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frustrated and new to forum

Posted By: PatG

frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 12:50 AM

Thanks for adding me to the forum.

Hello, I am a 68 year old female taking piano lessons for 16 months now. I took about a year of lessons as a younger adult 40 years ago. I've been working on the Sonatina OP 36, No. 3 by Clementi for six months now. I can play the first two pages pretty well and have been learning pages 3-4. I don't play it as fast as it is written, but that's OK. I'm hoping that will come with experience, plus my hands aren't as flexible as younger students. What frustrates me is when I went to my piano lesson today I really messed up on the first two pages. I've played it much better for my teacher in the past. My teacher is understanding. I used to be extremely nervous playing at lessons. Now I'm only a little more than slightly nervous. I don't play in front of anyone, except my family hears me practice. I want to be able to play offertory in church and just ordered a book to be able to do so.

QUESTION: How do I play CONSISTENTLY each time I play the piece or any piece you've really worked on? And I'm not talking about the occasional wrong note. I do practice about 2 1/2 to 3 hours every single day.

Oh, I got a new Kawai K-200 upright piano last week and am loving it. Wish I could have been a grand but I am very happy with this. Had to drive 3 1/2 hours to the nearest dealer. My Baldwin upright I got at my 15th wedding anniversary and we celebrated 50 years a couple of months ago. So the Baldwin went downstairs so the grandkids can practice on that. Yep 4 grandkids, their parents and a black lab live with us.

Thanks, Pat
Posted By: earlofmar

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 01:19 AM

welcome pat......the tougher the piece the longer it is going to take to really ingrain into you hands and mind. So mucking up at a lesson for me, which happens quite a lot, is only a sign I don't know the piece as well as I think I do. Slow practice is the key.

I actually asked a similar question here a few years ago when I was learning Clementi No 2 and was surprised to hear that 6 months on such a piece was nothing. I worked on that darn piece for 18 months before I could even a recording, but still nowhere near acceptable. The answer is to play within your reach and accept that not all pieces can be conquered.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 01:31 AM

....yet. (Finishing Earl of Mar’s sentence).

Those Clementi’s are deceivingly tricky!
Posted By: dogperson

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 01:46 AM

Yes, it all takes longer than we think it will. 😊
Just take care when you practice yo practice slow enough to get the notes consistently correct. If you miss s note, make sure you drill that phrase until it is consistently correct.., but yes, stray wrong notes will appear. Just eliminate the habitual errors

It’s frustrating to not play as well in lessons. What works for me is to think of my lessons as being ‘problem solving’ and not ‘see how hard I’ve worked this week’ Lessons. I start out all lessons with the questions that I have gathered, or the problem sections since the last lesson. It might be something as simple as fingering options, or something more complicated. So my mindset starts with ‘help me fix these warts’. It is just a different perspective to address anxiety and if works for me. By the time I start any play through, neither one of us has lofty expectations

Welcome to the forum😊
Posted By: outo

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 02:50 AM

I'm afraid consistency is not only slowly built but requires good concentration and memory abilities which I don't have at all. I have been studying for about 8 years and had to accept that I have bad days and good days and will never really be a consistent player. I have studied some pieces on and off for years.
Posted By: BigIslandGuy

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 04:26 AM

Aloha and welcome. You're in good company. A lot of us have been through the same experience. As others have said, it can take a long time to really learn a piece well, particularly the tricky ones. It has taken me 6 months to nail down Bach's Partita #4 in D major. And yet, I know that random mistakes will still happen. The way I see it, the process has a certain randomness to it. We're not machines. If I practice more, I have a better chance of making it through a piece perfectly and the more I practice it, the better the odds. But, for me anyway, no matter how much I practice a piece, I will never get it so that I can play it through perfectly every single time. By practicing it as much as I can though, I'm stacking the card deck in my favor. Just another way of looking at it. Your mileage may vary.
Posted By: Whizbang

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 06:55 AM

Piano is frustrating. Fortunately all we adults can take the difficulties in stride -twitch-

Basically, your main option is to soldier througjh the low points and monitor and keep evaluating. Consistency is tough and some seem to have the knack for the work habits that yield it. It is not the time as much as how you spend it (and I don’t spend it well)
Posted By: Nip

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 07:36 AM

Incredible job to maintain hours a day - be proud.

