Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice.

Posted by: Mobius1988

Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/27/12 08:36 PM

Hi all,

I am also a relatively new adult piano player at 23 years old. Ive been playing for approx 6 months (with 4 months of lessons)and am not sure how well I am progressing. I noticed a lot of people mentioned efficient practice techniques so thought I would request some advice.

Initially I began using the Alfred's Basic adult book and Pam wedgewood books to teach myself some basic melody and a few chords but I found these relatively boring so I didnt stick with those for long.

I moved on to using the Trinity Guildhall grade books and my main learning is on these at the moment. My first question is should I be absolutely perfecting all of these pieces before I move on to new things?

I got to a relatively decent level with the intial grade pieces and then my teacher moved me onto Grade 1 which I have been playing for a few months. The main difficulty I have is that everytime I play a piece I always, always make a couple of mistakes somewhere, any advice on how to minimise these or will it just take time?

Should it be taking me such a long time to learn pieces like this? I feel like I should be able to play them perfectly after a couple months of playing them pretty much everyday :S. Im worried I wont solve this issue by my exam date. Should I return to my initial grade pieces and make sure I can play them to a higher standard now?

My teacher has suggested I start to look at some grade 2 pieces as well as he believes it can only serve to improve my grade 1 pieces. I hope to take the exam in about 4 months. Is this a bad idea?

Once or twice a week I will spend 1-2 hours playing scales, broken chords, a bit of sight reading and covering the exercises for grade 1. During my lessons I tend to do a bit of sight reading too. Is this enough?

Sorry for the long message, any advice would be great!
Posted by: 4evrBeginR

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/27/12 09:00 PM

Welcome to the ABF. Sounds to me you are on the right track. Mistakes are almost impossible to avoid it seems. If you are making the same exact mistake every time you play a piece, then that could be fixed. You simply play the measure where the mistake is and the measure before and after that spot over and over and over and over (well as many times as you could take). If the mistake is at a different spot every time you play a piece, then it's a different problem. You may just need more time for the piece to sink in. I don't think you should worry too much. Enjoy yourself. The only thing I would say is try to do sight reading everyday not once a week.

You must memorize all your pieces for the exam, so give this a read -
Posted by: FarmGirl

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/28/12 12:13 AM

Welcome! You are in the right place. Just be patient. I consider loving classical music is a sort of rare talent. There aren't do many of us, you know. Technique will come soon or later. You have a teacher. That's a good start.
Posted by: Brian Lucas

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/28/12 01:08 AM

Originally Posted By: Mobius1988
The main difficulty I have is that everytime I play a piece I always, always make a couple of mistakes somewhere, any advice on how to minimise these or will it just take time?
Welcome! I think it depends on what a couple are. I always tell students if you are making more than 3 mistakes in a section, you are playing it too fast. There is always the desire to play fast, which usually leads to mistakes. Speed is an afterthought, not a goal. Practice at a slow enough speed where you make no more than 1 random mistake, even if it's painfully slow. After a few times you will notice that speed can be increased more naturally.

Also, as mentioned above, if you are making the same mistake more than once you will have to repeat that section correctly many times. For some reason, your brain thinks the mistake is correct, and you'll have to catch it BEFORE you make it a few times before it sticks.

Keep it up and don't worry so much about how fast you are developing. If you are doing it right, your skill level will jump as things start to click.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/28/12 08:42 AM

I think for beginners, one has to allow for more mistakes. You haven't been doing this long and so you have less experience. This pretty much guarantees a lot of mistakes. The only way to be a more accurate player is more time playing, and I'm not talking longer practice sessions, I'm talking years of playing different pieces.

