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Posted By: frankelda Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/27/20 09:07 AM
Hi,

I am building a piano course focused on absolute beginners and I wonder what is (or what was) your main struggle as a complete beginner?
What is that you didn't know where to start? Which method to use?
Afraid by those mysterious 88 black and white rectangles in front of you? laugh

I am curious to know!
Posted By: Simon_b Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/27/20 09:55 AM
Hi

That's a huge open-ended question and the answers will depend on a lot of factors. But for me my primary frustration was that (like many youngsters) I didn't want to play what was written on the sheet music my teacher gave me, i.e. childrens versions of Beethoven etc. I wanted to play like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John, and a host of blues and Jazz players my Dad played recordings of. But at the age of 9 in 1970 there wasn't much else I could do, as I couldn't pick it up by ear (no talent in that area).

So I ditched playing classical, and fiddled around on my own (getting nowhere!) but eventually met someone who showed me the basics of understanding chord structures and from there essentially became a blues player.

Eventually of course as I got older I came to appreciate the discipline and beauty of playing classical and even took and passed ABRSM grade 6 (the only Piano grade I've ever passed).

If your course is specifically designed for the classical student, then my frustration is probably irrelevant, though I'd argue that all students would benefit in some way, in having basic information in there about playing by ear, playing from lead sheets, chords etc etc.

Cheers
Posted By: Ubu Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/27/20 09:56 AM
Reading the notes from the score was a challenge to me. And keeping hand cordination betwen left and right.

Those were my biggest battles as begginer, as far as i remember.
Growing up in a non-musical family, I knew next to nothing about the piano. Even learning the basic C scale was something new.

In my high school days I got into playing violin. We had a good teacher and played popular tunes of the day including easy arrangements of songs by the Beatles and show tunes from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals alongside Classical pieces by Bach, Beethoven & Mozart.

1. Don't turn music lessons into technical exercises: practicing scales & arpeggios are important but a lesson needs a balance of interesting songs.

2. Variety: include different genres of music. Not everybody wants to get into Classical music in a serious way. In the beginning we can introduce students to easy arrangements of pieces including Classical, Jazz & Pop tunes than starting with a strictly Classical repertoire.

3. Ear training: a good musician is not only a good reader but can also play simple tunes with chords as accompaniment. Some people would find learning more engaging once they mastered basic listening skills and be able to reproduce melodies by ear.
In my younger days before getting into piano playing I was able to reproduce melodies I hear on the radio or TV. People in the family who took piano lessons can read but listening skill is clearly lacking when sheet music is not around.
Posted By: frankelda Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/27/20 08:08 PM
Thanks for sharing your story Simon_b!

I find it so sad that your teacher made you play things you didn't like. I had the same issue myself even if I was happy to learn classical music.
I understand that there are pieces good to develop certain techniques, but the piano repertoire is so huge that you could have learned with something more pleasing for you.

I want to help people like you, interested also in other music genre than classical music.
My idea is to give the basics to allow students to be able to play different music genre. After they can choose and specialize if they wish.
But there are things that every piano players should learn, such as chords.

It is crazy to me that I learned about chords so recently after having studied classical piano for years.

Thanks again for your insights!
Posted By: frankelda Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/27/20 08:10 PM
Originally Posted by Ubu
Reading the notes from the score was a challenge to me. And keeping hand cordination betwen left and right.

Those were my biggest battles as begginer, as far as i remember.


I think that reading music sheet is still a big issue for many students.
Hand coordination is a lifetime work I would say. At least even after years of practice it is still something to improve!

Thanks for your reply!
Posted By: frankelda Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/27/20 08:13 PM
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Growing up in a non-musical family, I knew next to nothing about the piano. Even learning the basic C scale was something new.

In my high school days I got into playing violin. We had a good teacher and played popular tunes of the day including easy arrangements of songs by the Beatles and show tunes from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals alongside Classical pieces by Bach, Beethoven & Mozart.

1. Don't turn music lessons into technical exercises: practicing scales & arpeggios are important but a lesson needs a balance of interesting songs.

2. Variety: include different genres of music. Not everybody wants to get into Classical music in a serious way. In the beginning we can introduce students to easy arrangements of pieces including Classical, Jazz & Pop tunes than starting with a strictly Classical repertoire.

3. Ear training: a good musician is not only a good reader but can also play simple tunes with chords as accompaniment. Some people would find learning more engaging once they mastered basic listening skills and be able to reproduce melodies by ear.
In my younger days before getting into piano playing I was able to reproduce melodies I hear on the radio or TV. People in the family who took piano lessons can read but listening skill is clearly lacking when sheet music is not around.

