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I was pretty close to quitting
#2977821 05/11/20 09:40 AM
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When the "normal" lessons got canceled, I thought there wouldn´t be too much difference between online and regular lessons and I was also planning on playing pieces from my books on my own.

I posted here about my troubles with Burgumller´s Arabesque around that time and soon after that I became completely obsessed with the piece. I couldn´t play the 5 finger scales properly no matter what and there was no teacher to help me, only youtube videos (which did quite a good job btw). My thumb was tensing and I couldn´t get the notes fast & even and the more I practiced the worse it was.
The piece became something like my enemy - I hated it because I couldn´t play it but I also worked on it more and more, sometimes for hours a day because I wanted to master it so much.
It gave me so much frustration it´s unreal...and also mild tendonitis probably. I swear I wanted to quit when I saw many videos of small children playing the easy 2. grade piece with absolute ease. I stopped playing the piano for over a week and also my motivation plummeted significantly.

It´s a bit better now. The motivation is getting back, hopefully I will have a regular lesson with my teacher soon.
I allowed myself to work on the piece only for 15 minutes a day and surprisingly it got a bit better just because I stopped obsessing about it so much but I still can´t play it faster than 120 BMP with evenness and there are sheets with tempo marked as 150 BPM... I am afraid I will NEVER be able to play it this fast in my life no matter how hard I practice...

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Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977830 05/11/20 09:55 AM
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Good to hear you are coming through this experience Tom. I know the determination you mentioned, and know that it is not always helpful.

I know the frustration of speed holding you back. I've been on and off with Mozarts K545 for months, back onto it again with more time now I have cut down the number of pieces I'm working on at any one time. But I just can't get the trills beyond about half the expected speed. It is very very frustrating. The bits which are like doing scales are starting to smooth out helped by focussing on finding the right fingering and forcing myself to stick with them.

I suspect I'll never be able to play this piece how it should be because I am failing on the trills. At least before my lessons stopped I worked with my teacher on fingering for the trills so I have not been changing those around now. Just my fingers are so slow.

Good luck, and it sounds like the break you gave yourself was the right thing to do.

Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977831 05/11/20 09:58 AM
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That piece is my enemy at the moment...especially that left hand will probably leave some mental marks.
ABRSM mentions about 116 BPM as a recommended speed in the Grade 2 exam ... which still seems fast but doable as opposed to 152.
Watching 5 year olds playing way above my level is a recipe for depression. I end up looking at the piano and then the window and contemplate merging the 2 for a second.
If I get to `120 I'll record it and put it aside. Burgumuller has other nice pieces in the same volume that are worth trying.

There's a youtube channel I watched about these "speeds". Called AuthenticSound.
The guy dissects them quite often and some those speed markings are literally unplayable today.
I guess a 150-200 year old metronome speed should be taken with a grain of salt.

Last edited by CosminX; 05/11/20 10:04 AM.

Kawai ES110

Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977838 05/11/20 10:11 AM
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Yeah, don't obsess about any one piece. Sometimes when people "work on" something, all they do is keep repeating. If you keep repeating the wrong way of doing it, you set yourself back. Repetition alone doesn't help you play faster. Speed is technique your teacher can help you.

Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977850 05/11/20 10:34 AM
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Yep let the piece go until you are back with your teacher. is my recommendation. I wish I could remember a piece from my youth. The ending had multiple scale runs that made the piece a couple grades higher my teacher said. I did great until the ending section and it took me a few months to get up to speed on the scale runs. We also have to remember, as individuals, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Yes, even in playing the piano. Some pieces of music will be easier/harder for us compared to others. Take a deep breathe and enjoy the journey smile I still struggle with 3:2 or 2:3 time making it flow. My mind and hands fight each other even after all these years.


All these years playing and I still consider myself a novice.
Re: I was pretty close to quitting
CosminX #2977855 05/11/20 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by CosminX
That piece is my enemy at the moment...especially that left hand will probably leave some mental marks.
ABRSM mentions about 116 BPM as a recommended speed in the Grade 2 exam ... which still seems fast but doable as opposed to 152.
Watching 5 year olds playing way above my level is a recipe for depression. I end up looking at the piano and then the window and contemplate merging the 2 for a second.
If I get to `120 I'll record it and put it aside. Burgumuller has other nice pieces in the same volume that are worth trying.

