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Amaruk Offline OP
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I wonder why so many quit piano after a while. Is there anything in the learning process that is effective preventing it from happening? Share your thoughts with us here.

UPDATE
Since so many great points were brought up in this thread I decided to compile them into a list. I will try and maintain this list with any new ideas that you see as contributing factors in this matter.
  • Lack of direction
  • Piano lessons are expensive
  • No motivation
  • It is difficult / Lack of progress
  • It takes a lot of will-power
  • Not having fun
  • No time for practice
  • Assigned pieces not customized for the student
  • It is easier to quit than to fix a problem
  • Unrealistic goals
  • Hitting a plateau in the progress
  • Boredom
  • Subpar recital performances feel devastating
  • Lack of passion

Last edited by Amaruk; 10/10/13 07:23 PM.

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I think people quit due to a lack of direction, piano lessons are a luxury tbh and money is tight.

When my piano teacher passed away suddenly I had nobody to push me and my motivation dropped like a stone.

I would do something easier and also had stressful moments while learning by myself.

The odd thing is once I start playing and get into it, I can play for ages, but I will leave it for a day maybe two now and again. Plus I feel my DP sucks, I have a Casio CDP100, I thought it was ok till I heard a Roland. Though I understand it is more man and not machine.


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Originally Posted by Amaruk
I wonder why so many quit piano after a while. Is there anything in the learning process that is effective preventing it from happening? Share your thoughts with us here.


It ain't easy, it takes time investment, and progress often occurs at an imperceptible pace.


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It takes persistence and will-power....that is something you have to practice and hopefully you will reap the rewards. If there is love it's a no brainer.....you can't get away.

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I don't know what perspectives a piano teacher would have on why students quit. But as someone who quit piano and then restarted years later, I can share some of my own experiences.

I started lessons when I was 8 years old. I really liked my first piano teacher, but was devastated when she retired from teaching about 2-3 years later. Then began a "wandering through the wilderness" for me, in which I went through about 3-4 teachers over three years, then eventually quit. In retrospect, some of the issues had to do with my maturity level (I was between 11 and 14 at the time).

First I had a teacher who I thought was too serious/perfectionistic. However, my mom thought I was learning the most and playing my best when studying with him. But lessons weren't "fun" anymore and became a source of stress and consternation.

This teacher took summers off, so then I took lessons for a summer from a "chord piano" teacher. My mom didn't think I was learning enough, so that experiment lasted just one summer.

After another school year with the "serious" teacher, I tried lessons with another teacher closer to home. This teacher was a dainty middle-aged woman didn't know how to help me channel my "teenage boy" energies into piano playing. As a contrast, I'm currently studying with a teacher who has told me he thinks piano teachers just have to "grin and bear it" while 12- to 15-year-old boys release boundless pent-up energy through loud and rhythmic music. After the hormones settle down, reintroduce the more sensitive/musical fare.

Then my parents divorced, and money got tighter. I took lessons for a fall at a studio with another teacher. However, my schoolwork and responsibilities around the house increased, and the teacher became frustrated with my irregular practice / progress. She asked me if I just wanted to quit piano, which unfortunately 'planted' the idea in my head. I think I said "yes" because she thought things were going nowhere, and I'd had enough of the wilderness wandering.

At the end of that semester, I decided to drop the piano lessons. Music didn't completely leave my life as I was in concert band at school, and played alto sax into my third year of college. Once in a while during my teenage years, I tried to sit down and play the piano again, but my music-reading abilities had atrophied and I got discouraged.

I came back to the piano about 18 years after quitting, at the age of 32. After visiting a friend's house, I saw a grand piano in his living room and started thinking I'd like to get a grand piano and learn to play again. Luckily, a couple of things happened in quick succession: I found an inexpensive used grand piano for sale locally, and then learned an acquaintance was teaching piano! She got me back to the keyboard, and lessons were "fun" again as I ramped up quickly and learned to play a lot of stuff I'd wanted to play.

In retrospect, what led to my quitting was a combination of personal things, as well as teaching styles.

What did I do wrong?
- I should have tried harder to understand why a teacher would assign a piece of music I wasn't excited about. If I'd gotten to hear good performances of those pieces back then, maybe I would have appreciated a broader repertoire sooner.
- Because I was in my early teens when I quit, I lacked the maturity and introspection to understand what kind of teacher would be the best to work with. My parents attempted to make this decision for me, but results were mixed.
- As my interests wandered in other directions, piano became a chore rather than an enjoyable hobby. If I'd been able to integrate my interests in technology with piano music, maybe I wouldn't have strayed from it so readily.

