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Ravel's Jeux d'eau would be that piece for me, one that I really like, but after first attempting to learn it 6-7 years ago, I've never dare to return to it. In contrast to other challenging pieces, I've returned to it once or more and able to improve slightly every time. This, way too hard for my brain and my hands.


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Originally Posted by alexii
I'd really like to play Rachmaninoff's second sonata one day (third movement in particular!). I've tried reading through it and pretty much every single passage seemed unapproachable & awkward to play, even at a snail's pace. I feel like not even another 10 years could prepare me for it!

Yes, i sometimes have a dream that i am taking an instellar space trip to the moon. A nice vacation with a little walk over there where i can admire a good view over our little planet. And the trip is super nice with good food and champagne. Thats a great dream ! Maybe in a 100 years that will be possible (i doubt though) just not for me.


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I've got a couple of pieces that I've been learning recently: Chopin's 'Heroic' Polonaise Op 53 and the 3rd movement of Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' Op 27 No 2.

Both pieces sit under my fingers quite nicely however the rapid four octave scales in the Polonaise and the fast two-hands arpeggios/broken chords in measures 196-198 at the end of the 'Moonlight' sonata are well and truly exposing the flaws in my technique in scales and arpeggios. At tempo they are currently an uneven mess. I'd like to think I will be able to perform these well eventually, however I can see myself taking months to perfect both these passages through methodical practice, unlearning bad habits, strengthening my weaker fingers etc in order to play them at tempo, evenly and fluidly. Fingers crossed I've got the patience!

I'm sure if I had spent more time practising my scales and arpeggios when I was learning as a teenager this whole process would be much quicker, that's my thinking anyway.

Last edited by psyche23; 03/09/21 08:45 AM.
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Most of the music I love is currently beyond me, so I've got a list that could fill a book. But I love reading scores and collecting music, so I'm familiar with them, and I know the passages that would be problematic. Thinking about how I progress as a pianist, I split problems into two camps: mental and mechanical. In reality there is not exactly a hard and fast split, but they are useful categories to me. In the mental category of things that are difficult to me are dense polyphonic writing in both hands, chords and octaves that play contrapuntally with respect to the hands or jump (I can play them hands separate fine, but putting them together requires too much mental processing for me) or things like a three handed effect, fingering for intricate passages in sixths, complex polyrhythms, etc. For the mechanical there are things like scale/run/arpeggio speed, finger 4/5 speed, control of tone at high speeds, double notes, double note tremolos, trill speed/control, speed for other fingers when one or more finger is holding a note, etc.

If I know I have an issue for something, I try to identify what the nature of the issue is--is it mental, where I can't play in time because I'm taking too long to process where my fingers should be or how my hands should relate to each other? Or is it a speed/smoothness/control issue that concerted practice over time can address? While the mechanical can be practiced as exercises, both issues can be approached by more simple repertoire that addresses the issue at hand. There's something like a series of learning slopes to technical issues, but I find myself interested lately at the issues that are mental.

For instance, what is it about the three handed effect in Busoni's "All'Italia!" from the Elegies that overwhelms me? What other pieces do I know that use hand crossing? Aware of this, earlier this year I learned Reynaldo Hahn's "Nevermore", which is a very simple hand-crossing piece as an easily achievable stepping stone that gave me no headache or frustration. When exploring sheet music (a hobby of mine when I have free minutes), I make notes when I see something that is like something I have an issue with. Hahn's Nevermore consisted of a left hand that just crossed over to repeat the same not throughout in a slow tempo. But yesterday I was browsing scores and saw Malipiero's first piece from Maschere Che Passano (higher tempo than Hahn, static right hand chords so there is not too much going on for me to process, left hand that doesn't just cross to sound the same note but plays a melody). Once I get that comfortable and like second nature, I can find a piece where the left hand crosses and the right hand is slightly more active--eventually the three handed effect will no longer feel like I need a second brain.

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Originally Posted by Tubbie0075
... I've returned to it once or more and able to improve slightly every time.

Yes, this is key but the trouble for me is that some of them would take so many iterations of returning before I can even say I've actually learned it to something I would be happy with, and if you leave them a year or so in between returning, we are running out of time.

I've always thought it would be nice to complete the Moonlight Sonata with all 3 movements. I saw a kid playing the beginning part very slowly and even though it looks like a huge black dot of hundreds of notes clustered together on the page, when he did it with only 10 fingers, it actually looked possible. I've surprised myself to even have 2 movements so far, but I know this would be at least a year project for the 1st go around. I am still working a little and possibly more, we'll see. I don't know, I've been told there are better works to learn, but when I hear it there are just some sections in it where I think, Geesh, I wish I could play that.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
I don’t believe any piece is beyond my reach, but beyond my reach NOW

This is also how I see it, but that said, being a memorizer rather than a sight reader, there are works which seem like huge mountains to climb, because they contain so very many notes. I would for example dearly love to play the first movement of Schuberts last sonata (D960), but it takes over 20 minutes to play, and that is really an awful lot of notes to remember. Some day, I will get there. I just don't quite know how.


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Some pieces I tried before unsuccessfully and later managed to learn it. A few years ago I learned the Shostakovich Waltz (piano version). 6 months before that I tried the first section and left the score on the shelf because of the big jumps on the L.

Today I'm working on a Bach chorale arranged from an organ piece. A year ago probably not. Today you hear something you like but not at the technical level. Tomorrow is usually a better day...

How do people feel about the 10,000h rule to learn suggested by a piano teacher?