I was told long ago - it takes our brain 3-4 days to build new synapses on what our body is doing taken benefit on what you were doing. Have that in mind in how you go about excercises.

And like any physical exercise - when going over certain thresholds it's not efficient anymore.

Patience is our best friend.

Find pieces to work on that you really like - to stand the distance.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 08:37 AM

Originally Posted by Nip

I was told long ago - it takes our brain 3-4 days to build new synapses on what our body is doing taken benefit on what you were doing. Have that in mind in how you go about excercises.

.

And most of that new building goes on whilst we are asleep. So sleep is just as important as the time spent practicing. Plus patience and persistence.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 08:58 AM

It is very variable how well I play in front of my teacher. It is nearly always worse but how much worse varies. But one time I played a piece the best I'd ever played it.

I'd been putting a lot of effort into practising the piece and thought I was ready for recording so I tried over and over again to get a good recording and I couldn't do it. I was so frustrated and felt like I wasn't going anywhere. I left the piece alone for the next few days, I didn't touch it and grumbled about my experience to my teacher. She asked me to play it. I had zero expectations of playing it well. I played it fairly fast, almost at the speed expected of it by a professional. I played with dynamics and feeling and no obvious mistakes. My teacher and I were blown away. She did say that can happen, and that sometimes having a break from a piece is the best thing you can do.

That was a few weeks ago now, and I still haven't managed to get that recording of it I'm happy with.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 01:16 PM

QUESTION: How do I play CONSISTENTLY each time I play the piece or any piece you've really worked on?
ANSWER: Be a machine.

_Appearing_ to play without mistakes takes years of practise and experience at making mistakes and covering them up.

I'd been playing for years before anyone heard me play outside the home. When I did play in front of others I played music that I could almost play in my sleep. My advice would be to choose music at least four grades below your comfort level. As your comfort level grows you can choose harder music. Being comfortable means being able to cover up mistakes quickly and easily and that, at first, means simple music. Simple is not easy. When you're playing in public there is no such thing as easy music. If you're nervous even playing for your teacher then playing in public is a huge challenge. Few of us are gifted with performance ability no matter how good we get at the instrument.

You'll need to overcome perfectionism and accept substandard playing as normal. Always, when you play in public, your playing will be you at your worst. When you practise, try to improve your worst playing, your best will get better that way too. Timekeeping will be your best friend. People will overlook or ignore wrong notes (we process what we hear, make sense of it and ignore what doesn't support the patterns). Rhythmic errors, though, jar the attention even for those not really listening.

If you can, learn to play WITH others before trying to play FOR others.
Posted By: John305

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 01:29 PM

Your post isn’t clear about experience. You said you had one year of lessons 40 years ago, have you been playing this whole time or did you stop until you resumed lessons 16 months ago? If it’s the latter case the piece may be a bit above your ability. The RCM lists that piece (1st movement anyway) as grade 7 but you appear to have less than two and a half years experience. If this is in fact the case, this could explain why you’re struggling with the piece. The good news is that you clearly have determination to be able to stick with that piece so long, that determination will serve you well in this hobby.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 01:44 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
QUESTION: How do I play CONSISTENTLY each time I play the piece or any piece you've really worked on?
ANSWER: Be a machine.

_Appearing_ to play without mistakes takes years of practise and experience at making mistakes and covering them up.

Being comfortable means being able to cover up mistakes quickly and easily and that, at first, means simple music.
There is no way to cover up a mistake as in a missed note. The only thing one has to learn is to not let a mistake affect the music after the mistake is made.

