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#993603 - 12/22/08 11:49 AM Another new member, restarting  
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 22
Maestro_007 Offline
Full Member
Maestro_007  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 22
Austin, TX
When I was 14 I played xylophone in the middle school band. In the summer after 7th grade I visited my grandmother's house and noticed for the first time that her piano keyboard looked like a small xylophone. I had always wanted to learn to play piano, but I never knew that I had a headstart!

On a warm evening, when the adults sat on the porch with their tea and politics, I sat at the keyboard and started to finger out the notes on the book in front of me... which happened to be opened to the 1st movement of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata. In the next 24 hours I had the whole first page down (aside from the run from Ab down to B) and memorized, and I thought piano was easy.

It took me a long time to realize I just couldn't start there. I had the first third of the movement (before the first big repeat) down and memorized when my stepfather played me a recording of Serkin playing it through. I think it took a few more days to dawn on me that I needed to go back a pace. My father gave me a book of Chopin preludes and suggested that I start with #4 and #7. I started with #15 ("raindrop"). Again, I battled through and memorized the whole thing, even playing at a talent show in high school a year later.

It went on from there. I learned the 1st mvt of the Moonlight Sonata, the business section of the 1st mvt of Rach's 2nd, the first 3-4 pages of Chopins Heroic Poloaise (Op 53), the first page or so of his Andante Spianato Polonaise, and... then became interested in girls and considered myself an excellent piano player who just never played.

Now I'm 35. My grandmother passed away last year and her little Kawai upright (made in 1968) sits in my living room after a contentious probate. That's all I wanted from her and it was all I got. I started practicing the night I got it, not believing (still arrogant after so many years) I couldn't just sit down and spew out those pieces I once knew. I looked at the music, could still read the notes, but even when I did remember passages and conjure up the muscle memory to go through them, I realized just what a bad teacher I was to myself. Not a shred of musicality. I'm probably glad I have no recordings of playing "back in the day" because I would cringe.

I was typing. I had terrible technique. I could move my fingers well and quickly as a happy result of genetics and videogames, but never once did anyone tell me that what I was doing was a parlor trick, a simple game of trying to impress people while bragging that I'd never had a lesson.

Take a turn here or there, just a slight adjustment in attitude when I was in my teenage years, and yeah, I might have been great. Now I'm stuck having to unlearn all my bad habits.

All this is to say, that I'm back, and my mind is now open. I'm going through a beginner-to-intermediate book of classics (Purcell, Scarlatti, maybe a bit of Beethoven), trying to learn to play music, not just tap out keys.

I envy my younger self in his excellent memory and ability to focus. He had neither children nor a mortgage, nor a life of responsibility to weigh upon him the 200th time through the same passage. He never needed the 200th time, though you wouldn't want to hear the result.

So, I now consider my repertoire to consist of exactly one piece: Beethoven's Bagatelle, Op. 119 #1, which I still can't get through without mistakes. I'm also enamored with Billy Joel's Fantasies & Delusions, and have spent some time with his Waltz #1. I think it's charming and mostly in the same category as the Bagatelle.

I'm struggling with relaxation, with whether or not to pursue Hanon, and with octave work. My right hand starts to feel pain after doing a lot of chords and I just don't know if it's age, technique, stamina, or a bit of all three. I would like to take lessons, but financially it's not in the cards for at least a little while. My wife enjoys my new hobby because it doesn't cost a thing, and I need to keep it that way for the time being.

I know there's no silver bullet, but is there any advice on how to undo bad habits from self-teaching, while still self-teaching? I'm open to just about anything smile

If you got this far, thanks!

"The sun's not yellow, it's chicken!" --Bob Dylan
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#993604 - 12/22/08 12:11 PM Re: Another new member, restarting  
Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,534
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member
Gyro  Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,534
I had nine yrs. of classical lessons as
a child, and I'm impressed with what I'm
hearing. This thing about switching cold
from the xylophone and playing the first
page of a sonata on your first try is
impressive. I would continue
doing exactly what you've been doing
all along and not change a thing about it.

#993605 - 12/22/08 12:24 PM Re: Another new member, restarting  
Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 349
Vincent L. Offline
Full Member
Vincent L.  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 349
Austin, TX
You can use videos (DVDs, youtube ...) - DVDs are not expensive, but that will only tell you what to do, but not what you do wrong.

#993606 - 12/22/08 12:53 PM Re: Another new member, restarting  
Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 1,358
Kymber Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Kymber  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 1,358
Welcome to the forum.
I think we all thought we were excellent piano players when we were young-LOL

I'm glad you got the piano.

I do the Hannon exercises. My Left hand felt umcomfortable as well at first mostly because it was weak and because of bad posture. The hanons have definately made my hands stronger.

You might want to check with your doctor to rule out anything else though-just to be safe.

I have very poor rhythm when I returned to piano that my previous teachers never corrected. My new teacher had me work primarily on that and its getting mucher better. So, if your rhythm needs work I would start there.

You also might want to get some books on reading music - if you can only read notes but not things like dynamic markings that tell how it should sound...stacato, legato etc.

It also might help to listen to recordings or watch them on youtube of the songs you want to learn so you know how they sound or see how they are played.

There are so many books out there.

The Piano Handbook by carl humphries is a really nice book that has some nice songs and it comes with a cd. You might want to check that out. the only thing is that it uses the English terms for notes like quaver and semiquaver. Also the pages are mildly glossy and can get a slight glare in certain lighting. But other than that it's a really great book.


good luck smile

“The doubters said, "Man cannot fly," The doers said, "Maybe, but we'll try,"
And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
― Bruce Lee
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#993607 - 12/22/08 07:53 PM Re: Another new member, restarting  
Joined: Apr 2008
Posts: 96
Bex Offline
Full Member
Bex  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Apr 2008
Posts: 96
Southern California
I started 9 months ago too. Welcome to the forum!

You should not feel any pain in your fingers, hands, arms, or anywhere. It sounds like you're tensing up - a problem that I battle with on occasion. Try to relax your shoulders, your forearms, etc., when you play. And I highly recommend Hanon, Pischna and also Czerny. I usually warm up with several Hanon exercises (#20 an onward), a few 4-octave scales and arpeggios, and slow run-throughs of one or two Bach 2-part inventions. This warm-up helps me A LOT in relaxing my hands/fingers and prepares me to adequately tackle my pieces.

On the piano stand:
Partita in c minor
Jardins sous la pluie
#993608 - 12/22/08 10:43 PM Re: Another new member, restarting  
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 215
quiescen Offline
Full Member
quiescen  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 215
San Diego
Hi MM,

Sorry to hear about your poor experiences with self-teaching. It usually isn't the right way to go if you're interested in the "classical" approach.

Have you tried a chord-based approach to piano playing? Many adults find this much more fun and productive than recreating the works of the "masters."

Play New Age Piano

Edward Weiss
Quiescence Music

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