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Piano and stress #2934895 01/16/20 02:56 PM
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MichaelJK Offline OP
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Music is pleasurable to me. It's always been that way, since I was a little kid.

Somewhere along the line, the focus of life stopped being pleasure. I ended up doing a job that stressed me out. I think this is a common story in our society.

I was drawn back to music because it promised to relieve that stress. The memories I had of music were so positive.

In pursuing music, however, I found that I wasn't escaping the stress. Eventually, I realized that this was because I was applying the same mindset to my piano playing that I had been applying to school and work. It was still about achievement, winning instead of losing, and pleasing "the boss". I started to hate music.

But here's the thing: music can truly be a release from that stress. However, it did require an attitude adjustment. It required finding freedom in my playing, and listening to my inner voice. This was not easy, because my resistance to freedom was due to very good reasons. Yet, as I began to internalize the idea that music was not about winning or losing, and that it wasn't about pleasing anyone except myself, I reconnected to the freedom that had attracted me to music in the first place.

I'm very curious to know whether adult beginners can relate to this story. Have you found piano to be a relief from stress? A source of stress? Something else entirely?

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Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2934897 01/16/20 02:57 PM
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Major relief of stress overall.


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Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2934920 01/16/20 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelJK

...In pursuing music, however, I found that I wasn't escaping the stress. Eventually, I realized that this was because I was applying the same mindset to my piano playing that I had been applying to school and work. It was still about achievement, winning instead of losing, and pleasing "the boss"...


I feel that the problem you have described so well is precisely why free improvisation is so difficult for adults to learn, almost like pulling teeth in fact, especially for those trained in the usual paths of musical education. I have not actually encountered a single older, fluent improviser who has not always done it in some form or other. The "achievement" and "winning" amount to playing notes in ways likely to please other people and "the boss" is the belief that universal magisteria and "rights" and "wrongs" exist in art. They do not. The beauty of a rose is not perceived by measuring its petals. Congratulations on seeing things as they are; so few do.

Last edited by Ted; 01/16/20 03:43 PM.

"We shall always love the music of the masters, but they are all dead and now it's our turn." - Llewelyn Jones, my piano teacher
Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2934921 01/16/20 03:43 PM
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Regarding stress and career, I have long felt that my career (engineering) would be a lot more enjoyable if there weren't deadlines (half tongue-in-cheek, since I always managed to have fun anyway). So maybe stress on piano might come from concern over whether something you are working on is taking too long or you think you won't ever get better or some form of comparison against impossible odds. Let go of that and maybe the fun will return.

Tony

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2934930 01/16/20 04:17 PM
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Stress free play is embued in my mind, my music, and my life. And though I practice all of my hobbies in such a manner, I am always finding new ways to diminish tension and stress. Just today I found a way to flow that is new to my piano practice but integral to my Tai Chi practice. Thus I am always learning and applying what I've learned.

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2934931 01/16/20 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Music is pleasurable to me. It's always been that way, since I was a little kid.

Somewhere along the line, the focus of life stopped being pleasure. I ended up doing a job that stressed me out. I think this is a common story in our society.

I was drawn back to music because it promised to relieve that stress. The memories I had of music were so positive.

In pursuing music, however, I found that I wasn't escaping the stress. Eventually, I realized that this was because I was applying the same mindset to my piano playing that I had been applying to school and work. It was still about achievement, winning instead of losing, and pleasing "the boss". I started to hate music.

But here's the thing: music can truly be a release from that stress. However, it did require an attitude adjustment. It required finding freedom in my playing, and listening to my inner voice. This was not easy, because my resistance to freedom was due to very good reasons. Yet, as I began to internalize the idea that music was not about winning or losing, and that it wasn't about pleasing anyone except myself, I reconnected to the freedom that had attracted me to music in the first place.

I'm very curious to know whether adult beginners can relate to this story. Have you found piano to be a relief from stress? A source of stress? Something else entirely?


Your post is very important. I identify myself with your view. We both have personality Type "A". Indeed, I´m suffering from an illness related to stress, in the eyes, it´s called CSR, it´s a kind of retinopathy detachment due to high levels of cortisol. We have much to talk, but I want to say that music can be the heal for people like us too.

All the best.