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It's an impossible question but I do wonder, what does the average pianist look like after 10,000 hours? There's always going to be outliers, and I'm fairly certain that 10,000 of my hours will not be equivalent to 10,000 of Vladimir Horowitz's hours. Would the average (adjusted for number of hours tuition) feel comfortable tackling some of the hardest repertoire by themselves, such as Rachmaninoff Sonatas, Schumann toccatas etc etc?

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First of all I’m not sure if the number 10,000 was pulled out of the air or was based on any research. But besides that point, I think that most adult amateurs, meaning they did not get a piano performance degree or became a serious and dedicated pianist as a youth, would not be able to play the very advanced repertoire at a reasonably accomplished level after 10,000 hours of practice. That’s about 18 years of practicing piano about 1.5 hours a day. This is based on both my own and fellow adult pianists’ experiences.

No reason to despair, though. The repertoire for intermediate and early advanced pianists is wide and varied and you will never run out of pieces to play.



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The 10,000 myth comes from a book by Gladwell
Here is one explanation why it is not valid

https://www.6seconds.org/2020/01/25/the-great-practice-myth-debunking-the-10000-hour-rule/


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Originally Posted by alexii
It's an impossible question but I do wonder, what does the average pianist look like after 10,000 hours? There's always going to be outliers, and I'm fairly certain that 10,000 of my hours will not be equivalent to 10,000 of Vladimir Horowitz's hours. Would the average (adjusted for number of hours tuition) feel comfortable tackling some of the hardest repertoire by themselves, such as Rachmaninoff Sonatas, Schumann toccatas etc etc?
Only a tiny percentage of pianists(I would guess 1/10th of a percent or less) ever reach the level of playing pieces like that at a high level. It's like any other pursuit. How many people can shoot par regularly even after playing for a lifetime?

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Most of us never get there. Does it matter? Some of the most sublime music ever written is also simple enough to play well by most. And we enjoy doing it, enjoy the sound, whatever we play. however much time we are able to spend doing it.


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I think you have to start looking beyond hours if you want to get to that level. There is a certain aspect of immersion which can often get you past obstacles -- music is learned much faster if it gets into your dreams etc. You also need to have a strong conviction that it is possible to significantly improve your own practice method to the point where 4 hours of practice now may equal one hour of practice a year later.

I think, as with most fields of endeavor, the very best keep trying mindfully to push themselves and surpass themselves. Let's hope that playing a Rachmaninoff concerto is possible for someone starting as an adult, I'm certainly crossing my fingers that it is!

Anyway, I think that to attempt something at that range of difficulty, courage and conviction plays a great role imo. It is easy at every level to get stuck with ineffective practice methods and delude yourself into spending a bunch of time at the piano without advancing as much as you possibly could.

The 10000 hour rule is basically bullshit. The guy who made up the theory observed that the best performing students tended to practice the most (no s**t), and saw that they averaged 10000 hours in college etc. There was no study where they randomly took kids off the street and made them practice 10000 hours. I'm sure that there are many prodigies out there who have put in their 10000 hours. Does it mean that you or me would get as far in the same amount of time? heck no.

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Originally Posted by alexii
I'm fairly certain that 10,000 of my hours will not be equivalent to 10,000 of Vladimir Horowitz's hours. Would the average (adjusted for number of hours tuition) feel comfortable tackling some of the hardest repertoire by themselves, such as Rachmaninoff Sonatas, Schumann toccatas etc etc?
Who wants to play Schumann's Toccata anyway? (Gimme Khachaturian's anytime - more ticklish, more spiky, more fun, easy....... whistle)


There's an element of unrealistic fantasy inherent in the 10,000 hours thing when it comes to classical piano. Would every snowboarder expect to be able to negotiate all those half-pipes (even without the tricks) just because he's been snowboarding for 10,000 hours? Would every math student expect to be able to understand the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem just because he's been studying math for 10,000 hours?

The great thing about classical piano music is that there's so much of it composed over four centuries, for all levels from very easy to impossibly difficult, so everyone will be able to find something to learn and play that they can enjoy at their own level. There's no need to feel inadequate just because one cannot play Rach 3 at supersonic speed - just play Minuet in G (Petzold, Beethoven, Paderewski) at subsonic speed: just as enjoyable and kinder to one's joints....... thumb


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Getting your playing to an advanced level is like learning a foreign language. The time you put in is not linear. When we put in 4 hours learning words & phrases in German as compared to just 1 hour per day, we're getting far more than 4x the result. If we put in just half an hour a day, we may never get to a conversation level. And we have to be learning new and more advanced materials all the time. Playing the same piece of music over and over is not going to get anybody to an advanced level.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Getting your playing to an advanced level is like learning a foreign language. The time you put in is not linear. When we put in 4 hours learning words & phrases in German as compared to just 1 hour per day, we're getting far more than 4x the result. If we put in just half an hour a day, we may never get to a conversation level. And we have to be learning new and more advanced materials all the time. Playing the same piece of music over and over is not going to get anybody to an advanced level.
Completely agree. I think that listening, imitating by ear or otherwise, improvising, imagining music in your head, thinking about the structure, the idiom, etc. all help with learning. Sometimes learning is like kicking a door as opposed to sharpening a knife or something -- you just need brute force (mentally speaking) to work your way through obstacles instead of avoiding them.

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Here is a professional trumpet player's opinion on practicing for 10,000h:


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The trumpet player reached excellence in 10,000 but he had teachers beginning at grade 6, and attended college as a music major. This is not a yardstick that any of the ABF can use


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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Here is a professional trumpet player's opinion on practicing for 10,000h:


I really enjoyed that video, especially the part about being the best musician YOU can be and competing against only yourself.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 03/10/21 12:24 PM.

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