It sounds as though your teacher is not concerned about it and is doing the right thing by having you move one. No, you should not have to perfect each piece before you move on to a new one. In fact, this can be detrimental for a beginner. I have my students work pieces until they can show they've learned the main concept of the piece, then we move on. I'm not saying that if here are lots of errors we won't work at it, we may spend weeks on a piece. But it can be frustrating to try and make everything perfect with music that may be less in-depth or rewarding.
Posted by: ju5t1n-h

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/28/12 11:50 AM

i think your problem lies in that you are not yet comfortable where the keys are, where your hands need to be etc. I will guarantee you that if you play scales at least one hour a day you'll find things a lot easier and progress a lot faster. Like 20mins on scales, 20mins on chords, and 20mins on triads.... i did this (and sometimes 2 hours) and i skipped 4 grades in less than a year. honestly, the secret its all about scales.
Posted by: Mobius1988

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/28/12 07:07 PM

Thanks for all the replies, they are very encouraging and it sounds like the way im learning is about right for the most part which is great.

When I initially play a piece I will quite often make the same mistake repeatedly but eventually that sorts itself out as I play it correctly more and more often. The mistakes I make after having learned the notes are normally just a slip of a finger, or reaching too far for a note (this started happening since my left hand scretched from reaching an octave to a ninth, sadly my right hand cant go further than an octave). Or sometimes my brain will randomly decide to just press the wrong note completely, no idea why! E.g on the left hand when I need to play D, A, F# (after just having played a E, C#, A) I will often hit the A# key as im trying to reach over it for the A.

I read the suggested learning technique and although im not sure my lack of patience will allow me to use this method I will certainly apply it to tricky sections and sections I make mistakes often. Thanks for that!!

Im not going to play an hour of scales every day as it will take the fun out of playing for me but I understand how that would allow you to advance very quickly. I will try to do them more often, and adding in chords and triads too since this will help my music theory too i imagine.

With reference to chords I have the age old problem of small hands frown. Triads are fine of course but some of the 4 note chords I can not remotely reach. Are there any techniques I can use to improve the distance I can stretch my fingers? For example in the piece "In Dreams - LOTR" on the right hand there is a chord of F, A, F which I cannot even begin to reach! Im concerned this will severely limit the pieces I will be able to play at higher levels.

The only other thing that I am struggling with significantly is the Aural part of piano playing. I am somewhat tone deaf and cannot sing/hum/whistle notes to save my life. I also find it extremely embaressing in front of people. I am ok with the tests of tapping rythymns, higher or lower pitch/tempo etc but for some reason I simple can not identify and clap to a time signature when someone is playing a simple piece of music. Are there any tricks to identifying time signatures?

Sorry for the long messages at the moment but I really appreciate the help. I would be willing to add videos of me playing for people to comment on if someone could tell me how to do so.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/29/12 02:50 AM

scales aren't the be-all and end-all, but just that they're extremely valuable, especially for beginners to familiarize with proper motion, touch, sound-production, and keyboard geography. For a rule of thumb, try and practice them for a minimum of 10-25% of your total daily practice time.

There was a recent thread on the topic of small hands you might like to read here: Small hands thread - casinitaly

and also a nice new instructional youtube video posted recently here:

edit: as for aural assistance, begin learning music theory and being able to aurally pick out or sing melodies will come with practice and experience
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/29/12 05:06 AM

First of all, you have a teacher who probably has vast experience in teaching and personally knows you as a
student which none of us do.

However, having said that, I will try do tell you what I do as a beginner. Let me tell you that people who write shorthand at 250 words a miniutes type as fast as a piano player who plays very fast music. The principe of learning is: 1 you have to break the piece down to a proper size depending on the difficulty of the piece, so 3 measures, 1 measure, 7 measures, your choice. You play that section 5 times perfectly. If you play it 3 times with mistakes you only count the times that are perfect to a total of 5 times. It could mean you play 25 times in total to get the 5 times perfectly. If you keep making mistakes of the section you have chosen, then you need
to break the section down smaller, say one measure, to get the perfect 5 times.

Now, let me take a moment to explain why you are doing this. First of all if you play with lots and lots of
mistakes it isn't great music to hear. The reason for doing something perfectly is because the brain acts how
the brain is trained. So if you train the brain pefectly, it will play the music perfectly as it was trained.