Thanks a lot for this very helpful post!
I want to make students enjoy their journey while getting good technical fundations.

I couldn't agree more with the points you made!
Posted By: treefrog Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/27/20 08:52 PM
I struggled with everything but there are a couple of important things that I’ve learnt.

Use the time that you’re away from the piano to your best advantage by ending your practice with something that your subconscious can work on. This may be playing part of a new piece super slow but getting the notes perfect.

Break a new piece of music into sections and devote more time to the more difficult sections.

These are common sense but easy to overlook.
Posted By: Animisha Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/28/20 07:00 AM
Hi Franke! For me, the biggest problem was coordinating my eyes, my mind, and my two hands. It was so much simultaneously! Ten days in, I wrote a facebook update saying: "Sometimes, just sometimes, the hands do what the eyes see and what the brain understands."
Posted By: Suni Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/28/20 08:04 AM
I think as an adult beginner, I struggled first with connecting the sheet music notes with the piano keys... something that comes with time and practice. Then rhythm, maintaining a steady tempo, and speed. Still working on these issues!
Posted By: frankelda Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/29/20 02:08 PM
Originally Posted by treefrog
I struggled with everything but there are a couple of important things that I’ve learnt.

Use the time that you’re away from the piano to your best advantage by ending your practice with something that your subconscious can work on. This may be playing part of a new piece super slow but getting the notes perfect.

Break a new piece of music into sections and devote more time to the more difficult sections.

These are common sense but easy to overlook.



I totally agree with learning a new song by small chunks and having a dedicated time on the difficult sections.

I like your idea of using subconscious to keep working while away from your piano. You can also use mental visualization to practice far from your keyboard.

Thanks for your insights!
Posted By: frankelda Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/29/20 02:09 PM
Originally Posted by Animisha
Hi Franke! For me, the biggest problem was coordinating my eyes, my mind, and my two hands. It was so much simultaneously! Ten days in, I wrote a facebook update saying: "Sometimes, just sometimes, the hands do what the eyes see and what the brain understands."

Thanks for sharing your experience and your quote!
I think that coordination is one of the biggest difficulty on the piano.
Posted By: frankelda Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/29/20 02:12 PM
Originally Posted by Suni
I think as an adult beginner, I struggled first with connecting the sheet music notes with the piano keys... something that comes with time and practice. Then rhythm, maintaining a steady tempo, and speed. Still working on these issues!

Yes, I think that sight-reading is a big struggle for many piano players. And I think that it is sad because depending on what you want to play, you don't even need to learn how to read music sheets.

The rhythm is a big one as well. I must say that I need to work on that one myself!

Thanks for your reply!
Posted By: mizmar Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/29/20 04:39 PM
Physical technique.
How to move hands and fingers etc. Hand independence. Relaxation. Stuff like that.

There's piles of great material on where to start - both from the chords first and twinkle twinkle little star first perspectives. There's tones of great material on how to play specific pieces or styles. And, seems to me, most problems can be overcome by following the music golden rule - break it down to small bits and practice - but I have hit the buffers, most, on physical approach.

Yes, and rhythm(s ) & time feel. Particularly for elder learners with very little prior music playing history. Acquiring a sense of rhythm and timing can take a lot of work.
Posted By: frankelda Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/29/20 10:58 PM
Originally Posted by mizmar
Physical technique.
How to move hands and fingers etc. Hand independence. Relaxation. Stuff like that.

There's piles of great material on where to start - both from the chords first and twinkle twinkle little star first perspectives. There's tones of great material on how to play specific pieces or styles. And, seems to me, most problems can be overcome by following the music golden rule - break it down to small bits and practice - but I have hit the buffers, most, on physical approach.

Yes, and rhythm(s ) & time feel. Particularly for elder learners with very little prior music playing history. Acquiring a sense of rhythm and timing can take a lot of work.

I like the "golden rule". It should be engraved on pianos!
Piano is an instrument particularly challenging for fingers agility and coordination.

I think that's why it is particularly good to keep good hand and fingers mobility over the years and a healthy brain. The mental effort to control the fingers movement and their timing is huge!
But really worth smile

Thanks for your comment!
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/30/20 12:08 AM
Originally Posted by franke
Originally Posted by mizmar
And, seems to me, most problems can be overcome by following the music golden rule - break it down to small bits and practice - but I have hit the buffers, most, on physical approach.
I like the "golden rule". It should be engraved on pianos!
Practicing in small sections is important but only a tiny part of what's needed. Without knowing how to practice, without knowing how to solve technical problems, and without a strong basic technical training/foundation it won't be very helpful.
Posted By: Qazsedcft Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/30/20 06:11 AM
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by franke
Originally Posted by mizmar
And, seems to me, most problems can be overcome by following the music golden rule - break it down to small bits and practice - but I have hit the buffers, most, on physical approach.
I like the "golden rule". It should be engraved on pianos!
Practicing in small sections is important but only a tiny part of what's needed. Without knowing how to practice, without knowing how to solve technical problems, and without a strong basic technical training/foundation it won't be very helpful.

