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Help - advice required - quit or persevere?

Posted By: sluk07

Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 10:40 AM

Never posed on here before so apologies if this is a topic that is often discussed.

I'm an adult student (36). I have been playing for around 3 years. I am at a point where I am wondering whether to stop playing.

However, I wanted to post on this board because I do not know any other adult learners and as such I have no idea if the issues I'm experiencing are just something every adult learner goes through or whether the signs are there that I am essentially 'banging my head against a brick wall' in terms of trying to learn this instrument so that I can play at a competent level.

Goals

My main goal when learning was to work through the grades and get to grade 8 standard. I was prepared for the fact it would take years and a lot of practice. I am total music nut, it's my passion in life and so it seemed natural to want to learn to play something.

I like playing classical/baroque piano pieces and this the genre I would like to develop a repertoire in.

Current situation

I manage 45mins - one hour practice per day, which I think is good considering I have the usual pressures of adult life i.e. a demanding full-time job, mortgage, family commitments etc... I usually do 10 - 15 mins of warm-up exercises/scales and then hit the repertoire practice.

I have had lessons to start with and have had periods of having lessons then having a break from lessons mainly due to the varying quality of teachers I have encountered.

I have a Kawai full-size electronic piano with graded hammer action etc...so a decent-ish piano for my level.

I have recently got my grade 2 and I'm working towards grade 3.

Problems/Issues

Recently I have been questioning whether it is worth carrying on learning to play. I am the kind of person that believes if you do something you should throw yourself into it and get as good at it as possible. I am also not a quitter; I hate giving up on things, but I also realise that, sometimes in life, quitting can be a smart decision if you're working hard at something that is going nowhere.

Why do I feel like this, well, briefly:

- I feel my progress is too slow. I am limited in the time I can put into playing. It takes me months to learn one piece competently. Again, is this normal? I have no idea. My teacher tries to encourage me but, of course, if I stop playing he stops receiving my money, so I'm not convinced his advice is impartial. I try to get everything right, especially the dynamics but it just takes so long and I feel I should be getting through the pieces more quickly for the practice I'm putting in,

I also find it physically draining. My back usually hurts after 20 or so minutes each time and I've tried yoga and various other stretching exercises, but nothing has worked. I just think working 10+ hours a day at desk and then playing the piano afterwards is just too much for my back. But I can't quit my job just so I can play the piano! (however much I would like to do that).

- I don't feel like I will ever get to the level I want to reach. I don't expect to be a maestro but considering I i give up nearly all of my limited free-time practicing, I would like to get to a moderately advanced level. But I have technical limitations that I don't know can be fixed. For example, my teacher suggested Hanon to strengthen my fingers and my left habd is particualry weak and inflexible. I have spent HOURS but I simply can't play any of the exercises except the first one at a higher tempo than 85 - 90 without it all falling apart.

- Finally, I just don't enjoy practicing. This is the big one. I come home from work and then the thought of practicing makes me feel mentally tired. I force myself to do it, but after a practice session usually I feel more frustrated and annoyed than I do pleased/happy/relaxed.

Every now and then I have a mini breakthrough with a piece and feel good, but that will be followed by feeling like I've taken a backwards step for the next few practice sessions, and it generally puts me in a bad mood, is this normal? and is it right to feel like this? does it show that I care and want to get better or should I be getting more out of it. It is, after all, a hobby, which should be a pleasurable activity, no?

I guess what is underlying this is the ultimate question - can anyone reach a decent standard of piano playing just by throwing practice and lessons at it, or are some people just not cut out for the instrument, and if so, how do you know?

I'll stop there because I'm rambling but I would appreciate some (kind) advice as to whether these are problems everyone encounters or whether it sounds like my free time might be best be spent doing/learning something else.

Thanks everyone.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 11:11 AM

Finally, a nice, well articulated post with clearly defined issues and goals! Thank you!

I experienced similar frustrations at around the same level. I’m now at year five and beyond them. First, it might help if you could post a sample of your playing on YouTube or Instagram. Second, can you give a specific example of the pieces you’re playing that frustrate you?

Importantly, I had a similar issue at this level and I now believe it to have stemmed from a bad teacher. I had a teacher that insisted I learn something perfectly, faster and faster, up to a certain speed. In classical music and baroque, this can become frustrating. Specifically I had trouble with sonatinas. Are the pieces you’re frustrated with grade appropriate? If not, no matter how much time you put in, you won’t be able to bring them to perfection.

Next, why does practice seem like a chore? When I had these issues, I found it very frustrating also. When I began to play pieces I loved and was able to learn, it became something I live for, rather than something I dreaded.

Where do you live? I found a music department at a small university that has young, enthusiastic teachers. Maybe that’s an option. And finally regarding the physical issues, a video might help there also. I wonder if it’s a posture or position issue. Bench height? Tension? Are you otherwise fit and healthy? It shouldn’t hurt. How are your ergonomics at work?

Good luck! You’ll find a lot of support here. Oh and finally, this forum is littered with success stories. You can become one too.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 11:18 AM

Do not stop playing.

What you're feeling is normal. If you are focussed on a long term goal that is very far away, and that is your only motivation, you will naturally feel tired at the thought of practising. You also need to look at your posture -your back shouldn't hurt at the piano unless you have a back problem, but it's usually posture.

The best way to get out of a slump is to take on something you can manage and try to make progress with it. For example, spend a few days on half (or less) of the music you normally practise. First, just take a couple of bars and concentrate on them. If you feel good, you will want to move on. The next day try another part of the music, but don't go over the previous days work. I think a problem many people have is that they try to cover too much in a practise session. If you practise a section today and progress, and do the same tomorrow with a different section, you will have covered a lot by the end of the week. You can get a lot done in 45 minutes per day, but you have to manage your time carefully.


If you find the practise routine that suits you, you will look forward to it.
Posted By: barbaram

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 11:48 AM

You are doing this for *you*. It sounds like you and I play for very different reasons. Your reasons are valid for you though, and only you can decide if you want to continue.
Here are my thoughts on some of the points you raised:

Originally Posted by sluk07
My main goal when learning was to work through the grades and get to grade 8 standard.

It's important to have goals in mind, of course, but a hobby is all about the journey, and it is perfectly fine to change your mind about the destination.

Quote
I was prepared for the fact it would take years and a lot of practice.

Great.Now that you are 3 years in, and have a better idea of how much practice and over how long this is likely to take, are you still prepared for it? Do you still want it?


Quote
I manage 45mins - one hour practice per day, which I think is good considering I have the usual pressures of adult life

That's about all I can manage too, it's very reasonable when combining with work, family and other commitments. That said, I feel pretty sure that those who manage the journey to Grade 8 in the textbook 8 or so years need to put in quite a lot more as they progress through the grades. So if you want to reach grade 8 and this is all the practice time that is reasonable, then maybe you need to anticipate it taking more years. Or maybe you could reconsider whether reaching Grade 8 is so important. There is loads of wonderful music at easier levels. It's already opening up to you at the Gr2/Gr 3 stage, but by the time you reach Gr 5 or 6 there is an enormous range of fabulous music.

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I have had lessons to start with and have had periods of having lessons then having a break from lessons mainly due to the varying quality of teachers I have encountered.

Some people on this forum progress well without a teacher. Personally, I enjoy the freedom for a short while and then I start to stagnate, get frustrated and start to lose motivation.
Given some of the other points you make I think working with a teacher sounds like the better option for you, but I agree that finding the right teacher is important.

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I am the kind of person that believes if you do something you should throw yourself into it and get as good at it as possible.

Fair enough. I on the other hand am the kind of person that believes if you are doing a hobby for pleasure, it should give you pleasure.
That doesn't mean don't work at it, or don't have ambitions. And I'm certainly not saying that you should drop it at the first frustrations.
But focus on the journey, not the destination.

Quote
I am also not a quitter; I hate giving up on things, but I also realise that, sometimes in life, quitting can be a smart decision if you're working hard at something that is going nowhere.

And I think life is too short to engage in hobbies that you don't enjoy. That misses the point of what hobbies are for.
So for me, if a hobby is not giving me joy or enriching my life, then I would swap it for something that does.
But timeframe and context is important here - I go through stages of "piano blahs" too, where I don't have a lot of motivation, but I've never hit the point of wanting to give up. For me it's been more a case of figuring out what to change about what I am doing to make it enjoyable again. And in the short term, it's often about intentionally focusing my piano time on what I *want* to do rather than what I feel I *should* do, even if this is sub-optimal from a learning perspective.

Quote
I feel my progress is too slow.

Same, this is common.
It takes me months to learn a piece at the edge of my ability well. I have made the mistake in recent years of having all my pieces at (or beyond) this level. The result is very few pieces, almost none of which get to a really good performance standard.
At the moment I am intentionally working on much easier pieces (for me this means I was doing pieces around Gr 6/Gr 7 and at the moment I am doing a bunch of Gr 1-3 pieces, working with a new teacher).
It's quite common among very exam focused students and teachers to focus just on the exam pieces and getting them perfect. Spend ages on a few pieces, pass the exam, and then spend ages on a few pieces at the next level. I don't think it's a great approach, and I think the lack of more rounded experience and wider repertoire catches up on you later. At least it did with me.

Quote
I also find it physically draining. My back usually hurts after 20 or so minutes each time

This doesn't sound right, and would suggest to me that you have posture and/or tension issues when you are at the piano. This is something you should be able to address with the right help

Quote
I don't feel like I will ever get to the level I want to reach.I don't expect to be a maestro but considering I i give up nearly all of my limited free-time practicing, I would like to get to a moderately advanced level

Journey, not destination

Quote
But I have technical limitations that I don't know can be fixed. For example, my teacher suggested Hanon to strengthen my fingers and my left habd is particualry weak and inflexible. I have spent HOURS but I simply can't play any of the exercises except the first one at a higher tempo than 85 - 90 without it all falling apart.

