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Originally Posted by bennevis
..... -, and not even if you're willing to listen (which you're obviously not).
I listen to the excellent teacher that I have. If your advice conflicts with his, guess which I'll choose. wink

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Anyone who has the skills to be able to play fast, can play fast. I agree if there is a psychological block, that should be let go. Otherwise a person deciding to "have at it", to "be like a child", can get into trouble. The generic stereotypes of what adults are probably like, and then addressing those stereotypes, is what gets to me at times.

For example, an adult student who is not playing fast pieces, or not playing fast, may not be doing so because they are afraid of playing fast, or like the sound of slow pieces etc. They may have been told to play slowly, to slow down. For a long time you'd see endless laments by teachers "How do I get my students to slow down?" "How can I get them to understand what slow practice means?" In recent times, there has been a shift from the slow practice mantra - the idea of starting slow and gradually speeding up. The problem being that the motions you have in slow practice may not work as you speed up. Now we're seeing suggestions on how to practise fast from the start and different approaches for doing so.

An adult student also might not be doing Mozart and I forget who because they like the lovely sound, but because that is what they got assigned.

This thread started with I think a relative beginner who is struggling to play scales at 120 bpm, 4 notes per beat, with the teacher getting frustrated. Probably just releasing your inner child won't do the trick. Especially since scales have some tricky aspects to them such as the "thumb under" (or not) thing. I had at scales like a child, with insouciance, when I started - had a whale of a time - until one hand started to get numb, and the other got a perpetual twinge. Fortunately I got some good guidance, with the mess being sorted out.

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Re Beethoven sonatas - I just recorded this. It's day 2 because I wanted to get it out of my hair, and it is patched together. Being able to have the outer notes loud while keeping the inner notes soft plus pedal and everything else was a stretch. I'd need a lot more time to get this more solid, and would like to get some physical skills stronger first since I'm still in a remediation situation of pre-existing messes. It's mov't 2 of the Pathetique, and for me the hardest part.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6aoqew5dryjkdp9/21.03.09%20Path%20II%20C%20section.mp3?dl=0

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Originally Posted by Stubbie
It's about the speed repertoire can be played, not scales.
I agree. I notice a bit of obsession with scales. Playing scales is just one specific technique, it may not be a true indicator. Repertoire is.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Re Beethoven sonatas - I just recorded this. It's day 2 because I wanted to get it out of my hair, and it is patched together. Being able to have the outer notes loud while keeping the inner notes soft plus pedal and everything else was a stretch. I'd need a lot more time to get this more solid, and would like to get some physical skills stronger first since I'm still in a remediation situation of pre-existing messes. It's mov't 2 of the Pathetique, and for me the hardest part.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6aoqew5dryjkdp9/21.03.09%20Path%20II%20C%20section.mp3?dl=0
.

You’re on the right track! Keep it going 😊


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Generally speaking, yes. But it takes time (years), the right practicing methods for your different development stages that specifically caters to your development needs.

Scales at 120 BPM is required at ABRSM grades 7 or 8, I think. People generally reach grades 7 or 8 between 5 and 8 years. So, I suppose that's a reasonable estimate of how long it takes to play scales at 120 BPM, amongst other things you'll be learning/practising.

If you're starting to learn the piano, do not aim for speed now. Aim for proper techniques that will produce even tones with good co-ordination and articulation at whatever slow speed it takes. Once you achieve that and able play with relative ease, then increase the speed slightly and aim for the same thing again. Even when you can start to play slightly faster, return to slow practice from time to time.

Do not rush to get 120 BPM. Give yourself years to get there.


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In that video "how to avoid thumb-under" he actually plays thumb-under.
Speed is a challenge for me as well. What helps me a lot is practicing fast sections in different rhythms (dotted notes).

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Originally Posted by ErfurtBob
In that video "how to avoid thumb-under" he actually plays thumb-under.
Speed is a challenge for me as well. What helps me a lot is practicing fast sections in different rhythms (dotted notes).
There was a discussion on "Thumb Over" a while back which kind of clarified things for me about this. To me it's one of those 'it's not all it seems from the description' things.

My own take on this as a largely self-taught adult is that I think speed is attainable for an adult learner although I don't usually play fast music but do occasionally. On those occasions it is music that I have played a lot so speed increased gradually (not really planned, it just happens) - and tbh they are not played with the same feel of 'conscious control,' rather letting the body (muscle memory) do it's thing with only 'emotion' but no conscious 'holding back' to control (if you see what I mean). It does require practice, knowing the piece well (although I still play from sheet music that's more of an aide memoire) and the fingers, hands and so on to be in good condition - rather like not running a 100metres sprint for the first time in many years having only sat around on a couch watching television.