The "break it down to small bits and practice" doesn't have to be interpreted as practicing in small sections. It could just as well mean solving technical problems one issue at a time.
Posted By: Pau Gasol Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 09/30/20 05:37 PM
Originally Posted by mizmar
Yes, and rhythm(s ) & time feel. Particularly for elder learners with very little prior music playing history. Acquiring a sense of rhythm and timing can take a lot of work.

I struggle with rhythm too, particularly with music I am unfamiliar with. I took lessons when I was younger, and not once did we ever work on rhythm or counting exercises. Either the teacher didn't think it was important, or I was able to bluff my way through it "good enough" or the teacher realized I was faking it and decided to do nothing. I don't know which.

As an adult I often have to work on challenging measures one at a time to get the beats right.
Posted By: Nip Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 10/01/20 05:13 AM
I recently found a way that really urge me to practice - not being fluent in reading sheet music.
Got he Czerny 599 book as recommended on a YT channel, and listened on YT videos on how each etyde sounds.

So picking something that I like - and would still be a challenge before that is played by me as the part I listened to.

So one could go back and forth like this, if total beginner and maybe got it wrong you go back and try the etydes closer to beginning of book. Sort of dialing in where you are.

Now retired and find my way with chords and melodies, own songs, playing guitar all the years since piano lessons bored me to death in 3rd and 4th grade in school. I learned nothing about chords "this is a C major chord" or anything. I just didn't connect at total beginner. But with guitar chords are the first thing you learn - and make it sound nice really quick.

So to improve on different things and you feel making progress and understanding of it all
- intermediate exercises between each time sitting down at piano, tell something about what it will improve.
- Like metronome makes you do hard and easy parts more even, and also make you listen to something while playing, which is the same as playing with other people later.
- some minor theory behind each etydes learned, this is the inversion of C Major chord with G in base and little things like that. And how it is written in sheet.

Filling in little things that make you understand what this is for. After 2 years in school I had no understanding of this at all and I lost interest. Guitar though was fun from start - it sounded good real quick.

If using Czerny or something else, you could increase by telling to write the chord over in the sheet. You will tie knowledge together both some theory and what you are doing.

Just got piano adventures books too, and at end of first book I found some really good exercises browsing a bit with different chords and also two handed arpeggios. Just fun to practice switching finger settings like that major and 7-chord etc. These 3-minute technique stuff, really good. Chord warm-ups, Major cross-hand arpeggios etc.

Tie things together that pupil feel making progress in many ways - understand what you do as well as getting better at playing. And just for fun, extend a piece with ending chord, and do arpegio one or two octaves up which sound elegant.
- you extended what was written and use imagination
- there are endless of ways to play the same piece

Just some of my recent thoughts on how to proceed...
Posted By: scirocco Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 10/01/20 05:21 AM
Reading is my biggest struggle. Nothing else even comes close.

Legato left hand thirds are not great either.
Posted By: Lakeviewsteve Re: Biggest struggle as a beginner? - 10/01/20 09:15 PM
I have many fond and not so fond memories of studying the piano starting as a child of six. My 8 year old sister started taking lessons and because of my jealousy I would sit at the piano with her music and play the same thing she did without any lessons. My mom signed me up shortly after that and I had 20 years of great private piano instruction and years later I can say I'm am pretty good at the piano and have taken three master classes in the last few years that have been extremely beneficial. After a long period of self study it's amazing what a good critique will do.

To answer your question about frustration..... I remember how nerve wracking recitals were for me. We had a spring and a fall recital each year. I would be so nervous until up on stage I seemed to glide into another world and had no problems at all. One year the boy just before me had a meltdown on stage, quit playing, turned all red and got off the stage. Fast forward many years later while in college I felt the same nervousness and than total tranquility once on stage. As an adult attending master classes I took had recitals at the Mozart Haus in Vienna. None of the nervousness happened whatsoever. I was amazed and truly believe it was because of all the training as a child and young adult. I could concentrate on the piece rather than any nerves. Some people are not in favor of recitals but I sure am because I think they played such an important role in studying piano from early on helped me overcome nervousness when performing.
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