If you must do Hanon, focus on getting absolute control and evenness at a lower tempo, worry about the tempo later.
I'm open to correction but your idea of what you "should" be able to achieve here sounds like it might be overly ambitious for Gr2?

Quote
Finally, I just don't enjoy practicing. This is the big one. I come home from work and then the thought of practicing makes me feel mentally tired. I force myself to do it, but after a practice session usually I feel more frustrated and annoyed than I do pleased/happy/relaxed.

This is the main thing for me.
If you don't enjoy practicing, then why are you doing it? I think most of us sometimes experience this, but if it is your normal situation then it's time to look hard at it.
What about it don't you enjoy? What do you enjoy? Are you spending all your piano time doing the things you feel you "should" do and little or none just doing the things you want to do, for fun?

Ultimately only you can decide the right course for you. However I'm not sure you will stick (or that you should stick it) unless you can adjust your piano routine so that you enjoy it more. That's the point, after all.
Posted By: Lillith

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 12:16 PM

Some good advice there.

All I can add is that imo you're playing the wrong music.

If whatever you're practising doesn't make you look forward to it, then choose something that does.
There are squillions of pieces of music out there for all levels so there will be loads you will actually like playing.
And remember that practising = playing, so you should enjoy your practising too.

I got a bit like you, so had a go at some jazz, rags and blues (easy) as a change from classical, and am loving it.

Giving up piano, from the info you give, is a bit like giving up reading because you're not enjoying War and Peace smile

Good luck smile
Posted By: QuasiUnaFantasia

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 12:26 PM

First off: no one here will tell you to quit. Ain't gonna happen. We love playing music (even though the going may be tough at times), so suggesting that somebody quit would be nearly unthinkable.

What you should do, I can't tell you. But I can illustrate the path I'm taking. Maybe it contains something that you could use.

My path:

  • Self-teaching, and I don't want a teacher.
  • Not aiming at taking examns but at becoming able to play any music I want to play.
  • I play ONLY music I already know well, and love dearly.
  • I aim at picking music that is at "my level", as best I perceive that. Not too easy, and not too difficult.
  • Typical pieces are around 20-40 bars long, I start another one at the beginning of every month, and sometimes in addition shorter pieces around the middle of the month, if progress is really good on the longer pieces.
  • I have never yet played anything to perfection. I also believe no professional pianist ever did so. Everything can be improved, but whenever I am able to play a piece entirely from memory, I do consider that a landmark of progress, and mentally I keep track of my improving skills all the time.
  • Some days I play two or even three sessions, but those are exceptions. Typically I get 30-60 minutes per day. There are days where I lack the energy to play, so I skip those days.


Just a single point on your back pain: try breaking your sessions up into smaller sessions with resonable pauses in between during which your muscles will relax again. Also, consider doing what sports people do in order to avoid muscle issues: stretching, and warming lotions.
Posted By: gwing

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 12:28 PM

What a lovely and well considered reply Barbaram. For the first time in my life on a forum I think I'm going to break a principle and just say ...

Me too :-)
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 01:26 PM

Lots of excellent advice already.
another +1 for Barbaram's comment. Covers what I had in mind when I read the OP.

I have a few comments, but the main one is, of course, don't give up because playing the piano is such a wonderful thing to do - importantly, though, at any level of proficiency as long as you can get to enjoy it. Unless you have reason to believe otherwise, by the way, I expect (well, hope) that your teacher doesn't want you to give up for similar reasons to ours.
Aching back is not good and I used to experience this. Without being an expert I can't advise, but in my case I bought a book on the 'Alexander Technique' and used that. As no doubt you are aware, it isn't just how you sit at the piano (but look at you-tube videos of good pianist to see how they sit, not all will suit you, but a general view and look at those with similar build to yourself, for example) but how you sit at the office as well and move in general. I used to do a lot of wallking around when I had an office job, any excuse and up I'd get - and posture is important. One excercise I found really useful was really just lying flat on my back on the floor (head supported) and relaxing, others such as the arm excercises help relax shoulders. An example of a book (mine is long out of print) https://www.amazon.com/How-You-Stand-Move-Live/dp/1600940064/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
The goal of reaching Grade 8 is good, but not reaching it will not destroy your chances of enjoying the piano. As has been mentioned, the amount of music at intermediate level is amazing and it is very satisfying. My goal was to enjoy playing the piano, have done no grades (time, work, life pressure etc.) but I enjoy playing and it's far nicer to be involved with the music than just to listen to it. Not everybody can actually reach the highest level, but that does not stop them from playing, just like every painter doesn't end up as a Rubens, Picasso or what have you. Not everybody plays just classical music, btw, I certainly don't, and I find popular and 'easy listening' pieces relaxing fun to play - often with very simple arrangements
Slowish progress with limited time is not unusual, and some people learn faster than others. Learning has its ups and downs, and it will help to play pieces you enjoy mixed in with the practice. Mix in pleasure with the hard work - so the piano becomes your friend rather than just a work-place.
I do a few Hanon excercises myself, but I do them slowly - for me they help the fingers but are just a part of the warm-up routine which is rarely fast. There are many pianist who will tell you that Hanon is not good etc. so treat with caution. Fluidity increases over time, don't push it.
Stick with this group - discuss how things are going, join in when you want. In my opinion there's not a lot to beat swapping yarns about a subject with others who have similar interests to help when enthusiasm flags - I know mine does at times occasionally when things aren't going right.
Posted By: leemeadowcroft

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 02:03 PM

I used to play many years ago and bought a piano two years ago to get back in to it. I'm about to start again with regular practice with a view to reaching a competent standard and being able to play many of the pieces I enjoy listening to on a daily basis, I'm 36 also.

Like you I've committed to becoming a better player and see this as a long term project. For me it's all about the journey and learning the pieces I enjoy. It won't be practice so much as just playing and enjoying my hobby. I think it is very much about what you play and how much of a perfectionist you are. I have no interest in learning a piece that doesn't mean anything to me which is why I would probably be no good with a teacher suggesting what I play. A hobby shouldn't be about grinding through the exercises, you have to enjoy the here and now. I very much think your enjoyment will be based on the pieces you play and whether you feel connected to them.

The only thing holding me back from playing is works being done on my house, now delayed until next week (grrrr). However I already have a playlist of the songs I want to learn. I've simply called it "The 50" which is my ultimate repertoire goal. Some are out of my reach at present, others I can play half through already. I'll add and remove pieces as I see fit but will keep it at 50 maximum as a long term goal. There are currently 35 pieces on the list and only 3 are more than about 10 years old (Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Clair de Lune and Ave Maria).

For me, when I play a piece (or even part of a piece) I know well and love to listen to it, it's a great feeling that I can play it. Hearing the music I love and knowing I made it happen is enough to motivate me. If you don't have that same passion then perhaps you are playing the wrong music or it's not for you.

Just a little example of some pieces on my list with beautiful melodies:

I Love You - Riopy
Moments - Florian Christl
Song of the Evening - Alexander Chapman Cambell
Tears of a Tiger - Ilya Beshevli
Pippa's Theme - Joep Beving

I'd be all for having a group of us at similar stages/ages that can bounce off each other.
Posted By: sluk07

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 02:22 PM

Everyone - thank you so much for your positive words of encouragement. It means a great deal and also shows that this forum is a supportive environment with some wonderful people on it. Thanks again; I have genuinely taken on board all that you have said smile
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 02:23 PM

Originally Posted by sluk07
I also find it physically draining. My back usually hurts after 20 or so minutes each time and I've tried yoga and various other stretching exercises, but nothing has worked. I just think working 10+ hours a day at desk and then playing the piano afterwards is just too much for my back. But I can't quit my job just so I can play the piano! (however much I would like to do that).

Not going to address the other issues since I play for the "wrong reason" myself and so I shouldn't be giving advice. But I was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident in late 2011 and got tore up pretty badly including spinal injuries and permanent nerve damage in right arm. I also work a 50-60 hr/wk desk job. When I first got my digital piano, I could barely sit 15 mins without being in back agony/spasms. I adopted two things which have miraculously fixed this for me. One, I got this memory foam cushion. The second is I sucked it up and wore a back brace and this one when I practice. This combo of 3 items has total banished my back pain and although I am usually too busy to practice for more than 60 mins in a day, I'd be able to sit for 2 hours if I had to without the debilitating pain I was experiencing when I first started learning piano back in February of this year.
Posted By: dmd

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 02:33 PM

sluk07:


I think you may wish to "start over" after taking a break (month or 2).

And when you start over …..

Work with a teacher and a method book …. page by page …. and do not go too fast.

You need to experience success and build on that success instead of (as it appears) focusing on failure.

Ignore how long things take and just focus on success.

And try to begin building a repertoire of pieces that you can play well and play them for "folks" now and then.

Let me emphasize .... you need to experience success and build on that success.

No-one said it was going to be easy or fast but it should be enjoyable.


Good Luck
Posted By: Richrf

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 02:33 PM

You are playing to reach a goal. Learn to enjoy the act of creating music. There is no frustration if there are no goals. Rather, there is enjoyment for every sound you create. Switching perspective is not easy, but it is worthwhile.

Millions upon millions quit for the same reason you are contemplating it. They were trying to achieve a goal rather than enjoy the music.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 03:23 PM

I think one of the most important points made so far is to try and work on pieces you really love. I don't know what pieces are available at your level but you should reach very soon (if you're not already there) a level where there are pieces available by the the greatest composers. I'm talking about classical composers. If classical isn't your interest then if you look carefully there are terrific arrangements of non classical pieces available at a non advanced level. Check out some arrangements by Nikki Iles, for example.
Posted By: prout

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 04:09 PM

Originally Posted by Richrf
You are playing to reach a goal. Learn to enjoy the act of creating music. There is no frustration if there are no goals. Rather, there is enjoyment for every sound you create. Switching perspective is not easy, but it is worthwhile.

