ve also made a story, or rather a scenario, in which these pieces fit. This helps me stay on track and play it the way I want it.

No. 13, Morning Salute, starts with a kid getting ready for a new day. He (or she, but let’s assume it’s a he for simplicity’s sake) thinks about all the things that can be done today. Constantly changing his mind about what to do, his mind overflowing with the endless possibilities that the day brings. Then, towards the end of the piece, he realizes he can’t do all that he wants. He has to go to school, but he doesn’t want to go.

No. 14 represents the struggle that going to school is. It’s a daily ‘fight’ between a mother and her child, where the mother is the left hand and the child is the right hand. He doesn’t want to go, but his mother is having none of it. At first, he’s just sad that he has to go to school. During the second repetition of the first part, he starts whining, which is expressed by playing more loudly and with slightly more rubato. During the second part of the piece, the mother really starts putting her foot down, which is when the left hand becomes louder. At first, the kid still tries to outmanoeuvre her, but in the end he realizes it’s a lost cause, accepts his fate, and goes to school.




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] #2657223
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Week 9

This week has been my most productive week yet. With one day still to go, I’ve already practiced for 10 hours. I had assigned myself a lot of things to work on over the weekend, and while I was initially wary that it would end up demotivating me, the opposite happened. My breaks between practice sessions were shorter than usual, and the practice sessions themselves felt more efficient than ever.

Mikrokosmos (Bartók) book 1 is very nearly done. There’s still two pieces left to record; 34 is ready next weekend, 36 needs another week.

I’ve also started on book 2 this past week. I wanted to start with No. 37, but that piece came very easily to me (I could play it (slowly) after the first day). So, on Sunday, I also started work on No. 38. It’s quite a bit harder, though it did go very well when practicing it earlier today. No. 37 will definitely become a repertoire piece when it’s ready, I absolutely love it.

The First Lessons (Gurlitt). The practicing technique for learning No. 17 really paid dividends. It’s getting along very well, and I reckon it will be ready in another week. Another piece that will definitely become repertoire (like so much or Mr. Gurlitt’s work). Started work on No. 18, which really benefits from the time and learning techniques from 17. I also restarted on No. 19, a piece which I learned back in March, before I started with my teacher. Having put two hours into the piece those months ago made the learning process a lot easier.

200 Small Canons (Kunz). Playing canons with staccato in one hand while the other plays something else is quite tricky, and as such No. 15 gave me a bit of trouble. No. 14 turns out to be a very beautiful little piece, now that I can play it in tempo. I’ve also outdone myself here by starting on No. 16 today. It’s in B flat, which is yet another new key to me, but since neither hand has to play an E, it’s not that big of a deal.

24 Little Pieces (Kabalevsky). Here, I wanted to start with No. 9, but I could play it after 10 minutes, so I decided to also start work on No. 10. No. 9 does need to be played in a higher tempo than I can play it as of now, but increasing the tempo is something that needs days of consecutive practice, so I’ll give it the time it needs. No. 10 is a very tricky march in C major, which has a B section in C minor. The hands also have to move around quite a bit, but I found out today that the patterns are kind of predictable. It feels as challenging to me as No. 5 felt when I just started it.

Ecossaise in E Flat (Beethoven) was the biggest unknown in terms of new material. You can read all about it in two of my previous posts this month. In the last post I expressed my hopes that it would be within my grasp to tackle it, and I’m glad that judgement was right. It was quite tricky to get started with, something mostly caused by the key of E Flat and the fact that I had to figure out the fingering myself. Since finding a good fingering it’s progressing nicely. I don’t expect to finish it before the second half of July, but I’m sure it will get there.

I’m also very excited to start work on yet another book: For Children (Bartók). The first three pieces of the first book look very manageable, and I’m very keen to explore more of Bartók’s works. I don’t think I’ll end up having to reduce the time spent on other material; I'm looking to have it fill the gap that Mikrokosmos book 1 is going to leave after completion.

My practice for the coming week will be spent on the following pieces.

New
- Mikrokosmos No. 39
- Bartók Sz 42 No. 1
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 20
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 10
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 16, 17, 18

Needs work
- Mikrokosmos No. 36, 37, 38
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 17, 18, 19
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 9
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 15
- Beethoven Ecossaise in E Flat

Good enough
- Mikrokosmos No. 34
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5, 7
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 13, 14

Future repertoire
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 15, 16
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 6, 8
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 12

Repertoire
- Mikrokosmos No. 16, 23, 26, 29, 30
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 11, 13, 14
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 1




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] #2657871
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Monthly Review – June 2017

Today marks the last day of what was an exceptionally hot month of June. The keys of my piano had a lot of sweat to endure, but they did so without complaining even once. June was a month in which I really started diversifying the music of which my practice consists. It was the month in which I fell in love with the music of Cornelius Gurlitt. I also gained more hand independence thanks to the excellent canons of Konrad Kunz, and my video editing skills were pushed to the maximum of their ability (which sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is).

I started June, naturally, where May left off. I continued to work on Mikrokosmos Book 1, Gurlitt Op. 117 ‘The First Lessons’ and Kabalevsky Op. 39 ‘24 Little Pieces’. These three books have a very fair progression curve and complement one another nicely. As such, I have been able to steadily continue to work on and progress through these books.

On the very first day of June, I also added Kunz Op. 14 ‘200 Small Canons’. The benefits of playing this book have become very clear even after playing it for just a month. My hand independence seems to be quite a bit better than it was. This may have naturally happened without working from this book, but I’m certain it has at least accelerated the process. This book serves as a springboard to Baroque music, though I could do with a bit more practice before diving into the years of Bach, Scarlatti, and Handel. Lastly, these small canons are very charming, which plays no small part in me returning to this book daily.

I ditched Diabelli Op. 125 ‘The First Lessons’ a week into June. I didn’t enjoy playing the pieces, and it seems silly to play something that I don’t enjoy, especially when there’s so many good alternatives.

Towards the last week of June, I started on a piece that I have thoroughly covered in previous posts. Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat is coming along nicely, though I’ll not be able to play it as fast as I would want to straight away. I also started work on Mikrokosmos book 2, which feels easier than the last pieces of book 1. This comes down to concepts from Kabalevsky, Gurlitt, and Kunz carrying over into this book.

Lastly, I started working on Bartók Sz 42 ‘For Children’ just yesterday. It felt amazing how easily I could pick No. 1 and 3 from the first book up, I could play both after just fifteen minutes of practice. Sure, they still need plenty of work before they are ready for recording, but it’s very encouraging that I can pick up these new pieces in so little time without needing to memorize the whole thing (like I had to do three months back). All that was needed, was playing through once hands alone, just to get a feeling for what both hands need to do. After that, I could slowly play hands together while keeping my eyes on the page. It was while working on these pieces that I felt like I've found the right path to walk. There doesn't seem to be a destination, though. I guess I'll have to keep on walking, see what I'll come across.

Repertoire

It is perhaps unsurprising that my three favourite repertoire pieces from this month have all been written by Mr. Gurlitt.



Op. 117 No. 11 is a lovely little waltz, the first one that I played. I absolutely adore waltzes, and as such this piece has a special place in my heart (at least until I learn a new waltz). I’m continuing to work on this piece, and while it sounds a lot better when played today, I think the point of these videos is more to showcase my ability at a given point in time.



Op. 117 No. 13 and No. 14 have to be played together, as far as I’m concerned. I still enjoy playing these pieces, but I reckon they will be replaced within a month or two as repertoire pieces. Still, they taught me a lot of new things, like rubato, so they are definitely important pieces for my development.

All the other repertoire pieces can be found in this playlist. This Sunday, I'm looking to add Kunz Op. 14 No. 12 and Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 15, 16.

Looking forward

Sadly, I only have two more lessons before the summer vacation, both next week, so I’ll be on my own for the rest of the month. I’m still very excited to learn what July will bring in terms of music. I will continue progressing through all the books that I’m currently working on, and don’t expect many new things to be added. Maybe I’ll try my hand at Streabbog Op. 63 towards the end of the month, let’s see.

June by the numbers.

No monthly update is complete without graphs, so here they are.

[Linked Image]

I’ve added the pieces that were in progress at the end of May, both those without the initial recording (‘In Progress May’) and those that weren’t ready for a second recording (‘Future Repertoire May’). Those pieces, along with the 40 started in June, equals a total of 55 pieces that I’ve worked on in June. Of these 55 pieces, 38 were completed, which leaves 17 pieces still in various stages of progress. That seems to be around the sweet spot for me; not all 17 pieces need an equal amount of work, and this current workload ensures that every piece started is initially recorded within a month.

Something else that I started keeping track of, is the number of pages of music that has been started in a month (thus, the amount of pages of new music that I've read). Since a piece can be as short as 8 measures and as long as 32 measures (for now), this puts it into a bit more perspective. It isn’t perfect, as Kunz Op. 14 contains 48 bars per page, while Mikrokosmos has pages with half of that. In May, I went through 25 pages of music, while in June this was 19 pages. This can largely be attributed to the first 19 or so pieces of Mikrokosmos book 1, through which I went very quickly back in May.