Whether writing shorthand or playing the piano, you act immediately when you hear the spoken word or in the case of music you see the notes on the page of music and play them quickly and accurately - "perfectly" -

Unforunately, the brain is awesome but there is one small problem, the brain learns thing very, very, very, very

slowly. So the rule is: practice slowly and accurately and the speed will come - in time/experience.

Let me give you an example. I will open up a music book and walk through a piece. Let me preface my remarks:

that I played a saxaphone in a community band for a few years so I could read basic music of the treble clef but I can't read jazz without working though the timing note by note in a measure. So I worked through Leila Feltcher piano Book course 1 of about 50 pages so that my right hand and my left hand bass clef and treble clef would be able to play the piano at the same level.

So I have turned to page 18 and there is a little song/piece of 8 measures. The first measure is treble clef and the second measure is bass clef so I would try to play very, very, slowly walk through the 2 measures. If I make no mistakes I would do it 5 times until no mistakes total 5 and then move to the next 2 measure and do that until the end. The important part is only play the piece slowly and without mistakes. With that accomplished I would try to play the total piece of 8 measure slowly without mistakes. If I make a mistake or had to stop to figure out a measure, I would try to figure out why I had to stop and may isolate that measure and practice that. If I still kept making mistakes in the 12 measures playing it slowly, I would try to figure out the problem why I stopped or played a wrong note. Now you have got the idea. Assuming you played the piece from the beginning to the end 5 times perfectly I would - depending of my practice time - either stop there and play the piece the next day or play it a few times perfectly at that time. The next day at the pratice time I would try to play the piece perfectly and do it 5 times perfectly. If I play it perfectly 5 times I would be very happy and then I would begin learning the next piece in the book or in your case the next piece your teacher has asked you to learn. Using the same method , then everyday I would start by playing the first piece and day after day I would play that piece, probably always perfectly because I had and
continue to play it many, many times. Each time I play the piece I do so as if I were playing for a concert or an audience. In others I do my best whenever I play music. If I am having a bad day I may quit and get some rest because if you are tired or distracted things at that point do not go well. Now I learned all the pieces in this way in this book always reviewing the music I learn the previous day/days. You could see that after 20 tunes it could take a lot of time reviewing so what I would do is in the morning before breakfast or at anytime I would play the tunes I know and in the 20 what I would know I would probably play them perfecly, not because I
am bright, not because I am talented, and not because I am special. I played the tunes perfectly because I play them for month after month try making them sound like music. You should know that I have had a stroke and I am dyslexic so it is not how bright you are that enables you to play the piano but how committed you are to wanting to play the best you can and taking whatever it takes to accomplish it.

Now after a year I can play all 60 tunes 30 at a time usually and I will make in 30 tunes say 3 mitakes. If the mistake is a quick error corrected or someting minor I will let it go but it is a serous misake I may stop and play it several times to play it as it should be. When I learn a piece and there a problem area I pencil in and circle the "go slowly", "careful" whatever to give me a chance to make it happen correctly when I play it the next time.

So where does it take you. Well, when I moved on to the next book which is not in this series but a difficult book I was very pleased that I could walk through the pieces because I kept my standards of learning reading and playing the music. In this next book the pieces are more complex and tricky to learn but my foundation allowed me to concentrate on the music and not on which finger or dealing with basic finger misakes.

So you see it is an everlasting process which you must love, one note at a time.
Posted by: EdwardianPiano

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/29/12 06:07 PM

Bob thanks for posting this link to Josh- that video is really helpful! I have small hands.

Welcome Mobius. smile
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 11/30/12 04:17 AM

great post, Michael. It could be a bit more read-able, but great nonetheless wink
Posted by: badgerops

Re: Introducing myself as an adult beginnger - seeking advice. - 12/03/12 07:37 PM

Your unanswered question about an easy way to calculate key signatures can be found at
This basically requires you to memorise 7 key signatures with a calculation method to figure out the rest. Hope this helps, I am but a brand new beginner.