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Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
#2981028 05/19/20 07:08 AM
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Hi folks. Looking for some guidance and advice. I self taught myself piano in my teenage years. Not classical style, more like playing a melody with right hand and thumping chords out with my left. I didn’t learn correct fingering etc, just developed my own style. I have not played in over 20 years and my hubby has just bought me an electric piano.
My question is about where to start and looking for advice and suggestions. Should I go back to basics and try to unlearn my bad technique? And if so any suggestions about what I should do and where to start?
I can still remember my scales, chords and can pick out a melody very quickly - but assuming my finger placing is all wrong.
I have no expectations of becoming a classical pianist or anything, but would like to progress to better than I was before. I used to be able to read music and am quite musical generally. Should I scrap all I learned and start again?

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Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2981040 05/19/20 07:54 AM
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Get a teacher and start from scratch.

Good Luck


Don

Kawai MP11SE, Focal Professional CMS 40 near-field monitors, Yamaha HS8S Powered Subwoofer, SennHeiser HD 559 Headphones, Pianoteq and numerous other VSTs (Seldom Used), Focus Rite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface, Mackie MIX 5 Compact Mixer.
Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2981049 05/19/20 08:21 AM
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Hello, I am a self taught teen

I was just like this at one point, with bad technique. Before actually researching and studying proper fingering, I never used my fifth finger no matter what, and it caused discomfort sometimes and wrong hand position. My hand was not relaxed at all.

Then I knew I was doing something wrong when the trumpet player of my church choir pointed this out and gave me advice. I knew I had to relearn it again. So I went to relearn the proper fingering for scales, arpeggios and triads. I even asked questions on the forum for help, and I made a document for everything I learned so I did not forget it.

I think the most resourceful page I used was various videos on YouTube, as well as piano study websites. right now, I am retrieving some of the links I used and will try to post them later

But if self teaching is not for you, you can get a teacher


Yamaha Montage, Yamaha Motif ES8, Kontakt and a ton of VSTs
Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2981059 05/19/20 09:03 AM
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I've done it and am doing it. Starting properly is easier. You probably want to start with simple, basic things and what lies underneath. One trick is: don't try not to do something (fighting what you're doing, and thinking of what you don't want to do), but rather aim for what you want to do and focus on that. To do so, you first have to have in your mind and body what it is you want to do, and that is often not easy to find. When you do, it can be rewarding.

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2981064 05/19/20 09:15 AM
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Do you mean you want to teach yourself again? Just be aware there are a lot of bad instructional videos on youtube. It's a place where anyone can post anything. Most people who are serious about learning proper technique would get a teacher.

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2981152 05/19/20 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Susfloos
Should I scrap all I learned and start again?
Yes! And this time, with the help of a teacher. Probably, not only finger placing is wrong, but a lot of other technique as well.
My guess is that you'll find that gradually, you will be able to integrate some of your old piano skills into your new ones. cool


Playing the piano is learning to create, playfully and deeply seriously, our own music in the world.
*
... feeling like the pianist on the Titanic ...
Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2981167 05/19/20 01:48 PM
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Hey Susfloos,

It's definitely possible for someone to change and improve their technique and piano skills later in life. As others have said, I would suggest finding a good teacher who can point you in the right direction.


dave long

piano and tenor saxophone
classical & jazz
davelongmusic.com

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2981181 05/19/20 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Susfloos
Hi folks. Looking for some guidance and advice. I self taught myself piano in my teenage years. Not classical style, more like playing a melody with right hand and thumping chords out with my left. I didn’t learn correct fingering etc, just developed my own style. I have not played in over 20 years and my hubby has just bought me an electric piano.
My question is about where to start and looking for advice and suggestions. Should I go back to basics and try to unlearn my bad technique? And if so any suggestions about what I should do and where to start?
I can still remember my scales, chords and can pick out a melody very quickly - but assuming my finger placing is all wrong.
I have no expectations of becoming a classical pianist or anything, but would like to progress to better than I was before. I used to be able to read music and am quite musical generally. Should I scrap all I learned and start again?


Well, I don't think you need to unlearn all.
You gained certainly valuable skills over time that you can still use.
You don't have to start from scratch, this doesn't make sense to me.

The only thing you have to do is, as you say yourself, to break your bad habits and techniques.

The good news is that you are aware of them!
This means you can correct yourself or with the help of online resources: YouTube, online methods, blogs...
Or a teacher if you can as already mentioned.
Maybe a bit problematic right now though, thus I would first try online for now.

Here is what I would suggest:

First, make a list of techniques you have identified as bad.

Second, find the right resource with the correct techniques.

Third, apply the correction.
Slowly.
With your full attention on each finger position and movement.

This will require a deep focus and awareness and not that easy.
But step by step, you will correct all the bad fingerings.

You are not the only one with this problem, and I can ensure you that you have the ability to get good techniques.