Millions upon millions quit for the same reason you are contemplating it. They were trying to achieve a goal rather than enjoy the music.

Best post by far! thumb

Learning is its own reward. Making music is why we play.

I find practicing the most enjoyable thing I do every day. I have been doing it for 63 years and have yet to reach the ‘goal’ of playing any piece of music ‘correctly’, whatever that means. The day I do achieve that ‘goal’ is the day I quit playing the piano.
Posted By: TheophilusCarter

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 04:30 PM

A lot of really good advice here, and I tend to agree with it. However, I do think it's important to take the alternatives seriously, so I'll share a personal experience.

I've played a number of instruments over the years. Saxophone was my earliest one, then upright bass (which I still play). I too went through periods of doubt, frustration, etc., but generally speaking, it felt worthwhile and enjoyable, and I felt like I made progress as long as I worked at it.

I also tried to learn classical guitar at one point, and got very serious about it, even putting in two hours a day for the last couple of years. I. SUCKED. AT. CLASSICAL. GUITAR. smile No matter what I did, I really just didn't make any progress. Worse, it was no freakin' fun. I felt and thought a lot of the things that the OP mentions, and at a certain point, I just decided that it wasn't the instrument for me, so I quit. Best decision I ever made, because ...

Eventually I found my way to piano, and I'm having a blast. To be clear: I am NOT a natural. I have to work VERY hard, and my progress is VERY slow. I also have periods of doubt and frustration. But on the whole, I do see progress, and more importantly, I am having fun with it.

I'll say again I agree with a lot of the advice and encouragement here. But at the end of the day, the OP has to make a decision that works for them. Quitting is one option, and it's not a failure of any kind; it's simply a decision to use one's precious free time in a more rewarding way.

Good luck!
Posted By: precise

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 04:53 PM

Yes, some interesting points above.

But, it seems to me, that you're bored and unmotivated. That's not a reason to give up - it's a reason to re-assess things, which you're doing.

You say you want to become grade 8 standard. That's great. But being that standard does NOT mean having to go through the process of doing the grade exams.

If, as I suspect, you are working on three exam pieces ad nauseum until you do the exam - only to then repeat the process with three more 'exam' pieces, then I would, frankly, expect you to be very bored and unmotivated. There is no rule to say you have to do exams and, probably, very little benefit to you if you actually do so. IMO, ditch the exams.

Why not work with a teacher who is willing to explore the non-exam route? Play lots of pieces, work on different repertoire, don't feel confined to 'exam' pieces. Work for, and on, an approach that works for you - that motivates you and makes you want to sit and play.

To be honest, any teacher who is recommending Hanon as a way of strengthening fingers is in serious need of research and a change in teaching method. Hanon will not strengthen your fingers like some magic pill. It is from an 'old school' way of teaching that teachers just haven't grown out of. I know of no regarded teachers who would prescribe Hanon. It's an unimaginative approach at a cheap fix unless taught, and done, extremely well.

Pain and discomfort are probably due to sitting incorrectly and not using your body correctly when playing. Again, I suggest that a good teacher should be aware of all these things and it is essential that they work with you on this, as it is very important.

You need a good teacher, one experienced in working with adults, one with whom you can explain your musical aspirations etc. There are many good ones around - and, of course, some real horrors.


Don't give up. You love music. You need to be, and feel, motivated.
Posted By: Sam S

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 04:55 PM

If you stop now and regret your decision in a few years, you will probably have to start over from the beginning.

But if you continue to play, in a few years where will you be? And you will have the enjoyment of playing for those years.

Its about the journey, not the destination! Back in 2014 I did a thru-hike of the Appalachian trail - 2100+ miles in 5 months, from Maine to Georgia. Many times I felt like quitting, just calling up someone to meet me at the next town and take me home. But I stuck it out, because I really was enjoying the journey as a whole, even though there were many bad days.

Sam
Posted By: David B

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 05:03 PM

If you're not happy learning to play the piano and it puts you in a bad or discouraged mood on a fairly regular basis, then you really should consider something else. Life is too short to engage in a hobby that you find more frustration than pleasure in.

My brother started golfing latter in life and would get so upset at his performance he would break his clubs. Eventually he stopped playing which was good because he probably would have had a heart attack on the golf course.

Our ability in life to cope with stress must be greater than the stress we experience or else our quality of life will be diminished and possibly our life expectancy shortened.

It's good you're getting counsel here from others and hopefully it will help to shape a better experience, but if it doesn't, it's better to walk away.

That's my general counsel. Here is my specific counsel to piano the playing.

As others have said, try learning songs that you really enjoy. The biggest challenge I have as an adult beginner in the specific learning course I'm involved in, is that the song selection is mostly uninspiring for me. It decreases my motivation to practice. However, I manage that frustration with the enjoyment that comes from learning and improving my skills that will later be used in the type of music l look forward to playing.

However, the music I long to play isn't that technically challenging. If the only music that you want to learn - the music that speaks to your heart - is the most advanced classical music written (I don't know what grade 8 means) then you might have an unrealistic expectation. In that case you need to determine if you can be satisfied with a lower expectation.

Either change your attitude and expectations so that enjoyment instead of frustration is the norm or seriously consider doing something else. I wish you the best in your journey whatever you decide to do.

God Bless,
David
Posted By: jdw

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 05:11 PM

Originally Posted by precise
Yes, some interesting points above.

But, it seems to me, that you're bored and unmotivated. That's not a reason to give up - it's a reason to re-assess things, which you're doing.

You say you want to become grade 8 standard. That's great. But being that standard does NOT mean having to go through the process of doing the grade exams.

If, as I suspect, you are working on three exam pieces ad nauseum until you do the exam - only to then repeat the process with three more 'exam' pieces, then I would, frankly, expect you to be very bored and unmotivated. There is no rule to say you have to do exams and, probably, very little benefit to you if you actually do so. IMO, ditch the exams.

Why not work with a teacher who is willing to explore the non-exam route? Play lots of pieces, work on different repertoire, don't feel confined to 'exam' pieces. Work for, and on, an approach that works for you - that motivates you and makes you want to sit and play.

To be honest, any teacher who is recommending Hanon as a way of strengthening fingers is in serious need of research and a change in teaching method. Hanon will not strengthen your fingers like some magic pill. It is from an 'old school' way of teaching that teachers just haven't grown out of. I know of no regarded teachers who would prescribe Hanon. It's an unimaginative approach at a cheap fix unless taught, and done, extremely well.

Pain and discomfort are probably due to sitting incorrectly and not using your body correctly when playing. Again, I suggest that a good teacher should be aware of all these things and it is essential that they work with you on this, as it is very important.

You need a good teacher, one experienced in working with adults, one with whom you can explain your musical aspirations etc. There are many good ones around - and, of course, some real horrors.


Don't give up. You love music. You need to be, and feel, motivated.





Really good points here.

I'm especially struck by the issue of discomfort, since I have a history of RSI myself. If practicing makes you hurt, it's not surprising that it's hard to keep up enthusiasm and pleasure in it. You need a teacher with better understanding of how body and piano interact. As Precise says, the recommendation of Hanon to "strengthen fingers" is a sign that this teacher is not well equipped to help you.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 05:16 PM

Originally Posted by sluk07

Goals

My main goal when learning was to work through the grades and get to grade 8 standard. I was prepared for the fact it would take years and a lot of practice. I am total music nut, it's my passion in life and so it seemed natural to want to learn to play something.

I like playing classical/baroque piano pieces and this the genre I would like to develop a repertoire in.


I have recently got my grade 2 and I'm working towards grade 3.


- I feel my progress is too slow. I am limited in the time I can put into playing. It takes me months to learn one piece competently. Again, is this normal?

I believe I'm the pianist here whose student history is closest to yours, in the sense that I had a teacher all through my student years, I loved classical music, and I was doing ABRSM grade exams - one grade a year grin.

Where we diverge is in the fact that I was a kid at the time (I started lessons at 10) and I had zero expectations and even less than zero goals. All I knew was that I was totally talentless, there is no musical gene in my family (my parents started me on piano lessons simply to keep up with the Joneses, and had no interest in music of any sort): I knew that for certain because they couldn't tell that I was deliberately playing "all the wrong notes" (pace André Preview wink *) in a Mozart piece, so any little progress I made was a bonus, not least to me. Some years, I surprised myself by getting much better marks than I expected in an exam.....

* https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xds7am

But I loved classical music, and couldn't wait to get to the practice rooms after school to play - not just practising what I was learning with my teacher, but also having fun afterwards, sometimes with a violinist friend, where we'd tear a pop tune to shreds and put it back together again, usually in the wrong order grin, - as well as just sight-reading through music scores that I'd borrowed from the school music library. Anything that resembled playable music was fair game. The result of course was that every minute I spent at the piano having fun was a minute that I 'banked' in my pianistic armoury, even when I wasn't practising my scales or pieces.

In other words, music was my main recreation, while I also learnt from my teacher and practised my pieces - never to perfection, BTW, and my teacher never kept me on any one piece for long before moving on, apart from the three exam pieces a year. I only needed to learn the skills specific to each piece, not to bring it to 'performance standard' (whatever that was - I never performed as a student). If my teacher was satisfied, so was I. After all, I had no long-term goals, even though every year I was inching towards Grade 8 (and eventually, beyond), simply through enjoying my time spent on the piano. Even the pieces I didn't particularly like as music turned out to be fun to play once I'd got beyond learning the notes; and I was also learning other stuff (all classical pieces) by myself - again purely for fun.

