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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Originally Posted by fatar760
Other than seeing job adverts no one has ever directly asked me my level. I have been asked 'can you play this?', to which the answer has been yes - but never levels.

Mind, I'm not convinced the grade systems equate to ability in the professional world in the UK.

I think grades/levels set a somewhat standard of entry for learning establishments (music schools, music camps, music programs at universities, etc) and perhaps that very first job or gig, but beyond that it becomes less important for sure. Just like my degrees and grades at uni are much less important now to a prospective employer than when I first started my career.

But let’s circle back to beginners...that’s the original question. When are we no longer beginners?

Yeah, I'm honestly not sure if grades count towards music schools in this country now, or if it's just about general entry qualifications. They are certainly used (unrealistically), in some schools but they weren't necessarily music orientated schools.

I think everyone has tried answering the 'beginners' question (hence the digressions), the most common opinion appears to be that there is no answer.

This thread could go on for eternity as a result.

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Originally Posted by fatar760
Other than seeing job adverts no one has ever directly asked me my level. I have been asked 'can you play this?', to which the answer has been yes - but never levels.
I think it becomes much more relevant when you have had an unconventional route. Just look at how much pushback I get here when I talk about being self-taught because learning from teachers is the "correct and only" way. So I need to be careful about how I present myself so that people don't stereotype me too soon and realize that I'm actually serious about the piano.

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Clear as mud then🙄

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Originally Posted by ranjit
Originally Posted by fatar760
Other than seeing job adverts no one has ever directly asked me my level. I have been asked 'can you play this?', to which the answer has been yes - but never levels.
I think it becomes much more relevant when you have had an unconventional route. Just look at how much pushback I get here when I talk about being self-taught because learning from teachers is the "correct and only" way. So I need to be careful about how I present myself so that people don't stereotype me too soon and realize that I'm actually serious about the piano.

Ranjit,
You have posted the strongest argument for having a teacher when you posted that you could have made it to grade 7in two years if you would have started with a teacher. No one else has posted such a strong statement.

Do you really consider yourself self-taught? You have had at least two teachers, and might still have one. And yes, there are serious self-taught pianists here.


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More generally, words do not have "universally agreed upon" meanings. A word means exactly what the user of it intends it to mean. Whether or not the recipient of the word understands it the same way is very questionable.

I would say that whenever we use words, we should bear in mind whom these words are to be understood by, and choose our words correspondingly to the best of our abilities.

Personally, I have been heavily at work with piano learning for the last 4 years, and while it would seem silly for me to self-represent as a "beginner" when talking to someone starting out at the piano, I would happily call myself a "relative beginner" when talking to someone with many more years of piano practice than I have (at least if those additional years were also reflected in higher ability, maybe not if they weren't).


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Originally Posted by dogperson
I have seen some here who are so anxious to be considered at xxx level, that they learn one or two pieces at that level and play them badly.

Maybe that is - or that used to be - my case. This is way I'm always restarting over.
Does this contradict Chuan C. Chang's Fundamentals of Piano Practice:
"The age of "you can't play this for ten years because it is too difficult" is also over; we can all start making music from day one of piano lessons and aspire to acquire significant repertoires of memorized, performable music within a fixed schedule of time."?

Last edited by Sol Finker; 07/02/21 05:01 AM.

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Originally Posted by Sol Finker
Originally Posted by dogperson
I have seen some here who are so anxious to be considered at xxx level, that they learn one or two pieces at that level and play them badly.

Maybe that is - or that used to be - my case. This is way I'm always restarting over.
Does this contradict Chuan C. Chang's Fundamentals of Piano Practice:
"The age of "you can't play this for ten years because it is too difficult" is also over; we can all start making music from day one of piano lessons and aspire to acquire significant repertoires of memorized, performable music within a fixed schedule of time."?


Chang’s statement does not discuss students who are not content to learn music they are capable of playing well. Yes, there is music beginning at day one and a decent sized repertoire can be amassed. It becomes less likely if you jump eight grades ahead of where you are to learn one piece. And play it poorly.


