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I love listening to classical music and heard Pathetique Sonata Adagio Contabile on the radio one day. I started private piano lessons, never having played before, after I bought a 100 year old Decker and Sons up right when I was 59. I am 63 now and have been taking lessons once a week. I have replaced the tinny saloon sounding old Decker with a Yamaha U-3. Pathetique Sonata sounded easy enough, like just slow chords. I desperately wanted to learn this piece. I found it was much harder than I anticipated. I only could play the first 2 bars of music, such that you could recognize the melody, after 3 years of private lessons. I memorized the notes and chords in the first 10 bars but couldn't play them well and forget about site reading at my level on a piece like this. My original teacher would discourage me from playing Pathetique and wanted me to concentrate on intermediate level pieces and technique. I continued to work on Pathetique in private. I've changed piano teachers now and she has me practicing scales and exercises in Czerny's school of velocity I think is the name of the book. I am making progress again on Pathetique. My new teacher says go for it. She says I can learn technique on Pathetique its just harder. I'm making progress again on the piece and now can play about 10 bars of the Sonata fairly well now. Having an encouraging teacher who loves classical music makes a big difference. I do practice other intermediate music of course but I really would like to finish Pathetique while I'm still around.

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So happy for you!

There's no time like the present. Go for it! And enjoy every minute of it!


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Originally Posted by doug1952
I am 63 now and have been taking lessons once a week.


If I were you, at your next lesson ...

I would tell your instructor that you are going to stop working on material that is much too difficult for you AND ...

You are going to let your teacher guide you so that by the time you are 70 you will be able to play beautifully.

Or ... Not



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Good for you, going after the song you really love.

It's not so much that it's taking you "long" to learn the Pathetique but rather you didn't know that most piano students take 10-15 years of lessons before trying to play it. You've made considerable progress towards your goal and I'd bet you'll get it accomplished on the shorter side of that equation.

Plus, you know, if you have a goal like that, you tend to live longer, too smile


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It takes as long as it takes.

But consider this - if you step back and learn the basics, it will probably take less time to reach your goal than by beating your head against a piece that is too hard for your current level. And there is a lot of great music that you can play along the way.

I am 62. I started playing again when I was 55. At this point I would feel comfortable tackling the slow movement of the Pathetique, although I haven't done it.

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Originally Posted by doug1952
How long does it take to learn in your 60's


It depends. How do you define learn? What have you played in the past? To what degree had you mastered said works? How meticulous and refined is your learning process? These are, of course, rhetorical questions, but meant to highlight the fact that without working with you in person, I/we can only communicate so well back and forth with words how to efficiently and effectively learn to play piano (and therein lies the value of meeting regularly with a teacher). My advice is to think of the learning process itself as a learning process - that is to say, approach every piece of music and every experience at the piano as though in the third person, being sensitive enough to observe what does and doesn't work and using that knowledge to better refine your process of learning to play music (i.e. make extensive use of feedback or a lackthereof in trying recognize what is and isn't working and what thus needs to be changed; additional reading here)

You'd likely be interested to know that plenty of people have been in your shoes before (with seven billion plus people in the world, it'd be amazing if someone hadn't) and one particular case was documented by their extremely meticulous instructor here: http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=2444.0
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=2893.msg25659#msg25659

The question for me personally is never how long it takes to learn something (because such estimates are rarely accurate unless particularly experienced), but rather, assuming it's something I want to bother learning in the first place, how many "chunks" will the task need to be broken up into, do I have the knowledge necessary to know how to approach mastering and overlapping each chunk of material, and is this more time and effort than I currently wish to dedicate to the task before me. I'll recommend again here that you investigate the first link provided.

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It says a lot about the difficulty of the piece that you have made little progress in four years. Certainly if you have had a good four years, you are getting close to being able to complete movement 2 (other movements are harder again). If it has been a poor four years then I would be asking your teacher if there were some bridging pieces she could recommend. I have used similar (easier) bridging pieces to get to a goal piece and it helps enormously.

You just have to be careful when a teacher says you can play something it is just harder. They will be the guide, but it will still be your hands and your brain that need to do the heavy lifting.


Surprisingly easy, barely an inconvenience.

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My missus had the Beethoven Sonatas but was unable to play `em because of arthritis. So I tried, years agp. Thought I was doin` ok, you know.

Then I bought a cd wi this stuff on. I was amazed at the speed. So I upped my game and hurtled along like a madman

Madmen play mad music. And that`s what came out. Not good. I don`t go there now. . . Waldstein was my favourite, but I get half way through a Sonata before boredom sets in. They`re too long!

I can empathise with your age point of view. I`m a few years older and things do change a bit. There`s stuff I`d dearly like to achieve which, I have to adnit, may not happen. And listening to Agerich doesn`t help. One little bit . . . .