As others have said, it's all about the journey. I was never going to make music my career, but I was definitely going to have lots of fun doing it (which included joining the school choir, so that I could sing all the great vocal music that I couldn't play on the piano), and progress was what it was.

So, my advice to you is, just enjoy the journey and branch out to other stuff (how about playing carols and Christmassy stuff by ear, as badly as you like? grin), and if you want to continue with the exams, no problem. Just remember, all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl.

Here's someone you might know who's been having fun as well as going through the ABRSM grades:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAmq6akwTIc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPvtWl77yF4
Posted By: Ralphiano

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 05:26 PM


Originally Posted by sluk07
My main goal when learning was to work through the grades and get to grade 8 standard.


When I read this, all kinds of red flags flew up in my mind. This is the poison at the center of your ills. It says two, nearly identical things, both of which are not good:

1. You are not playing for yourself, for your own joy;

2. You are playing for someone else. What is a "grade 8" but just a label SOMEONE ELSE attaches to you? Would a pianist who has attained all the skills, appreciation, understanding, and artistry of a "grade 8" somehow enjoy his music more just because some accreditation agency bestowed a label on him? Or, would those positioned to hear his lovely music enjoy it less because he had not been so bestowed? Music is one thing. Acclaim is something else. Which is more important to you?

Love of your music can sustain you. Love of acclaim is like joining the hamsters on the wheel. Though it is a lot of work, it is tiring and draining, and never gets you anywhere worth going to.

Carefullly consider all the advice given:


Originally Posted by barbaram
You are doing this for *you*....
And I think life is too short to engage in hobbies that you don't enjoy. That misses the point of what hobbies are for.
So for me, if a hobby is not giving me joy or enriching my life, then I would swap it for something that does.


Amen!

Originally Posted by Lillith
All I can add is that imo you're playing the wrong music.

If whatever you're practising doesn't make you look forward to it, then choose something that does.
There are squillions of pieces of music out there for all levels so there will be loads you will actually like playing.



Amen!

Originally Posted by leemeadowcroft
For me it's all about the journey and learning the pieces I enjoy. It won't be practice so much as just playing and enjoying my hobby. I think it is very much about what you play and how much of a perfectionist you are. I have no interest in learning a piece that doesn't mean anything to me which is why I would probably be no good with a teacher suggesting what I play. A hobby shouldn't be about grinding through the exercises, you have to enjoy the here and now.


I feel much the same way with the caveat that if you take care to aim for music you can love, the hard work and grind of learning the necessary skills will be no grind at all, rather a joy. And, you will grind. And, you will enjoy!


Originally Posted by Richrf
Learn to enjoy the act of creating music. There is no frustration if there are no goals... Switching perspective is not easy, but it is worthwhile.


Amen.


Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think one of the most important points made so far is to try and work on pieces you really love.


Amen.


There is a reason this sentiment keeps appearing. It is what keeps us excited about sitting at our pianos each day. If you want to love what you are doing, do what you love.


If someone came along and pressed you into involuntary service toward a goal that was not your own, you would fight with all your might to free yourself from such slavery. Why, then, would you do it to yourself? The world of piano is broad and limitless. Somewhere in the world of piano music, there is likely something you can love to play and learn. Find it. Ignore the voices that seek to restrict your scope to just certain, standard repertoire if that music does not excite you. Let it be practice fodder or include it in your instructional diet. But, keep your personal desires at the forefront, and pursue your happiness.

Somewhere, there is music that will excite you. As Lillith said, there are "squillions' of pieces of music. There are so many that most teachers are familiar with only a very, very, very, very small percentage of it.

You deserve joy, not slavery. Go for it!
Posted By: precise

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 05:35 PM

Originally Posted by Ralphiano

What is a "grade 8" but just a label SOMEONE ELSE attaches to you? Would a pianist who has attained all the skills, appreciation, understanding, and artistry of a "grade 8" somehow enjoy his music more just because some accreditation agency bestowed a label on him?
Precisely! Nor would a person who has attained grade 8 necessarily be a better musician and pianist than someone who has not. The piano 'grade' myth is, as I've said before, extremely limiting and puts so many people off playing - proven by the number of people who will say 'I hated playing the piano because I hated having to do exams'.
The key word above is having: No one has to do exams to enjoy making music. The grade exams are worthless in so many ways - not least, musically.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 05:37 PM

Originally Posted by Ralphiano
You deserve joy, not slavery. Go for it!

As an issue close to home for me, the problem is that not everyone values the journey as much as the destination. Some people journey for the purpose of getting to the destination. Now that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a thread to help people who don't appreciate journeys to start appreciating their journeys, but one really shouldn't assume that everyone appreciates the journey automatically - some people are motivated entirely differently. My read of the OP's original post was that the OP is more of a destination person than a voyager, and that personally resonates with me.

Originally Posted by precise
The key word above is having: No one has to do exams to enjoy making music. The grade exams are worthless in so many ways - not least, musically.

And some people really are motivated differently.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 06:07 PM

When I started playing piano at about the same age. I had some personal issues and nearly had a nervous breakdown. Getting into playing music is a lifesaver. I never thought that the only reasons for playing is to progress through the various conservatory levels or playing only certain repertoire for a teacher. There are enough pieces available for download online to last a lifetime.

Everyday I wake up in the morning the first thing is to get to my keyboard to play a piece that I like to listen to. It's OK to take time off taking lessons but at the same time people like myself have some knowledge reading music can just pick and choose songs off the Internet and learn without a teacher. Practice time is rather arbitrary. If I like a piece I can work at it for hours and not stick to a 1 hour practice schedule.

Christmas is just around the corner. A few days ago I found a piano arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" and started playing it. The music is rather repetitive and easy to get into. A while back I listened to a waltz on radio and got a piano arrangement online. I'd never think about a piece as being at a level 3 or 7. The technical level of a piece is rather arbitrary. I'd just try a few measures. If the level is too advance I'd work on other pieces until I'm ready to tackle the piece again.

I know a few people who took piano lessons in the past and passed a few conservatory levels. They had no reason to continue because they feel they are only playing repertoire assigned by a teacher. Besides the weekly lessons, they have no connection with the pieces they are playing. At a Christmas party you'd play "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" & "Auld Lang Syne" and "Happy Birthday" on a special day. Playing music can be uplifting regardless of the level of difficulty. I don't have to stick to playing "Minuet in G", a Bach Invention or a Beethoven Sonata or a Chopin Nocturne because it is a piece I'm supposed to learn for my grade level. I'd play "O Holy Night" which is not in a conservatory level book during the holidays.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 06:14 PM

Originally Posted by TheophilusCarter
'll say again I agree with a lot of the advice and encouragement here. But at the end of the day, the OP has to make a decision that works for them. Quitting is one option, and it's not a failure of any kind; it's simply a decision to use one's precious free time in a more rewarding way.
Good advice and an interesting/relevant personal story to go with it.
Posted By: Michael P Walsh

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 06:18 PM

I don't think the back issue helps at all. It may even affect the shoulder area which will also effect your progress.
You say you have a sit down job. You could try mounting your digital at a height where you can stand up and play. Of course it's not the norm, I tried it and experienced much greater freedom, more tension free playing. I too have back issues. The height I had mine placed the forearm in exactly the same horizontal position that I had when I was sat at the piano. I didn't have a real stand to get the piano to that height. It was all a bit improvised. Now I play with a chair that has a back rest and I've found it a big improvement over a piano bench. Some of us just need lumber support.
You say you have only 45 minutes per day. Why not just concentrate on playing the pieces that you like. There are so many at grade 2, 3 and 4 level. Hanon - you don't need to do it, especially if time is a little limited.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 06:35 PM

Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
You could try mounting your digital at a height where you can stand up and play. Of course it's not the norm, I tried it and experienced much greater freedom, more tension free playing. I too have back issues. The height I had mine placed the forearm in exactly the same horizontal position that I had when I was sat at the piano. I didn't have a real stand to get the piano to that height. It was all a bit improvised. Now I play with a chair that has a back rest and I've found it a big improvement over a piano bench. Some of us just need lumber support.

Because I have back problems, I tried this and found use of the pedals awkward, and I felt pedal use resulted in tight shin muscle and unbalanced me, possibly exacerbating my back condition, so I opted against this. How do you handle pedals yourself and keep your shin muscles relaxed?
Posted By: Jitin

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 06:48 PM

Here is the thing about learning an instrument...

YOU NEVER stop learning. You only improve, with that said, your issues may slow you down , but even if you'r back and what not was ok, you still learn along the way , just faster.
Then once you learn through your goals, you may find interest in other genres or get deeper into what you like, so there is still a learning process.

Its a life long thing, and in life there will always be obstacles, i.e health issues or time etc... that will only slow you down, but should not make you quit!

Even if you get through all your grades, you will still have to learn pieces, and spend time on learning pieces, so learning never really stops..
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 07:55 PM

Originally Posted by sluk07
[...]I just don't enjoy practicing. This is the big one. I come home from work and then the thought of practicing makes me feel mentally tired. I force myself to do it, but after a practice session usually I feel more frustrated and annoyed than I do pleased/happy/relaxed.
[...]


I think that the above quote is the crux of the issue. This is what you have to examine and determine why this is so. Perhaps, as others have well articulated, you are too focused on "Grade 8" level as your goal, without enjoying the present moment. Perhaps your practice techniques need revisiting.

While practicing can sometimes bring on a certain amount of physical exhaustion, if "done right" practicing can also lead to some sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. What bothers me most about this quote is that even the thought of practicing tires you and you have to force yourself to practice. That is neither the way to enjoyment nor to achieving your goal.