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Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
More generally, words do not have "universally agreed upon" meanings. A word means exactly what the user of it intends it to mean. Whether or not the recipient of the word understands it the same way is very questionable.

I would say that whenever we use words, we should bear in mind whom these words are to be understood by, and choose our words correspondingly to the best of our abilities.

Personally, I have been heavily at work with piano learning for the last 4 years, and while it would seem silly for me to self-represent as a "beginner" when talking to someone starting out at the piano, I would happily call myself a "relative beginner" when talking to someone with many more years of piano practice than I have (at least if those additional years were also reflected in higher ability, maybe not if they weren't).


Words do have a generic meaning otherwise no communication would be possible. That is why there are dictionaries. That said of course many words can imply a certain latitude in their meaning. Langage is not math and lacks ultimate precision. And some people may also divert the meaning. That is what what makes communication between humans difficult. Nevertheless when you say the "table is red" everybody understand that it is not green, though the exact color of red needs to be precised.

I think that you level does not depend upon who you are talking to. If you are an intermediate player, than even when facing Lang Lang (or the pianist of your choice) then you are still an intermediate player.

I have listened you play some pieces and you play quite well some at level 6 to 8 (RCM like). So in my view you are not a beginner anymore nor even a relative beginner. I dont think you need to downplay your level.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by ranjit
Originally Posted by fatar760
Other than seeing job adverts no one has ever directly asked me my level. I have been asked 'can you play this?', to which the answer has been yes - but never levels.
I think it becomes much more relevant when you have had an unconventional route. Just look at how much pushback I get here when I talk about being self-taught because learning from teachers is the "correct and only" way. So I need to be careful about how I present myself so that people don't stereotype me too soon and realize that I'm actually serious about the piano.

Ranjit,
You have posted the strongest argument for having a teacher when you posted that you could have made it to grade 7in two years if you would have started with a teacher. No one else has posted such a strong statement.

Do you really consider yourself self-taught? You have had at least two teachers, and might still have one. And yes, there are serious self-taught pianists here.
Claiming one could have made it to grade 7 in two years with a teacher just sounds like bragging.

Regarding ranjit's first quote in this post, I don't think anyone (certainly not most posters) has said learning from a teacher is the "correct and only way". What most posters have said is that for the overwhelming majority of piano students having a good teacher greatly increases the chances for reaching a high level and decreases the amount of time to reach a given level. IOW learning from a good teacher is highly recommended, and most self taught pianists do not reach a high level.

As far as reaching a high professional level without a teacher, there have been many PW threads about this and they show that there are almost zero pianists in this category. The threads usually begin by mentioning pianists like Richter and Debargue, but further examination of those pianists and others shows they did have a considerable amount of instruction.

I also don't think any and certainly not most posters have said that self teaching students are not serious.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
IOW learning from a good teacher is highly recommended, and most self taught pianists do not reach a high level.
I guess everybody agrees, but IMO one needs:
- A lot of luck and a lot of money - in general - with the teacher
- A lot of luck with oneself.
One has to be a good student, a good learner to get the most of a good teacher, just in the case one happens to find one.
I have tried a couple of times to use a teacher and I haven't been comfortable. Maybe it's me. Maybe I need more time between classes. I can't tell.

Last edited by Sol Finker; 07/02/21 10:53 AM.

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When it comes to having a teacher, depends on what you wish to learn / get out of the lessons. I know 1 man who had financial issues that kept him from getting a teacher. Otherwise he seems to be able to master several advanced pieces on his own from online demos. Just listening to him play you wouldn't know he lacks even the proficiency to read music but is able to produce beautiful music from memory.

A few years ago in the middle of November I brought a Christmas songbook to a music lesson. In it was the Chestnut Song. I really want to learn it. After the lesson, the teacher gave a quick demo how it's supposed to be played. Worked on it for 1 1/2 weeks and played it at a Christmas gathering. Many people heard the piece on the radio or in a performance but don't have a chance to learn it. The objective is not to sound professional but to be able to produce some version of the piece even if it's an easy arrangement for piano.