If you are talking about mistakes as in memory lapses, again there is nothing that can be done to cover them up but experience and careful memorization can allow one to continue after a memory lapse so that the memory lapse is less obvious.
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 02:25 PM

I have been taking lessons for five years and still screw up something awful when I play for my teacher. I did resolve not to say "But I played this so much better at home" to my teacher and I think she appreciates it. And, yes, the nerves are still there although much diminished from earlier.

The most (though nowhere near completely) effective thing I've been able to do is to stop, take a deep breath, make an effort to relax, and then continue by focusing on the music itself. When things go wrong in front of my teacher, most often it's because my mind has wandered off the music itself and onto other things, like what is my teacher thinking about how I'm playing, what I'm thinking about how I'm playing, oh no here comes that hard part, was that the correct note I just played?, Squirrel! etc. If I can re-focus on the music itself, I can get back on track.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 02:28 PM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
I have been taking lessons for five years and still screw up something awful when I play for my teacher. I did resolve not to say "But I played this so much better at home" to my teacher and I think she appreciates it. And, yes, the nerves are still there although much diminished from earlier.

The most (though nowhere near completely) effective thing I've been able to do is to stop, take a deep breath, make an effort to relax, and then continue by focusing on the music itself. When things go wrong in front of my teacher, most often it's because my mind has wandered off the music itself and onto other things, like what is my teacher thinking about how I'm playing, what I'm thinking about how I'm playing, oh no here comes that hard part, was that the correct note I just played?, Squirrel! etc. If I can re-focus on the music itself, I can get back on track.


Such good advise. Keep the focus on the music, listen to yourself playing. That is best distraction from the nerves of playing for your teacher.

Easier said than done of course but it really does help.
Posted By: dmd

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 02:28 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by zrtf90
QUESTION: How do I play CONSISTENTLY each time I play the piece or any piece you've really worked on?
ANSWER: Be a machine.

_Appearing_ to play without mistakes takes years of practise and experience at making mistakes and covering them up.

Being comfortable means being able to cover up mistakes quickly and easily and that, at first, means simple music.
There is no way to cover up a mistake as in a missed note. The only thing one has to learn is to not let a mistake affect the music after the mistake is made.

If you are talking about mistakes as in memory lapses, again there is nothing that can be done to cover them up but experience and careful memorization can allow one to continue after a memory lapse so that the memory lapse is less obvious.


Sounds like someone is trying to get an argument going … thereby hijacking this thread.

Not good.
Posted By: wouter79

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 05:56 PM

Welcome!

* 18 months? Maybe you are suffering from over-learning? This is where more practicing actually is going to make your playing worse.
* If you have worked 18 months on this, then I'm pretty sure you are 90%+ relying on muscle memory.
* If muscle memory derails and you have no solid landmark, your piece will crash and burn
* Rewiring the brain takes years. Maybe a few small things can be done in a few days but not general patterns. Obviously everyone would be at the master level here if it were different.
* If you are under pressure, you start focusing on other things, like "make no mistakes", you get tense, your stting slightly different, your papers are slightly differently placed then while practicing, the piano sounds a bit odd, etc etc. All these throw off your muscle memory.
Posted By: Qwerty53

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 05:57 PM

Congratulations on your new Kawai, PatG! I hope it gives you hours and years of joy! There is lots of good advice in this thread -- "good" meaning, I agree!

I am surprised you are tackling that Clementi! It is said to be a lot harder than no. 1, which was plenty challenging for me recently. I'm at a similar stage: basically started a couple of years ago, in my mid-60s, from almost-the-beginning. Every piece takes months to learn; my expectations are more realistic now than when I began.

I am not often nervous with my current teacher -- luckily we can laugh together! I recognize that she is beside me to help me make progress, starting at wherever I am when I come in that week. She's not there to punish me for making mistakes, but to teach me how to fix them! I try to limit myself from wasting lesson time with apologies for mistakes; she will hear my heavy sigh, perhaps! I try just to take a deep breath, and then continue to play. My mistakes tell her what skills I need to work on; she is there to tell me HOW to work on these skills.