What do I think my teachers did wrong?
- Assigning pieces I couldn't relate to in any way, which contributed to my disengagement. This is a thorny issue because pedagogues teach that there is a structured program that guides a student from finding middle C to becoming a virtuoso pianist over the course of about 10 years. But given I did not aspire to go to a conservatory, would it have been so harmful to let me pound out ragtime, marches, and rock songs when I was 12-14, release that pent-up energy, and then return to the more sensitive music later?
- I think a piano teacher should understand why a student wants to learn piano, what kind of music interests them, etc. Then customize the teaching style to help them get there. That's even true of kids, who may not know what's best for themselves yet; they'll eventually figure it out. The key to getting past that 5- to 7-year mark where a lot of students drop out is to keep them engaged.
- Don't encourage a child/teenage student to quit!!! If their progress is flagging, it could be issues at home, heavier school workloads, competing activities and hobbies, etc. To this day, I think maybe I wouldn't have quit if that teacher hadn't "suggested" it to me. I would have been better off even if I was just maintaining rather than growing. When I quit, I started losing piano skills immediately, a worse outcome than just paying for lessons to maintain and play different music.


Last edited by Colin Dunn; 10/10/13 06:04 PM.

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Originally Posted by Colin Dunn
I don't know what perspectives a piano teacher would have on why students quit. But as someone who quit piano and then restarted years later, I can share some of my own experiences.

...


This is possibly good fare to link to from the Piano Teachers Forum.

I have similar feelings about my childhood study, even though I never completely abandoned the piano.


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I think the main reason adults quit is because they can. There's no one to answer to anymore. Things don't go quite right? Leave. Leaving is easier than trying to put into words why there is a problem. Also, no one really wants to admit that "they" might be a big part of the problem.

I don't know about kids today. But when I was a kid, I had no choice but to take lessons. Practice was mandatory. Every day. Sports came second. My brother did manage to quit. But the arguments leading up to his quitting still ring in my ears. There was yelling. Lots of it. I never wanted to go to that extreme. So, I shut up and just took lessons.

I think parents these days don't take quite the hard line my parents took. So, quiting is easier.


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People are sometimes curious when I tell them that I am learning piano as an adult. I always tell them that it takes a lot of time and that progress tends to be quite slow. Money is the unspoken implication for those that pay for lessons. For those with acoustics, space and money are two significant factors. Some hear me play and quiz me as to why I think I am a beginner, and I use the climbing Mount Everest analogy. For many, after reaching a certain level, they have little interest in the time (and money) required to reach another base camp higher.

As for reasons: people reach their goals, or perhaps their goals were unrealistic and unreachable. Plateaus are normal and can be quite discouraging, especially if a person is investing substantial time and money. Boredom is common after a person has done the method book deal and played a few of their longtime favorites.

Criticism and/or subpar live performances can feel devastating, especially if a person has lofty goals, especially if a person has invested substantial time (and money). A few hope to eventually make money in music by learning piano, and that is often more difficult and more competitive than it might seem.

The opposite side is why people stick with it, despite the substantial time requirements plus what is often a substantial money requirement. Passion is number one. Some people are obsessive and that is a cousin of passion. Passion comes and goes for most. It tends to be a rare person that still has a similar level of enthusiasm and passion after two, four or six years, as they did when they set sail on their adventure.


Last edited by Sand Tiger; 10/10/13 07:13 PM.
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Amaruk Offline OP
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Great points!! It is very interesting to read your views on this. I just compiled a list with your ideas in the original post (see above).

Last edited by Amaruk; 10/10/13 07:24 PM.

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This may fall under the heading of "unrealistic goals", but I think that people really don't know what it takes to study music. So the goals aren't necessarily unrealistic (i.e., to play the Chopin Revolutionary Etude), but the time frame and work involved is underestimated.

I've encountered many adult students who think that it will take them a few years to get to that level, and they don't realize that it could potentially take them 10 or more years. Despite me trying to keep them realistic, there are many that choose not to believe me and get frustrated with themselves when they can't keep up with their time frame. They usually quit then, and that usually tells me that it wasn't important enough for them to stick with it and enjoy the wonderful music along the way.


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I've been a pretty on and off player since returned to piano in 2008. Sometimes I was simply playing a different musical instrument (Irish tin whistle, recorder, mandolin). But there's also been the problem of laying to rest ghost of my childhood piano lessons, which were pretty miserable.

For example, my teacher constantly yelled at me for reading by finger numbers, whenever I was sight reading. But I never looked at the finger numbers, and yes, I was actually sight reading (perhaps badly, but I was recognizing the notes on the staff). That teacher instilled in me such a terror of those "evil" fingering numbers, I have trouble looking at them to this very day. This all seems a bit ironic to me, given that her specialty was supposedly teaching sight reading.

And that's not even getting into my mother's ironic commentary to my father on my lousy musicanship, when they listened to me practicing in the other room over their cocktails. Who knows, maybe she underestimated the acuity of a kid's hearing, maybe she was just drunk, but it created a sense of hopeless drudgery around my practice.