[Linked Image]

I wonder how much more data this graph can handle before it becomes completely unreadable. Still, if nothing else, it shows how balanced my current practice is, with a nearly equal number of pieces from each work in progress. I’ve cheated a little bit by counting the pieces that I’m to record this weekend as Good Enough / Repertoire. I feel like it gives a slightly fairer (and better looking) representation, so I just went for it.

[Linked Image]

This graph is a lot more balanced than last month, when over half my time was spent on Mikrokosmos book 1. I think in July this graph will balance out even more, if my new method of practicing works out the way it does. I will make a more detailed post on this subject once I've got a more concrete idea on the subject.


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] #2659541
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Book review – Mikrokosmos Book 1 by Béla Bartók

Back in May, the first book that I started working on was Bartók’s Mikrokosmos book 1. My teacher uses this book with all her beginning students, and I can see why. Since I’ve completed the book last weekend (recorded the last two pieces on July 1st), I’ll give you a rundown of the book to which I’ll add my personal thoughts. I hope some of you may find it useful. N.B. I bought the Boosey and Hawkes edition, and I recommend anyone who wants to work through this book to do the same. The preface written by Bartók himself is invaluable, and the English titles make a lot clearer the purpose of the pieces.

The first 21 pieces of the book focus heavily on establishing the ability to play legato in contrary motion. There are other concepts introduced; dotted notes (7), repetition (8), syncopation (9), reflection (12), accidentals (15, 17) and change of position (13, 16). Every piece, except two, familiarizes you with this contrary motion playing. It feels almost redundant, I thought it was before I started with my new teacher, but it’s a foundation that lots of following concepts are built on.

No. 10 has playing with alternate hands, and I think this serves as a first introduction to playing canons, which is something Bartók introduces later in the book. The introduction of contrary motion (17) is another concept that’s used frequently later in the book. The first 17 pieces are then reviewed with Nos. 18-21.

What makes these first 21 pieces interesting, even if you’ve been playing for some months, is that they can all sound beautiful. If you look on YouTube, most of it sounds like the most horrendous études you’ve ever come across, but I’ve found these pieces a very pleasant introduction to really listening while playing. On being less focused on what the sheet says, and more focused on what you think sounds good. As such, a piece is done when you think it sounds good, as that is when (I think) a good amount is learned from it.

It is at No. 22 things get interesting; counterpoint is introduced. From this point onward, hand independence becomes a big factor (as it should). Up to No. 27 feels like an introduction to the playing of canons. The hands imitate one another, but the melodies are easy enough to let you focus on developing hand independence.

Another small step up is made with the next four pieces; Nos. 28-31 introduce canons, slowly building on the concepts previously learned in the book.

The last five pieces of the book is what you work up to. Five one page long pieces which use all the previously introduced concepts, and are by far the most challenging pieces of the book. Consistently reading 4th and 5th intervals was what tripped me up for the longest time, as well as finding a way to read two staves at a time. The pieces are very charming, though it is worth mentioning to not beat your head against the wall to play them at the tempo marking that Mr. Bartók gave. Not only are they properly beautiful when played more slowly, Bartók also said in the preface that the tempo markings don’t need to be adhered to by beginning students.

Those who have read my previous posts, know how highly I speak of Mikrokosmos. I honestly don’t think there’s another book that teaches a beginner such a complete set of fundamentals (without taking method books into account, I really don’t care for those). There’s definitely material that supplements Mikrokosmos nicely, but nothing comes close to replacing it.

The two key works of supplementary material are, in my opinion, Gurlitt Op. 117 and Kunz Op. 14.

The predictability of Gurlitt’s work makes playing it a breeze, and his introduction of 8th notes and accompaniment in the left hand shouldn’t give much trouble. Playing through his music will also make reading 4th and 5th intervals more natural, and more reading practice in general isn’t a bad idea. I’d recommend working on this book once you’ve reached No. 18.

Kunz Op. 14 becomes interesting once you reach No. 22. From my own experience, I know how much difficulty No. 22 can give, and Kunz Op. 14 presents a ton of material to improve hand independence. Mr. Kunz himself wrote in the preface of the book that it is suited for the student who can play legato fingers 1 to 5 and back. Since that’s exactly what the first 21 pieces of Mikrokosmos focus on, adding this book once you get to the world of counterpoint seems a good idea.

It took me exactly two months to complete Mikrokosmos book 1, starting on May 1st and finishing on July 1st. During these two months, I practiced it for 32 hours and 10 minutes; an average of 32 minutes per day, 53.5 minutes per piece. I’ve committed six pieces to my repertoire, which you can find in this playlist. I did enjoy the last five pieces a lot, but committing them to memory would’ve been more work than I could be bothered to do. It is encouraging, however, that the second book has a lot of music that is as beautiful.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Yeargdribble, a user (and moderator) of the piano community on Reddit. It were his words that inspired me to go down the path that I’m on right now, and this has been extremely eye-opening to me.

“If you can’t sight-read something at full tempo, there’s something to be learned from 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] #2662565
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Reviewing Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat

On 21 June, I talked about revisiting Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat Major. I concluded that I was ready to learn the piece, and got to work the next day.

Last Saturday, on 15 July, I finished the piece by getting a recording. It took me 2 hours and 47 minutes of practice, spread over 25 days, which is just over 6 minutes each day. It was comparable to Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5 and the last five pieces of the first Mikrokosmos book in terms of relative difficulty, all pieces which I considered at the time of learning as barely doable. (Barely doable sounds a lot worse than it actually is; I simply want to refrain from learning pieces that take longer than a month to learn).

The piece initially gave me quite some trouble. The use of three black keys, as well as having to figure out the fingering all by myself were the cause for most of this. After a week I had the fingering down, at which point the most time-intensive part of practicing the new piece lay behind me. Revisiting the piece on a daily basis for as little as five minutes, focusing the bulk of my time on a few problematic spots, is what brought the piece to a reasonable level (that, and a nightly night’s rest).

While I’m not 100% satisfied with the piece, I didn’t feel like I was getting much more out of the piece. The second half feels a bit rushed, and as such that’s where the tempo falls apart a bit. I also stopped enjoying the piece, so I’m happy to have learned from it what I have, and I’m happy to move on.



Looking back on the past month, one of the most significant improvements is in my ability to pick up works in different keys. Not only from this Beethoven piece. Kunz, Kabalevsky, Bartók, and Gurlitt are all stepping away from the scale of C major (or A minor). Once I’ve seen in which key a piece is, I have to spend very little time on remembering which black keys replace which white keys. This comes, I think, mainly from improvements made in the reading department.

I will try and post a rundown of my current practice regime soon. Not because I feel like it’s perfect (it isn't) and everyone needs to practice the way I do, but because I think it’s interesting to document things like this. It should be interesting to be able to look back on such posts in the future, seeing which ideas were good and which not so much.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
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A comprehensive look at my current practice regime

Over the past month, I’d written for myself some concerns regarding my practice habits. Some of these concerns were:

When do I practice what?
When add new pieces?
How often to practice future repertoire?
What to do with repertoire?
Is there an optimal learning curve (time spent practicing vs. nights slept)?

Those who’ve read my previous posts probably know that I liked to sort my works-in-progress under a couple of different stages of completion. These were the following five stages.

New, Needs Work, Good Enough, Future Repertoire, and Repertoire.

Since I’m not at all happy with this current system, I’ll change things around a bit. My aim is to not change things every few months for the sake of clarity, but for now I think I can make a clearer and more representative system of categorization. I’ll use this new method for the remainder of my post (and hopefully well into the future, no need to make things more complicated than they are).

New: Same as before. Pieces are at a stage where I cannot play through the piece without hesitations. Technical issues need to be specifically addressed.

In Progress: Self-explanatory. I’ve merged the previous stages of ‘needs work’ and ‘good enough’ in the hopes of increasing clarity. The goal of this stage is to get every piece to a point where I can get an initial recording. Time is spent on ironing out kinks, and bringing out musicality.

Polish: Again, pretty obvious. This is what previously was ‘future repertoire’. Pieces get memorized, and musicality gets the brunt of the focus. What was before ‘repertoire’ gets removed entirely for now.

These past months, I’ve experimented with the order in which I practice my material on a given day, as well as the frequency at which every piece is practiced. My current method is the result of continuous small tweaks made in an attempt to make my time spent practicing as efficient as possible. I’m sure that I haven’t found the ultimate way for myself to practice, but I do know that my current method is the most efficient it has been in these past months. I’m always looking to improve the process, but I’m reasonably happy with how it is right now.

Time is spent on a piece depending on which stage it finds itself in; a new piece gets more time on a day than a piece that’s nearly ready for recording. Before I can show you how this works out on a typical day of practice, it is first important that you understand how new pieces are added into my routine.