Just start slow and fully concentrated.
Scale after scale.
Chord after chord.

For the chords, I have put the right fingerings on my website if you want to check them out. But there are plenty of other places to find them wink

Good luck and keep faith in yourself! smile


Your home to start playing the piano and keyboards:
https://www.guide2music.com
Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2981201 05/19/20 03:19 PM
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I agree, start from scratch. You'll see a whole new world. wink

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2982018 05/21/20 06:04 AM
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I was more or less forced to rethink my entire technique ten years ago in order to recover from what I assume was a dystonia. It required determined, careful thought for about four years and progress went in fits and starts but success eventually came. Improvisation was invaluable, as technique turned out to have properties that were highly individual, and only I could decide which were positive and which negative. While it did no harm to study what experts said about general principles I found it did little good either and in the end the battle was pretty solitary. But yes, as the others say, it can definitely be done.


"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: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2982033 05/21/20 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I agree, start from scratch. You'll see a whole new world. wink
It would be an interesting exercise, for those who play well, learned early in life with good instruction so that much is automatic, to see just what "from scratch" really entails. You may have to go much further back than you imagine, and there may be things that are so engrained that you've never thought about it.

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2982108 05/21/20 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Susfloos
My question is about where to start and looking for advice and suggestions. Should I go back to basics and try to unlearn my bad technique? And if so any suggestions about what I should do and where to start?
I can still remember my scales, chords and can pick out a melody very quickly - but assuming my finger placing is all wrong.
I have no expectations of becoming a classical pianist or anything, but would like to progress to better than I was before. I used to be able to read music and am quite musical generally. Should I scrap all I learned and start again?

As usual it is difficult to give you an advice without having any sense of the way you play today. How do you know if your technique is bad or good ? Post a video if you can, that would certainly help to visualise where you stand. If you dont plan to be a classical pianist then you dont need to have a perfect classic technique. There are probably a few critical things you should correct or improve to be able to progress and then reuse what you do well or what is not so critical.

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2982220 05/21/20 02:45 PM
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I am a slow learner and prefer to have a head start in everything. I learned to play violin ages ago so reading music wasn't an issue. I spent the first few years on my own before getting a teacher. I got into piano as an adult so there is a lot to learn but nothing much to unlearn.

In the beginning I went online and watched a few student performances how the hands move gracefully on and off the keys. There are also online teachers I'd be following. When it comes to fingerings, we have different hand sizes so fingerings do vary. As a general guide, I'd position my hands to play a melody where I can reach as many notes in 1 handful as possible. When I'm running out of fingers, I'd change hand position to accommodate more notes.

Playing chords with the L should be done with fingerings that feel comfortable and don't look awkward. You normally slide your hands in a bit to reach for the black keys.

If you upload a short video online, we can all see what you are doing.

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2982231 05/21/20 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Susfloos
Hi folks. Looking for some guidance and advice. I self taught myself piano in my teenage years. Not classical style, more like playing a melody with right hand and thumping chords out with my left. I didn’t learn correct fingering etc, just developed my own style. I have not played in over 20 years and my hubby has just bought me an electric piano.
My question is about where to start and looking for advice and suggestions. Should I go back to basics and try to unlearn my bad technique?
If you aren't playing classical, frankly I don't think there's much point in re-learning your piano technique from scratch if you can manage with what you've already got.

Lots of non-classical piano players play with very bad technique, but it doesn't bother them because they play only what they want and like, not what a composer wrote 333 years ago, note for note.


"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: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
dmd #2982279 05/21/20 04:55 PM
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Thanks. Financially I think I might have to try to teach myself again! Lots of great tips here though - thanks! Any suggestions for particularly useful social media or you tube tutorials would be great.
I will consider posting a video - but I’m so rusty I’d be a bit embarrassed.
I think I will continue to try to relearn some of the basics for a while and see how fast I progress. I’d like to hope I’ll pick it up fairly quickly. I have a good ear for music which is half the battle.

Last edited by Susfloos; 05/21/20 04:59 PM.
Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2982284 05/21/20 05:07 PM
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I second @sidokar and was also thinking, how do you know it's wrong or bad? The fingering you used to play your songs years ago sounds like it worked for you! What someone might think is wrong fingering could be perfect for you. You're technique could be great I wouldn't be so hard on yourself and assume your fingering is wrong. I don't think you need to start all over and if you do I'm sure you'll fly through the basics. Looking forward to hearing how it goes and good luck!