Some weeks I don't get enough time to practice as I would like (or as I imagine she would like), but that's life. Although piano is a high priority, sometimes other things take precedence: family emergencies or work or even (!) a vacation. But I swear, my priority for the next week will be sustained work on finger independence! (I'm looking at you, "Arietta"!)
Posted By: BruceD

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 06:55 PM

Originally Posted by Qwerty53
[...]
I am not often nervous with my current teacher -- luckily we can laugh together! I recognize that she is beside me to help me make progress, starting at wherever I am when I come in that week. She's not there to punish me for making mistakes, but to teach me how to fix them! I try to limit myself from wasting lesson time with apologies for mistakes; she will hear my heavy sigh, perhaps! I try just to take a deep breath, and then continue to play. My mistakes tell her what skills I need to work on; she is there to tell me HOW to work on these skills.
[...]


This is good to read. Would that more teacher/student relationships reflected an attitude like this.

Regards,
Posted By: joe80

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 07:46 PM

In my teaching experience, students are usually inconsistent because the practise the wrong way, or inefficiently.

You really have to practise very small sections, and I mean, very small, over and over, slowly. Students often try to play through the piece too soon.

So for instance, in the Clementi first sonatina, you have the opening motive "ta ta-te ta" on beats 1, 2 and 3. Practise that motif "Ta ta-te ta" slowly, different dynamics. Use the fourth beat as the up-beat to the next measure so "ta TA ta-te ta" (upper-case Ta being beat 1). Then do it again, and again. Slowly. Speed up gradually. Then put the two motifs together, allowing your brain to think of the two individual motifs that make up that statement.

Second measure, fourth beat, that's the up-beat to the scale, so you start "ta Ta-te ta-te ta", stay on that last "ta", it's the passing of the finger over the thumb. Be careful there. What movement are you making to pass the finger? Is it efficient and effective? Then move on to the next part of it, etc etc. Break down the whole piece like this. Don't play through it from beginning to end. It will take you a couple of hours to do the first two pages. Do the second two pages in the same way. Work like that for 3 days in a row. After 3 days, play it through. Slowly. Increase the speed gradually each time you play it. If you're still having problems, at least now you can analyse exactly where, and exactly why, because you'll have the small motifs clear in your head.

I am almost certain that will eliminate any catastrophes you may be experiencing! Good luck!
Posted By: Charles Cohen

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/08/19 10:17 PM

Originally Posted by Nip
. .
And like any physical exercise - when going over certain thresholds it's not efficient anymore.



3 hours a day is more than enough for most students. An hour of hard practice is enough, for me.

I wonder:

. . . Would you be better off, if you practiced less, but practiced differently ?

You don't say what your daily regimen is. I assume you're working on more than just the Clementi. Scales? Arpeggios? Technical exercises?

Have you been working on "fractures" -- the parts of the piece that you tend to make mistakes on? Or have you been playing "straight through" ? (Reading Joe80's post, what he suggests makes a lot of sense.)

As someone said already -- sometimes a piece is _just too hard_ for your current ability. There's a thin line between a "stretch piece" (one that you can _almost_ play, and practicing it improves your skill), and a "too-hard piece" (one that you _think_ you should be able to play, but it's just frustrating when you work on it).

As several people said already -- progress is usually slower than you expected, when you started this journey. But it _does_ happen.
Posted By: outo

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 03:23 AM

Originally Posted by joe80


I am almost certain that will eliminate any catastrophes you may be experiencing! Good luck!



Don't know about your students, but I have always practiced the way you describe. It has not made me consistent. There are still catastrophies. However they are not technical but either random memory failures or problems with reading familiar music. When it comes to technical playing consistency it should work the way you describe.