Fast bits in the middle of slow pieces (if played on 'full conscious control') I think require a 'freeing-up' for that particular bit, almost some arrogance - a kind of light, 'what about this, eh?' feeling, but of course not ignoring any expressiveness.

Having said that (I probably didn't express it very well and no doubt many won't agree with it anyway) I don't for a minute believe that everybody has the same potential - heck, if they did I'd be an awful lot better than I am now.


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bennevis wrote;
"Forget about learning and practicing all those funny augmented and 7th, 9th, 13th chords etc (unless you're a jazzer, in which case, you should be ignoring everything I ever wrote, or will ever write) - they're a waste of time at your stage."

But, I had agreed with everything you'd said to this point. Well, nearly.

Why does everything need to be so cut and dry all the time? Classical or jazzer? Isn't life more like a mix of things?
I am a jazzer I suppose by the way I think you mean it, but I also play classical. I think I am far from an exception. Can we not be more inclusive?

Yes, forget about learning all the chords you don't need yet. The voicing is always unique anyway, so just memorize them laugh when you come across them. In terms of speed, I agree with you. I hated speed and avoided speed because I loved the chords and it was more satisfying as you say.

Even so, my speed has improved dramatically since I started playing more classical. For me classical music is the drill, not arpeggios and scales. But, that's just me.

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Well, that's embarrassing. I shared a recording that was supposed to go into a private message. blush

I guess it's there fwiw. I guess it goes with the theme of "dashing things off" because it's the one time that I did not thoroughly practice and went to see what I could do after a first quick study of the notes.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by keystring
Re Beethoven sonatas - I just recorded this. It's day 2 because I wanted to get it out of my hair, and it is patched together. Being able to have the outer notes loud while keeping the inner notes soft plus pedal and everything else was a stretch. I'd need a lot more time to get this more solid, and would like to get some physical skills stronger first since I'm still in a remediation situation of pre-existing messes. It's mov't 2 of the Pathetique, and for me the hardest part.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6aoqew5dryjkdp9/21.03.09%20Path%20II%20C%20section.mp3?dl=0
.

You’re on the right track! Keep it going 😊

Thanks. That post was a private message that went awol and posted in the forum by accident. I freelance and had an impending large project that would steal all my practice time so I pushed out that recording while I still had time (hence "get it out of my hair") I was a bit embarrassed about it landing here blush so appreciate your kind words.

Since we're talking about working on music as students: I'm overcoming some pretty nasty things that formed physically during self-taught childhood days. In this section, keeping the middle notes soft while bringing out the melody & countermelody & keeping pedal right is at the edge of my abilities. A nice finish with the dynamics I want is out of my reach, because some finger somewhere will suddenly "blat" out a loud note - the control and underlying skills are not there. But will be at another time. This also goes with an approach my teacher has come up with, where you work on a piece up to your abilities. Then come back to it later when you have more skills, and can refine. Among other things, it keeps any anxiety a person may have about "perfection" at bay. What you can do now, is perfectly good enough.

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The OP's question was about an example of someone who achieved speed starting from scatch as an adult, so I would like to report. I started from scratch at 35 and today after 6 years I can play all the major and minor scales at 120, 4 notes per beat. Some faster. I don't think I'm exceptional at all.

Progress is very slow and gradual but it does happen. A year ago I thought 120 was impossible, now for some scales I find that tempo boringly slow. I thought the same about 112 or 108 before.

You need to focus on control, evenness, fluidity, lack of tension, everything BUT speed. The speed is an added benefit that comes when things feel easy.

BTW, we happen to live in the same city. There are some pretty good teachers around here and I think that an adult who puts in the necessary work can reach advanced repertoire.

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Thanks Qazsedcft! As an adult who’s also starting at age of 35 your progress is very encouraging!

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Given the resources at our fingertips today, I think any of us is capable of learning anything. So stop posting, and get to work!


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Originally Posted by Bavaria Tom
Just thinking out loud:
Playing piano is actually just hitting keys on a keyboard. Writing text is also hitting keys on a keyboard. Ok, a computer keyboard. But the task is similar. Both hands have to hit keys on a keyboard.
Despite beeing a beginner on the piano, most of us are no beginners if it comes to text-writing. Most of us did this half of the entire life. A really long time. And some can type faster than others. I think there might be a relation between both tasks. The adults that are able to type quick (and blindfolded) on a computer keyboard should also be able to learn being fast on a piano keyboard. And the adults that never managed to do proper 10-finger typing maybe will never achieve speed on the piano.