Let’s say New has four empty slots. In each of these empty slots I can put a piece of music that I wish to learn. I look in these new pieces for new concepts, but not so many that I get overwhelmed. I look for previously learned concepts, which I can then reinforce. I also look for preparatory fundamentals a piece can teach. And, most important of all, I look for music that I have fun learning and playing. For my current practice regime, these slots are filled as follows:

Slot 1: Baroque. Since Baroque music is still too complicated for me to grasp in a reasonable amount of time, this slot is filled by Kunz Op. 14 ‘200 Small Canons’. It teaches hand independence, and as such seems an excellent introduction to Baroque. Many of these pieces are simple enough to be learned in a week, so the turnover rate is high. I expect this slot to be filled with music from the Baroque for a long time into the future.

Slot 2: Mikrokosmos. The benchmark around which my entire practice regime is based. I’m constantly looking for works of equal difficulty. Since most other works that I have progress more quickly than Mikrokosmos, I’m now looking to progress through this book. Since Bartók himself said the first three books can stand on their own, I expect a steady stream of Mikrokosmos for the foreseeable future.

Slot 3: Along with 4, this slot is less rigid. I start on whatever catches my fancy, which now happens to be Löschhorn Op. 181 ‘Kinder Etüden’. I’ve exhausted the easiest works of Gurlitt and Kabalevsky, yet found myself still in need of easier material. Löschhorn fills that gap quite well; I think the studies sound marvellous (when played slow, which is the only way I can play), and there’s 40 of them.

Slot 4: This is currently occupied by Rybicki’s Sad Autumn. After that’s finished, Streabbog Op. 63 ’12 Very Easy and Melodious Studies’ will take its place.

As time progresses, I might find myself in need of more slots (or less). For now, I’m quite satisfied with the increased clarity it provides me. So, on to the practice. A typical day of practice consists of 5 sessions of 15-25 minutes, fully depending on my concentration (or lack thereof) at any time.

Session 1: Spend 5-10 minutes on each of the four new pieces. My aim is to a) learn some new measures and b) reinforce measures learned on previous days. How many new measures are learned depends entirely on the difficulty of the piece. Most Kunz canons get learned within a day (8 bars), while with the other slots I some days find myself struggling to add two new bars. While I typically (try to) refrain from playing through start to finish, I still find this useful to do once in order to find problematic spots.

Whether I spend 5 or 10 minutes depends on how much I like the piece and how much difficulty it gives me. I do not worry when I practice a piece for ‘only’ 5 minutes. Much more important than the actual time spent, is the number of fully focused revisits.

Session 2: Same as first session. At the end of this session, all the books that I’m currently working on (no matter its progress) get stacked on top of my piano.

Sessions 3, 4, 5: I pick the top book from the stack, and work through all the material that’s currently in progress. Pieces get as much time as I can give them while being fully concentrated, which is anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes. I do this until I've gone through all the material once (keep in mind I do revisit the new pieces, too. As such, these get practiced thrice a day, all the other material once.

A piece that’s nearly done might only need as much as a single playthrough (or sometimes even nothing at all), as the most meaningful progress will be made overnight, whereas a new piece or piece that recently got promoted into ‘In Progress’ might take 10 minutes for me to cover everything that I want to.

On a piece that poses no more technical challenges, I spend my time working on musicality. Phrasing, rubato, and dynamics, either my own or as written by the composer, as well as ‘learning to listen’. It is with these pieces that I’m somewhat concerned about the efficiency of my methods, and I’ll certainly look to revisit these concerns in the future.

This results in a daily practice time of around 1 hour and 45 minutes, which is as long as I can fully concentrate on a typical workday. In the weekends, I might find myself pushing for 3 hours, but I always stop once I feel my concentration waning. I feel this is of the utmost importance, considering both how valuable time is as a resource and how motivation works. Even the danger of ingraining bad habits when playing poorly is very real.

My average daily practice consists of 12 pieces (ranging from half a page to two pages) plus 2 pages of Kunz canons, everything in varying stages of completion. My aim still remains to get an initial recording of a piece within a month, and the amount of material that I work on at any given time should always allow for that. The turnover rate of this all is as such, that 3-5 pieces get completed every week, keeping the workload in check.In case anyone wonders, this is a rundown of what I currently work on.

New
- Mikrokosmos No. 45
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 26
- Löschhorn Op. 181 No. 2
- Rybicki ‘Sad Autumn’

In Progress
- Mikrokosmos No. 41, 42
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 20, 21
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 12, 13
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 18-25
- Löschhorn Op. 181 No. 1
- Streabbog Op. 63 No. 1

Polish
- Mikrokosmos No. 37, 40
- Gurlitt Op. 117, No. 17

For now, I’ve answered all but the last concern that I raised at the beginning.

Quote
Is there an optimal learning curve (time spent practicing vs. nights slept)?


Is there a personal optimal learning curve, and if so, how on earth am I going to find it? I probably won’t, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try. At the very least I’ll become better at playing the piano in the process.


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] #2664384
07/27/17 05:14 PM
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That went well...

It’s funny how I write this huge post about my practice regime, only to have my practice completely overhauled not a week later. I think that’s funny, at least. It’s something that’s quite familiar to me, too. I’m always trying to find the best solution to things. The most efficient, definitive way of doing things. It’s lost me quite some hobbies over the years; if I found out after a year that I could’ve done things better, well, what’s the point?

I’m starting to realize that there is a point still. A combination of growing up and therapy, perhaps? So what if I didn’t do things perfectly? Why would the 20% that I didn’t get be more important than the 80% that I did get? It should definitely be the other way around; looking for the positive, especially when looking at yourself.

So, practice has been completely overhauled. I’ve realized that there isn’t this perfect way of practicing. Every day is different. The music practiced is different. The problems that are encountered are different. Life itself is not only different every day, but also unpredictable, which is absolutely terrible if you need a strict set of rules and activities to keep to. There is simply no place for a rigid system as I described it last week.

This realization came to me when I was listening back to some practice that I did. I’d recorded two sessions last Sunday, and decided that analysing it might give me some ways to improve. Boy, did it ever.

I was wasting so much practice time by playing through pieces. If I wanted to practice a single passage, I’d keep going and finish the piece. This happened again and again. No wonder I felt like my improvement was stagnating over the last 2 weeks; it was. At the very least, I wasn’t improving as fast as I would’ve liked to.

The silly thing was, I know how chunking works. I know why it works. I know it works. I thought I used it, but I didn’t. It’s incredible how easily your brain can fool you. This is why periodic reviews are in order; I’ve steered myself in the right direction (at least a better one), but I must make sure that I stay on track. Not only is recording a great way to catch mistakes in practicing, it’s also a good way to evaluate what I want from a piece.

To make sure I keep chunking away, I’ve started writing in my books. It felt weird at first, but I’m already used to it, and it’s been of great help so far. Having written down instructions of which part to practice, makes it a lot easier to stop and start over. There's no need to remember to stop, it's written right there! I mark my chunks, keep track of how many days I’ve practiced the chunk, and maybe add some dynamics. How often to practice each one before moving on, and at which point to let a chunk rest are still questions that I need answered.

[Linked Image]
An excerpt from the second book of Mikrokosmos. Chunks are initially made keeping phrasing in mind, and are made smaller as needed. I keep tally above the start of every chunk (1 is practiced 3 days, 2a and 2b are practiced 2 days, etc.).

Instead of saying, I'm practicing this 3 times every day and that once every day, I'm just going to give a piece the time it needs. If I feel I need 15 minutes to progress, 15 minutes it is. Starting new material only when there is time for it, instead of working on it because I'm supposed to start it according to this silly system.

I've found that the total time I spend practicing on a day is about the same, but the time is spread out more evenly between pieces. I definitely feel like I’m making more progress than I was a week ago, which is what it’s all about. Progress is good, but more progress is better.






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] #2664390
07/27/17 05:25 PM
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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'.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2664394
07/27/17 05:41 PM
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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 08:28 AM
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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 08:32 AM
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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 09:58 AM
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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

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2669801
08/22/17 11:15 AM
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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 12:00 PM
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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

Current: ES8, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD598 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2670579
08/25/17 11:59 PM
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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


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2670582
08/26/17 12:27 AM
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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
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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 12:56 PM
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 11:06 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
10/27/17 02:33 AM
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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 03:51 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 07:12 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 07:19 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 03:57 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
12/02/17 10:27 AM
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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 02:56 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
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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.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2706555
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Satie was just very easy (though, I now realize I didn’t get from this book what I could and should’ve.


I wonder, if I may ask, which pieces and what book, you've been playing for not that long, for that time I would not classify Satie as easy unless you are are very talented, but there may be pieces I am not aware of.

I would not underestimate Satie, just because some of the notes look easy and are not quite technically demanding at a superficial level, yet I've heard plenty of renditions of Satie Gnossiennes on youtube by intermediate players I would consider that need lots of work. Getting it to that next level is difficult, not many players can actually do him justice in those pieces IHMO, unless you are pretty advanced in finer touch, dynamics and rubato.

Last edited by Alexander Borro; 01/19/18 05:22 PM.

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2706571
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I think Keselo is referring to this book here smile

https://www.musicroom.com/product-detail/product59346/variant59346/


Keselo - you're slacking. In the time you took to put all that together, you could have practiced something ;0


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: bSharp(C)yclist] #2706580
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Originally Posted by Alexander Borro
Originally Posted by Keselo
Satie was just very easy (though, I now realize I didn’t get from this book what I could and should’ve.


