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Inefficient learning, advice needed #2859045
06/16/19 06:56 AM
06/16/19 06:56 AM
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Tom97 Offline OP
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I am a 22-year-old college student, picked up piano in mid-January this year, self-taught. I decided to learn to play this beautiful instrument after watching several youtube videos - mainly boogie-woogie by Brendan Kavanagh. Since then, I started following different youtube channels, learning a bit from everything. I also played through the first half of the Alfred piano course for adults book (it was a pain though). Until now, I´ve learned a few easy pieces like Comptine d'un autre été, Fur Elise or Havana using youtube tutorials. The problem is that my study sessions are extremely ineffective (or at least I think so). I feel like I´have spent a looot of time (probably hundreds of hours) practicing but the results are not that impressive at all. I spent a lot of time mindlessly playing scales and playing through pieces I had already known again and again. For example, I literally spent 2 months playing Hit the road Jack by Ray Charles (probably grade 5 version of the piece) and then gave up because it was way beyond my level and I just kept making mistakes, hitting the wrong notes and so on.
Since I started in January, my taste when it comes to music changed a lot. I started to get more into classical music (listening to Chopin, Rachmaninoff ...) and I´d like to go the classical way. Do you think getting a teacher is the only option now if I don´t want to just waste time again? Teachers are quite expensive so I could probably have a lesson every fortnight or so (even buying the Yamaha P45 was a lot of money for me as a student haha).

Any advice appreciated, thank you.

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Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859073
06/16/19 08:24 AM
06/16/19 08:24 AM
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Hi Tom - Welcome to the forum. Each of us has to find our own way, so you asked a good question and you will get a lot of (differing) opinions. You have have to try some ideas out and see what works for you. As a 60 year old with 1 year of learning, I can give some ideas to consider.

As you understand by now, learning piano is difficult and you should adjust your mind that it will take some years until people and yourself will consider you a good player (don't get fooled by youtube videos). It looks like your decisions up to now are about trying to play specific songs well. You may want to think about what are the skills I need to develop to play well. For the first year of learning I propose there are only a couple critical skills you need to learn to develop:

1) You have to learn to read a music score - this involves reading a note and knowing right away where that key is while looking ahead to the next notes. You have to read 2 lines at the same time and direct each hand simultaneously.

2) You have to learn how to keep a consistent rhythm - I don't think there is anyone who can do this without a lot (months and months) of practice. The common approach is to learn how to count out loud while playing (while reading notes and pressing to right keys).

This is why the method books are so popular - they teach this gradually in a way that you will feel accomplishment regularly and not get too frustrated and quit. A teacher is also a popular choice because they know how to catch problems before they become habits and can often give you tips to make things easier. There are many self-learners here and they probably have additional tips if you go this route.

This question you ask, or one's very nearly the same, have been asked and answered a hundred times on this forum - so you can easily use the google custom search in the upper left to find these other discussions and form your own ideas about how to proceed.

Learning piano is very good for your brain - forcing it to continually learn something difficult but doable makes the brain more potent in other aspects of life as well - so this effort can make a real difference in your life. Good Luck to you!


Progman
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Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859077
06/16/19 08:46 AM
06/16/19 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
I am a 22-year-old college student
....... I just kept making mistakes, hitting the wrong notes and so on.
Since I started in January, my taste when it comes to music changed a lot. I started to get more into classical music (listening to Chopin, Rachmaninoff ...) and I´d like to go the classical way. Do you think getting a teacher is the only option now if I don´t want to just waste time again? Teachers are quite expensive so I could probably have a lesson every fortnight or so (even buying the Yamaha P45 was a lot of money for me as a student haha).

If you have a cursory read of various threads here, you'll know the answer already, especially when it comes to classical music.

There's just no substitute for a good teacher. I have a feeling you're going to have to unlearn some bad habits already, so the earlier you get one, the better. You don't know what you don't know. Classical (piano) music is a hard taskmaster and you need to get all the basic technical foundation (not to mention the musical foundation) right, from the beginning.

Unless, of course, you just want to dabble and play only what you want (even if you can't), in which case, you can do what you like. But what if you find, a few years later, that you've become addicted to classical piano music and really, really want to go as far as you can? That could be a few years' worth of ingrained bad habits, which as anyone who's suffered them will tell you, take a lot of time and effort to unlearn and correct. Not many are able to do so.......

