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Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955414 03/08/20 01:40 PM
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The end of this month will be 6 mos of playing for me. For the last piece, my teacher showed me a method to emphasize the top note and make it clearer but he said that was only for practicing it but when actually playing it, not to do that. He stopped short of really explaining amd demonstrating how, exactly, to do it.
Right now, there are 3 pieces that were not mastered. This week’s is not going well. I don’t know what I’m getting out of any of these, if I’m not mastering the techniques necessary to play them well.
I’m really close to just giving up. It seems futile for me.

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Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955416 03/08/20 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Mils
The end of this month will be 6 mos of playing for me. For the last piece, my teacher showed me a method to emphasize the top note and make it clearer but he said that was only for practicing it but when actually playing it, not to do that. He stopped short of really explaining amd demonstrating how, exactly, to do it.
Right now, there are 3 pieces that were not mastered. This week’s is not going well. I don’t know what I’m getting out of any of these, if I’m not mastering the techniques necessary to play them well.
I’m really close to just giving up. It seems futile for me.


What pieces are you playing ? When you say they are too long, how many measures is that ? After 6 months of piano, you should not expect to be able to read and play from the score. Some people with years of piano have difficulty with it. Being comfortable with the keyboard layout takes a lot of time and reading easily as well. Your issues are quite normal. Learning piano is difficult ....

Re: My latest struggles
enw10 #2955419 03/08/20 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by enw10
Josh Wright has a video about the looking at your hands thing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuLU6T7ozBw

TL:DW - never look at your hands. If you look down, start over at the beginning of the piece.
I think a lot of teachers/pianists would not agree with Josh. Obviously, one cannot become a good sight reader or a good reader if one continually looks back and forth between the score and one's hands, but I think there is a middle ground between continually looking and never looking.

When sight reading a piece it could be difficult to look back and forth between the score and one's hands(which can be done by just moving one's eyes only) but after the first few times playing through a piece looking back and forth, with practice, becomes much easier. Developing as much keyboard awareness as Nobuyuki Tsujii, the blind pianist Josh Wright refers to, is not a realistic goal or even necessary IMO.

If one watches Richter(a good example because he played with the music all the time starting at some point in his career) one will see that even in relatively easy music he looks back and forth between the keyboard and the music a lot.

Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955424 03/08/20 02:21 PM
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6 months is not a long time to be playing at all. It is especially not much time for learning site reading which is coordinating a lot of skills at the same time and takes a long time to learn. I would not give up already. Just go back to easier stuff to work on the reading without looking at your hands skills. 6 months is not long at all so playing extremely easy pieces to work on that skill and build up is fine.

I also would work on being able to hear when you play the wrong note so you do not have to rely on your hands to check. You can also work on chunking sections of longer pieces if you want to keep practicing things at the higher level while your reading skills catch up.

Re: My latest struggles
dmd #2955429 03/08/20 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by dmd
Originally Posted by JJHLH
... Now I actually play a lot of my pieces with my eyes closed, just to reinforce learning the feel and layout of the keyboard, as well as testing my memory....


It may sound odd …. but even doing that (playing with eyes closed) can be problematic for you....Unless you wish to perform with your eyes closed.

When you perform, any deviation from the manner in which you practice can be a source of confusion for your mind as it attempts to make sense of what you are doing.

The best is to consistently practice in the manner in which you wish to perform.




I think you are absolutely right about this. It becomes a habit. I’m not against performing that way though, since nobody else is around (except my teacher) which is probably a good thing haha.

Interestingly I saw Stephen Hough in a recital a little over a month ago. It was a small venue (289 seats) and I was seated in the front row, just to the left of center. I could see ever facial expression he made. His eyes were closed half the time, and every piece was difficult: he opened with Bach-Busoni Chaconne, Busoni Berceuse, Chopin Sonata No 2, and closed with Listz Funérailles and Mephisto Waltz No 4 and 1 (the theme of the night was death).

The shocking thing is that he played a piece of his own, Sonata No 4, right after intermission. That was the only piece where he used sheet music and a page turner. He turned to the audience with a wry grin before he started and said, “You may be wondering why I’m using sheet music for my own composition, but not for the rest of the music tonight. The answer is that it helps to separate me the player as opposed to me the composer.”