I agree with much of the advice expressed in this thread.

Regards,
Posted By: Michael P Walsh

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 08:02 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
You could try mounting your digital at a height where you can stand up and play. Of course it's not the norm, I tried it and experienced much greater freedom, more tension free playing. I too have back issues. The height I had mine placed the forearm in exactly the same horizontal position that I had when I was sat at the piano. I didn't have a real stand to get the piano to that height. It was all a bit improvised. Now I play with a chair that has a back rest and I've found it a big improvement over a piano bench. Some of us just need lumber support.

Because I have back problems, I tried this and found use of the pedals awkward, and I felt pedal use resulted in tight shin muscle and unbalanced me, possibly exacerbating my back condition, so I opted against this. How do you handle pedals yourself and keep your shin muscles relaxed?


Sorry didn't try the pedal. It was a hastily set up trial. I can see the issue with the pedal though.
Posted By: Jitin

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 08:10 PM

Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by sluk07
[...]I just don't enjoy practicing. This is the big one. I come home from work and then the thought of practicing makes me feel mentally tired. I force myself to do it, but after a practice session usually I feel more frustrated and annoyed than I do pleased/happy/relaxed.
[...]


I think that the above quote is the crux of the issue. This is what you have to examine and determine why this is so. Perhaps, as others have well articulated, you are too focused on "Grade 8" level as your goal, without enjoying the present moment. Perhaps your practice techniques need revisiting.

While practicing can sometimes bring on a certain amount of physical exhaustion, if "done right" practicing can also lead to some sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. What bothers me most about this quote is that even the thought of practicing tires you and you have to force yourself to practice. That is neither the way to enjoyment nor to achieving your goal.

I agree with much of the advice expressed in this thread.

Regards,

Bruce,

what is your idea of practice, done right?
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 08:15 PM

Some practical points: (1) Cut back your warmup/scales to zero or five minutes. Your current 10-15 min represents too large a percentage of your available practice time. Don't do Hanon. Hanon should only be done to work on smooth and even playing, not for speed. (2) Make sure you get up and move around every 10-15 min. I don't have back problems but I still need to get up and move for a few minutes every now and then. Also, can you fit in some practice before going to work? The advantage there is that you will be fresh and not exhausted from your workday.

How set are you on pursuing the grade exams? I am not going the grade route. My teacher's philosophy during the first three years was to expose me to a lot of composers and music. Now, halfway through my fourth year, I'm still getting exposure to composers from all the different eras, but we're working to a higher standard on many of the pieces. Being exposed to many pieces means I get the (to me) occasional 'clunker,' but there's always a piece or two that I really love.

Would your teacher have a different approach with you if you weren't going for grade exams? Would you get more "throw-away" pieces (pieces that have some skill to teach you but that you don't take to performance standard) and more pieces that you bring in that you would like to learn? With your interest in music, you should be able to suggest some pieces. Might I suggest that you set aside, for now, your exam-based approach and concentrate on just learning to make music? You can always resume a grade-based approach at a later date if you so desire.

I think I read somewhere that for adults (once they make it past the first few weeks or months) the danger time for giving up is at 3-4 years. They've made the huge gains of the early stages and they now have a better understanding of what it takes to make it to higher levels. They're on a plateau, and that can be frustrating. Sometimes just knowing this, and making peace with it, makes all the difference.
Posted By: 90125

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 10:31 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
How do you handle pedals yourself and keep your shin muscles relaxed?

Second-hand advice from a friend, who although classically trained, doesn't perform any classical repertoire:

1) don't use standard pianist pedals. Use the swiveling pedals designed for organists or guitarists. Then you'll be able to put the whole (half) body weight on the pedal foot and control the effect by the changes of the angle.

2) use the very tall stool with a bicycle/tractor shape of the seat for the change from standing during a long performance sessions.

There are other options available that depend on being able to quickly reposition the keyboard (so it has to be rather light, with unweighted action) e.g. sitting cross-legged (Asian style) with the pedals brought up to the seat level and operated by swiveling the foot right-left not down-up (in the anatomical sense of the motion at the joints).

This advice is from somebody without the medical problems that you described, the non-conventional position for playing is purely a social/artistic choice. She also dances while playing some pieces.
Posted By: dumka1

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 11:21 PM

Originally Posted by Lillith


Giving up piano, from the info you give, is a bit like giving up reading because you're not enjoying War and Peace smile


How can one not enjoy War and Peace???!!! smile (I do love it and teach it, so...)
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 11:32 PM

Originally Posted by dumka1
Originally Posted by Lillith


Giving up piano, from the info you give, is a bit like giving up reading because you're not enjoying War and Peace smile


How can one not enjoy War and Peace???!!! smile (I do love it and teach it, so...)

Woot! Woot! Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation too! Woot! This is my #1 favorite novel (#2 is Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu)

I think I've read the chapter where Andrei Bolkonsky is lying looking at the sky when Napoleon rides up about 50 times at least. Maybe more. I've even struggled through it in Russian once, but it's not the same when you have to constantly look up words. LOL.

I always thought it was ironic and sad how children in the FSU were force fed Tolstoy until they were sick of him. My wife can't stand to read anything by him since he was poured down her throat in grade school. Children at that age really can appreciate him.
Posted By: dumka1

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 11:42 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by dumka1
Originally Posted by Lillith


Giving up piano, from the info you give, is a bit like giving up reading because you're not enjoying War and Peace smile


How can one not enjoy War and Peace???!!! smile (I do love it and teach it, so...)

Woot! Woot! Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation too! Woot! This is my #1 favorite novel (#2 is Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu)

I think I've read the chapter where Andrei Bolkonsky is lying looking at the sky when Napoleon rides up about 50 times at least. Maybe more. I've even struggled through it in Russian once, but it's not the same when you have to constantly look up words. LOL.

I always thought it was ironic and sad how children in the FSU were force fed Tolstoy until they were sick of him. My wife can't stand to read anything by him since he was poured down her throat in grade school. Children at that age really can appreciate him.

Don't want to hijack the thread, but thanks. A lot of Russian classical literature was ruined for Soviet/former Soviet kids as a result of schools teaching them in a very didactic and often overly ideologized way...
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/03/18 11:44 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by dumka1
Originally Posted by Lillith


Giving up piano, from the info you give, is a bit like giving up reading because you're not enjoying War and Peace smile


How can one not enjoy War and Peace???!!! smile (I do love it and teach it, so...)

Woot! Woot! Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation too! Woot! This is my #1 favorite novel (#2 is Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu)

I think I've read the chapter where Andrei Bolkonsky is lying looking at the sky when Napoleon rides up about 50 times at least. Maybe more. I've even struggled through it in Russian once, but it's not the same when you have to constantly look up words. LOL.

I always thought it was ironic and sad how children in the FSU were force fed Tolstoy until they were sick of him. My wife can't stand to read anything by him since he was poured down her throat in grade school. Children at that age really can appreciate him.
I read War and Peace (Anthony Briggs translation) this past winter and enjoyed it very much. This winter I intend to read Anna Karenina. Problem is, I know how it ends. frown
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 12:06 AM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
I read War and Peace (Anthony Briggs translation) this past winter and enjoyed it very much.

That's interesting. I just looked up Anthony Briggs translation and saw it was Penguin Classics edition, and got very excited, since the first time I read War and Peace about 40 years ago, it was the Penguin Classics edition. But then I saw that the Penguin Classics edition that I had read was actually translated not by Briggs, but by Rosemary Edmonds. I'm so surprised that Penguin Classics has published two editions of the same novel, each translated by a different translator! A veritable cornucopia of Tolstoy! shocked

Originally Posted by Stubbie
This winter I intend to read Anna Karenina. Problem is, I know how it ends. frown

Are you sure? Who knows! Maybe this time poor Anna can find happiness after all! grin
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 12:09 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Children at that age really can appreciate him.

Oops. That was supposed to be "can't," not "can".
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 01:08 AM

I read Wuthwring Heights recently and just couldn’t get into it. Did like Count of Monte Cristo though - one of the best novels I’ve ever read!
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 01:23 AM

Originally Posted by dumka1
A lot of Russian classical literature was ruined for Soviet/former Soviet kids as a result of schools teaching them in a very didactic and often overly ideologized way...

Probably you're right about didactic, but maybe the ideology, less so. When you are a kid, you don't think so much in terms of ideology. It's just the framework within which you are raised. It's adults that start to think critically and concern themselves with ideology. My wife never mentioned to me the ideology as the reason for her hatred of all-things Tolstoy. I think even a bigger factor is just that kids in their teens are not mentally ready for Tolstoy and if you try to pour him into their brains, this can cause a bad reaction...
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 01:48 AM

Back OT....

Originally Posted by sluk07
I guess what is underlying this is the ultimate question - can anyone reach a decent standard of piano playing just by throwing practice and lessons at it
I would say no. Practice and lessons (imo) are necessary but not sufficient. But if you add to those (1) time working at the process and (2) a love of music, then, yes, imo, playing at a decent level can be accomplished. Maybe not diploma level, but you'll be able to tackle a heck of a lot of good music.

Time is the tough part. It takes a long time, and there is always more to learn. That's why you have to figure out a way to enjoy and/or get satisfaction out of the process. I started from scratch way, way older than you and after six years (two self-taught, four with teacher), I'm just now feeling like I can find my way around the keyboard. I love the challenge of it, I the sense of accomplishment, and most of all, I love making music under my own steam.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 01:57 AM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
Back OT....

