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Hello I am new to the forum and have started learning again seriously only recently. When i was much younger i scraped Grade 6 but realistically I am now about Grade 4/5 ish. What i mean by my title is this: I now play pieces under my own instruction hoping to gradually improve my level and get to the point that i can mostly pick up some sheet music and within a couple of weeks play it - at the moment thats only true of quite simple pieces. The dilemma is this: I have a few pieces i am working on that I quite enjoy and have improved over the past few weeks, for example Farewell L'Adieu by Burgmuller. I like the piece and now I would say i can play it speedily but not at the metronome marking - i don't make many mistakes but there are a couple of sections that trip me up sometimes but not always and so on. Obviously if i was preparing for an exam this wouldn't be good enough but I wonder what peoples views are on "getting better" lets say my performance is 14/20 better to send the time getting up to 19/20 or better to move on to something different with different challenges before i get bored with it? I am not planning on taking an exam anytime soon but whats the best advice just in terms of overall learning?

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Originally Posted by gandt10
I have a few pieces i am working on that I quite enjoy and have improved over the past few weeks, for example Farewell L'Adieu by Burgmuller. I like the piece and now I would say i can play it speedily but not at the metronome marking - i don't make many mistakes but there are a couple of sections that trip me up sometimes but not always and so on. Obviously if i was preparing for an exam this wouldn't be good enough but I wonder what peoples views are on "getting better" lets say my performance is 14/20 better to send the time getting up to 19/20 or better to move on to something different with different challenges before i get bored with it? I am not planning on taking an exam anytime soon but whats the best advice just in terms of overall learning?
Don't flog a dead horse, and get rid of your metronome (speaking as a teacher myself).

Move on to something else, then return to it in a few weeks or months (if you really like it enough), if you feel like you're stagnating on any piece. Improved skills (from having learnt & practised other stuff), fresh skills, new insights and all that - you'll get it to a higher level next time.


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I think that ----- it just depends on aims, goal etc. If in no rush, and we know we're just going to learn more as we continue along the music road, then just practise and learn what you want. And also, can also look at it in a different way ---- such as, we don't need to permanently stop practising a particular piece. You can certainly still work on new piece. And then alternate around. That's good practice as well.

Sometimes, a heap of fun can be spent on focusing on what you mentioned ----- the area that you're getting 'tripped up'. The teacher or somebody can offer some assistance, and even working on something like that could be treated as something 'enjoyable' to do. If the teacher says that it's better to 'temporarily' focus on different work in order to build up some more experience before getting to that particular 'trippy stuff', then just follow the recommendations. It just means you'll keep building up your experience and skills, and you'll get sorted later - for sure.

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If there's no noticeable progress week after week despite your best efforts then you are just maintaining the pieces at their current level. Switching to new pieces can actually help you improve the old ones when you come back to them later on.


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The first & last thing I wouldn't do is rate pieces according to some artificial conservatory guide. 2 months ago I worked on Gymnopedie #1 with a teacher. She said the piece is rated at RCM-8. Besides the big LH jumps, the rest is just using the foot pedal to sustain the bass notes. At a slow-ish tempo around 70 didn't find the piece challenging at all.

I wouldn't think of difference pieces as being easier or more difficult. They all have different challenges and they are similar in other ways. Different pieces complement each other. Last year found 2 pieces that were written over 200 years apart. Both have bass intervals like a metronome giving the beat. After learning the 1st piece, the 2nd piece was much easier to learn.

As always, slow practice would get your accuracy up. Once you learn the notes, you'd speed up gradually a few BPM at a time until you get close to the ideal tempo. For a new piece I need a week or 2 to get comfortable with the fingering. I don't even push myself to get up to an ideal tempo. When I run a piece through enough times I'd speed up naturally. Some faster pieces I need to push a bit but always conscious the finger muscles need to relax. Any tension will slow me down.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The first & last thing I wouldn't do is rate pieces according to some artificial conservatory guide. 2 months ago I worked on Gymnopedie #1 with a teacher. She said the piece is rated at RCM-8. Besides the big LH jumps, the rest is just using the foot pedal to sustain the bass notes. At a slow-ish tempo around 70 didn't find the piece challenging at all.

I wouldn't think of difference pieces as being easier or more difficult. They all have different challenges and they are similar in other ways. Different pieces complement each other. Last year found 2 pieces that were written over 200 years apart. Both have bass intervals like a metronome giving the beat. After learning the 1st piece, the 2nd piece was much easier to learn.
All pieces may have challenges but that doesn't mean all the challenges are of equal difficulty. I think you'd have a hard time finding even 1 out of 1000 who agree with your first sentence in the second paragraph.