Of course he kept his eyes open for that.


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Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955481 03/08/20 04:36 PM
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Mils from other posts on adult forum and from piano players I have seen in adult piano meetup is a very common problem. Many people have memorised so they can look at their hands and they do this for many years before realising what you have. Some pieces are easier to read so if you find something that follows a pattern then this may be a better starting point where you can prove to yourself that you can do do this without looking at your hands all the time. Some pieces are very hard to read and with lots of chordal jump is very hard to do. I remember ragtime music like entertainer and maple leaf rag very hard for this reason. Now however after many years lessons I can often see the pattern in the ragtime music so it is may be sight readable. As this problem Mils so very common in adult learners I would really encourage you not to think badly of yourself. It is not a good reason to quit piano and is fixable with teaching and practice. Good luck !

Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955485 03/08/20 04:39 PM
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Also I added a pianist on youtube and he called his youtube channel sweet struggles so latest struggles is the normal part of learning at all piano levels !

Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955527 03/08/20 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Mils

Right now, there are 3 pieces that were not mastered. This week’s is not going well. I don’t know what I’m getting out of any of these, if I’m not mastering the techniques necessary to play them well.
I’m really close to just giving up. It seems futile for me.


there is no denying piano is hard, and the first year in my opinion is the hardest. Why, because every new thing you are shown won't be mastered and will contribute to this mass of skills required, but still out of reach. This is the problem for the adult learner, we intellectualize to understand the enormity of the problem, whereas a child plays what they can, enjoying the moment, without much thought of mastering anything.

BTW, I keep a personal diary of my piano journey. The first six months was more fumbling rather than mastering anything, I hardly learned any pieces in the first six months, more in the second half, but only four that I decided I would submit here at ABF. Really that is the net sum of my first year, four not very good, pieces. I have a list of many other pieces that I started, (all from the second half of the year), all marked ''never finished''


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Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955539 03/08/20 07:09 PM
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If it were easy, everyone could do it.


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Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955553 03/08/20 08:10 PM
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To paraphrase JFK, we choose to learn to play the piano not because it is easy, but because it is hard.


"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: My latest struggles
Mils #2955598 03/09/20 12:25 AM
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My take is that knowing your way around the keyboard takes time, for example feeling the distance between keys (small or large) and being able to read the music such that you recognize patterns as well as reading the next upcoming note by recognizing its relation to the previous note rather than reading each note in isolation. All that will come with time and you have only been playing for 6 months, so give yourself some credit for even sticking with something for 6 months in the first place. After all how often do we all break new year resolutions, etc. best of luck!

Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955669 03/09/20 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Mils
The end of this month will be 6 mos of playing for me. For the last piece, my teacher showed me a method to emphasize the top note and make it clearer but he said that was only for practicing it but when actually playing it, not to do that. He stopped short of really explaining amd demonstrating how, exactly, to do it.
Right now, there are 3 pieces that were not mastered. This week’s is not going well. I don’t know what I’m getting out of any of these, if I’m not mastering the techniques necessary to play them well.
I’m really close to just giving up. It seems futile for me.


Mils,

At the 6 month mark your teacher is probably giving you one or two short pieces a week to work on. Our adult-high-achieving selves want to "master " these. But that is probably NOT your teacher's objective. There are so many concepts and techniques that you will eventually need to use. About the best a teacher or method book can do is expose you to as many of these as possible, in an order that promotes understanding. Dwelling on one piece at this point to "improve" it further may just slow you down. What my teacher always said was if I wanted to keep working on something for my own satisfaction, go ahead, but do it on my own, outside of the cadence of continuing pieces and lessons.

IMO it's an uncomfortable fact, not often emphasized by teachers, that piano is a very long term deal. Six months, or even a few years, is really just starting out. Once I got my head around this, I found it a lot easier to quiet that high-achieving adult and just enjoy the process and cadence of lessons and practice. Of course YMMV.


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Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955678 03/09/20 08:41 AM
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Before trying to read music without looking at the hands I think it's good to play fully memorized pieces without looking at the hands for some time.
Originally Posted by Mils
Right now, there are 3 pieces that were not mastered. This week’s is not going well. I don’t know what I’m getting out of any of these, if I’m not mastering the techniques necessary to play them well.
I’m really close to just giving up. It seems futile for me.