There's a youtube channel I watched about these "speeds". Called AuthenticSound.
The guy dissects them quite often and some those speed markings are literally unplayable today.
I guess a 150-200 year old metronome speed should be taken with a grain of salt.

Try looking up the 9 year old playing Hungarian Rhapsody next. Or don't, in your case that might be dangerous.


'Its too rare to break a hand from playing the piano ... But playing Hanon as written will break your hand'

- Self proclaimed 'piano teachers' on the internet.
Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977859 05/11/20 10:46 AM
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Speed is an issue that I've needed to come to terms with. I've decided that I will never be able to play any of my pieces at their ideal speed. So, since speed is less of an issue, I can really enjoy playing and listening to the music for its own sake. I love Bach, and it seems that, for some people, their entire goal is to play his pieces as fast as possible. For me, I am loving playing and listening to the more deliberate and slow progressions of harmonies, even if they were intended to be fast. It may be due to my deformed arthritic fingers or poor technique, or both, but speed is just taking a back seat to other things.

I do think that it's worthwhile to work on trills so that they are fast enough to fit in with the rhythm of the music, but speed alone is just not worth it to me. My teacher is not asking me to keep working on pieces to get them up to speed, so it must not be too bad. I do notice that his selections for me tend to not be the fast movements of pieces...

So my advice would be to keep enjoying the music and of course work on technique but let the speed issue rest. pun intended smile


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Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977867 05/11/20 10:55 AM
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One time when I was lamenting having small hands, someone tried to console me by saying that those people with big hands have more difficulty with speed (steps not leaps). I don't know if that's generally true. Anyway we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Children are just very flexible.

Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977871 05/11/20 11:00 AM
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I had already stopped for over a decade actually and the only reason I can play again, and far better than I ever could before is entirely thanks to working through Hanon exercises 1-31.


'Its too rare to break a hand from playing the piano ... But playing Hanon as written will break your hand'

- Self proclaimed 'piano teachers' on the internet.
Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977872 05/11/20 11:02 AM
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The difficulty of this piece is greatly increased by increasing the speed. It would in my opinion be better to play it well slowly and move on. It is also much harder for most people to play cleanly scales pattern in the left and even in relatively good pianists I can hear they are a little asymmetrical on this piece. It can help to increase speed to practice in different ways. I find practising in rhythms really good. If you have no teacher you may not be doing yourself any favours by stressing to get it up to speed. If you are getting tendonitis from this maybe it is worth stopping this piece or at least stopping trying to play very fast. I have given up trying to teach myself hard stuff myself and brought myself a lot of easier music to learn myself. Without a teacher I think it is very hard to learn technical work.

The ability to play a fast 5 finger scale run at very fast speed is difficult. To play them fast you need to be very relaxed and you need to develop this skill slowly. If you force it you tense and it does not work. You would be better off playing scales and making sure you can play them cleanly and relaxed. It is not something you can force yourself and you have to play quickly by being very efficient and relaxed. Also to play very fast you may need to learn a different technique entirely. I had learnt only once in grieg march of the dwarfs and had to be taught to play them with a drop and very slight rotation. It is therefore very possible to learn these with time but it has taken many years. I would not however do this on your piece.

Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977906 05/11/20 12:16 PM
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Rest assured that some of us (me) are also experiencing the exact problem. I learned that piece last year but put it away when I realized that my left hand wasn't able to do the left-hand runs properly (clean, crisp, staccato at speed). That's fine. I just moved on and learned other things. I know this piece was above my level of ability to begin with but I was stubborn and wanted to learn it anyway. After sitting on the back-burner for a couple of months, I decided to take it out and re-try it again a couple of days ago. I'm still working on it. grin

FWIW, it is an RCM grade 3 study, so I'm ok working up to it. I'm only in grade 1. I only compare myself to myself now. I see all the progress I've had in the past 13 months and I'm content about it.

If comparing with little kids really puts you down, don't compare with little kids! Don't watch those YouTube videos! There are tons of those amazing little kids on there.


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Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977918 05/11/20 12:49 PM
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I learned a few pieces on my own before getting a teacher. Some people still have the age-old idea that in order to learn something, you have to be with a teacher or in a classroom.

Like learning a foreign language, people would spend a few hours a week at most with a teacher and the rest of the time practicing on their own. Making the best out of your practice time counts more than the time you spend with an instructor. You should come to class prepared with questions that need to be answered from 1 class to the next.