I know the types of pieces and the difficulty I'm comfortable learning. I can download sheet music and estimate the time to learn it. The # years a person spent learning piano is just an artificial point of reference. Some people get to a performance level much earlier (in a few months) while others who took lessons for a few years and still not comfortable playing the easier pieces.

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Thanks for your post pianoloverus. Well said.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by ranjit
Originally Posted by fatar760
Other than seeing job adverts no one has ever directly asked me my level. I have been asked 'can you play this?', to which the answer has been yes - but never levels.
I think it becomes much more relevant when you have had an unconventional route. Just look at how much pushback I get here when I talk about being self-taught because learning from teachers is the "correct and only" way. So I need to be careful about how I present myself so that people don't stereotype me too soon and realize that I'm actually serious about the piano.

Ranjit,
You have posted the strongest argument for having a teacher when you posted that you could have made it to grade 7in two years if you would have started with a teacher. No one else has posted such a strong statement.

Do you really consider yourself self-taught? You have had at least two teachers, and might still have one. And yes, there are serious self-taught pianists here.
I am mostly self-taught. I learned Pirates of the Caribbean etc on my own, after which I got a teacher. So pretty much all of my technique was self-taught until that point. Regarding the "strong statement", it doesn't mean that everyone can get to grade 8 in 2 years, just that I'm pretty confident that I may have been able to get there. It depends on personality, motivation and learning style. I played Schubert impromptu op 90 no 4 just shy of two years. You can judge by the level of the recording where I was at. So I don't really doubt that I would have been able to do a lot with a great teacher. I don't regret it because I think self-teaching has given me a kind of daring to look longer term, attempt more difficult pieces, or do my own thing, as well as some resourcefulness to quickly suss out possible ways to improve when it comes to learning which I think I may have missed had I learned from the start with a teacher. However, I would be further along than I am now, for sure.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Claiming one could have made it to grade 7 in two years with a teacher just sounds like bragging.
Au contraire, I was being very matter of fact and extrapolating based on the data I had.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Regarding ranjit's first quote in this post, I don't think anyone (certainly not most posters) has said learning from a teacher is the "correct and only way".
No one says it to your face, but there is a very strong bias. "What could a rookie like you who has never taken lessons know" etc. And weirdly enough, people assuming that I'm at a grade 2 level even when I clearly wrote that I had tackled some Chopin waltzes etc. This would not happen if I had gone the traditional route, but happens very frequently on the forum. In real life, people take me seriously after they hear my playing, but my history with the piano makes it seem like I'm some innocent hobbyist lol. I don't blame them, because there aren't many in my position, but if someone knows your actual level, they can have discussions or provide useful advice which is relevant to difficult piano music. It does matter.

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Originally Posted by ranjit
I am mostly self-taught. I learned Pirates of the Caribbean etc on my own, after which I got a teacher. What version and how well? None of your comments mean much until we hear a performance.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Claiming one could have made it to grade 7 in two years with a teacher just sounds like bragging.
Au contraire, I was being very matter of fact and extrapolating based on the data I had. "Data you had" doesn't mean anything until we hear your playing. And frankly, even if your comment is true it comes across as bragging. One doesn't have to make a false statement to be bragging.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Regarding ranjit's first quote in this post, I don't think anyone (certainly not most posters) has said learning from a teacher is the "correct and only way".
No one says it to your face, but there is a very strong bias. "What could a rookie like you who has never taken lessons know" etc. If no one or just a couple posters at PW have said this than it's just an assumption.

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If a beginner plays piano in a forest for the squirrels, is he/she an advanced pianist?


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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
If a beginner plays piano in a forest for the squirrels, is he/she an advanced pianist?

Depends how much the squirrels applaud.

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[quote=pianoloverus][/quote]
If there's no way I can get across my experience without it coming across as bragging, then so be it. In the post dogperson mentioned, I said that I used to think that it was possible to progress quickly at the piano on your own, tried my best and got decently far, but once I got a good teacher and talked to some concert pianists online, realized that there was even more to it than what I had expected and just how hard it is to play a piece at a professional level. If you can observe critically and come up with innovative solutions, you can progress quickly at the piano, even on your own. But if you do that in conjunction with a teacher who can harness it, you can progress very fast. This was the point I was trying to make.