I wonder, if I may ask, which pieces and what book, you've been playing for not that long, for that time I would not classify Satie as easy unless you are are very talented, but there may be pieces I am not aware of.

I would not underestimate Satie, just because some of the notes look easy and are not quite technically demanding at a superficial level, yet I've heard plenty of renditions of Satie Gnossiennes on youtube by intermediate players I would consider that need lots of work. Getting it to that next level is difficult, not many players can actually do him justice in those pieces IHMO, unless you are pretty advanced in finer touch, dynamics and rubato.

It's the book bSharp(C)yclist linked to, his 9 Children's pieces. ABRSM puts them at a grade 1 or 2, I believe.

I definitely don't underestimate Satie. I'm staying away from the rest of his music for at least the coming year. I would love to play many of his works, but I understand I'm not yet ready for them.

Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist

Keselo - you're slacking. In the time you took to put all that together, you could have practiced something ;0


Hah! That's why I waited until after 9pm to write this post, as that's when practise time is over for the day.

I am slacking, though, you're not wrong.


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] #2706591
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I am really impressed with your work ethic and progress thumb

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2706593
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Originally Posted by Alexander Borro
Originally Posted by Keselo
Satie was just very easy (though, I now realize I didn’t get from this book what I could and should’ve.


I wonder, if I may ask, which pieces and what book, you've been playing for not that long, for that time I would not classify Satie as easy unless you are are very talented, but there may be pieces I am not aware of.

I would not underestimate Satie, just because some of the notes look easy and are not quite technically demanding at a superficial level, yet I've heard plenty of renditions of Satie Gnossiennes on youtube by intermediate players I would consider that need lots of work. Getting it to that next level is difficult, not many players can actually do him justice in those pieces IHMO, unless you are pretty advanced in finer touch, dynamics and rubato.

It's the book bSharp(C)yclist linked to, his 9 Children's pieces. ABRSM puts them at a grade 1 or 2, I believe.

I definitely don't underestimate Satie. I'm staying away from the rest of his music for at least the coming year. I would love to play many of his works, but I understand I'm not yet ready for them.

Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist

Keselo - you're slacking. In the time you took to put all that together, you could have practiced something ;0


Hah! That's why I waited until after 9pm to write this post, as that's when practise time is over for the day.

I am slacking, though, you're not wrong.


Thank you, I wasn't aware of them at all, I saw a small sample of those pieces in the link, now it make sense, that looks much easier and doable.


Selftaught since June 2014.
Books: Barratt classic piano course bk 1,2,3. Humphries Piano handbook, various...
Kawai CA78, Casio AP450 & software pianos.
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My struggles: https://soundcloud.com/alexander-borro
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: NobleHouse] #2706774
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Originally Posted by NobleHouse
I am really impressed with your work ethic and progress thumb

Thank you very much! I'm quite pleased with it, myself. smile

I've just made a compilation video of my first year of piano progress. I took the piece which represented my skill level for that month and put them all together into a single video. Please don't mind my terrible editing skills, or lack thereof.



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] #2706800
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Originally Posted by Keselo
Originally Posted by NobleHouse
I am really impressed with your work ethic and progress thumb

Thank you very much! I'm quite pleased with it, myself. smile

I've just made a compilation video of my first year of piano progress. I took the piece which represented my skill level for that month and put them all together into a single video. Please don't mind my terrible editing skills, or lack thereof.



Really nice progress.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2706821
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Great first year Keselo thumb I hope you are really pleased as well. You’ve worked hard and it shows

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2706828
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Thank you, NobleHouse and dogperson! Looking back at it, I'm quite pleased with my progress. It also makes me eager for the future; there's so much more to play.


Last edited by Keselo; 01/20/18 06:22 PM. Reason: Fixed the thumbnail

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] #2706952
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Well, I think that's just brilliant Keselo. Great effort and outcome. Confident and gentle and precise touch.


"Study Bach: there you will find everything" - Johannes Brahms.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2706961
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Thank you very much Maddie!


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] #2708283
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Hi,

I've also been playing for a year now and wanted to share my experience as well, especially in the light of this
discussion of progressing step my step vs using more advanced repertoire in order to boost the technique.
I took the second path, trying to play pieces far more difficult than I can handle. I didn't do that on purpose, I just really liked them.
The results?

* VERY slow progress. Hardly noticeable over 1-3 weeks periods. The points in time where I can stop and look proudly at what I achieved are few. This is not a smooth sailing for me whatsoever.
* poor sense of timing. I have a good sense of rhythm, but the lack of metronome practice is showing in the unevenness of my playing. It is hard to play with a metronome when you cannot play the piece, even at a very slow tempo.
* dynamics are not as good as they could be because I'm struggling to actually play the notes themselves.
* I can't really sight read these pieces. Not even close. Only reading, and not in real time. My reading ability is quite poor.
* I practically have no repertoire. There are very few pieces I managed to complete.
* I encountered many techniques and situations and had to analyze hand motions to get them done and I can feel my hands can do a lot more than they could a year ago.
* I got to play pieces I really really like.

I wouldn't want to bash my method of learning, as other people may have better results with it. This is only MY experience. Perhaps at my age (mid 30's) I'm not the fast learner I used to be.
Looking back, I did try the easier pieces at the beginning, but they were extremely boring, plus my technique was a lot worse so I felt the need to focus on the motions and not on the written page.
I always record myself, so I'm aware of all the issues, and now that I know that even 'beginner' pieces can sound very musical, I'm going to try filling all the gaps.
Here's a video to illustrate what I just wrote (sorry for the poor quality). I cannot really play any piece to the level of recording, this reinforces my point.



Thanks Tim for sharing your experience. It is very inspiring.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2708302
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I think you are doing very well after only one year. Your hand/wrist position looks good to me and your playing flows well with a good caressing touch - you don't prod, like a lot of beginners. I still find myself prodding sometimes! I can relate to what you say about early beginner pieces being boring and childish, over-simple. I too have done the over-reach thing, but it is different in my case because I was playing at about grade 3-4 level in my early twenties and am now trying to recover to that point at age 65. If you think learning in your thirties is slow compared with children and teens, you ain't seen nothin' yet! I can recover some of the pieces I played back then quite well because I learned them when young, but new repertoire is way behind that in time taken to assimilate. i have a quick mind but my short term memory is nothing like it was and my knuckles and wrists are becoming arthritic. I want to encourage you to keep those fingers moving. Don't be discouraged and give up now then regret it in your senior years and take it up again like me! There are quite a few of us seniors and retirees on this forum returning or just beginning and it is not easy. I would like to suggest some pieces I have just discovered in a new book I bought off Amazon and some older books I got at a 2nd hand sale. These are not so demanding yet very satisfying. I feel much better since I started these new books.
The new one is a collection of original pieces by a broad range of classical composers I think might suit you. The book is called:
"Classics Alive! Compiled and edited by Jane Magrath. Late elementary to Early Intermediate works by 12 important composers of Standard Teaching Literature."
From Amazon USA.

The older books may be out of print now but one is Haydn, 15 of his easiest piano pieces, an Alfred publication. These are interesting but playable.
The other books two are Australian similar in style to the Jane Magrath and one is German, Chopin for Young People, in other words his easier preludes, mazurkas and waltzes, something we both can aspire to in 6-12 months' time perhaps.

Maybe you could look for some books aimed at the late beginner early intermediate level, stick to slower pieces with simpler key signatures for now and develop technique and dynamics and move on from there, like I am trying to do. You sounded very discouraged, please don't be.

Best wishes. Stay positive.


"Study Bach: there you will find everything" - Johannes Brahms.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Ido] #2708332
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Originally Posted by Ido
Hi,

I've also been playing for a year now and wanted to share my experience as well, especially in the light of this
discussion of progressing step my step vs using more advanced repertoire in order to boost the technique.
I took the second path, trying to play pieces far more difficult than I can handle. I didn't do that on purpose, I just really liked them.
The results?

* VERY slow progress. Hardly noticeable over 1-3 weeks periods. The points in time where I can stop and look proudly at what I achieved are few. This is not a smooth sailing for me whatsoever.
* poor sense of timing. I have a good sense of rhythm, but the lack of metronome practice is showing in the unevenness of my playing. It is hard to play with a metronome when you cannot play the piece, even at a very slow tempo.
* dynamics are not as good as they could be because I'm struggling to actually play the notes themselves.
* I can't really sight read these pieces. Not even close. Only reading, and not in real time. My reading ability is quite poor.
* I practically have no repertoire. There are very few pieces I managed to complete.
* I encountered many techniques and situations and had to analyze hand motions to get them done and I can feel my hands can do a lot more than they could a year ago.
* I got to play pieces I really really like.