Piano teachers say 80% of adults quit during their first year. Do you really want to be one of those suckers? wink

Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955697 03/09/20 09:58 AM
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I’m an adult beginner and have been playing for over a year.

I find that I can better coordinate my hands if I look at them. I play fully memorized pieces while watching my hands, or play from music by calmly looking back and forth between the music and my hands. I don’t think I’ve reached a level where I can play well and not look at my hands.


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Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955704 03/09/20 10:24 AM
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I don't know if I can add any more than what has already been said. You'll need to practice looking at the music, which means you'll need to start with easier pieces. I'm just as guilty as most other adult students in the beginning, playing pieces that are too hard. So it was easier to memorize and play.

But in the 4 years of playing now, I've spent a lot of time reading easier pieces, as part of the 40 piece challenge, sight reading practice, and having a general interest in reading new music. It doesn't happen over night, but you'll get to the point where reading and playing is a lot more comfortable. But you'll need to practice doing that. And then you might find yourself having a different problem. Not being able to play the piece without looking at the music smile So if you want to memorize that piece, you'll have to practice playing it without the music.


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Re: My latest struggles
Mils #2955774 03/09/20 03:05 PM
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I started off in piano not really looking at my hands much because of how I was taught, so for a long time I never realized there are students who look at their hands a lot. I think the difference was this: At the beginning I had the one hour lessons, my teacher would have me read through at least 5 new pieces during the lesson. But those are not my homework pieces, just lesson material. They were super easy kid's stuff and musically not worth memorizing. Get an adult beginners book and there'll be a lot of these twinkle twinkle type of songs. The are so easy but they're new, and because many are written in such a way that your hand has a "home base", you'd tend to keep your eyes on the notes, not your hand. You don't notice struggle because the feel for intervals is built very gradually.

I suspect the looking at hands is a result of beginner students being assigned few but rather big project pieces. These tend to be actually above the student's true level, but a determined adult can "master" it by brute force and memorization. At 6 months I was playing pieces most of you would laugh at, but I don't care, I also played scales and technical exercises. At around one year I started playing real pieces.

Re: My latest struggles
wszxbcl #2955788 03/09/20 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by wszxbcl
I started off in piano not really looking at my hands much because of how I was taught, so for a long time I never realized there are students who look at their hands a lot. I think the difference was this: At the beginning I had the one hour lessons, my teacher would have me read through at least 5 new pieces during the lesson. But those are not my homework pieces, just lesson material. They were super easy kid's stuff and musically not worth memorizing. Get an adult beginners book and there'll be a lot of these twinkle twinkle type of songs. The are so easy but they're new, and because many are written in such a way that your hand has a "home base", you'd tend to keep your eyes on the notes, not your hand. You don't notice struggle because the feel for intervals is built very gradually.

I suspect the looking at hands is a result of beginner students being assigned few but rather big project pieces. These tend to be actually above the student's true level, but a determined adult can "master" it by brute force and memorization. At 6 months I was playing pieces most of you would laugh at, but I don't care, I also played scales and technical exercises. At around one year I started playing real pieces.


I’m the same.

I’m at about 5 months and have just finished the second Schaum book (the red book) which is basically level 1 pieces. With the exception of a couple of pieces, I’ve never needed to look at my hands as they stay in the same position. A few require a stretch but only to a 6th and a couple require a shift in position. For these I’ve just memorised the couple of bars after the shift so I can give a momentary glance to my hands and then find my point in the music.

Although I’ve bought the next book (the blue book), I’ve decided to go through the red book again and I’m glad that I have because there is so much room for improvement. I’m so much more comfortable with sharps and flats now as my fingers are happy to only move to them when required and aren’t glued to them like they were the first time round.

I must admit that I’m very patient with my practice and in no hurry. Maybe I’m too patient and should be playing harder stuff but I’m enjoying playing simple pieces well.

I do have a piece of music which I’ve memorised and have been working on since day one which is probably grade 2 or 3 but I don’t spend any more than about 15 minutes per week on it.

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