I know a few cases of it happening, where people started at 10-13 and caught up with their peers and participated in international competitions. Teachers who can teach like that are really rare, but they exist, and it's what I've seen over and over again in the stories of concert pianists, and it led them to accomplish in a couple of years what most people would take 10. The common argument is that these pianists are simply "prodigies", which doesn't seem completely true to me.

Anyway, that's good news both for self-learners and the "get a teacher" crowd, isn't it? I think it's possible to learn "easy" pieces (which are in the grade levels) decently without a teacher if you are careful and put in the effort. It's also possible to learn difficult repertoire (diploma standard and above) to an extent, but it will probably never have the polish that is required to truly play it well if you don't have a teacher. However, 99% of students aren't aiming to play piano that well anyway, and the teachers who can teach in that manner tend to be top conservatory graduates with a talent for teaching, at the very least.

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Originally Posted by ranjit
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I think the majority of those with many years of piano experience and who aren’t comfortable with the word “advanced” and who may have gaps in their skills are “intermediate with some gaps in their skills”. Let’s call it what it is. A person can be an intermediate forever, if they never reach the advanced stage (e.g. don’t play advanced music well and regularly).

Many here say there’s no reason to label and I think that is true for many here. But for some of us who interact with others or play with others, it’s a very real world practical thing to do. I also think it’s region-specific. Being in Canada with RCM, it really is a no brainer.

I’ll give you some real life examples:

1. I approached a music school wanting to find a sax teacher. The coordinator asks me, “What level are you?…so I can let the teacher know and he can be prepared.” I go about describing that I played a couple years in elementary school and 2 years in high school but I’m not really sure. Then we go back and forth and finally she says, “If you’re above level 4 RCM, then the price will be different.” And I tell her I’m probably under RCM 4 but let’s let the teacher decide.

2. Pre-pandemic, I played with a New Horizons Band in my area. They had 4 levels, Absolute Beginner, Beginner Plus, Intermediate and Jazz Band. Usually, the member discusses with the teacher about the member’s prior experience and then the member is slotted into a level. Playing with members at the same level makes everyone comfortable and progress in their skills appropriately.

3. We have a summer music camp here in Canada that also requires people to be slotted into appropriate levels. Most workshops require what they call intermediate/advanced ability, which they specify as RCM 6+. They have a novice level and a beginner level and neither is what we would consider as absolute beginner. Then they refer the potential participant to the ACMP self rating guide for further guidance.

https://acmp.net/join-acmp/acmp-guide-playing-levels

I guess what I’m trying to say is that for many of us who interact and play with others, knowing our level somewhat accurately is both polite and necessary. It sure saves a lot of time.
Precisely this. If I meet a new piano player, teacher, or anyone really, and they ask me how well I play the piano, I would like to give a good ballpark answer. Saying that I've been learning for under a year would be very misleading. And that would be hard from a communication standpoint. I usually say it's complicated and that I've tried my hand at some undergrad-level pieces, but I'm not quite there technically. And as a few people have told me, my skills are truly all over the place, the most obvious example being octaves, which I can play faster than many degree-seeking students.

If I were to assess how good of a pianist I considered someone to be, how fast they can play octaves would not be part of the assessment.

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Originally Posted by fatar760
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
If a beginner plays piano in a forest for the squirrels, is he/she an advanced pianist?

Depends how much the squirrels applaud.

It's all relative. What are you comparing yourself against to answer the question, am I a beginner? Since squirrels don't play piano, you can be considered an advanced rock star pianist in the forest of squirrels. These philosophical debates are amusing.


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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by fatar760
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
If a beginner plays piano in a forest for the squirrels, is he/she an advanced pianist?

Depends how much the squirrels applaud.

It's all relative. What are you comparing yourself against to answer the question, am I a beginner? Since squirrels don't play piano, you can be considered an advanced rock star pianist in the forest of squirrels. These philosophical debates are amusing.


It becomes more than a philosophical debate if the pianist mentally inflates his/her level of playing because a couple of advanced pieces are poorly played. It leads to skipping technical development that is essential. This happens more often than it should.


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