I think my naturally short attention span is the major cause of inconsistency. Paradoxically, the more secure the piece is technically the more difficult it is to maintain the minimum attention level required to keep playing.
Posted By: PatG

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 04:52 AM

earlofmar Thank you for the reminder for slow practice and to know that 6 months isn't too long to be working on this piece.
Posted By: PatG

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 04:58 AM

dogperson I've written down "What works for me is to think of my lessons as being ‘problem solving’ and not ‘see how hard I’ve worked this week’ Lessons." - Good for me to remember. I do bring written questions as they come up during my practice that I need help with.
Thanks
Posted By: PatG

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 05:22 AM

John305 To clarify my experience playing the piano. Yes I have about 2 1/2 years of lessons. After the one year of lessons 40 years ago I didn't play for many years. Then it was very random. Probably about a year before I started taking lessons again I started playing more often. I did play the flute throughout my school years so knew how to read the treble clef and knew about rhythm being in the marching and concert bands.

My teacher has over 30 years of piano teaching and a college degree in music so I trust her judgement. She picks most of the pieces I play.
Posted By: PatG

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 05:51 AM

Charles Cohen Thank you for your comments. Currently my daily regiment includes scales, contrary motion, parallel motion in thirds and sixths, triads, cadences, arpeggios, and dominant seventh arpeggios, sight reading, a hymn, Sonatina Op. 36, No. 3 by Clementi, Meditation "Thais" by Massenet, and Reverie by Debussy. I don't practice 2 1/2 to 3 hours all at one sitting. This is throughout the day and evening. I also try to play some of the music that I have "passed" so I won't forget what I've worked so hard on in the past. By many times I just don't have the time for that.

I work on small sections at a time mostly, but do play through the piece because that is what I do at my lesson. My hands are not as flexible as I'd like. I can barely reach an octave. For example in Reverie there is a C octave with a E flat but I can't reach it so my teacher has me doing the E flat and the high C, leaving the lower C out.
Posted By: PatG

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 05:56 AM

I want to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions. Many things to consider and put into practice.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 05:57 AM

PatG, I found your dedication very inspiring. I wish you all the very best for your piano playing, and hope the issues get sorted out thumb

Originally Posted by PatG
dogperson I've written down "What works for me is to think of my lessons as being ‘problem solving’ and not ‘see how hard I’ve worked this week’ Lessons.” - Good for me to remember. I do bring written questions as they come up during my practice that I need help with.

This is such good advice. I tend to treat my playing in the lessons as some sort of performance practice. What's worse, I hardly ever ask any questions. Heck! Maybe I should write this down too. Loved your idea about bringing written questions. I'll try that this week. My teacher will be surprised by the sudden enthusiasm. Haha.
Posted By: joe80

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 06:06 AM

Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by joe80


I am almost certain that will eliminate any catastrophes you may be experiencing! Good luck!



Don't know about your students, but I have always practiced the way you describe. It has not made me consistent. There are still catastrophies. However they are not technical but either random memory failures or problems with reading familiar music. When it comes to technical playing consistency it should work the way you describe.

I think my naturally short attention span is the major cause of inconsistency. Paradoxically, the more secure the piece is technically the more difficult it is to maintain the minimum attention level required to keep playing.



Yeah accidents still happen, but if you can go from playing it right 1 time out of 10 to 5 times out of 10, that's an improvement.

Oh memory lapses? I have a way to avoid them...... I just use the score more and more. I have so much music to learn at the moment, and I'm doing so much teaching, that I have absolutely no problem performing in public with the score if I feel in any way insecure. In fact I don't know why more people don't, but that's for another thread.
Posted By: joe80

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/09/19 06:09 AM

Outo, I do suffer from the odd concentration lapse too, and that can have hilariously frustrating results.
Posted By: tkdoyle

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/12/19 05:31 PM

As someone in a similar situation, let me stress attention to consistent fingering. I can play by ear reasonably well but find that my "ear" often leads my hands to adopt fingering other than what I'm aiming for. As a result, I struggle with keeping the same fingering from session to session...but it is crucial NOT to change fingering constantly. Make sure you're not falling into this same trap.
Posted By: Cocorbett

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/12/19 09:10 PM

You'll need X amount of practice until you can get the piece right, and then the you need 10 times more practice until you cannot get it wrong anymore. At least for me a piece might be OK(ish) in practice setting after 2 weeks, but it will still takes 6 months to make it really solid.