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Originally Posted by doug1952
I love listening to classical music and heard Pathetique Sonata Adagio Contabile on the radio one day. I started private piano lessons, never having played before, after I bought a 100 year old Decker and Sons up right when I was 59. I am 63 now and have been taking lessons once a week. I have replaced the tinny saloon sounding old Decker with a Yamaha U-3. Pathetique Sonata sounded easy enough, like just slow chords. I desperately wanted to learn this piece. I found it was much harder than I anticipated. I only could play the first 2 bars of music, such that you could recognize the melody, after 3 years of private lessons. I memorized the notes and chords in the first 10 bars but couldn't play them well and forget about site reading at my level on a piece like this. My original teacher would discourage me from playing Pathetique and wanted me to concentrate on intermediate level pieces and technique. I continued to work on Pathetique in private. I've changed piano teachers now and she has me practicing scales and exercises in Czerny's school of velocity I think is the name of the book. I am making progress again on Pathetique. My new teacher says go for it. She says I can learn technique on Pathetique its just harder. I'm making progress again on the piece and now can play about 10 bars of the Sonata fairly well now. Having an encouraging teacher who loves classical music makes a big difference. I do practice other intermediate music of course but I really would like to finish Pathetique while I'm still around.


I was almost exactly the same age when I started five years ago.

I have a long list of pieces that I hope someday to play -- mainly classical, but also "Great American Songbook" works. I know that I'll get to some of them eventually, and some I won't.

Learning piano, though, really is a gradual and progressive process. One must learn basics first, then move on to slightly more challenging issues, then to yet more challenging things. And so on... forever. My guess is that, if you asked him, Daniel Trifonov would tell you exactly which pieces he's learning now, and that they're kicking his butt.

Two points: First, there is absolutely gorgeous piano music written at every level of technical ability, and a good teacher will know most of those pieces. I can't play the "Pathetique" now, and I probably won't ever be able to play it. So? There are many other beautiful works that I can and do play.

Second, and at least for me, the process itself is richly rewarding. I love learning new things on the piano, and every time I sit down to practice, it's the highlight of my day.

So, at least for me, it's about enjoying a joyous process and loving the pieces that I can play -- and that I can learn to play over time.

Last edited by ClsscLib; 11/01/16 11:05 AM.


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I started, from scratch, at about your age, so I do empathize with being conscious of the passing of time. But you ask a question in your subject title that is unanswerable. There are so many variables that all anyone can do is throw out guesses. Starting later in life adds even more variables.

My own opinion is that your original teacher was on the right track. Having the carrot of a piece you really want to play is fine, but trying to play that piece from the get-go really only delays reaching your goal, because all those other pieces your teacher wants you to spend your practice time on will serve to get you there faster and in better shape.


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FWIW (I don't teach) --

Originally Posted by doug1952
. . . Pathetique Sonata sounded easy enough, like just slow chords. I desperately wanted to learn this piece. I found it was much harder than I anticipated. I only could play the first 2 bars of music, such that you could recognize the melody, after 3 years of private lessons. I memorized the notes and chords in the first 10 bars but couldn't play them well and forget about site reading at my level on a piece like this. My original teacher would discourage me from playing Pathetique and wanted me to concentrate on intermediate level pieces and technique.


I'm looking at the score. It's deceptively simple -- nice slow tempo, not filled with black notes. But there are three independent parts, running in the first 8-measure section!

. . . So you need enough technique to handle that, with a very legato bass line, the RH thumb and second finger holding down the middle part, and the rest of the RH playing "melody" (which goes between legato and staccato).

And in measure 9, it goes to 4 parts through measure 16.

Even ignoring the emotional content, this is _not_ easy music! And you _can't_ ignore the emotion, if you want it to sound good. Your original teacher had a point:

. . . Your life might have been less frustrating,
. . . if you had developed
. . . the technique first, and then tackled the Pathetique.

Quote
. . . I am making progress again on Pathetique. My new teacher says go for it. She says I can learn technique on Pathetique its just harder. I'm making progress again on the piece and now can play about 10 bars of the Sonata fairly well now. Having an encouraging teacher who loves classical music makes a big difference. I do practice other intermediate music of course but I really would like to finish Pathetique while I'm still around.


A thought about learning music that's "too difficult":

. . . Blocking out the harmonic structure might help you
. . . keep things organized in your head.

So the Pathetique opening becomes:

. . . Ab Eb7 Ab Eb->Eb7 | Ab Eb Fm Bb | Eb . . .

Or that might make things more complex for you.

I've learned some things as an old adult, coming back to piano:

. . . Things don't happen as quickly as I want them to happen.

. . . There are some things I'd like to play, that I'll be dead
. . . before I master them.

So carry on, doing the "intermediate" music that you _can_ play, until you get good enough to tackle what you _want_ to play.