To whet your appetite as to what you could be playing in five to ten years' time (depending on how much you apply yourself to practicing):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtitc_2H7ik

Doesn't sound too difficult, does it? Not that many notes (for Rachmaninov), except that they're very awkward for the fingers, you have to 'voice' and balance the notes in both hands (and within each hand), and make the texture transparent, shape and phrase not just the melody but also the accompaniment, pedal properly, and use rubato appropriately........



"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: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859089
06/16/19 09:52 AM
06/16/19 09:52 AM
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dmd Offline
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As always ….. a teacher is the best choice.

However, finances sometimes make that impossible.

As a beginner, and unable to afford a teacher …. I have located (never used) a site that would be my choice if I were just starting into classical piano music.

https://www.libertyparkmusic.com/

You may wish to check it out.

I would suggest you start with the very beginning course and take your time mastering each step …. otherwise you will again … be wasting your time.

Good Luck


Don

Kawai MP11SE, Edifier R1850DB Active Bookshelf Speakers, Yamaha HS8S Powered Subwoofer, SennHeiser HD 559 Headphones, Pianoteq and numerous other VSTs
Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859104
06/16/19 10:33 AM
06/16/19 10:33 AM
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One thing I am learning is that you make progress faster when you overcome inefficient practice. My teacher has spent some time helping me improve that.

The main tool she hits me with each week - mainly because I am not very good at it - is to STOP IMMEDIATELY when you make a mistake. Then practice the few notes up to and including the mistake BUT NO FURTHER. Practice the few notes until you get it right. Then go back a few notes more and practice up to the mistake BUT AGAIN NO FURTHER. Keep doing this until you get it right 10 times in a row and only then move on. My tendency is to move on too quickly. Later I find that I am still having problems with the same section and I have to go back and fix it again. In fact sometimes its worse because I have ingrained a bad habit which I have to loose.

Second tip - which I am now quite good at - don't just start at the beginning each time. Start your practice on the few measures you have the most trouble with and nail them first. Then the next worse and so on.

Third tip. Learn the piece by playing slowly. If necessary hands separately at first - but putting together with both hands - go slow enough not to make any mistakes - even if that means a long time between each note. Again I am prone to a tendency to try and do this too fast - not let the speed build naturally.

Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859190
06/16/19 02:11 PM
06/16/19 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
For example, I literally spent 2 months playing Hit the road Jack by Ray Charles (probably grade 5 version of the piece) and then gave up because it was way beyond my level and I just kept making mistakes, hitting the wrong notes and so on.
Since I started in January, my taste when it comes to music changed a lot. I started to get more into classical music (listening to Chopin, Rachmaninoff ...) and I´d like to go the classical way. Do you think getting a teacher is the only option now if I don´t want to just waste time again? Teachers are quite expensive so I could probably have a lesson every fortnight or so (even buying the Yamaha P45 was a lot of money for me as a student haha).

Any advice appreciated, thank you.


It looks like you are an impatient person (no harm intended). The most difficult in your situation is to decide if you will love classical enough to dedicate a lot of efforts to it. Like others said, the classical road is long and progress is slow. Will you have enough patience and perseverance ? This is all based on how much interest you have in playing classical music vs just playing the piano. Otherwise for lighter type repertoire, you can learn faster and still have a lot of fun. For teachers, in all cases it is better to start with one at least for a few monthes. If you are going toward more modern repertoire, it is possible to manage without after some time, but you will see that in due time.

Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859197
06/16/19 02:33 PM
06/16/19 02:33 PM
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Posts: 27
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Tom97 Offline OP
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Thanks for the replies.

Progman: I do know how to read music. What I don´t know is sight reading (= playing something I see for the first time in my life in full speed). I am not sure if it´s worth the time to learn actual sight reading. I might be able to sight read very easy pieces but I can´t imagine sightreading some very complex music. Even after many years of playing the piano. I have a few friends who have been playing the piano for many years, they are very good and can read the music. They can´t sight read though.

bennevis: It seems to me that a well trained classical pianist can also play almost anything else - due to the fact that classical music is indeed the hardest one to master.
Therefore, starting out "properly" will also make it easier for me to play any pop songs in the future.

akc42: Interesting. I´ve read about the exact opposite strategy - to play through your mistakes and work on those problematic parts afterward, separately. It was said that stopping after every mistake will make you "stutter" which is one of the bad habits some students develop. I don´t know, maybe someone more experienced can explain.