I don´t want to learn how to play a music. I´m developing a way to play them all.
Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2934943 01/16/20 04:49 PM
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I'm a long way from being a type A personality. But I do have to work constantly at not allowing piano to be a stress. I have to temper my desire to see constant improvement. After my lesson this evening I did no practise, but I did just play a collection of pieces slowly while listening to every note and enjoying the sound of it. Sometimes you just have to slow down.

I don't sign myself up to MOYD or 40 pieces a year. I know that these things would not be good for me. We all have to explore our own path to find what works for us. For me it is definitely the low stress approach, but I do need to keep reminding myself.

I've destroyed multiple other things I enjoyed by making them stressors in the past.

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2934989 01/16/20 06:50 PM
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Music had always been a release from stress for me - even when I was doing grade exams as a kid. (The exams were only once a year, and took up less than 5% of my overall practice time through the year - of course, I didn't need to practice sight-reading, as I was already sight-reading music every day; nor aural skills, because I was singing in the school choir). I regarded it as my "me time", to use a contemporary term which even the advant-gardists never invented.

I could occupy a practice room all by myself, and practice and play whatever I like, or (when I was in the mood, or when a friend was in the mood) have fun making music with like-minded people, playing or vamping stuff that our teachers knew nothing about. And even when I was practicing seriously, I'd enjoy the process of hearing a new piece becoming fluent and being minted by my own fair hands (my hands were fair then). That was the only way I got to hear any new piece, as my teacher never played it for me until she was ready to pass me on it - IMO, a valuable learning experience which most adults never have these days, because they go straight to YT to hear someone else play it before they decide whether to learn it, or as soon as they are assigned it by their teacher. (Or - much, much worse - their teacher actually plays it for them before they have the chance to try it out themselves by reading from the score.......).

When I was still a student, at boarding school, I'd spend almost all my free time after school (and before high tea) in a practice room, at the piano. If I could skip high tea, I almost certainly would, in favour of spending an extra 45 minutes at the piano....but all boarders had to be present for it. And no, we didn't get 'cream tea' (i.e. scones with clotted cream & jam and Earl Grey tea), only stodge and salads cry. It wasn't a posh 'public' school.

Now, as an adult with my own piano in my own home, with no teacher and no exams, I can play whatever I like, practice when I feel like practicing, improvising rubbish when I'm in the mood, learn a new piece when I find something I like......and spend as long as I want tickling the plastics, at any time of the day or night. A luxury I never had until 2010, when I finally settled down and bought my own piano (a digital with no speakers, which is why I can - and sometimes do - practice at 3am if I feel like it).

So why do I inflict 'stress' on my piano playing by starting a monthly recital some years ago (after I'd completely regained my former pianistic skills after decades of hardly touching a piano) - especially as I also suffer from performance anxiety? Because it gives me an incentive to learn and properly master great new rep, and present it to an audience unfamiliar with classical music, and the warm fuzzy sensation I get in my four-chambered organ when someone comes to me afterwards to tell me how much they loved the music, more than makes up for the stress of preparing my pieces and having to cope with nerves that can suddenly derail my performances at any time.

In other words, as amateur pianists, we can choose what kind of stress we want to take on in relation to piano playing. How much do you want to push yourself, and how much gratification do you get from seeing and hearing the improvement, and does it really matter, and to whom? Or - if you're happy with what you already have, do you want to spend a lot of time learning and practicing new pieces rather than just keep playing the ones you know well and love?

I once related the story of a well-known teacher who went on a cruise and heard a fellow passenger play a few pieces very well, from memory. Chatting to her afterwards, it transpired that those few pieces were the only ones she could play, and for many years, she'd only ever played the same ones again and again at home, never bothering to learn anything new. And why not, if she has no inclination to learn anything new, and doesn't want to push herself to "improve" or "develop"?


"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: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935081 01/16/20 11:42 PM
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Music has become part of my life. I started piano late as an adult and enjoy ever minute of playing.

When we're younger, many parents would pay for music lessons and they expect results. Kids should be pushing to excel and passing conservatory grade levels. The past 2 years I got myself enrolled in adult group classes. We get to work on a few fun pieces. Many are older adults who are retired. We're just looking for activities to keep our minds active than thinking about passing conservatory exams.