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2982320 05/21/20 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Susfloos
Hi folks. Looking for some guidance and advice. I self taught myself piano in my teenage years. Not classical style, more like playing a melody with right hand and thumping chords out with my left. I didn’t learn correct fingering etc, just developed my own style. I have not played in over 20 years and my hubby has just bought me an electric piano.
My question is about where to start and looking for advice and suggestions. Should I go back to basics and try to unlearn my bad technique? And if so any suggestions about what I should do and where to start?
I can still remember my scales, chords and can pick out a melody very quickly - but assuming my finger placing is all wrong.
I have no expectations of becoming a classical pianist or anything, but would like to progress to better than I was before. I used to be able to read music and am quite musical generally. Should I scrap all I learned and start again?
Maybe its not all about bad technique and more about a lack of understanding. Most experienced pianists know that technique is individual and that something that "emerges" out of each person's unique physiology and anatomy. A motor theory called dynamical systems approach to movement has an interesting take on this. https://www.bettermovement.org/blog/2015/a-systems-perspective-on-motor-control-part-one

I think it is possible that over teaching technique or how to touch the keys or move your hands can sometimes be detrimental to a child's natural development. Sometimes its best to let technique fall out naturally rather than forcing the issue. All the great pianists had phenomenal but unique technique. Was that something that was taught or were these the individuals who more or less were allowed to have their technique develop naturally? So if there are teachers out there who believe there is one "correct" way to technique and force it onto their students may be fighting that student's natural development. Some basic guidelines of course are necessary if what a student is doing may be harmful, but maybe sometimes its best to just let things more or less happen on their own and be more of a guide than warden. So who knows, maybe Susfloos technique is right for her but what she just needs is knowledge on how to use her technique correctly and optimally.

From that link I posted above: "Humans are complex systems that have an amazing capacity to self-organize. If you give them the right motivation, environment, and task to perform, they will find good movement solutions, often with great speed and efficiency. The proper role of a coach is often not so much about telling people how to move, but creating the right conditions for learning and then getting out of the way." (I studied motor control in grad school, pretty cool stuff honestly. Check out that motorless self powered robot!)

Bad teaching can be more harmful than self-teaching at times which again points to the fact that it is important to find a GOOD teacher.

Last edited by Jethro; 05/21/20 08:13 PM.

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Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Jethro #2982743 05/23/20 09:47 AM
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I want to take off on some of this.
Originally Posted by Jethro
Maybe its not all about bad technique and more about a lack of understanding. Most experienced pianists know that technique is individual and that something that "emerges" out of each person's unique physiology and anatomy. .......

I think it is possible that over teaching technique or how to touch the keys or move your hands can sometimes be detrimental to a child's natural development. Sometimes its best to let technique fall out naturally rather than forcing the issue. .....

.....

Bad teaching can be more harmful than self-teaching at times which again points to the fact that it is important to find a GOOD teacher.

A few years before joining PW after I got a piano again, I had fallen into a mess after a few years of violin lessons, and had started to untangle all of it. In fact, had made some inroads. Piano was 3 decades after having learned self-taught as a child, so there was a physical mess there too. Here I had no teacher, but the material itself had caused things to evolve a certain way physically (found out later with my teacher). Physical technique became a question with new answers. I'll try to bring across what I learned.

"Technique": You want to bring musical sound out of your instrument (volume, timing, texture) by working with how the instrument functions structurally, and how your body functions physically, in a manner that is efficient, with the greatest degree of ease. That's what it actually is. As an example of "instrument function" - The piano hammer flies from the first impetus and you can make the sound continue by adding pedal at the right time. Pushing down hard after the sound starts doesn't make loudness stay loud. That's an element of technique. "Body function" we talk of a lot here.

It can be really over-choreographed with students as marionettes, shaping their hands per model, moving per model, getting no feel for the instrument or their bodies; and it can interfere with natural functioning - things can be taught wrong (always have your hands being a round ball: move your fingers like little hammers) etc. Overt teaching can make a mess. Or it might give a jump start to good, efficient movement, depending on how it's taught, and where the learner is at.

Setup, on piano, is the first thing. Height and distance from piano, starting with a natural hand. If you are at the wrong height, and too close or far, your whole body is affected and you'll compensate. So if you are moving from an optimum position, and also moving (not "sitting up straight like a soldier) and if you have a decent body sense, your technique will evolve. A teacher I'm with ensures his students don't stay in one position for very long. Music expands into black keys, beyond 5-finger, adds pedal (carefully taught), moves up and down the piano. Students experiment with how they get there: move in and out of black keys; change hand angles (and thus the arms are moving), lean in and to the side for distant keys - i.e. learn to use their bodies.

If I'm working with a teacher, I want to be in the middle of two extremes. I don't want to be choreographed like a marionette. I also don't want to be left to my own devices without any feedback, ever. I guess it's more like the toddler who learns to stand up and walk; learns through his falls, but isn't allowed to walk off the edge of the stairs into a fall. Or maybe in sports (?) when taught well, people are set up with tasks in stages, with an observant coach.

The thing with remediating is that you have pre-existing reflexes. In fact, some of these are actually good and in the right place. That all has to be sorted out.

Re: Beginning again - can I unlearn my bad techniques
Susfloos #2986501 06/01/20 07:19 AM
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