I wouldn't want to bash my method of learning, as other people may have better results with it. This is only MY experience. Perhaps at my age (mid 30's) I'm not the fast learner I used to be.
Looking back, I did try the easier pieces at the beginning, but they were extremely boring, plus my technique was a lot worse so I felt the need to focus on the motions and not on the written page.
I always record myself, so I'm aware of all the issues, and now that I know that even 'beginner' pieces can sound very musical, I'm going to try filling all the gaps.
Here's a video to illustrate what I just wrote (sorry for the poor quality). I cannot really play any piece to the level of recording, this reinforces my point.



Thanks Tim for sharing your experience. It is very inspiring.

First of all, thank you for your kind comments both here and on YouTube.

While I do think you play very well, I also like to think that "my" method of learning to play addresses the concerns that you have regarding your own ways of learning.

There is plenty of material that is very pleasant, even though it's aimed at beginners. Some books that come to mind:

Bartók Mikrokosmos, For Children. You've probably read enough about Mikrokosmos, but his For Children is great as well, and definitely not just for children, as the title suggests.
Kabalevsky Op. 39. Very fun album.
Dunhill 'First Year Pieces / Swinstead 'Work and Play' The ABRSM has published a bundle of these two books, and they're amazing, The music is simple, but very mature and beautiful. Definitely something with which you can work on your expression.
Gurlitt. His Op. 117 is great, but kind of boring. His Op. 101 and 140 are great, and not boring. Very charming character pieces, not unlike Burgmüller Op. 100 (which I also recommend).
Boyle's In Times Past is another book for beginners which I can recommend. The pieces are very nostalgic, there's lots of room for expression.
Grechaninov is another composer who wrote great material for beginners. Check out his Op. 98 and Op. 123.
Lastly, I really like Tansman. He's written some great material for beginners which is, again, not at all childish. Happy Time (3 books) and For Children (4 books) are just great.


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] #2708334
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Maddie - thank you for the kind words and the music references!
I'm not really discouraged, just very critical about my playing. Several months ago I wasn't even sure I'll be able to continue playing because I kept injuring my hands, but now I have more confidence as things got more stable and I learned how to correct motions that causes pain and catch mistakes before they become injuries.

Tim - this is exactly what I thought when I read your posts. It was like "here's all the things I haven't done and should have". Bottom line is I could take all your recordings and pile them into a playlist and just sit, listen and enjoy. It doesn't make much difference if they are considered 'easy', it's how you play them that make the difference. Already got myself a copy of Mikrokosmos, let's see how that goes :-)

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2719626
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The Quantity Trap

It’s been a while since I’ve posted in this thread. The main reason for this has been my recent bout of absolute demotivation. I’ve talked about this plenty already in this thread, so I will not elaborate too much on it, though there is one point which I do think is interesting.

During these periods of demotivation I can’t even force myself to sit behind the piano. The rare moment I can force myself to sit down, whatever I get out of my piano is just not good. I’m at peace with just accepting that practicing the wrong thing is more harmful than not practicing at all, which is why I ended up with 3 weeks of barely playing. Even normal piano stuff that I usually enjoy, like listening to performances or talking about it here or at other places, just can’t hold my interest.

Now, the thing I find interesting is the final few days of my hiatus. I still can’t get myself to sit down and play, but my mind does start wandering in the direction of my 88 keys. I start analysing how I practiced before, and how I think this should change. I’ve noticed this happening every time I lose motivation; whenever I restart my playing my practice routine is vastly different from before.

I have now been back to practicing since Saturday, and the main thing that has changed is my view at quantity vs quality. Back in October, Moo here on Pianoworld warned me about not getting too focused on just the quantity of what I learn. I thought I didn’t back then, but now I’m certain Moo had a very valid point here.

My thought process was good back then; have a large quantity of pieces to expose yourself to many different concepts. Diversify. To try and explain my thought process here, I’ll use an analogy a Reddit user (Yeargdribble) often uses to demonstrate the point of diversifying your practice.

He states that, if you practice just one or two pieces every day for an hour, you end up pouring water into an already filled cup. The time that you pour into practicing has little effect, for there’s only so much information you can retain overnight (there’s only so much water that the cup can hold). Where I went wrong is that I filled lots of cups, which all could be retained overnight, but I filled most cups not even halfway. In other words, I stopped practicing a piece for the day when there was still plenty of progress to be made.

This had a few results. The progress in terms of days practiced was slower than it needed to be. There was a big stack of books I had to plough through every day, which became very hard to do on a day where things weren’t going that well. Progress through the books was slow; something that’s very motivating to me is finishing a book. And lastly, I designated 10-15 minutes per piece, which limited me when a piece needed more time.

An important thought to keep in mind when learning to play this instrument is this. ‘It takes as long as it has to take.’ This is something that I didn’t keep in mind when learning my pieces.

What has changed?

The number of books that I practice daily has been more than halved. From 12-15 books to 6 books. I practice one book from every major time period (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century), and two additional books from which I (re)learn a repertoire piece.

Instead of aiming for 10 minutes per piece / per book, I’m now practicing one book per 30-minute-session, and I spend as much time as I need on that certain book. This pretty much comes down to two pieces of music per book. I’ve noticed that it’s easier to stay motivated when sitting down, as I don’t have to work through a stack of 3 books every time. I check how much time I’ve left less often; I just stop practicing when my concentration starts to crumble. As said previously, this method allows me to spend the amount of time every piece needs. Be it 5 minutes for a piece I’m nearly done with or 20 minutes for a piece I’ve just started on. This feels like a much healthier approach, both mentally and for improving at the piano.

This has also lead to me practicing material that’s more suited for me right now. When I had the big old stack, I often found myself practicing material that was probably slightly too hard. Since I’ve cut most of that material, it seems to me that my practice time is better spent, even if I practice 30 minutes to an hour less each day.

I’m now practicing the following material:

Baroque: Türk 60 Pieces for the Aspiring Pianist. Yes, that’s a book from the Classical era, but it seems to me like it’s a good preparation for Baroque music. I noticed that Baroque music tripped me up more than I’d like to admit, which is why I’ve decided to give myself a bit of extra time before trying to learn it again.

Classical: Lynes Analytical Sonatinas Op. 39. Sonatinas are just so great for improving. Very structured pieces, really teaches you a thing or two about accompaniment.

Romantic: Swinstead Work & Play. A book very much on the easy side for me right now, which isn’t an issue. Helps me train my reading and expression. Since I’m rapidly working my way through this book, I’ll soon complete it (which gives a motivation boost) and pick something new (which is quite motivational as well). The next book, I’ve already decided, will be Satie’s children’s albums. I’ve played them previously, but didn’t get from it what I could.

20th Century: Bartók Mikrokosmos Book 3. Can’t live without my Bartók. The third book is just perfect in terms of difficulty for me right now. My love for his music is getting into unhealthy territory anyway, so this was an easy pick.

The last two books are two repertoire pieces. ‘Sad Autumn’ by Rybicki and ‘Song of the Knife-Grinder’ by Boyle.

I’m very keen to find out how this new way of practicing will turn out. Will it be as beneficial as I now think it will be, or does it feel so good because it’s new? I’ll keep you up to date.


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] #2720235
03/10/18 08:47 AM
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Hi Tim,

What you describe is not uncommon. I've seen this happen with professional musicians as well. In my opinion, this is not really demotivation. It is being fed up with the same 'stuff'. It's like eating something you really like for ten days in a row. I bet that after these ten days (if not much sooner) you wouldn't really crave that food.
In your case, it is the self immersion in piano music and classical music (I could be wrong but I concluded that based on the details you provided). You love music, and if you're like me, you like it to the point that listening is not enough and you want to experience it in a deeper, more intimate way by playing it yourself and creating it. You don't suddenly cease to like it. It's your brain telling you - "I've had enough of this stuff for while. let me do some other things.". Then you kinda forget about it for a while and let go, and naturally the appetite returns.

My suggestion is the following:
1. Always remind yourself why you like music, and that you can enjoy it even if you don't play. Your affinity to music comes naturally and you don't need to actively fuel it and motivate yourself.
2. Listen to other genres - Jazz, rock, pop, whatever. Every genre has its qualities that you can enjoy and get inspiration from. After listening to other genres, classical music will sound refreshing again.
3. listen to other instruments. It is very refreshing. I've been playing guitar for ~16 years and used to mostly listen to music containing some kind of guitar. I missed out a lot that way, even though it spanned many genres. And again, the piano will sound refreshing and different after that.
4. Don't listen to music all day long. I used to have music in my ears from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep. I now pick carefully my listening time. I'd only listen when I can put enough attention into the listening. Not as a background, and not while working. As a result, my ears are not as tired, and the listening is more focused and enjoyable.

I hope this helps

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2720277
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I think enthusiasm and motivation goes up and down in waves naturally. I expected that as u improved you have encountered this problem as pieces take longer to learn well so a change in your practice is sensible. Tbh I actually spend a very large proportion of my practice picking up random books and playing and I gave up with scales and arpeggios years ago. I’m not sure in depth analysis and ‘quality’ practice is necessarily better, for me it can ruin the enjoyment. Gl

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2720364
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Ido, that's very thoughtful advice and your explanation of why and how things happen in our heads makes a lot of sense. I especially like your advice to broaden my horizon a bit. I don't need to motivate myself at the moment (I'm back to practising every day!), but it's fun to listen to new music anyway,

Moo, I'm very much with you on the scales and arpeggios, those just take all the fun out for me. My teacher told me to be more mindful of my scales and use a slightly different technique. I have no problem with practising this now because there is a clear goal and reason. But just sitting down and practising scales for 30 minutes? That's not for me.


