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Joined: Jan 2009
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Sammae Offline OP
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Hello everyone!

I'm looking for a little advice.

I took piano lessons from the time I was wee until I was 15. I completed my RCM Grade 8 Exam. I was a year into my Grade 9, planning to take the exam in 6 months, when I developed tendonitis and had to take a break. During that break, I completed my exams for Grade 3 Harmony and History. Also, during that break, my piano teacher developed cancer and stopped teaching. There was no one else in town that could teach a Grade 9 student, so I stopped taking lessons. I still played in 2 bands at school, accompanied at Church and played for fun, but these were my last lessons. My mom sold our piano when I was 18, due to some financial hardships and that was that.

I bought a piano in 2009, but moved 2 months later and gave it to my stepsister due to living between places and having no where for it.

Now, I'm finally settled and have a piano coming to live with me in 9 days! I'm very excited. However, my skills are... well, rusty would be a nice way of putting it. I remember how to play NOTHING. I can't even play a scale without falling off the keyboard. My sight reading is terrible, although I trust that to come back quickly. I'd love to finish my Grade 9 requirements and eventually get my ARCT diploma in Pedagogy, but I need a place to start.

I'm very frustrated that I can't do all the amazing things I used to do. I really didn't appreciate my skill when I had it (teenagers...). I'd like some advice on where to start. Should I focus on my technical requirements mainly, and maybe re-learn some of my old Grade 6 and 8 pieces? I'm worried about aggravating my tendonitis and don't want to strain myself to that point. I've ordered the new version of the RCM red technical book, and an Advanced Rudiments theory book (I've completed that book in the past but thought it would be good to get my memory back). Once I get some of my skill back, I will look into taking lessons.

Also, is there anyone that can tell me whether my Grade 3 theory certificates from 2001 or 2002 will still be usable towards my Grade 9? They've changed the requirements significantly and I know the History I took then is now considered the Grade 5 History... it's all very confusing.

I'd really appreciate advice from anyone who's been in this situation or who teaches.

Thank you,

Sam


Re-learning (polishing):
Chopin - Prelude in D-flat major Op. 28 No 15

Working on:
Chopin - Waltz in C-sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2
Deubussy - Suite bergamasque - Clair de lune
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You might get better advice by posting this in the Piano Teachers forum, just down a couple on the list of forums.


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So is the piano coming a digital or an acoustic - both are great I have both but they are different!

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The good news is that after several years, you've healed the tendonitis and can start fresh. The tendonitis is from faulty technique so you have the opportunity to correct a mistake.

Since your focus will be mostly to build up chops, I would think that scale practice and Hanon/Czerny would be necessary. I think it will come back faster than you think. It's already in your brain. You just have to remind it.


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You would probably find it helpful to get some of your old repertoire back to a good standard. All the best!


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Sammae Offline OP
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Thank you for the suggestion of posting in the Piano Teacher's Forum. I have received some solid advice from there.

My piano is an acoustic. I've always played on an acoustic and really prefer it.

I'm unsure whether my tendonitis was caused by piano (I have very, very small hands) or playing tennis (which I quit that summer as well). It hadn't occurred to me that it would be rooted in my technique. I had always thought it was quite good - I had an extraordinarily picky piano teacher - but maybe getting back to basics on it and really focussing on doing things in a way that won't re-injure my wrists is a good idea.

I'm thinking now that lots of scale work mixed in with some Hanon, plus polishing an old piece and learning a brand new piece would be a good way to start. The teacher's forum also suggested I should look into taking lessons right off the bat to ensure my technique is good and avoid re-injury, so I'll look into teachers in the area as well.

Thanks for the advise! I'll see everyone around on this board as I start my journey again!


Re-learning (polishing):
Chopin - Prelude in D-flat major Op. 28 No 15

Working on:
Chopin - Waltz in C-sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2
Deubussy - Suite bergamasque - Clair de lune
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All I would say is be careful for the first few weeks, stop at the first sign of pain or discomfort. Your fingers will be flying around the keyboard again in no time but your muscles will be weak until they've had time to develop.

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I hate to disagree with more experienced members, but if you had tendonitis in the past, whatever the reason, scales and Hanon don't seem good at all.
Best of luck, I wish I had your "problem" wink

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How'd you get the tendonitis?