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Originally Posted by Rubens
If there's no noticeable progress week after week despite your best efforts then you are just maintaining the pieces at their current level. Switching to new pieces can actually help you improve the old ones when you come back to them later on.

I agree!

But...
Originally Posted by gandt10
lets say my performance is 14/20 better to send the time getting up to 19/20 or better to move on to something different with different challenges before i get bored with it?

If you find that your performance gets to 14/20 a lot of the time, and you rarely reach 19/20, you may consider practise pieces that are a bit easier, so you get to 19/20 or 18/20. Or, practise a variety of pieces, some more challenging that you get up to 14/20, others easier that you get up to 18/20 or 19/20.


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The level of difficulty can be rather subjective. Some people find playing big jumps, 2 or more melodic lines together like a Bach fugue, polyrhythm hard. Others not as much. You may find a piece challenging. Wouldn’t know until I try it.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think you'd have a hard time finding even 1 out of 1000 who agree with your first sentence in the second paragraph.
What a convoluted way to indicate what you're misreading!

The poster wrote "I wouldn't think of..." as advice, i.e. "Don't think of...", not "I don't think of...".


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Been thinking of this myself lately. Once I get a piece under my hands, I like to record it. However, it could take weeks or months until I get to the point where I feel it's ready to record. I think this leads to stagnation sometimes. My other problem is, I used it to play almost every day, but with other activities and work, the reality is, I might only play a few times a week.

Maybe it'd be better for me to play things until they are decent, maybe not ready for a full-on recording. Then, I'd probably move on to new music sooner.

I do try to keep in mind that this is all supposed to be for fun. I know I'm never going to be a concert pianist or play piano for a job, so I try not to stress about it too much. IMO, the most important thing is to enjoy it. Being able to maybe impress people every now and then is just icing on the cake.


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I generally agree with others that you should move on when it's "good enough" and you are not able to push it further... BUT...

This particular piece is an etude. I would approach etudes a bit differently in the sense that etudes are about learning a particular technical or musical difficulty. Sometimes the tempo of the piece is one of the main factors of that particular difficulty and playing it more slowly doesn't really teach you what it's supposed to teach. In this particular piece I don't think it's the case but for some etudes it is and then you should rather try to get it close to the correct tempo.

I think it's better to have a teacher who knows this stuff and can guide you.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The first & last thing I wouldn't do is rate pieces according to some artificial conservatory guide. 2 months ago I worked on Gymnopedie #1 with a teacher. She said the piece is rated at RCM-8. Besides the big LH jumps, the rest is just using the foot pedal to sustain the bass notes. At a slow-ish tempo around 70 didn't find the piece challenging at all.

I wouldn't think of difference pieces as being easier or more difficult. They all have different challenges and they are similar in other ways. Different pieces complement each other. Last year found 2 pieces that were written over 200 years apart. Both have bass intervals like a metronome giving the beat. After learning the 1st piece, the 2nd piece was much easier to learn.

As always, slow practice would get your accuracy up. Once you learn the notes, you'd speed up gradually a few BPM at a time until you get close to the ideal tempo. For a new piece I need a week or 2 to get comfortable with the fingering. I don't even push myself to get up to an ideal tempo. When I run a piece through enough times I'd speed up naturally. Some faster pieces I need to push a bit but always conscious the finger muscles need to relax. Any tension will slow me down.

graded ratings are extremely useful imo. how to use them wisely, however, is to backcheck them, in case that particular specific Syllabus is way off (which occurs often, in both directions).

I use Piano Syllabus to 'bacheck' graded ratings: https://pianosyllabus.com/x-default.php

backchecking Gymnopedie #1, you can see that RCM is the only clown to grade it as an 8, whereas all the other "schools" have it in the 4-6 range. PS's final grade was 5: https://pianosyllabus.com/x-detail.php?ref=7240

Yes of course there are "different" challenges and difficulties, etc, etc. But it is still 100% valuable to get a sense as to where it lies in difficulty in some type of graded system, relative to others.


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Originally Posted by Radio.Octave
Been thinking of this myself lately. Once I get a piece under my hands, I like to record it. However, it could take weeks or months until I get to the point where I feel it's ready to record. I think this leads to stagnation sometimes.

Maybe it'd be better for me to play things until they are decent, maybe not ready for a full-on recording. Then, I'd probably move on to new music sooner.