Sidokar: Learning the classical way does not mean I can´t learn anything else along the way on my own. You are probably right about the impatience, I have to admit. This is exactly why I spent 2 months playing 1 song that was beyond my reach - I couldn´t wait. At least I learned a lesson. Hopefully.


I decided to hire a teacher. Every week for the summer and then every fortnight. Should be better than no teacher at all smile

Last edited by Tom97; 06/16/19 02:35 PM.
Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859198
06/16/19 02:34 PM
06/16/19 02:34 PM
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Tom97. I'm afraid it's the usual problem. You've been playing 5 months and you wonder why the results aren't that impressive? You've even referred to a piece being around grade 5? I strongly suspect that 99% + of people would really struggle on a grade 5 piece after only 5 months on an instrument. That's the problem with self learning. You have no guide or means of understanding just how much (or little) progress you have made. A teacher can give you that, especially one that has seen countless students in the same situation. Of course they also teach technique, musicality and other things beside.

Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859203
06/16/19 02:50 PM
06/16/19 02:50 PM
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LarryK Online content
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A teacher acts as a mirror, showing you how you play. It’s difficult to have this same visibility into your own playing when you’re self taught. I often go to lessons thinking I have nailed a piece and I am shown five different things that I need to improve. My lessons are always a revelation to me, I never would have come up with areas where I need to improve on my own.


Yamaha U1 Silent Piano
Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859230
06/16/19 03:35 PM
06/16/19 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom97

akc42: Interesting. I´ve read about the exact opposite strategy - to play through your mistakes and work on those problematic parts afterward, separately. It was said that stopping after every mistake will make you "stutter" which is one of the bad habits some students develop. I don´t know, maybe someone more experienced can explain.


You may be confused with Sight Reading - where yes you keep playing through - and also in a performance. But practicing isn't a performance - you are trying to get to a place where you can give a performance and can't go wrong. Efficient practice is what I was talking about.

Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859265
06/16/19 04:38 PM
06/16/19 04:38 PM
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Efficiency is overrated. How to progress is with a decent teacher and regular practice time. It is normally that simple. It is a very slow process to play piano. Most of us bumble along. My on belief is that people that progress faster normally just practice more. I tend to ignore comments on how great the difference between efficient and inefficient practice is. Most pieces and problems are solved with Time. Good luck !

Last edited by Moo :); 06/16/19 04:42 PM.
Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859310
06/16/19 06:51 PM
06/16/19 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
.......akc42: Interesting. I´ve read about the exact opposite strategy - to play through your mistakes and work on those problematic parts afterward, separately. It was said that stopping after every mistake will make you "stutter" which is one of the bad habits some students develop. I don´t know, maybe someone more experienced can explain.........
Each is appropriate, depending on the goal and stage of your practice session. When you are learning a piece, you will want to find the hard bits and work on them in small chunks until they are no longer hard bits. At some point, however, you will want and need to play through the piece, both for your own enjoyment and to get accustomed to "playing through" the entire piece (i.e., you are practicing performing the piece). When you are playing through, it is usually better to continue to the end (as you would in an actual performance) and then go back to the problem spots.


Originally Posted by Tom97
I decided to hire a teacher. Every week for the summer and then every fortnight. Should be better than no teacher at all smile
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Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859362
06/16/19 09:39 PM
06/16/19 09:39 PM
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Consider that the most efficient practice is the most mentally exhaustive one, sometimes excruciatingly exhaustive. What you need instead is not the most efficient practice, but a good balance between progressing and having fun at the piano.

Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859376
06/16/19 10:36 PM
06/16/19 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
I literally spent 2 months playing Hit the road Jack by Ray Charles (probably grade 5 version of the piece) and then gave up because it was way beyond my level and I just kept making mistakes, hitting the wrong notes and so on.
.


I did a similar thing in my first couple of years learning piano by always choosing pieces way above my level. I don't completely regret it because I learned a lot, but the problem of course is if you cannot perform the piece, you have little to show for your time and effort. For many beginners the big shock of learning piano will be the need to trim back expectations with a healthy dose of reality. However there are many good and worthwhile pieces to learn in the early grades (especially classical ones). Finding those pieces is relatively easy with the aid of pianosyllabus.com and imslp.org

You mentioned spending hundreds of hours at the piano and I don't think those are necessarily wasted hours. But is is important to have a feeling of moving forward, so again choosing much simpler pieces will help. Every beginner piece will typically have a lesson to learn, and it is more efficient to learn ten easy pieces at say grade 1, than to learn one grade 5 piece over the same period.