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
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I doubt you will have a problem having your harmony and history credits recognized. You can contact the Royal Conservatory to clarify this. They recently recognized a Gr 2 theory credit which I obtained from another conservatory in 1972 as a substitute for the present Advanced Rudiments. The problem is usually when you've already done the practical exam and then take too many years to complete the written exams, not the other way around.

I was in a similar position as you 6 years ago, only I decided to return after a 30+ year hiatus. I had been working toward my Gr 9 at the age of 15 and quit, then returned at the age of 47. My technical skills were so rusty I could barely play. With the help of a wonderful and patient teacher, I recently passed my Grade 10 and am now working on the ARCT - something that I would have never thought possible.

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Sammae, here is a possibility:

You went through RCM up to grade 8. I had RCM for a number of years on a different instrument. It is possible to go through the program and not be taught fundamental things that sit underneath playing music. The focus can be on the pieces, technical studies, and what you need to pass the exams in terms of ear training and theory. So you drill like mad for months until you can do everything forward and backward; you may do brilliantly on the exams. Then you come back years later and you ask "Where did it go?" It may be that there are things you were never taught - because we get taught the materials of the exams rather than the skills of music.

Examples: Technique - really learning to use your body in an efficient way on the piano. You told us that you had some injuries. That alone suggests that this wasn't a focus. A young person is flexible and resilient, so he can do ineffective things and still play - move that way when you're older and you are in trouble.
Reading and approaching music - if you drill and drill and drill, then it's "all there" for you. But if you didn't get those two skills, then you come to the music years later and can't quite get in the door and wonder why.

I've been told, "If you go back and can't, then you never had it in the first place." This does not mean that you (generic you, not you personally) didn't play that music well back then. It means that you didn't get certain skills, and therefore you don't have those skills to draw on now either.

So if you are returning to piano, you might want to find a good teacher who is skills-oriented, and who will assess what you actually do and don't have and where the holes are. The cool thing is that with your background and probably discipline, if there are missing skills and you get them, it does wonders to what you will be able to do.

This totally goes with it, and is more practical than what I wrote (I first posted this in the teacher forum).

Originally Posted by hreichgott
When you try out teachers you can just ask in a straightforward way "How much do you focus on the way students use their hands and arms?" The ones who really focus on physical technique will give you a very detailed answer. Many, many teachers are excellent and accomplished musicians but simply do not focus much on physical issues.

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Sammae Offline OP
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Derulux - I got the tendonitis most likely as a combination of things. 1st, I have ridiculously small hands. I can stretch just over an octave, but if I'm playing any kind of chord, the octave is my max. I think this combined with playing the more technically challenging Grade 9 pieces was a main factor. I used to play tennis every summer, and that summer between the tennis and the advanced playing... I was toast.

Jehalliday - Thank you! Your story was inspirational! As far as the theory goes, that's what I was getting from reading their website. I just wanted to double check. Good luck with your ARCT! Performers or teachers?


Re-learning (polishing):
Chopin - Prelude in D-flat major Op. 28 No 15

Working on:
Chopin - Waltz in C-sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2
Deubussy - Suite bergamasque - Clair de lune
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Performers - I would never have the patience to teach. Not that I actually like performing, but I guess that isn't the point of doing it. For me, it's about keeping my brain active during retirement.

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Sammae Offline OP
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You guys are providing me with a lot of insight here and it's really appreciated! I agree that in some ways the RCM exams tend to force drilling pieces and technique without teaching things that could have possibly led to my injury. At the same time I'm really grateful to my teacher for putting me through it. I have to say, my stepsister is playing at a grade 10 level right now repertoire-wise, but has never had a teacher that focused on theory or technique. Last year she asked me "what this dash is". It was a whole rest. My dad's been paying for her to take lessons for 8 years. I know that these things aren't all that there is to music, but still an important foundation. Kind of like learning to speak a language without being able to read or write it.

That being said, I do agree that this is the time for me to focus on some parts of technique that weren't a focus before. I've been reading up on these boards and other websites trying to get some ideas.

Lots of work (and play!) coming my way!


Re-learning (polishing):
Chopin - Prelude in D-flat major Op. 28 No 15

Working on:
Chopin - Waltz in C-sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2
Deubussy - Suite bergamasque - Clair de lune

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