I've found that trying to vary the practice conditions as much a possible helps to make it more consistent. Play slow and fast, quiet and loud. Play with eyes on the score, looking right hand only, looking on left hand only, eyes closed. Focusing on the melody, harmony, pedal. Bench close to piano, far from piano, sitting still, moving about, radio on the background, etc. This way your brain will learn filter out the distractions and learn the actual music independent from the practice environment. If you always practice in identical conditions you'll need to reproduce those exact conditions to be able play well and all small deviations can throw you off.
Posted By: dmd

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/12/19 09:25 PM

Originally Posted by Cocorbett
If you always practice in identical conditions you'll need to reproduce those exact conditions to be able play well and all small deviations can throw you off.


This is a very important concept to understand. It is rarely mentioned as being a factor in how well you can play something.

You can find yourself moving your head in the EXACT SAME motion pattern as you play and if you vary that at all it can cause your brain to become confused and you lose your place in the music.

Other things too …. if repeated each time you play …. can become part of the picture you brain has of what to do and if you break that pattern you can get confused.
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/12/19 09:35 PM

Is it this piece ?



If you have been practising playing 3 hours a day for 6 months fair enough it is to be expected you are frustrated. I would have been frustrated much much much before this. I do not know know your standard but to me it looks like a piece too difficult for someone who has been learning piano for only 18 months. Is there any special reason why this piece and why you are persisting for so long. What did your teacher about it ?

I think 6 months is a bit too long for one piece especially as you are practising so much. I know everyone would like to suggest a quick fix or random method but I would have done the opposite. I would just have move on and come back to the piece in a year or so rather than getting frustrated. There is no real solution for a piece far beyond abilities I'm afraid, it effects everyone.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/12/19 09:50 PM

Originally Posted by dmd
Originally Posted by Cocorbett
If you always practice in identical conditions you'll need to reproduce those exact conditions to be able play well and all small deviations can throw you off.


This is a very important concept to understand. It is rarely mentioned as being a factor in how well you can play something.

You can find yourself moving your head in the EXACT SAME motion pattern as you play and if you vary that at all it can cause your brain to become confused and you lose your place in the music.

Other things too …. if repeated each time you play …. can become part of the picture you brain has of what to do and if you break that pattern you can get confused.




Amen to all of this. Play a piece in an many different situations as possible - different sounds as well, different pianos, different actions and so on.
Posted By: Cocorbett

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/12/19 10:00 PM

Originally Posted by dmd

You can find yourself moving your head in the EXACT SAME motion pattern as you play and if you vary that at all it can cause your brain to become confused and you lose your place in the music.


Yes, this exact thing happened to me with pretty much all pieces on two first years of practice. It's funny how you think that you know a piece almost perfectly when you can play it 10 times in row without mistakes, but in reality the piece is very fragile and goes all wrong if you just look the wrong direction at the wrong time. When I realized what was going on I forced myself to break the choreography by playing through my pieces keeping my eyes on right hand only, and then on left hand only, then or the score, and randomly moving between all three. It has helped a lot.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/13/19 08:37 AM

Originally Posted by Cocorbett
You'll need X amount of practice until you can get the piece right, and then the you need 10 times more practice until you cannot get it wrong anymore.