Originally Posted by sluk07
I guess what is underlying this is the ultimate question - can anyone reach a decent standard of piano playing just by throwing practice and lessons at it
I would say no. Practice and lessons (imo) are necessary but not sufficient. But if you add to those (1) time working at the process and (2) a love of music, then, yes, imo, playing at a decent level can be accomplished. Maybe not diploma level, but you'll be able to tackle a heck of a lot of good music.

I agree with #1 but disagree with #2. I don't think #2 is required to become good, or at least I hope not. Very little of the music I am playing now as part of my piano lessons do I even "like," not to mention "love." Some of it, I even actively dislike. As another example, I mentioned in another thread someone I hung out with at the university who was a vocal performance major studying opera who never listened to opera in her down time - interpret that as you will. If you are not talking about what we play specifically, but music in general, then I'd probably at least half agree. I still think it is possible to become good without "loving" music. But I will agree that short of parental pressure, it would be mysterious why someone who didn't like music would be pushed into becoming good at it.
Posted By: Whizbang

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 03:05 AM

Originally Posted by sluk07

I'll stop there because I'm rambling but I would appreciate some (kind) advice as to whether these are problems everyone encounters


Hmeh. Going on 40 years at this thing and I still wonder "what's the point" sometimes. It don't get easier but the definition of easy changes.

Paraphrasing/reinventing a haiku I heard long ago:

After great struggle
I reached the mountain's summit
And found only clouds
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 03:30 AM

Originally Posted by Richrf
Millions upon millions quit for the same reason you are contemplating it. They were trying to achieve a goal rather than enjoy the music.
But I don't think those two are mutually exclusive. Someone could enjoy the music and still have goals of playing difficult repertoire.
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 03:38 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Stubbie
Back OT....

Originally Posted by sluk07
I guess what is underlying this is the ultimate question - can anyone reach a decent standard of piano playing just by throwing practice and lessons at it
I would say no. Practice and lessons (imo) are necessary but not sufficient. But if you add to those (1) time working at the process and (2) a love of music, then, yes, imo, playing at a decent level can be accomplished. Maybe not diploma level, but you'll be able to tackle a heck of a lot of good music.

I agree with #1 but disagree with #2. I don't think #2 is required to become good, or at least I hope not. Very little of the music I am playing now as part of my piano lessons do I even "like," not to mention "love." Some of it, I even actively dislike. As another example, I mentioned in another thread someone I hung out with at the university who was a vocal performance major studying opera who never listened to opera in her down time - interpret that as you will. If you are not talking about what we play specifically, but music in general, then I'd probably at least half agree. I still think it is possible to become good without "loving" music. But I will agree that short of parental pressure, it would be mysterious why someone who didn't like music would be pushed into becoming good at it.
I meant music in general. I'm not sure you could become 'good' without having a deep affection for music. You might be adequate at playing the notes and even have technical skills, but if your heart wasn't in it, it would fall flat.

As you say, as adults we must have at least some affection for piano music in order to choose to listen to and learn to play the piano. We get to call the shots. smile
Posted By: lunobili

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 06:57 AM

To the OP.

I feel very much like you do.

Apart the occasional satisfying moment I would say that 70~80% of the time, I end my practice in a worst mood than I started. And do not even get me started on lessons.

What I am starting realizing is that this is not a piano related problem. I, for example, get in the same foul mood with tennis and almost any other endeavor that I care about. I do not have a solution for me, therefore I am not even attempting to give a solution to you. I guess I just have a question. Will quitting piano make you really feel better or do you see yourself getting into this mind set again even if you gave up piano?

Eventually you will start a new hobby, will start caring about it, will compare yourself with people better than you and wonder why you are not at their level yet. I for example got into ski grades just because of that.

So you see, piano -> grades. Tennis -> matches. Ski -> grades. Apparently not everyone finds the journey satisfying enough unless you have concrete proof that you are indeed going somewhere.

If you happen to be anyway similar to me, I suggest you stick with piano, that is a wonderful hobby, and you/we try to have a better approach at it.

My 2 cents.
Posted By: Lillith

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 07:29 AM

Originally Posted by dumka1

Don't want to hijack the thread, but thanks. A lot of Russian classical literature was ruined for Soviet/former Soviet kids as a result of schools teaching them in a very didactic and often overly ideologized way...


Same thing here - my degree in French literature stopped me reading French at all.
BUT it didn't stop me loving to read English.

Wonder if the OP should switch to the French Horn?
Posted By: leemeadowcroft

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 11:26 AM

For a different viewpoint...

I used to be a gamer and a bit of a completionist. I would aim to finish games 100%, and I did so for many of the big titles. However this took a lot of time and I would get frustrated at anything that didn't work towards the end goal. I would get annoyed, angry even, if the time I spent was not conducive to the end goal. I found that the longer this went on, and we're talking years, the less I would actually enjoy playing the games but I carried on anyway because the reaching the 100% figure kind of made it worthwhile. That was until I made a conscious decision to just stop. If it isn't enjoyable then what am I doing wasting my life on it? Playing with friends was great and we had a good time but there's other things to do with my life. Even now I will buy games but just can't get in to them the same, the're a sinkhole for time and unless you commit the required time you don't progress.

Piano is different, there is no 100%, no real end goal where you can say you've done it. There'll always be another level, another piece, another interpretation. What you do have is lots of short term goals, mastering a section, finishing a piece, memorising it and retaining it. Once piece doesn't work towards an end goal and every performance of it is different. You don't get the instant gratification but you can get continual enjoyment.

I wonder if the OP is like I was, seeing Grade 8 as "right I've done it, that's piano mastered, what's next". Even when you reach that goal after all that effort, you still aren't satisfied because you move on to the next challenge or the next level. It takes a change in mindset rather than a change in hobby, and if you can't change you mindset and you're not enjoying what you're doing then you have to walk away.

Another little insight...

I love photography but a few years ago I took up a course at the Open College of the Arts. Distance learning. I paid good money to enrol as an adult learner. I did the course for about 3 months and then quit because the time I was spending completing projects was specifically to complete the project and not because I wanted to take photos. I was taking photos of things I wasn't interested in and because someone else was telling me to do it. The course would have made me technically a better photographer if I stuck at it, but it became a chore. I still take photos and research things myself when I want to learn, but I do it my way.
Posted By: EPW

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 06:49 PM

Originally Posted by leemeadowcroft


I wonder if the OP is like I was, seeing Grade 8 as "right I've done it, that's piano mastered, what's next". Even when you reach that goal after all that effort, you still aren't satisfied because you move on to the next challenge or the next level. It takes a change in mindset rather than a change in hobby, and if you can't change you mindset and you're not enjoying what you're doing then you have to walk away.



I have to agree with this. I came back to piano in my early thirty's after reaching grade 8 level in my late teens. I realized piano would not be a career choice and left it behind. But Piano never left me and now I pick what I want to learn and what interest me. The thing is Piano is something you can always improve on. I had to come up with some introduction and fill for some Taize music several years ago. My interpretation got the music director interested to see what he could come up with. Between the two of us we had come up with several different interpretations to use depending on the service and who was leading worship.

I wouldn't give up the piano but slow down and enjoy the journey. I'm in my fifties now and all the time I have people come up to me and say they wish they never gave up piano lessons.
So what it takes you a longer to reach the harder music. There is so much great music out there at the intermediate level to enjoy. Also I have to say this, my Aunt got rheumatoid arthritis in her fifties and could only play the slower pieces. She still enjoyed playing them and started to look at some of my pop music with chord charts and see what see could come up with. It was cool for me to see that my Aunt wanted to keep learning.

my 2 cents of advice smile
Posted By: Jitin

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 09:20 PM

Originally Posted by EPW
Originally Posted by leemeadowcroft


I wonder if the OP is like I was, seeing Grade 8 as "right I've done it, that's piano mastered, what's next". Even when you reach that goal after all that effort, you still aren't satisfied because you move on to the next challenge or the next level. It takes a change in mindset rather than a change in hobby, and if you can't change you mindset and you're not enjoying what you're doing then you have to walk away.



I have to agree with this. I came back to piano in my early thirty's after reaching grade 8 level in my late teens. I realized piano would not be a career choice and left it behind. But Piano never left me and now I pick what I want to learn and what interest me. The thing is Piano is something you can always improve on. I had to come up with some introduction and fill for some Taize music several years ago. My interpretation got the music director interested to see what he could come up with. Between the two of us we had come up with several different interpretations to use depending on the service and who was leading worship.

I wouldn't give up the piano but slow down and enjoy the journey. I'm in my fifties now and all the time I have people come up to me and say they wish they never gave up piano lessons.
So what it takes you a longer to reach the harder music. There is so much great music out there at the intermediate level to enjoy. Also I have to say this, my Aunt got rheumatoid arthritis in her fifties and could only play the slower pieces. She still enjoyed playing them and started to look at some of my pop music with chord charts and see what see could come up with. It was cool for me to see that my Aunt wanted to keep learning.

my 2 cents of advice smile


I play piano past ten years started around 22 , im mostly self tiahft taught, but I’m not sure if we have grade system that teachers follow around where I live.
What is the student able to do with each grade level, I.e is grade 8 someone who can sight read or play new stuff that is hard without much practice etc ,,???

I never understood , and is it confined to classical music?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 09:36 PM

Originally Posted by Jitin
I’m not sure if we have grade system that teachers follow around where I live.

I'd be surprised. ABRSM gives exams all over the world including China.

Originally Posted by Jitin
What is the student able to do with each grade level, I.e is grade 8 someone who can sight read or play new stuff that is hard without much practice etc ,,???

See this.

Originally Posted by Jitin
and is it confined to classical music?

No.
Posted By: TheophilusCarter

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 09:43 PM

I'd be curious to hear what the OP decides after all our excellent advice. smile
Posted By: Jitin

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 10:21 PM

Who is OP?
Posted By: TheophilusCarter

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/04/18 10:30 PM

Originally Posted by Jitin
Who is OP?