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] #2720397
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It might be an idea to do the scale and arpeggio of the piece you are playing to try and link it in with the pieces. It helps to learn the keys and some technique, I just felt they were overdone. I had to learn all the scales as a child for a grade 6 exam and this was one reason I gave up - and the singing ! smile

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2720655
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Moo, that's indeed what I've been trying. When I come across a key which is new to me, I'll work on getting its scale up to a reasonable tempo.

Reconsidering what to practise

“Well, gee, that sure didn’t take long”, I can almost hear you think. And no, it didn’t. I managed to practise the same material for a whopping nine days before I got bored of half of it. I don’t think I need to explain myself, but I still think it’s nice to have it written down. It’s something, after all, that I do struggle with quite a lot.

When I decided on picking one book from every major time-period, I think the thought process was pretty good. Cover all bases, make sure you don’t skip over any fundamentals, and slowly build from the ground up. Makes sense, right? Well, it does, but after giving it a bit more thought some significant downsides became clear.

Going through my material in such a structured way sets me up to work on every book start to finish, something which I always want to do. Finishing things, being able to close the last page and lay it aside, really speaks to me. This in itself presents oneself with some issues, though. Too much beautiful music has been written to make this a viable method of selecting material. Arguably, wanting to complete everything you start working on is just setting yourself up for failure. It’s something I know I have an unhealthy disposition for, so stepping away from it even provides me with a chance to work on myself.

It’s also quite unlikely that you find yourself liking everything a composer put into his or her book. Why spend weeks working on a piece of music that you don’t really like when there’s a multitude of pieces of the same level which do interest you? Both Swinstead and Lynes suffered from this problem. Swinstead wrote some good music, but after having played through Dunhill, well, it’s just not as good. And Lynes is boring beyond words. I’m not the biggest fan of Classical Sonatinas in the first place, so I’d rather pick some which I actually want to learn in the first place. Anything I don’t learn in 2018 will be sight-reading practice in 2020. Nothing will go to waste.

Lastly, and this was the real eye-opener, is the issue of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Mikrokosmos and I’m happily practising it every day. But right now, it takes up my 20th-century slot in a rather permanent fashion. There’s so much 20th-century material that I want to play, which I wouldn’t be able to start on for probably the remainder of 2018, that I decided to change things a tiny bit.

Things will not change too much; I’ll still aim for a healthy balance in terms of concepts learned. I’ll still work through Türk for now, as it’s good fun and good practice for Baroque. I ditched Lynes in favour of Clementi Op. 36; the concepts in both books are similar, and Clementi’s Sonatinas are just loads better. I also ditched Swinstead, which wasn’t too bad, not too bad shouldn’t be valid criteria for selecting material. Instead, I’ve replaced it with Satie’s children’s albums for now. It’s something I’ve wanted to start working on for some time now. These three books make up the variable part of my practice routine. When I’ve learned the pieces which I wanted, I’ll not be afraid to lay the book aside and pick something I’d rather work on. This should result in having a more steady stream of material that really interests me.

As said, Mikrokosmos will be somewhat of a more permanent part of my practice routine. I’ll continually monitor the difficulty of this book, but since it takes about two weeks to get a piece up to snuff, it’s quite alright in terms of difficulty.

Lastly, I will continue to work on two pieces of repertoire at a time. I very much like this; it’s a lot less overwhelming than having to work on four or more pieces of repertoire some days. Especially considering it doesn’t really matter if you wait a few more weeks before picking up a piece of music again.


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] #2728269
04/11/18 04:39 PM
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It’s been almost a month since my last update, so I thought it’d be a good time to reflect and look back on the past month and look more closely at what I do now.

Baroque

Baroque is tough. Or, more specifically, music from the Baroque is tough. I guess there was a reason Bartók recommended you first get to the fourth book of Mikrokosmos before you pick up the Anna Magdalena Notebook… I do love the music though, especially that by Bach and Scarlatti, though I’m sure there are many composers whom I haven’t discovered yet.

I am just now considering to try the Notebook again anyway; it’s been 3 months since I’ve played it, and I can tell I’ve grown as a player since then. My practice has also improved since then in the sense that I’m less inclined to crank the metronome up before I’m ready for it. I’ve gotten better at realizing when I’m in control and when I’m not in control (not hard to tell; I start guessing, playing wrong notes, playing sloppy rhythms, am not in control of my dynamics), and acting accordingly. Only when I’m in control I now turn up the metronome by 5 (I used to cheat a lot, upping it when not yet in full control, while also turning the metronome up by 10 or 20). Just adding 5 isn’t a huge difference, which makes it easier to remain in control.

Classical

Time for a confession. I don’t like Sonatinas from the Classical period. I won’t go as far to say that I hate them, but there is at least a very strong disliking going on. I’ve stopped feeling bad about not practising material from that era, and I’m sure I’ll get back to it in due time. I’d like for the material to magically become easier to learn, which probably will end up happening by improving as a player from studying other pieces.

It’s not that I dislike all music from that era, not at all. I love the big 3 (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven), and I’m sure there are many yet undiscovered by me, but that’s not material that’s suited for me right now. The Sonatinas are a bit on the hard side still, which makes it take too long to learn, and I get bored before I finish the piece. The material by Türk that I’ve practised for some months is very charming, actually. Maybe take a look at that if I’m bored…

Romantic

A superior time period for beginner’s material, though not my favourite. I’ve recently started working on two of my favourite books from the Romantic period: Burgmüller Op. 100 (25 Études) and Tchaikovsky Op. 39 (Album for the Young). I’ve gotten the green light to work on pretty much every piece from the Burgmüller, though I must confess it’s not easy to play at the indicated tempi. Again, something which will (hopefully) come with time and experience. I’m currently working on the first two pieces, La Candeur and the charming Arabesque. From the Tchaikovsky, there are only two pieces for which I’m ready now: No. 6 The Sick Doll and No. 7 The Doll’s Funeral. I really like the dark mood of these pieces, and how effective they are when played slowly also helps. No. 7 is quite hard, but I’m starting to get it down, No. 6 was surprisingly easy. I’m looking to submit these two pieces to the Quarterly Recital in November (thinking ahead!).

Burgmüller will probably stay part of my practice for some time to come, probably swapping places with Gurlitt and Streabbog every now and then. Tchaikovsky will return to the shelf in after I’m done with 7, and in its place, I’ll start looking at some Baroque material.

20th Century

My favourite time-period. Especially the case for music written east of Germany.

Right now, I’m working on the first book of Happy Time by the Polish composer Alexandre Tansman. I’ve lately fallen in love with his music, much of it I won’t be able to learn for years. To fill the black void that this leaves within, I’ve settled for his excellent beginner’s music. I’m working on some of the later pieces in the book, all ones which are very effective at a slow to moderate tempo.

Bartók doesn’t have a spot in my practice for the first time in many months. Not because I’m bored of his music, but because the second D on my piano frequently gets stuck when I play it, and Bartók really liked his lower keys. To save frustrations and the like, I’ve decided to give Bartók some rest until the piano tuner comes (early May).

Repertoire

After hardly touching the piano in February, I had a lot of catching up to do in terms of repertoire. I’ve managed to work through twelve pieces which I’d eventually like to call repertoire someday, and am as of today only three pieces behind on schedule.

I’m excited about the six pieces which only need one more revision before I get to record them. The fact that it takes seven or eight months before a piece is ‘ready’, makes the present a proverbial calm before the storm; from next month onwards, there will be one or more repertoire pieces to complete, record, and keep committed to memory every month.

I’m not quite sure about how I’ll go about the ‘keep committed to memory’ part yet. My plan right now is to use a flashcard system and use these first few months to figure out how frequently I need to play the pieces for them to stick.




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] #2728289
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I'm glad you've returned to the piano smile. We all develop are own music tastes. These tastes do change and often do not make much sense. I had a phase of playing Joplin now I find the music style quite repetitive. I used to play baroque as a child but I cant stand baroque music on the piano and never play it, but it sounds quite nice on a harpsichord.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Moo :)] #2728298
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Originally Posted by Moo :)
I had a phase of playing Joplin now I find the music style quite repetitive.


See, that just means you should play some Joseph Lamb instead.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2734877
05/07/18 04:44 PM
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More Playing, Working on Technique, and Repertoire Building Activities

I’ve been having a pretty excitable month of piano playing since my last update. I’m noticing substantial improvements on a weekly basis, mostly with regards to being comfortable playing at a higher tempo. This is something I struggled with for over a year, and these last few weeks it’s like I’ve, quite forcefully, smashed through that barrier. Exciting times, indeed.