Years later, when I first started playing tin whistle (pre-piano) I used to imagine all the neighbors making snarky comments on every mistake in my practicing, and I really wondered where the vividness of these thoughts came from. It wasn't until I was practicing piano again that the memory came back, of my mom's snarking about my playing as I attempted to practice down the hall.

So from a certain perspective, the question is not why I quit, but why I keep coming back to it.

Or maybe this is the place where people *would* actually understand what it is about piano that keeps drawing me back.


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I quit because of pressure from my parents to knuckle down to my schoolwork in my last year of high school. (They sold my horse too frown )

I can also relate to having pieces assigned that I didn't really enjoy, it felt like a chore and most I never bothered to play again when I picked it up 15 years later.

What an interesting thread!


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Originally Posted by tangleweeds
So from a certain perspective, the question is not why I quit, but why I keep coming back to it.

Or maybe this is the place where people *would* actually understand what it is about piano that keeps drawing me back.


I'm not so sure. I play piano because I can't not. I don't know why.


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Quote
Re: Why are people quitting piano? Is there anything in the learning process that is effective preventing it from happening? Share your thoughts with us here.



I would say at least learn to play the tunes that you, wife, kids, grand kids, friends like to hear. Many carols, hymns, pop, etc. are fairly easy to cut your teeth on if you keep it simple enough at first. It's like solving a puzzle using one's ears and fingers for me, particularly the rhythm part. It's fun stuff sitting down and figuring out how to play something you just heard on the radio.







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I think people quit piano because they lack focus on what the difficulty actually is in playing.
Yes, it is extremely difficult for an adult. Why?
They have to create sophistication of the nervous system. Develop the nervous system/autonomic mind, to play both hands. Using all ten fingers individually.
The focus is in physiology.
The focus is sophistication of the autonomic mind/nervous system.


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Perhaps they try to run a marathon before learning to walk?

I know a person who wanted his first piece to be Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2. His justification was that it is slow and therefore easy. To him slow pieces = easy.

He managed to complete about 15 bars learned purely by rote before giving it up as too difficult.

I suspect there might be a lot of people who rage as well.


Search youtube for The return of the angriest guitar player in the world (Not safe for work) he does a lot of practice a LOT and gets rather angry at his lack of progress.


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There are 14 points in the first post.

100% of them are private internal individual concerns.

We humans are social creatures and piano is a lonely solitary activity. It may not even be healthy to isolate oneself for the extreme amount of hours required to become skilled.

I think it is a mistake to neglect this aspect. Piano practice requires one to spend time alone acquiring a skill. Piano study offers very few opportunities to play in ensembles (until one is insanely skilled, which usually doesn't happen) or interact with other musicians. It requires we limit the personal attention we give to friends and family, which ends up being selfish. Unlike guitar, where one can play softly in the background while interacting with friends, it is really all or nothing; even piano performing is rather unsocial.

Every amateur guitar player I know plays with others at some level, if it's only jamming with the neighbor; every trombone player I know belongs to multiple bands.


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Originally Posted by TimR
We humans are social creatures and piano is a lonely solitary activity. It may not even be healthy to isolate oneself for the extreme amount of hours required to become skilled.

I think it is a mistake to neglect this aspect. Piano practice requires one to spend time alone acquiring a skill. Piano study offers very few opportunities to play in ensembles (until one is insanely skilled, which usually doesn't happen) or interact with other musicians. It requires we limit the personal attention we give to friends and family, which ends up being selfish. Unlike guitar, where one can play softly in the background while interacting with friends, it is really all or nothing; even piano performing is rather unsocial.

Every amateur guitar player I know plays with others at some level, if it's only jamming with the neighbor; every trombone player I know belongs to multiple bands.


Great post!
Coming from a string background, I know if it weren't for playing with others, I would not have a musical drive at all.
And i'll say it again, it's as if I play another instrument with the same name, because I approach piano as a contemporary string player. I don't pour over sheet music. I don't take endless expensive lessons. I quickly learned to chord along with a group. And playing the piano is no big deal. I may not be Van Clyburn, but I don't care. Everybody does the best they can with what they've been given. So here's my paradigm; Quitting is no big deal. But neither is playing music, so why would you quit? Playing music is fun and fulfilling.


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Well maybe the problem is piano is just TOO good an instrument.

If you look at these charts:

http://solomonsmusic.net/insrange.htm

A full 88 key has the widest range, my Alto sax on the other hand is a much more limited instrument in terms of range and that it is a melody only instrument. This a sax can be played alone but something feels missing like the harmony or the bass.

Add in the lack of portability and you have an instrument that makes you play by yourself covering two (or more like VK on
her videos) staves.

I guess somewhere in the world is a harpworld.com forum where harpists are having exactly the same problems.

That the harp range is extremely wide and it is barely portable though of course there are exceptions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIPj3hLNYls

(still requires two players though)


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Nice tape, thanks ... it appears the girl on the left reaches up and adjusts something with her left hand a few times, what is she doing?


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