Since the C-19 lockdown, things get more interesting. I'm in adult group piano and we started working on a book full of Jazz pieces. The group had a 3-week break until the teacher got everybody to connect with Zoom. It's nice to see each other through a small computer window and still maintain social distancing. During the break I worked on a Bach fugue I haven't played for 8 years. Not having a teacher doesn't mean stop playing. During the Christmas break, a friend came over with his violin. I played a waltz for him that I heard from the radio a few years ago. The score was downloaded off the Internet and not a piece assigned by the teacher.

Nowadays we have access to thousands of pieces online. We all learned to read music and there are enough pieces to last a lifetime. Getting into pieces you enjoy listening to is the matter of getting the music. And you may find arrangements of the same pieces from beginner to advanced. In the beginning I started with a book full of church hymns for easy piano. I was able to learn a few pieces in 1 afternoon. By the time you get to an intermediate level, you can find many pieces arranged at that level. Now I'm practicing the pieces off the Jazz book. I'd get into the ones assigned by the teacher and others for personal interest.

Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977928 05/11/20 01:21 PM
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It seems very logical to think that working on a piece obsessively will eventually allow to play it at tempo, but in reality it doesn't work like that, it's a fallacy. Speed comes only from working on a wide diversity of pieces and it comes slowly.

Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977945 05/11/20 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
I allowed myself to work on the piece only for 15 minutes a day and surprisingly it got a bit better just because I stopped obsessing about it so much but I still can´t play it faster than 120 BMP with evenness and there are sheets with tempo marked as 150 BPM... I am afraid I will NEVER be able to play it this fast in my life no matter how hard I practice...
You've explained exactly why kids seem to learn piano more easily than adults (though the reality is somewhat different......).

Kids don't obsess over insignificant things like trying to get a piece up to a certain metronome mark (assuming they actually own a metronome: I never did when I was a student), nor even about stuff like evenness once they try to play beyond a certain speed. And they're hardly likely to look up some whizz-kid's YT video and compare themselves to those prodigies who started lessons before they could walk.

What happens with kids is that once they play a piece to their teacher's satisfaction (no matter how slowly, probably not even completely fluently) they get moved on to something else, and they don't lose any sleep over that piece that's now behind them, never to resurface (unless they liked it so much that they wanted to have another go at practicing & playing it better by themselves in the future).

It helps if you can develop some of a kid's mentality with piano learning - be happy with what you can do with a teaching piece now, and only go back to the piece later on (I mean months or years, not days or weeks) only if you really like it and want to play it better when your skills have improved, and you'll find it surprisingly easy to pick it up again, and improve on what you can do with it now.

BTW, I retained some of my "kid's mentality" even now, when I'm learning difficult new pieces. There were a few pieces that I tried to learn when I returned to the piano in 2010 (Gaspard de la nuit was my greatest challenge), and liked so much that I periodically returned to them over the course of months and years (playing them better and better each time as my technical skills improved - yes, I'm still improving), until I could play them to my satisfaction, so I could eventually perform them. And I'd keep on learning other pieces in the intervening period - all good stuff that helped to improve my skills in various ways.

Of course, if I got bored with those pieces at any time, I ditched them without a second thought - life is too short at my advanced age to bother with stuff that no longer interests me..... whistle


"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: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977960 05/11/20 02:45 PM
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I'll second what bennevis said. I have gone back to earlier pieces and I can say that you'll be very surprised how easy the piece feels the second time if you give it a rest of a few months or maybe a year. Not only that but you'll also find that you can do much better and you can bring the piece to a much higher level of polish. I highly recommend re-learning old pieces you liked but never felt fully at ease playing them.

Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Tom97 #2977961 05/11/20 02:51 PM
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'Owning a metronome'

You guys actually had pianos while growing up and not the cheapest Yamaha PSR crap with a built in click track for a metronome?


'Its too rare to break a hand from playing the piano ... But playing Hanon as written will break your hand'

- Self proclaimed 'piano teachers' on the internet.
Re: I was pretty close to quitting
Qazsedcft #2977970 05/11/20 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
I'll second what bennevis said. I have gone back to earlier pieces and I can say that you'll be very surprised how easy the piece feels the second time if you give it a rest of a few months or maybe a year. Not only that but you'll also find that you can do much better and you can bring the piece to a much higher level of polish. I highly recommend re-learning old pieces you liked but never felt fully at ease playing them.



thumb still happens to me. I hate having to recognize I can’t play something well NOW..., but going back later feels so good


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