It's good that your current teacher is balancing the two. You need some candy, as well as oatmeal, in your diet.



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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
And in measure 9, it goes to 4 parts through measure 16.
And then you still have a long way to go before you even get to measure 37, where the right hand starts to play triplet-eighths instead of normal eighths in one of its two voices. That's when things start to get hectic (and uneven, if you don't have the technique). And those triplets stay with you (even in the LH too) for the rest of the movement (still almost two thirds to go from measure 37).

Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
Even ignoring the emotional content, this is _not_ easy music!
Indeed.


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Hey D52, I love Pathetique too and I started playing at 60. I figure I'd have to live to about a hundred (30 more years to go cry ) to sight read it but I believe that I could play parts of it by ear in a week or three where my wife and the three youngest grand kids would think I was a genius. The five oldest wouldn't even bother to put down their Itunes because it isn't upbeat enough. grin But thanks for bringing the idea up!

Last edited by Rerun; 11/02/16 07:49 AM.

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I started learning Piano at age 58 with a teacher who has been at her craft for over 40 years.

I think at our interview I mentioned I would love to play Bagatelle in A Minor by Beethoven. Her response, "Nope".

From the beginning she made it very clear that trying to learn "stretch pieces" is a very very bad idea.

So off we went and in the last 3+ Years I've made great progress, and during the journey so far I've learned dozens of pieces in original form by some of the greats.

But still, no Fur Elise. Actually, I may be only a few years away from giving this a try. "patience my young Patawan" smile


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Originally Posted by BrianDX

I think at our interview I mentioned I would love to play Bagatelle in A Minor by Beethoven. Her response, "Nope".

But still, no Fur Elise. Actually, I may be only a few years away from giving this a try. "patience my young Patawan" smile

You might want to try this one - she might say 'Yes'! grin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd2BKPvnkiE


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Originally Posted by BrianDX


From the beginning she made it very clear that trying to learn "stretch pieces" is a very very bad idea.



Interesting... I am wondering if it applies to all stretch pieces or only those that are way out of reach, as opposed to those that are a bit of a challenge?


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Re: How Long does it take to learn in your 60's?
I started classical piano in the middle of that same decade.
Oh yes, I made that mistake in approach to learning also.
Selecting and hunting for too advanced pieces that sound great and that I would like to learn.

Later realized that it's not at all necessary to set my sight on pieces like that.
Instead, I work on stuff that is within reach, gradually increases my skill set, and makes me a more advanced over time!

Simpler material that I can gradually increase fluidity and even reach a rapid tempo on, which in itself makes it more interesting to play. Any simple material can be made more interesting by playing it at a breakneck tempo e.g..
There's no simple piece that is decently composed, that cannot be made into a challenge and made more interesting.
There's no secret that even a chromatic, or any other scale can be made more challenging by tempo, various accents, or no accents at all but extreme fluidity like sparkling water.
There's no limit really and only limited by imagination, skill set, and familiarity of the material.

The complexity, difficulty, exposure by accomplished pianists of the music, etc. is no yardstick whatsoever. Only what you can work on yourself and improve with.

Guidelines such as: I have to be able to play this piece in order to be happy and satisfied, I want to play as well as this person, etc., etc., are real killers to progress and endurance at the piano.

This darn instrument is hard enough to learn without adding extra weight to it.


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Your question seems very legitimate to me. I am 69, and I started piano after hearing some Professor Longhair. That was a long time ago (for the dignity of the person involved I am not using real numbers). So can I play any of his stuff?

Well, one song, sorta.

I have squandered my practicing on too many stretch pieces. Not all of my time though, and I do make progress. But there is another way to look at the issue. A person might ask, "How long does it take to gain admittance to the world in my heart, where the music is warm and comforting and where even the darkest miseries are just more notes, better notes? Where our life is played back to us as sunspot eruptions of joy and love and beauty?"

Or are we in that world as soon as we begin to seriously try? And then it becomes just a question of how we wish to spend our time there.


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I think the real danger in a long-stretch piece is that it will eat up a good chunk of your practice time. That is to say, if you are serious about learning to play that stretch piece, you *will* need to spend a lot of time on it. You say you don't spend a lot of time on it? Then you're just messing around, which is fine, we all like to do that now and then. But otherwise that piece will suck up all the air in the room.



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Originally Posted by INBoston
Originally Posted by BrianDX


From the beginning she made it very clear that trying to learn "stretch pieces" is a very very bad idea.


Interesting... I am wondering if it applies to all stretch pieces or only those that are way out of reach, as opposed to those that are a bit of a challenge?

Good question.

I think she meant pieces that are at least several levels above your current playing ability, and in effect causes a student's natural learning process to be interfered with.

If I think about this some more, every new piece I learn in my Faber lesson books are stretch pieces in a way, but in these cases just a small step above where I currently am.


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