While the Alfred book 1 might have been a pain, there are many good things you need to learn and learn well, as basic building blocks. For example being able to play different rhythms, counting, and controlling dynamics were easy for me as a beginner to treat as too elementary. However I would have to return to such things again and again before I would gain some mastery of them.

good luck, hope to hear more of your progress


Following Trying to follow the Ling Ling 40 hour method

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Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859424
06/17/19 02:49 AM
06/17/19 02:49 AM
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Quote
. . . I spent a lot of time mindlessly playing scales and playing through pieces I had already known again and again.


If you played scales "mindlessly", you were wasting your time.

If you play scales, there are several ways that _aren't_ mindless:

. . . Aim for absolute evenness of volume;

. . . Aim for absolute smoothness of hand and finger motion.

. . . Aim for minimum tension.

As with many other things, if you don't care about quality, you won't improve.


. Charles
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Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859539
06/17/19 11:44 AM
06/17/19 11:44 AM
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I'd recommend a book titled "The practice of practice". It's available hard copy or kindle. Many insightful tips to improve your efficiency and effectiveness as a learner.


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Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: Tom97] #2859553
06/17/19 12:09 PM
06/17/19 12:09 PM
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While having a teacher is a good idea and definitely helps, a teacher is not necessary.
There are many high level competitions that have pianists make it to the finals who never had a teacher. Some even go trophy class and others have {rarely} won.
Also, while practicing scales, arpeggios, exercises, and theory is a good idea and definitely helps, they are not necessary. My {very excellent} teacher never insisted on working them.
Your Alfred's book(s) are an excellent substitute and if you work them diligently, and get a metronome, you'll probably be just fine and save yourself {a LOT} of money as almost all teachers want w-a-a-a-y too much.
Depending upon how acutely you watch, you can also learn much from You Tube videos.
Almost all teachers start beginner students with some type of a tutorial book; that should suggest something to any adult interested in beginning a study of the piano.

Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: MICHAEL122] #2859555
06/17/19 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by MICHAEL122
While having a teacher is a good idea and definitely helps, a teacher is not necessary.
There are many high level competitions that have pianists make it to the finals who never had a teacher. Some even go trophy class and others have {rarely} won.

Which competition, and which pianist(s)?


"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: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: MICHAEL122] #2859597
06/17/19 01:55 PM
06/17/19 01:55 PM
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Michael P Walsh Offline
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Originally Posted by MICHAEL122
While having a teacher is a good idea and definitely helps, a teacher is not necessary.
There are many high level competitions that have pianists make it to the finals who never had a teacher. Some even go trophy class and others have {rarely} won.
Also, while practicing scales, arpeggios, exercises, and theory is a good idea and definitely helps, they are not necessary. My {very excellent} teacher never insisted on working them.
Your Alfred's book(s) are an excellent substitute and if you work them diligently, and get a metronome, you'll probably be just fine and save yourself {a LOT} of money as almost all teachers want w-a-a-a-y too much.
Depending upon how acutely you watch, you can also learn much from You Tube videos.
Almost all teachers start beginner students with some type of a tutorial book; that should suggest something to any adult interested in beginning a study of the piano.


In my neck of the woods (UK) I'm shocked by how little they charge considering the sheer amount of training they've had. Most of them seem to earn a rather poor wage all things considered.

Re: Inefficient learning, advice needed [Re: LarryK] #2859608
06/17/19 02:24 PM
06/17/19 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by LarryK
A teacher acts as a mirror, showing you how you play. It’s difficult to have this same visibility into your own playing when you’re self taught. I often go to lessons thinking I have nailed a piece and I am shown five different things that I need to improve. My lessons are always a revelation to me, I never would have come up with areas where I need to improve on my own.


My experience is the same. Playing the piano involves a high proportion of technique that you just can't learn from a book or video. Without a teacher, bad habits will become ingrained and ever more difficult to put right. I'd strongly urge Tom to find a teacher.


Chris

Yamaha P-515, Yamaha Reface CP.
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