And on computer typing I know the muscle memory is involved very much. The fingers are trained to words, already. Or parts of words. As a native German my German writing was way faster and more fluid than my English writing. But with the need of doing more and more English in my day-job trained English typing as well. Now the speed difference is almost zero. And another indicator that muscle-memory is involved: If I have to write a word I use very seldom, but being similar to a word I type very often, most of the time my fingers do what they are used to do and type the wrong word. cry I guess fast piano playing is very similar. Muscle memory is involved in order to press many keys at the same time and also to bring in the order between the keystrokes. Or doing runs. Or playing a bar.

With me it was the other way round. All my colleagues in the office are amazed at the speed at which I can type. I have never learner, or practised, typing. This has entirely come from playing the piano.

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Keystring, I'm working on that one now also; I just started it this week (the Adagio of Pathetique). Sounds like you're off to a great start.


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KevinM, I agree with whoever else earlier in the thread felt your teacher shouldn't be getting frustrated with you, but rather the other way around. I have struggled with speed for a while, and my first teacher couldn't understand why I couldn't "just do it". I finally dropped him, for this and other reasons. My current teacher is heads over heals better as a teacher, teaches me technique, and identifies why I can't do something and how to work on it.

For scales, I began a technique where I would play a scale at, say 120 bpm (as the OP suggets), with one note per click, then after four octaves up and back, again at two notes per click, then three, then four. 120 is quite fast for me, and I don't really do this exercise currently, but when I did, it payed dividends in spades. That, and relaxation, were the keys to speed for me, and I'm still not yet there.

Finally, playing really quickly sometimes brings up a new problem, catching up to what I'm reading and having to pause bc I'm getting ahead of my reading. That's for another topic, though.


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I'm the other way around. Back in my school days I took a typing course with a mechanical typewriter. Back then my speed was 40 WPM. By the time I got a computer, I got my speed up to 60 WPM. Even typing in another language like French or Italian without the special accented characters didn't slow me down. I get complements from people who took piano lessons but typed at a slow speed. This was 3 decades before I took up piano playing.

When typing, we're doing single key strokes without overlapping. Piano playing we have overlapping notes all the time. And instead of hitting everything evenly, certain notes need to be harder & softer to get the dynamic variations. The touch is as important as raw speed. And there are places in the music we'd be slowing down intentionally like before the end of a piece. When typing, it's all efficiency.

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Thanks for all the replies. The idea for this thread came from one of my talks with my teacher about the speed. I suspected that maybe there is something about adults that won't let them progress as fast with speed comparing to children (like their older hands and their parts) and suggested some kind of survey. He agreed that it would be great to have such data (he mostly teaches kids). And so I posted my question.

To clarify - I am trying to be patient. I don't struggle with scales at 120bpm (they are in fact stable at 80 and I focus on playing them clean and even). I don't even know them all yet (I'm at my last key - Ab, both minors done, major left). I used scales as an example to simplify things.

When it comes to repertoire - I admit, I sometimes wish I could move my fingers faster. I believe that a lot of pieces considered appropriate for RCM 3+ have their designated tempi too high to pursue (I'm talking about you various sonatinas movements with 16th notes and marked allegro).
My teacher suggest not to spend too much time on them even if that means I won't reach even close to desired tempo ("there's a lot other wonderful pieces to learn, you don't have to polish everything"). My theory is that those high (for me) tempi markings are there for student who desires to polish given piece for some kind of recital. But even for that I believe it's too fast to expect from someone at that stage of learning.

Bringing back my original question: thank you all adult beginners who either reassured me that my path/progress/struggle is not unique, who gave valued advices and those who shared their experience as positive example to answer my question.

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Originally Posted by cmb13
KevinM, I agree with whoever else earlier in the thread felt your teacher shouldn't be getting frustrated with you, but rather the other way around. I have struggled with speed for a while, and my first teacher couldn't understand why I couldn't "just do it". I finally dropped him, for this and other reasons. My current teacher is heads over heals better as a teacher, teaches me technique, and identifies why I can't do something and how to work on it.

To be fair on my teacher, it was only a hint of frustration shown, long after I already felt frustration myself and after we've already worked on various approaches to help me with speed. I'm definitely improving but it is just so slow, like my speed. :-P

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