More Playing

I’ve had a lot of fun these last three or so weeks just playing through the material that I’m learning at that moment. At this point I’m sitting down pretty much every other day to just play through it, no metronome required. It’s just too much fun, and it gives a whole new way to measure progress. It allows me to start listening for choices of musicality much earlier on in the learning process, which makes my metronome work that much more effective.

The biggest change in musicality has been one of the last few days: I’m now starting to pay attention to voicing chords. Mainly to lift out the upper notes of said chord. It’s pretty tough still, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound a lot better.


Catching Up On Technical Excersizes

This is a subject which I’ve voiced many different opinions on in this thread alone. At first, I was certain you could get by without specifically working on your scales. Then I got convinced that it is, in fact, pretty important, but I didn’t know how to structurally work this into my practice routine. Every other month, I’d have another go at it, and I’d always jump ship after just two or three days; I never found a way to structure technical work to my liking.

That is until two weeks ago. It’s quite simple: set a goal that can easily be reached on a short-term (2-3 weeks), and keep track of the work that you do every day. My biggest mistake was, in hindsight, wanting to play things too fast. I’d start working on scales and set the goal of playing all major scales at a tempo of quarter note = 100 (with every note being an eight note). My current method is quite a bit easier to obtain: again, all major scales around the circle of fifths, but the target tempo is quarter note = 40 (playing in 8th notes).

My initial goal here is to just get all scales in my head and fingers. By refraining from speeding up too quickly, it’s also much easier to maintain a healthy playing technique when playing the scales. A tempo of quarter note = 40 is plenty slow that most of my brain can focus on my playing technique, whereas once I pushed scales past 60, it turned more and more into an “every finger for himself” kind of scenario. That, I decided, beats the entire purpose of doing technical work in the first place.

Even though I’m playing my scales very slowly, I do also notice that my focus on proper playing technique here leaks over into the practice of pieces. I’m more aware of exactly how I strike the keys, which is resulting in more evenly played runs and a more consistent sound.


Repertoire Building Activities

I’ve started working on building a repertoire back in October, and what I started on back then is now starting to get at a point where I’m happy with it.

It’s quite an easy process. After learning a piece for the first time, relearn it after a month. Relearn it again two months after that. Relearn it again three months after that. Increasing the gap between every consecutive relearning process is done to both allow myself to grow as a player to be able to play with more ease, and to (hopefully) fire my brain into keeping it stored in long-term memory. The keeping it in memory part isn’t working quite as well as I’d hoped, but I do memorize it faster every time I relearn the piece.

Then, once I’ve got a piece at a point where I’m truly happy with it, I create a flashcard and, through the power of spaced repetition, keep it at the top of my head at all times. My current sample size of one finished piece is perhaps a bit on the small side to come to any valid conclusion at this moment in time, but this one piece I have kept completely memorized for a month, with minimal work in maintaining it. Definitely something that needs monitoring and tweaking, but it’s a promising start.


Material Being Learned

It will take another two weeks before I get to complete any material that I’d like to make an initial recording of, as I want to run something by my teacher at least once before I do so. Her being on holiday until the 17th means I need to have a bit more patience. That being said, my current routine of playing through material helps a lot; I keep the material which I’ve learned fresh, without having to spend more than 1 or 2 minutes on it a day.

Baroque. I mentioned in my last update that I’d look at the Notebook for Anna Magdalena, and I did. I am, for the first time in my short piano playing career, making good progress through it as well. Exciting times. I’ve learned the first Minuet (the classic Minuet in G), and while I’m not happy with it yet, I’m sure it will be ready in time for the Bach Themed Recital. The Minuet in G Minor is also progressing nicely. When I tried learning it back in January it completely crashed and burned, whereas now I notice daily progress leading to it almost being done. I’ve also been working on an easy Aria about smoking a pipe, which is a nice little piece.

Classical. After laying aside Tansman’s Happy Time Book 1, I found myself itching for some Classical Material. Who’d have thought that would happen… Not me, that’s for sure. I picked up Hässler’s Op. 38 and learned No. 6 and No. 7. No. 7 is as good as done, and No. 6 needs just a bit more metronome work. It is especially No. 6 which made me realize I’m starting to be able to play at higher tempi. My current tempo of 8th = 100, where the right hand plays constant 16th notes, sounds very much in control. I never could control dynamics, especially playing soft at this tempo, until now.

Romantic. Burgmüller was harder than I would’ve liked, though I did anticipate this could happen. I’m optimistic about this book being within my abilities in two or three months, so while I’ve put it aside for now, I’m sure I’ll pick it up fairly soon. The Tchaikovsky went exceptionally well. Both pieces are to become repertoire, and I’ve started on relearning them for the first time yesterday.

The book from which I’m currently learning is Gurlitt’s Op. 205, Kleine Blumen. A very charming album of 12 character pieces, which reminds me in more than one way of some of the albums of Schumann (the Papillons, for example). I’m working on Nos. 1 and 2, though both need still one or two more weeks of metronome practice. Most later pieces in this book are beyond me for now, but there are a few more pieces that I’ve got my eye on.

20th Century. With all keys on my piano working properly once more, Bartók has found his place back into my practice. I’m working on the third book of Mikrokosmos, and have so far learned No. 73 (a study in sixths and triads) and No. 74 (Hungarian Matchmaking song, a study in melody and accompaniment with held notes). I’m now putting my time into No. 75, a study in triplets. I didn't have many issues with triplets in previously learned material, but in this piece triplets and 8th notes are mixed together. You don’t have to play both at the same time, but many measures have a triplet followed by two 8th notes. This makes for a very interesting sound and a very nice puzzle for the brain.


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] #2752743
07/20/18 07:51 AM
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A long over-due update on summer holidays, cups of water, and an increasing amount of repertoire.

Oh boy, it has been some time since I’ve posted an update, almost 2.5 months! My lack of updates (thankfully) doesn’t come from a lack of playing, though I must admit some changes have been made. Changing things around is rather unavoidable at times; there are always things that could be done more efficiently, not to mention time may become a sparser resource in the future (as has happened to me).

The previous two months have been much of the same, really. Technique, repertoire building, and learning new pieces. Today marks the end of the first week of (my teacher’s) summer holidays, which has instigated some of the changes that I’d like to talk about today.

As I’ve mentioned, time has become a bit of an issue lately. There are too many things I must do in a day to justify me sitting behind the piano for 2.5 hours, so I’ve been forced to make amends and see if it’s possible to decrease practice time by 50% without also losing 50% progression rate. I’ll try to explain this using an analogy a user on Reddit (Yeargdribble) often makes. I’ve talked about this in my March-update as well, but I feel my understanding of it has increased since then, leading me to be able to apply it better.

Filling cups with water 2.0.

As I’ve talked about before, this analogy compares practising the piano with filling empty cups with water, where every piece that you practise represents filling a new cup. It discourages practising one piece for too long on a single day, as water poured into a full cup simply spills over; you’ll gain little to none out of that. Practising a piece for just a few minutes will likely not fill the cup, but you’ll still have new things to process when you sleep. When you sleep, the cups get emptied. It is this final stage that I’ve been thinking about lately.

Something I’ve personally noticed, and I’m sure many of you will also be familiar with this feeling, is that a piece that you practise every other day oftentimes feels better than a piece you practise every day. Meaning, when you start your practice, you feel you’ve better retained what you’ve learned during your last practice session if you let it rest for an additional day (or rather, you give it an additional night’s rest).

This translates to the cup-analogy in the following way. While you can easily fill a cup on a single day, emptying a full cup during a single night proves to be less likely. A little bit of water will be left over, how much exactly, I cannot say (20%-30% perhaps?). Immediately picking up the piece the next day may thus lead to a slight bit of inefficiency; after all, there was improvement to be had without you having to spend a single second behind your piano.

Which cups you can fully empty during a single night, and which cups have left-overs, I really can’t say. I might be able to say more on this in a few months’ time, but I suspect this remains highly personal in a variety of ways. The efficiency of practice, the relative difficulty of a piece, perhaps the number of cups that need emptying, and perhaps the quality of your night’s rest.

What I feel like I can conclude at this moment, however, is that practising a piece every other day is (often) more time-efficient than daily practice. Daily practice will be faster in terms of days to complete a piece (as long as you empty at least 50% of a cup’s content every night), but it will not be as efficient.

This is what I meant by reducing my practice time by 50% without losing an equal amount of progression rate. I haven’t reduced the amount of material I practice, I merely spread it out over two days instead of doing it all in one day. It will take longer in absolute terms of days to learn a piece, but not twice as long as you might expect, as the time spent behind the piano will likely be less.

This is also in accordance with what Reddit user Yeargdribble often states; if at all possible, don’t practise the same material every day.

While typing this, the question if taking even longer before practising some material arises. This is not something I can answer today, but I will keep it in the back of my head to remain aware of it.

Surviving the summer holidays.

What a terrible time these summer holidays are. How we are supposed to remain sane during all these weeks devoid of piano lessons, I do not know, but we will just have to soldier on. I’m at least happy that this year’s plan is a lot better than last year’s, something-something learning from past mistakes.