I have found this to be an impossible idea, and the longer the piece, the more impossible. Also, as a beginner, I think you'll learn more when you move one once you know a piece well enough, when you can play it with good technique and dynamics. Then an occasional mistake when you play the piece is nothing to worry about. Not a consistent though, because they need working on, and not a mistake every time you play the piece, because then you do need to practise the piece some more.
Posted By: akc42

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/13/19 02:49 PM

I am still a bit nervous when playing in front of my teacher but much less so that I was. I recommend reading "The Perfect Wrong Note" by William Westney and then telling yourself that what you play in front of your teacher is not a performance, but a chance to locate mistakes so your teacher can help you.
Posted By: ghosthand

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/14/19 09:31 PM

Originally Posted by akc42
I am still a bit nervous when playing in front of my teacher but much less so that I was. I recommend reading "The Perfect Wrong Note" by William Westney and then telling yourself that what you play in front of your teacher is not a performance, but a chance to locate mistakes so your teacher can help you.


That book is awesome and he is an awesome teacher as well. I had the pleasure to have a few lessons with him last summer and they were the best lessons I've ever had. He helped me to believe in myself as a pianist. (I am only on amateur level and I have no plans to change that, but even amateurs have their goals and dreams ...)

Frustration and self-doubt are your worst enemies if you want to develop as a pianist. After this book and these lessons I do not doubt in my methods any longer, and mistakes - well, they are necessary if you want to develop. Who would enjoy a computer game that does not contain challenges and difficulties? In the same way mistakes and difficulties can be very exciting and stimulating in piano practice, if you just allow them to.
Posted By: diviajar1

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/16/19 04:42 PM

Hello. What grade is this Sonatina? I've heard it now on YouTube it sounds so difficult. And yet, it is listed as level1. Is it really level 1? Thank you.

(I mean Clementi Sonatina opus 36 no 3)
Posted By: Qwerty53

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/16/19 09:07 PM

No. 3 is generally considered Grade 4. (It might be “level 1” according to Henle, but the Henle grades are a lot harder than most.)

Opus 36, No. 1 is easier.

Try the Piano Syllabus search, enter Clementi for composer, Sonatina for title: you will get a list of all his Sonatinas and an indication of the grades for each (sometimes even for the separate movements) as assessed by a variety of organizations (ABRSM, RCM, Henle etc.). Piano Syllabus website
Posted By: Fidel

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/17/19 07:03 PM

Unfamiliar with this piece I looked up the score on IMSLP. IMO this is too difficult for someone with 16 months experience. If I include playing it with classical phrasing & articulation, then it's out of the question for someone at 16 months. It's too much.

I advise putting this piece down, coming back to it next year and trying something easier. It's naturally frustrating playing something that's too difficult. It's naturally impossible to be consistent with something that's too difficult. Pieces closer to your experience level are much more enjoyable.

I realize you have to push yourself to get better. Trick is to figure how much to push because too much is bad.
Posted By: BigIslandGuy

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/18/19 12:02 AM

Originally Posted by joe80
In my teaching experience, students are usually inconsistent because the practise the wrong way, or inefficiently.

You really have to practise very small sections, and I mean, very small, over and over, slowly. Students often try to play through the piece too soon.

So for instance, in the Clementi first sonatina, you have the opening motive "ta ta-te ta" on beats 1, 2 and 3. Practise that motif "Ta ta-te ta" slowly, different dynamics. Use the fourth beat as the up-beat to the next measure so "ta TA ta-te ta" (upper-case Ta being beat 1). Then do it again, and again. Slowly. Speed up gradually. Then put the two motifs together, allowing your brain to think of the two individual motifs that make up that statement.

Second measure, fourth beat, that's the up-beat to the scale, so you start "ta Ta-te ta-te ta", stay on that last "ta", it's the passing of the finger over the thumb. Be careful there. What movement are you making to pass the finger? Is it efficient and effective? Then move on to the next part of it, etc etc. Break down the whole piece like this. Don't play through it from beginning to end. It will take you a couple of hours to do the first two pages. Do the second two pages in the same way. Work like that for 3 days in a row. After 3 days, play it through. Slowly. Increase the speed gradually each time you play it. If you're still having problems, at least now you can analyse exactly where, and exactly why, because you'll have the small motifs clear in your head.