"Original Poster"
Posted By: AssociateX

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 12:16 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Jitin
I’m not sure if we have grade system that teachers follow around where I live.

I'd be surprised. ABRSM gives exams all over the world including China.

Originally Posted by Jitin
What is the student able to do with each grade level, I.e is grade 8 someone who can sight read or play new stuff that is hard without much practice etc ,,???

See this.

Originally Posted by Jitin
and is it confined to classical music?

No.

I like this list better which is more detailed by composer...there is so much variety between level 6/7 and 8.

https://www.pianostreet.com/piano_music/download_1/sheet_1.php
Posted By: Jitin

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 01:07 AM

Are people who go through abrsm required to learn all these pieces?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 01:19 AM

Originally Posted by Jitin
Are people who go through abrsm required to learn all these pieces?

Someone doing ABRSM or who has done it should answer, but as I recall, for each of the 8 grades, it is in general, three pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests. Something like that.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 01:57 AM

Originally Posted by Jitin
Are people who go through abrsm required to learn all these pieces?

No, the current requirements are here for each grade:

https://gb.abrsm.org/fileadmin/user_upload/syllabuses/pianoSyllabusComplete17.pdf

Candidates have to choose a piece from each of List A, B and C. And of course, the scales & arpeggios and aural skills and sight-reading.
Posted By: precise

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 03:15 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Jitin
Are people who go through abrsm required to learn all these pieces?

Someone doing ABRSM or who has done it should answer, but as I recall, for each of the 8 grades, it is in general, three pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests. Something like that.

That's right - and, having been an examiner, I feel the grades are an inefficient way to assess overall musical ability and standard. Not to mention a mind-numbing experience for some people, who slog away at the same three pieces for months or more, only playing those pieces, often losing enthusiasm, often with a teacher who is simply fixated on getting exam passes.

For adults, unless the adult is busting to be examined, they can often lead to a stress that takes away the joy of music making. For children, they can cause emotional trauma and also put some kids off music for life.

They do, of course, have their use in some circumstances and serve a purpose. But it's all a terribly false scenario.
It's a shame so many people latch onto the grade system like it's a religion - proselytising about how wonderful it is. It really isn't. And most AB examiners do not even play most of the instruments they are examining. That, in itself, should be of concern.
Posted By: Iaroslav Vasiliev

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 12:29 PM

I second the idea that the OP should mostly pick pieces that catches him or her, interesting pieces can be found at any level of difficulty.

And I also find the goal of reaching some 'grade' unnecessary and straining for an adult learner. The goals IMO should be stated in terms of one's favourite pieces.
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 01:00 PM

As someone who did no grades, no ABRSM exams, training etc. I haven't been 'through the mill' but our children have (I wasn't trying to be cruel...) and so did a close relative (oh, and other people I know etc. ). My opinion judging by results is that they are a good thing. As an adult one is 'more in control' of one's own destiny and in choosing to do the training / exams marching to one's own drum. It isn't a case of being forced to do it, it is a conscious decision. I have noticed a lot of people go back to higher education in later life and do well - pressures are different, as I say, and goals possibly more clearly understood.
My own efforts improved when I started buying books of graded ABRSM pieces and working through them so that I could pick up missing skills, see just where I was and more importantly correct ingrained errors (mostly fingering - getting that comfortable makes a lot of difference). In hindsight I wish I had done them (not possible at the time etc.) both for gaining the skills and for the measuring (confidence that the skills really exist). No, I don't like exams, don't like slogging through pieces that I don't like and so on, but....
This was before the internet, though, and there seems to be a lot of helpful information there, including courses, and I am picking up a lot of useful information (permanent beginner!) from there, but I would still like to have had the solid grounding from going through the course.
The OP has elected to go through the course, and is finding it tough going. That, with limited time and a bad back is understandable. Back problem must be sorted, because apart from anything else it will make practice painful and unpleasant, and enjoyable music should be included in the practice - if necessary at the expense of set pieces. A lot of finger-strengthening exercises can be done drumming fingers on the table / desk or what have you so some of them can make way for more playing more enjoyable music.
Posted By: outo

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 03:05 PM

Many good suggestions above...

I have studied about 7 years as an adult and I have had the same teacher for about 6 years. I have had similar feelings occasionally, mostly in the first 3-4 years. I also have had physical difficulties with playing the piano (I have scoliosis among other things).

Things that helped:
- If I felt stuck and not motivated, I often switched pieces to awoke my interest in practice again. If something isn't finished, it isn't the end of the world, you still learn something from them all.
- When I felt practice after work was too much, I started to practice in the morning. And I was never a morning person, but still the mind is fresher before work and progress was noticeable. And minutes a day really doesn't matter, sometimes 15 minutes can be really productive and an hour isn't if you cannot focus on the right things.
- I gradually learned to accept "slower" months when nothing much happened, things tend to go up and down.
- I started physiotherapy and also recently regular exercise and stopped sitting so much at the computer (I stand more now at work). Gradually I have been able to improve my posture and got rid of most of my bad tensions.
- I spent also time with music that I do not study with my teacher to keep my interest in the piano repertoire up.
- This forum is also helpful in motivating us, because you realize there are other adult piano students who keep at it even if they will never necessarily become performers or progress fast. And do look at our ABF recitals, it's a great concept.

It's difficult to foresee future, but certainly I now feel I have gained so much into my life from the piano studies that continuing when times were rough was worth it. Even if I never practiced seriously again, there's so much I can do with music I could not do before.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 03:35 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
As someone who did no grades, no ABRSM exams, training etc. I haven't been 'through the mill' but our children have (I wasn't trying to be cruel...) and so did a close relative (oh, and other people I know etc. ). My opinion judging by results is that they are a good thing. As an adult one is 'more in control' of one's own destiny and in choosing to do the training / exams marching to one's own drum. It isn't a case of being forced to do it, it is a conscious decision. I have noticed a lot of people go back to higher education in later life and do well - pressures are different, as I say, and goals possibly more clearly understood.
My own efforts improved when I started buying books of graded ABRSM pieces and working through them so that I could pick up missing skills, see just where I was and more importantly correct ingrained errors (mostly fingering - getting that comfortable makes a lot of difference). In hindsight I wish I had done them (not possible at the time etc.) both for gaining the skills and for the measuring (confidence that the skills really exist).

Having been brought up on ABRSM myself, I grew up thinking that anyone who is learning a musical instrument (and therefore having lessons) did exams - after all, even in my home country (which isn't English-speaking), everyone I knew did them.

Everyone that is, apart from someone I encountered when I was staying with my uncle, who visited us and proceeded to play La Paloma on the piano, with (what looked like) very awkward fingerings and a LH which didn't match the RH tune, either in harmony or in timing. My uncle told me he'd taught himself to play by ear, purely for his own pleasure. We never knew whether he realized that his hands didn't match.

From that, I presumed (as a kid) that if you were serious about learning to play, you had a teacher, and followed a piano syllabus and did the exams. In other words, music was also an education. More fun than math (unless understanding why E=mv2 ÷ 2 but also E=mc2 floats your boat wink ), but an education nevertheless, and you learnt it properly. And you put in the time to practice. And you also have fun doing it, because you have the skills to play good music well, whereas those who can't play are stuck with being passive listeners. That was why I loved staying at my uncle's for the holidays, because I could play duets with his kids, all of whom played (- better than me, but I was more adept at bluffing my way around the notes grin).

It never occurred to me that music was something to be endured (like history, for example) even though I also had to work at it, especially for the annual grade exams; but I knew that without them, I'd never have practiced the things (technical stuff especially) that wasn't immediately gratifying - and without the technique I'd developed with scales & arpeggios etc, I wouldn't have been able to play lovely stuff like Mozart's K545 (which I still play to this day). As I became more advanced, I became more aware of how relevant every aspect of ABRSM grade requirements was: nothing was superfluous to requirements for a classical pianist (I cannot speak for jazzers etc). Aural skills? - that was why I could sight-sing (along with some 30 other kids) and join the school choir and sing Jesu, meine Freude as well as Once in Royal David's Cityl in 4-part harmony. And conduct the choir myself when our choirmaster had to take the place of our organ scholar during a rehearsal, because he was ill. Sight-reading skills? - that was why I could 'jam' with friends, as well as sight-read through Mozart and Beethoven violin sonatas together. Not to mention picking up a music score I'd never seen before and just playing it to see what it sounded like. And the combination of aural and technical skills meant that I could play by ear - and play fast & loose with pop tunes, throwing in flourishes and 'passagework' on a whim to turn them into quasi-classical pieces grin.

How could one have fun like that with history, for example? Reciting facts & figures to a snoring audience? (And the world never learns from history - we just keep making the same mistakes over & over & over.......)

Incidentally, on the subject of adults doing grade exams, I've been surprised by some of the adult re-learners I've met over the years, who decided to take up the piano again after their children had grown up and flown the nest. Instead of just playing favorite old pieces and maybe accompany a singalong at Christmas etc, they were intent on picking up where they left off in their ABRSM grade exams when they were kids, and getting to grade 8 (and therefore also having lessons in order to achieve their goals). Some of those who'd already achieved grade 8 when they were young wanted to go on to do a diploma. They weren't satisfied with just playing what they could play: they wanted to push themselves to see how far they could go, now that they had the motivation to achieve, which they didn't have when they were younger (when they were probably nagged by their parent to practice daily). If they didn't enjoy doing the exams when they were young (and I cannot say I did either, though I did appreciate their benefits: I wouldn't have become the pianist I am today without them), they certainly felt the exam requirements benefited them in terms of acquiring a comprehensive set of musical & technical skills that enabled them to enjoy music in the way they wanted.