The biggest change to my practice routine specifically to bridge the summer holidays, is that I removed all material that contains technical challenges. If I see something that I’m not sure how to execute, I’ll just not start on it in the first place. This will likely prevent frustration and bad technique from developing. It’s also a plan with which my piano teacher agreed wholeheartedly, which is always a good sign.

What material does this leave? Mainly the type of material I learned by this time last year. Not particularly challenging technically, but great reading practice.

- Streabbog Op. 63. I learned 6 pieces from this book last year, and after practising two pieces for just two days, both are already beyond the tempo that I managed back then.
- Turk 60 Pieces for Aspiring Players (both books). Very charming, short pieces. Normally, I can’t be bothered to learn from these books when there’s so much more exciting material to choose from, which makes it all the more perfect that I now get to progress through this book. Especially great books because of how much there is to be learned from Classical material for the beginner.
- Attwood & Lynes Sonatinas. Also Classical material, Attwood I’ve learned before.
- Dunhill ‘First Year Pieces’. I adore this book, so relearning all these pieces shouldn’t be much of a punishment.

Sadly, no technical challenges means no new Bartok or really any 20th Century music, nor anything from the Baroque. I’ll have to make do.

Lastly, a lot of repertoire practice is due the coming weeks. More on that below.

Repertoire.

The pieces which I enjoy the must, I add to my list of repertoire practice. One slight issue: I like a lot of music, so even after making some cuts back in June, I still added 12 new pieces… The first repetition comes after a month, which leaves me with a lot of repertoire material to relearn for the first time. The first repetition also takes the longest, as that’s the point at which I first memorize a piece.

Below you can see the repertoire spreadsheet in its current form. The dark-green rows indicate that I keep the piece at the tip of my fingertips through spaced repetition and that I’ve recorded it and published it to YouTube. The light-green cells indicate that I’m either working on it now (if there’s no date in the right adjacent cell), or that I’ve completed that specific revision. The first revision is done a month after first learning this piece (PP column, which stands for Piano Progress), the second revision two months after completing the first, and the third three months after completing the second. Further revisions can be added if necessary (like for the Shostakovich). Every revision after the third will be due after 6 months. The non-coloured cells simply indicate when that piece is due. As you can see, I’ve got a bit of catching up to do still.

The idea behind the increased amount of time between revisions is to both allow me to grow as a player before trying again and to stimulate long-term memory storage. I’ve recently found that beyond the first revision the piece comes back exceedingly quickly; it’ll oftentimes be at the point at which I left off after 1 or 2 practice sessions (of 10 minutes).

[Linked Image]

The practice of this repertoire material is a perfect way to spend time during the holidays. It’s all stuff I’ve learned before, so the technical challenges should be minimal at best. I’ll need to run all this material by my teacher at some point, but if I’ve got another revision in the pipeline I can move on and leave it for later. At the very least, I want my teacher’s feedback before making a definitive recording of the piece.

Finally, below you'll find the three pieces of repertoire that I recorded some weeks back.







That’s it for today, and hopefully, my next update will not take as long…


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] #2752760
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Sounds like you're very organized and doing a great job - it will advance quickly and before you know it you will have a nice solid foundation. Keep it up!


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2752818
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Thank you, cmb! I find the videos I made a year ago very motivational in that regard, it really shows how far I've already come. To then realize that the same will be true in another year's time, well, it makes it very easy to sit down (nearly) every day.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2752833
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Your dedication and as cmb13 pointed out, organization, is really impressive. Great job Tim.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2752862
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Thank you, monkeeys! smile


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2752864
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I would rethink the practice time as 2.5 hours is far too long.

I normally only have 2-3 pieces learning at a time and dont replay pieces very much after I learnt. I found that after I've learnt I generally can just play it as good as when I finished. Even a year or two later I can play them without having seeing the music and so I dont think you really need to keep practicing old pieces.

Sometimes a piece is too hard and I come back to it later but I suspect trying to keep a large volume of pieces played is not suistable and not necessary. I have however an aray of pieces and books I pick up and play. I consider this a more fun way to spend piano time !

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Moo :)] #2752918
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I would rethink the practice time as 2.5 hours is far too long.


I did! I went back to 1.5 hours, though I do not think 2.5 hours is too long. I enjoyed myself and I improved a lot of different pieces every day.

Quote
I normally only have 2-3 pieces learning at a time and dont replay pieces very much after I learnt. I found that after I've learnt I generally can just play it as good as when I finished. Even a year or two later I can play them without having seeing the music and so I dont think you really need to keep practicing old pieces.


Here, our experiences seem to differ quite a bit. I've never been able to instantly play previously-learned material without putting a few days of practice in. The practising of older material is three-fold in that regard: bring back what I had, get the piece as far as I can considering I'm better today than I was X months ago, and memorizing the piece.

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Sometimes a piece is too hard and I come back to it later but I suspect trying to keep a large volume of pieces played is not suistable and not necessary. I have however an aray of pieces and books I pick up and play. I consider this a more fun way to spend piano time !


So far, it seems quite sustainable. Once I've got a piece at the tip of my fingers, it only takes a few minutes every other week to keep it there. I'm also going to experiment with 'Mental Practice' in the future, to see if it's possible to keep a piece fresh without needing to spend time behind the piano. It's obviously not necessary to keep a (large) repertoire at you fingertips, but I think one might find very little is truly necessary when practising the piano. More important is walking the path that you enjoy walking the most, and for me that path has a lot of relearning of older material.


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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2752977
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For now it may be sustainable but long term it wont be. When you get more advanced you certainly wont be able to keep this up. The amount of music and the length will be against you. I have almost 15 years of lessons and a treasure of music books. But the point is that I'm not sure relearning the same pieces is very helpful. If you can play it well why go back to it again over and over. Surely new music is more interesting ? Just some suggestions, you can practice as you like but what did your teacher advise ?

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For now it may be sustainable but long term it wont be. When you get more advanced you certainly wont be able to keep this up. The amount of music and the length will be against you.


With the way my practice routine constantly changes, I'm sure I'll make amends when I'm at this stage. While I'm still a beginner playing beginner music this isn't an issue, so I don't see any reason for changing things (yet). One thing I'm trying with this Nothing is too Easy approach, is seeing if a level of relative difficulty can be found at any stage, whether I'm a beginner or more advanced, while of course taking into account pieces getting longer as material gets more complex. I'm not keen on changing things around because of the premise that this won't work in 5 years' time; I'd rather find this out through experience and then change things accordingly. This is also how I personally net the best results; through personal trial and error.

Quote
But the point is that I'm not sure relearning the same pieces is very helpful. If you can play it well why go back to it again over and over.


But I'm learning a lot from relearning material. I reach a level of expression that I simply don't get with material I learn for the first time. After initially learning a piece, I maybe got 80% out of it. The point of relearning it at a later date is trying to get that last 20%. Since I just can't get a piece to 100% only learning it once, or at least not in a time-efficient manner, relearning seems to me the only way to reach this.

Quote
Surely new music is more interesting ?


I find both new and old material fun to learn. The older material that I relearn is that which I enjoyed the most, so getting to play it again is just a lot of fun for me. New material is just exciting. Getting that feeling when a piece comes together for the first time is just magical.

Quote
you can practice as you like but what did your teacher advise ?


She heavily encouraged it even before I started working on building a repertoire, and every time I play an older piece for feedback she gets all excited that she gets to hear a piece I've played before (and how I've progressed since 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] #2753022
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Have you written about practice anywhere else online by chance? I just read an interesting piece last night and it contained an interesting section about going over old pieces as a beginner to re enforce basics and I to as an adult beginner think this helps.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2753055
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I've written this post about practicing, but I don't believe I've touched on revisiting older material there. Would you have a link to the piece that you mean?


Tim

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Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
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Ok good luck. I guess everyone has there on practice routine that works for them. I went through most of the grade system as a child so I have bad memories of having to work at pieces that I hated. I suspect you have got to the stage now that you not longer a beginner so what is the plan now then. I noticed you wanted to cover all the eras of music. For this I would suggest a good series called "Classics to Moderns" that I would highly recommend. There is a range of pieces from all eras and there are a series of books of advancing difficulty that will set you up very well in the future.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2753101
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Originally Posted by Keselo
I've written this post about practicing, but I don't believe I've touched on revisiting older material there. Would you have a link to the piece that you mean?


Ha, what a small world. I joined that site after reading that exact post and couldn’t comment because it was out of date or something. That is a very well written piece.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: monkeeys] #2753119
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Originally Posted by monkeeys
Originally Posted by Keselo
I've written this post about practicing, but I don't believe I've touched on revisiting older material there. Would you have a link to the piece that you mean?


Ha, what a small world. I joined that site after reading that exact post and couldn’t comment because it was out of date or something. That is a very well written piece.

Small world, indeed, and thank you! How did you find the post, if you don't mind me asking?


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] #2753122
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Someone had mentioned that site, maybe on here, and I was just browsing around. I googled the site as I didn’t know much about it and your post title showed up. I could tell that it was well thought out and a good summary of practice tips. The part about beginners redoing stuff to re enforce basic skills was something that I agreed with that I had heard years ago while learning guitar.


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