In the beginning we need to work on some exercise pieces & scales to get our fingers working properly. When you get to a certain point, you may still spend between 10-20m at most doing exercises and spend more time with the pieces you enjoy listening to.

When you get to a certain playing level, pieces that were once too difficult become accessible. You don't have to push yourself into playing work by specific composers if you don't want to. There are enough sheet music online from every genre and skill level to last a lifetime.

Re: Piano and stress [Re: Richrf] #2935100 01/17/20 01:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Richrf
Stress free play is embued in my mind, my music, and my life. And though I practice all of my hobbies in such a manner, I am always finding new ways to diminish tension and stress. Just today I found a way to flow that is new to my piano practice but integral to my Tai Chi practice. Thus I am always learning and applying what I've learned.


We have in my local (gym) an instructor who does Pilates.
She also does Spinning. And walks around the class, highlighting those who aren't pulling their weight . . . in a relaxed manner of course. To the blaring of rock/rap music.
These things have a bearing on your piano playing. But I can't play rock in a relaxed or cool manner. I gave up on cool when I caught a look at myself in a mirror, smoking. I also gave up on smoking.


"I am not a man. I am a free number"

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Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935107 01/17/20 01:40 AM
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I relate to the OP situation too. As contradictory as it sounds, I like studying piano (I wish I could say "play piano"), but honestly it is 70% frustration 30% fun/pleasure. I keep at it for mainly two reasons:

1) I still hope that with time I will either improve my attitude (slowly working on it, although by the sound of this post it does not look like I am making much progress) or just get good enough to be satisfied (I already know that this is unlikely to happen. It did not happen neither for tennis or skiing. I still practice both, by the way).

2) If I stop now I have 100% chances to never get good at it. If I keep on practicing there is some chance, even if it is very small, that I might get good. It is what I call the "lottery metaphor". If you do not buy the ticket you are 100% sure you will not win, if you buy the ticket at least you have a chance. Practicing is the lottery ticket. Who knows, I might get lucky.

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935117 01/17/20 02:45 AM
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Piano is no different from everything else I do. I enjoy fun-stress. I battle problem solving for work, I'm up at 3am trying to finish my music composition assignment. Stress forces you to get creative, get worked up. Be bold and give it all. Sweat and tears and all that. But I love it because it is challenge without negativity. If other people are better than me, I admire them. When I'm wrong, I laugh at myself. I am relaxed about being positively stressed.

My negative stress: I have a fear of people who like to nag and debate. I run away from people who go on and on and on. Now THAT'S stress. Just kill me already! :-((

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935119 01/17/20 02:52 AM
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I can completely relate to this. I am very much a type "A" . When I returned to piano as an adult, I took it on like I would take on a new career. I was truly driven to systematically go through the grade exams, to learn more and more difficult pieces, and to perform at a high level. I allowed piano to become a stress in my life. My wake up call when my husband commented that I did not play piano anymore, I studied piano. I never sat down and just played for pleasure, and as soon as I learned a piece I was on to the next one. I made it through the 8 grades, but I had lost the joy of playing piano.

So, I am trying to change my ways. I learn new pieces at my current level, but I am not focused on pushing further. After 10 years, I am no longer having regular lessons, so that I can continue in a more relaxed manner. It is time to reap the rewards of the years of studying. I spend at least an hour each day just playing pieces I have learned, or just noodling around for fun. This time is truly playing and I am enjoying piano more than ever.

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935202 01/17/20 08:32 AM
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+1


Consolation No.2 E maj, F.Liszt
Nocturne C# minor, FChopin
Clair de Lune, C.Debussy



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Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935342 01/17/20 01:29 PM
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Thank you everyone for replying. It is interesting to me to hear these different perspectives.

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935378 01/17/20 02:59 PM
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No stress, just fun.

Only recording and getting the "perfect take" for the recital is stressful.


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Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935412 01/17/20 03:54 PM
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It is becoming more stressful the more I let my Type A competitive nature take over (I am, after all, a litigating attorney and battle it out w. my coworkers in a corporate environment for raises$$/bonuses ..enough said, lol) but I am compelled to be stressed out because I've been pushing myself to learn as much new repertoire as possible before I reach age 50. I keep reading that its easier to learn new pieces the younger you are, and I am not getting any younger. When I stopped formal lessons at the age of 17/18, the most advanced piece I could play was Chopin Waltz in E flat - Op 18 and the Moonlight Sonata. That was it. I didn't pick up piano again until 2-3 years ago when I bought a grand piano and could dedicate my free time to noodling around for fun at any time I chose.