I am almost certain that will eliminate any catastrophes you may be experiencing! Good luck!


This some really good advice. When I'm learning a hard piece, I chop it all up into little bits where the challenges are, then start stringing them together. And those little tiny things, like joe80's example here, can eat your lunch. One of the biggest challenges in learning to practice efficiently is learning to troubleshoot those little details. Hang in there!
Posted By: diviajar1

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/19/19 07:49 PM

Originally Posted by Qwerty53
No. 3 is generally considered Grade 4. (It might be “level 1” according to Henle, but the Henle grades are a lot harder than most.)

Opus 36, No. 1 is easier.

Try the Piano Syllabus search, enter Clementi for composer, Sonatina for title: you will get a list of all his Sonatinas and an indication of the grades for each (sometimes even for the separate movements) as assessed by a variety of organizations (ABRSM, RCM, Henle etc.). Piano Syllabus website

Thank you. I didn't know that site.

Indeed it looks very difficult!
Posted By: spartan928

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/22/19 01:46 PM

This is a great question as I was tackling the first 2 sonatinas and encountering similar issues. That is, playing smooth at home and butchering at practice. Here is what I did that helped immensely; do not rely on muscle memory. What worked for me was finding holes in my memory by playing the piece very slow, hands separate from memory. This exposed gaps all over the pieces where my brain did not really recall the notes, it was cruising on muscle memory. Next, I practiced very slow, hands together and immediately stopped if I made a mistake or anticipated one, then brush up on those measures and continue. Again, run through slooooow and expose your weaknesses and focus on strengthening those before playing through at tempo. I found this exponentially improved the pieces at practice and rectal.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/22/19 02:08 PM

Originally Posted by spartan928
I found this exponentially improved the pieces at practice and rectal.

This 'Freudian slip' was pure gold. grin
Posted By: PatG

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/23/19 08:25 PM

Moo smile Thanks for your comments. Yes, that is the piece I've been working on for about 6 months. I'm actually on the 3rd section now. I do have a little more than 18 months of learning. The 18 months is current time. I did take a year as a young adult and did play on and off without lessons in between those times but not very much. My teacher picked the song and she determines when I'm ready to move onto something else. She recently added Reverie in F major by Debussy. I can't play the Sonatina up to the correct tempo, but keeping the tempo I can play throughout the piece with the right rhythm and articulation. I'm learning lots of things by playing it, for example trills, which is still hard for me, learning to play the runs evenly, how to play staccato keeping my fingers close to the keys and having a light touch to mention a few things.

The Debussy piece is definitely a hard piece for me. But again, my teacher has certain skills that she wants me to learn. At first I thought I'm not gonna be able to play this. But each week I'm getting better. I won't get it to where someone with 8-9 years of playing could, but who cares. I will have learned a bunch of things and I can be proud of what I accomplished compared to when I started it. Which remains me that I do record myself close to the beginning of a new piece I've started and than again when I pass it. That's when I can see my progress, which is encouraging.
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: frustrated and new to forum - 05/23/19 09:19 PM

I think the risk of your teachers method is you will only play maybe 3 pieces a year and you will likely feel frustrated. I think it would be better for you to be playing more pieces within your level. I also think you progress faster this way. Whatever you do please talk to your teacher if you are feeling frustrated and please tell him if you think a piece is too hard. Your teacher cannot read your mind and I think it is a risk if you do not say your opinions in lessons. I hope you enjoy learning the piano. My suggestions are just from my experience. I have some pieces which I work on a long time but I would balance it with the other piece being an easier one. This helps give some variety and interest. I would strongly suggest you read play it again alan rusbridger. I found it a very good lesson in what not to play. He tries (and I think fails very badly!) to learn Chopin Ballade despite trying for a year. An excellent book to learn the pitfalls of learning a piece too hard imo. Good luck!
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