I do try to keep in mind that this is all supposed to be for fun. I know I'm never going to be a concert pianist or play piano for a job, so I try not to stress about it too much. IMO, the most important thing is to enjoy it. Being able to maybe impress people every now and then is just icing on the cake.

this is me. I'm in the get the piece to 18-19/20 for a great recording club, then let her on go.


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oh and it looks like RCM finally fixed that glaring error lol...

2015: https://files.rcmusic.com//sites/default/files/files/RCM-Piano-Syllabus-2015.pdf
2022: https://rcmusic-kentico-cdn.s3.amaz...blishing/piano-syllabus-2022-edition.pdf

they used to have "Trois gymnopédies - any one" listed under Level 8....which was totally not correct. now they have removed them completely not even listed laugh


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I can only tell you when I tend to stop - it's one of the following or a combination of them:

1. When I feel the piece is too difficult and I feel like I'd better give it another try in the future
2. When progress is very slow to non existent - it also usually points to the piece being too hard for me
3. When I feel I got enough from the piece and that every other benefit I get from it is marginal
4. When I can't stand listening to the piece anymore, and even my hands feel tired of it
5. When I don't like the piece enough, or when I can't make it sound pleasing to other people
6. When I manage to make a recording of it that I'm satisfied with


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Originally Posted by Ido
1. When I feel the piece is too difficult and I feel like I'd better give it another try in the future
2. When progress is very slow to non existent - it also usually points to the piece being too hard for me
3. When I feel I got enough from the piece and that every other benefit I get from it is marginal
4. When I can't stand listening to the piece anymore, and even my hands feel tired of it
5. When I don't like the piece enough, or when I can't make it sound pleasing to other people
6. When I manage to make a recording of it that I'm satisfied with

GREAT LIST!!


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Well thanks for those thoughts, pretty logical but still very useful, i guess my rule of thumb is going to be - no progress to speak of in a week - move on either the niceties are currently too much for you or you've overplayed it so you are not really "focussing on learning" you have sort of become a bit "ear blind" to it and it needs a rest.

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In case anyone thinks that putting tricky pieces aside for a while to learn other stuff, until one has developed more skills or more maturity or more 'connection' or new insights - or just to rediscover one's love for the piece after a break (absence makes the heart grow fonder, according to a sage called, appropriately, Sextus) - is the sole preserve of students or amateurs, I can attest that this is not the case. I've heard many well-known concert pianists talk about their gestation periods for some pieces that they've always wanted to perform, but never felt quite ready, until they are.......ready.

Though I'm no concert pianist, I've performed some pieces in recent years for the first time that I first learnt as a kid (most of them by myself, though a few were with my teacher) but never felt I got them to a performable state, even after revisiting them more than once or thrice over the months or years. (Obviously, I'm not talking about exam pieces.) And they only 'clicked' for me - musically or technically, or both - after revisiting them (usually more than once) in my old age and having a lot more rep under my belt (and in my bones). Then, I knew that I was at one with them (whether or not they were at one with me, but my audience didn't know that....... cool)


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Another answer is ----- one can stop practising a piece whenever they feel like it, or whenever they want to. And then come back to it whenever they want to. It's just choices. And the choices made can also depend on situation - including aims/goal and recommendations from teachers, thinking about situation, etc.

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Originally Posted by gandt10
====SNIP=====The dilemma is this: I have a few pieces i am working on that I quite enjoy and have improved over the past few weeks, for example Farewell L'Adieu by Burgmuller. I like the piece and now I would say i can play it speedily but not at the metronome marking - i don't make many mistakes but there are a couple of sections that trip me up sometimes but not always and so on. ====SNIP====

May I suggest that you move on to learn some new music. This will hopefully engage you and continue to pique your interest and enjoyment in working at the piano. But, and this is important, DO NOT STOP WORKING on those little bits of the Burgmuller that "trip you up". Make them part of your daily exercises - isolate them - work on them, and, at some point, you WILL be able to play them. At that point, go back and play the entire piece. It should be a lot easier to do.

Case in point in my own work: the last two pages of the second movement of Robert Schumann's Fantasie Op.17 have a specific technical challenge that has tripped up more than one pianist - including Horowitz. I have added those two pages to my daily exercises. I still take a deep breath before launching into that section, but I **can** play it accurately (most of the time) and up to tempo.

Same process can work for you.

Last edited by Seeker; 04/22/22 07:43 PM. Reason: typo

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