For motivation, I take group lessons and also help run a piano meet up group, which keeps me inspired to polish the pieces I have already learned and to keep on pushing., My own YT channel also helps to keep me focused as I can see how bad I play (sometime still play depending on the piece) and to work on perfecting my ear to hear those small distinctions that only jurors on international piano competitions can hear. I hear them as well but suck at articulating them on paper. I like the ABF Quarterly Recitals since I can see how everyone's journey is going, and all types of playing skills and levels which force me to appreciate how difficult it is to really learn to play the piano well and how non-pianists don't know all the work that goes into it.

My goal is to learn one of the Chopin Ballades and to just be able to sightread 90% of the repertoire that's out there.


~~~~~~~
My Practice/Progress YouTube Channel :

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNj0Yha5exOWuJMTezV3t8Q
Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935617 01/18/20 06:16 AM
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Playing music like any activity you engage in can be pleasurable or miserable.

I grew up in a competitive environment where every success or failure in life was measured against others in the family. Over the years I learned to take life at a gradual pace. When you get into playing music as an adult, you don't need to feel you're learning pieces for an exam or recital. You take your time and enjoy every moment of being alive and having the mental capacity to be able to play even intermediate level pieces.

In my younger days, there were piano pieces I heard on radio. Fast forward 30 years I'm actually playing them (something I wouldn't imagine doing). I play music regularly in church. Some of the things I'm doing today already exceeded my expectations. There are people in the family who took music lessons in the past and absolutely hated it.

The last piece I got into learning was a Bach fugue originally for organ arranged as 4-part piano. Learning all the notes is as time-consuming as working out the best fingerings. It's like people who get into doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles. You're not going to fill in all the blank spaces right away. When you get stuck somewhere, you find it fulfilling to be able to figure it out. The tedious learning process doesn't have to be frustrating. You get excited hearing the piece coming together bit by bit.

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935669 01/18/20 10:36 AM
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I just read the description of the type A personality...Wow, this is so me. My job is a mix of pleasure and stress (literature professor at a major research university), I love what I do, especially teaching and many aspects of research, but the numerous commitments, from publications to committees and other admin work, and endless deadlines can become overwhelming. Piano is an escape from stress and a source of immense joy when I go to lessons, practice or play for myself. Playing for others (except for my teacher, who is unfailingly positive and encouraging if demanding, and my family) is an entirely different story. This is when my type A personality kicks in. I go to the local piano club and enjoy it but the level of playing there is very high and it's hard not to compare yourself with others and feel discouraged at times. Also, I feel that I very rarely play my best there and it frustrates me. I used to be seriously stressed out after a bad performance there, but my husband keeps reminding me to put it in perspective and relax, and I'm trying not to take it too seriously. Overall, I think my public performance skills have improved but I still get nervous at times. So, yes, I can relate to a lot of what has been discussed here.

Re: Piano and stress [Re: MichaelJK] #2935688 01/18/20 11:12 AM
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It´s terrible to have a Type A personality. And the more we try to get rid of it, the more stress we get. As a type "A", everything needs to be perfect, we don´t accept imperfection either in ourselves nor from other people. We are often too methodic and can give up our lives for the sake of a project. I have made some terrible crazyness along my life due to that. For example, to stay awake for 3 days in order to solve a problem, or to keep a deadline only to "be in the line" and fulfill what I have promised to someone. I can´t accept "failure" as an option. Not a single dust spot that I can´t clean on my piano, it bothers me. I bother with many many things in life, The correct procedure and perfection pleases me. I have no patience with people who can´t learn fast, even with myself I´m angry about learning like a donkey. Clothes must be impecable and posture...It´s difficult, because we are human beings. In order to change this behavior, we need a great change in personality. It comes to a point where Type A resembles some neurotic or psychotic behavior. We need to take care. I´m always trying to get rid of it, but it´s rather difficult. Once a behavior is learned, it´s difficult to change.


I don´t want to learn how to play a music. I´m developing a way to play them all.
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