What about an adult beginner wanting to do grade exams? There was a time some years ago when I contemplated taking up the cello (and had a trial lesson on it), and I'd almost certainly want to do the ABRSM exams if I did go on. Not just for my own satisfaction (that an old dog can learn new tricks and prove that in an internationally recognized graded system), but also to ensure that my teacher doesn't take short cuts and miss out stuff ('he's old, he doesn't really need to learn how to play that properly......') just so I could cut to the chase and play 'proper tunes' (however badly).....

But for others, as with everything, it all depends on what you're seeking to achieve.....
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 04:19 PM

Bennevis - interesting to hear your experiences - very positive and, sadly, different from mine!
I hope that the OP is still with us and, although there are a lot of comments, is able to pick out enough information to make a decision on which way to go - and that we haven't put her / him of with too many at times conflicting views.
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 05:03 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by petebfrance
As someone who did no grades, no ABRSM exams, training etc. I haven't been 'through the mill' but our children have (I wasn't trying to be cruel...) and so did a close relative (oh, and other people I know etc. ). My opinion judging by results is that they are a good thing. As an adult one is 'more in control' of one's own destiny and in choosing to do the training / exams marching to one's own drum. It isn't a case of being forced to do it, it is a conscious decision. I have noticed a lot of people go back to higher education in later life and do well - pressures are different, as I say, and goals possibly more clearly understood.
My own efforts improved when I started buying books of graded ABRSM pieces and working through them so that I could pick up missing skills, see just where I was and more importantly correct ingrained errors (mostly fingering - getting that comfortable makes a lot of difference). In hindsight I wish I had done them (not possible at the time etc.) both for gaining the skills and for the measuring (confidence that the skills really exist).

Having been brought up on ABRSM myself, I grew up thinking that anyone who is learning a musical instrument (and therefore having lessons) did exams - after all, even in my home country (which isn't English-speaking), everyone I knew did them.

Everyone that is, apart from someone I encountered when I was staying with my uncle, who visited us and proceeded to play La Paloma on the piano, with (what looked like) very awkward fingerings and a LH which didn't match the RH tune, either in harmony or in timing. My uncle told me he'd taught himself to play by ear, purely for his own pleasure. We never knew whether he realized that his hands didn't match....

It never occurred to me that music was something to be endured (like history, for example) even though I also had to work at it, especially for the annual grade exams; but I knew that without them, I'd never have practiced the things (technical stuff especially) that wasn't immediately gratifying - and without the technique I'd developed with scales & arpeggios etc, I wouldn't have been able to play lovely stuff like Mozart's K545 (which I still play to this day). As I became more advanced, I became more aware of how relevant every aspect of ABRSM grade requirements was: nothing was superfluous to requirements for a classical pianist (I cannot speak for jazzers etc). Aural skills? - that was why I could sight-sing (along with some 30 other kids) and join the school choir and sing Jesu, meine Freude as well as Once in Royal David's Cityl in 4-part harmony. And conduct the choir myself when our choirmaster had to take the place of our organ scholar during a rehearsal, because he was ill. Sight-reading skills? - that was why I could 'jam' with friends, as well as sight-read through Mozart and Beethoven violin sonatas together. Not to mention picking up a music score I'd never seen before and just playing it to see what it sounded like. And the combination of aural and technical skills meant that I could play by ear - and play fast & loose with pop tunes, throwing in flourishes and 'passagework' on a whim to turn them into quasi-classical pieces grin.

Incidentally, on the subject of adults doing grade exams, I've been surprised by some of the adult re-learners I've met over the years, who decided to take up the piano again after their children had grown up and flown the nest. Instead of just playing favorite old pieces and maybe accompany a singalong at Christmas etc, they were intent on picking up where they left off in their ABRSM grade exams when they were kids, and getting to grade 8 (and therefore also having lessons in order to achieve their goals). Some of those who'd already achieved grade 8 when they were young wanted to go on to do a diploma. They weren't satisfied with just playing what they could play: they wanted to push themselves to see how far they could go, now that they had the motivation to achieve, which they didn't have when they were younger (when they were probably nagged by their parent to practice daily). If they didn't enjoy doing the exams when they were young (and I cannot say I did either, though I did appreciate their benefits: I wouldn't have become the pianist I am today without them), they certainly felt the exam requirements benefited them in terms of acquiring a comprehensive set of musical & technical skills that enabled them to enjoy music in the way they wanted.

What about an adult beginner wanting to do grade exams? There was a time some years ago when I contemplated taking up the cello (and had a trial lesson on it), and I'd almost certainly want to do the ABRSM exams if I did go on. Not just for my own satisfaction (that an old dog can learn new tricks and prove that in an internationally recognized graded system), but also to ensure that my teacher doesn't take short cuts and miss out stuff ('he's old, he doesn't really need to learn how to play that properly......') just so I could cut to the chase and play 'proper tunes' (however badly).....

But for others, as with everything, it all depends on what you're seeking to achieve.....
There are several possible scenarios:

1. No teacher, no exams
2. No teacher, yes exams
3. Yes teacher, no exams
4. Yes teacher, yes exams

A large proportion of ABF participants fall under no. 1, self-taught. My impression is that few follow no. 2. For nos. 3 and 4, I don't have a clear feeling on how those are divided. I do believe one can play to a high standard under both scenarios. Yes, you need a good teacher for both. Bennevis, you seem like a pretty competitive person (my impression from your posts; I've never met you in person--I don't think smile ) and for you taking the grade exams is your 'marker' for achievement. For others (like me), I'm happy to audit, i.e., not take exams. I don't know if my teacher went through grade exams (I've never asked), but she does have a DMA in performance and does perform (and judge) frequently in the region, and yes, she does teach to a high standard.

My point: one's goal should be to play well, to have the skills and techniques and knowledge of, and exposure to. pieces from many eras and composers. Some people need the carrot and stick and reward of exams, others don't. Playing well can be achieved via both routes.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 06:00 PM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
There are several possible scenarios:

1. No teacher, no exams
2. No teacher, yes exams
3. Yes teacher, no exams
4. Yes teacher, yes exams

A large proportion of ABF participants fall under no. 1, self-taught. My impression is that few follow no. 2. For nos. 3 and 4, I don't have a clear feeling on how those are divided.

See this. Less than half of ABF respondents fall into categories 1 & 2. Only 14.5% fall into categories 2 & 4. Maybe for the 2019 survey, we should ask Sam S to divide it up into your 4 categories so we can distinguish category 2 from 4.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 06:31 PM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
Bennevis, you seem like a pretty competitive person (my impression from your posts; I've never met you in person--I don't think smile ) and for you taking the grade exams is your 'marker' for achievement.

It would be (partly) if I did decide to learn a new instrument now, and take exams on it. (Though it wasn't in the least when I was actually taking them as a student - it was just something that everyone did - and in my case, I did actually have to show my parents a new certificate every year to be able to continue lessons.)

The irony is that after joining PW, and having read posts here in ABF and in the Piano Teachers Forum, it makes me more likely to take exams because I realize how often adult students get short shrift from their teachers if they want to learn a musical instrument from the basics up without 'cutting to the chase' (i.e. go straight into playing 'adult music' before they have the skills to do it properly). Of course, it helps that I already know what to expect, and music teachers in the UK have all been through the system themselves and/or know all about it, and their child students are certainly all doing the exams.

However, for the only other musical instrument I can play (guitar), I have never felt the need for lessons, much less ABRSM exams, because I have no aspirations to play classical guitar to a decent standard (because the classical rep for it is miniscule). I'm content just to strum the guitar to accompany myself and friends singing Blowin' in the Wind around the campfire...... grin
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 06:40 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
I'm content just to strum the guitar to accompany myself and friends singing Blowin' in the Wind around the campfire...... grin

That's a pretty low standard, my friend. BitW has what, 3 chords? I don't even play the guitar and I could probably figure it out. And since everyone knows the melody (even ones such as myself who only listen to classical and opera), you don't have to play any melody do you? Just hit those chords... Easy street. smile
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 07:23 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
I'm content just to strum the guitar to accompany myself and friends singing Blowin' in the Wind around the campfire...... grin

That's a pretty low standard, my friend. BitW has what, 3 chords? I don't even play the guitar and I could probably figure it out. And since everyone knows the melody (even ones such as myself who only listen to classical and opera), you don't have to play any melody do you? Just hit those chords... Easy street. smile

I did once try to learn & play Asturias on the guitar, and managed it at something like 1/8 speed, but then I thought: why bother? It was originally written for the piano, and I can easily sight-read it (at tempo) on the piano grin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inBKFMB-yPg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P8BQVhOv5A

Far better just to strum and accompany stuff like this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vrEljMfXYo thumb (slightly more than 3 chords)
Posted By: Ralphiano

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/05/18 09:31 PM

bennevis, I think your life would make a very enjoyable movie! smile
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/06/18 12:31 AM

Originally Posted by Ralphiano
bennevis, I think your life would make a very enjoyable movie! smile

Did I tell of the occasion when the little group I was with (who sang Bob Dylan and John Denver around the camp fire to keep the grizzlies at bay in Alaska) returned from AK to WA via the Inside Passage on the Skagway - Bellingham ferry ship? We pitched our tents on the deck (really!) and entertained the other passengers in the evenings by singing Bridge Over Troubled Water and Imagine (etc) in the bar, with me playing the upright piano and our leader playing the electric guitar.

We weren't at all bad....... wink
Posted By: Isabelle1949

Re: Help - advice required - quit or persevere? - 12/07/18 02:20 PM

Let your love for the piano make your decision whether to quit or not. I’m not great, probably not every very good, but my love for the piano transcends that. I will never quit.
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