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aph123 Offline OP
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Been practising for ~5 years.

'Acheivemnts';

- 3 teachers
- 4 ABRSM exams (highest - Grade5 practical 141/150, Grade5 theory 99/100)
- I've 'learned' ~100 pieces upto grade5 difficulty
- Severe tendonitis in right hand/wrist about 1.5 year ago (better now)
- Deep feeling of inadequacy and dissatisfaction, tarnished self esteem

To be honest, I've heaven't learned to do a single thing properly at the piano. I've never been able to 'bank' anything, i.e. I don't have a solid foundation on which to progress. This is not due to the lack of trying or ignorant / sloppy practising. I'm very aware and been (obsessively) thinking / reading / talking about this fact for years.

I'm now totally convinced that I lack the level of musical and motor-skill talent to get anywhere close where I want to be. All I have is grit and and analytical mind, but it can only take you so far.

I don't enjoy the watered-down pieces at my level, and I can't even play them properly. I have never felt satisfied with my playing on any piece from the beginner's to what I've trying to do now. I've never been able to play music relaxed, with flow, focusing my attention of the musical aspects. I'm always 110% occupied fighting my fingers, (lack of) memory, reading scores etc. It's always low percentage chance getting through a page without any major issues, practicing more / smarter does not help me overcome this.

Playing music has always been a dream of mine, and my ambitions are modest (I think) Mozart K545 would be enough. But I've come to realise that banging your head against the wall in an area where you never will feel adequate it not helpful, however deep your desire goes. You need to pick your hobbies carefully, and it will be more satisfactory to focus on something where you show some signs of proficiency even if its not what you (think) you desire the most.

I'm starting a new chapter this year, a happier chapter.

Last edited by aph123; 01/01/21 07:17 AM.
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What does your teacher say about this?

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Most likely a good teacher should have identified some of these problems.


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Originally Posted by aph123
Been practising for ~5 years.

'Acheivemnts';

- 3 teachers
- 4 ABRSM exams (highest - Grade5 practical 141/150, Grade5 theory 99/100)
- I've 'learned' ~100 pieces upto grade5 difficulty
- Severe tendonitis in right hand/wrist about 1.5 year ago (better now)
- Deep feeling of inadequacy and dissatisfaction, tarnished self esteem

To be honest, I've heaven't learned to do a single thing properly at the piano. I've never been able to 'bank' anything, i.e. I don't have a solid foundation on which to progress. This is not due to the lack of trying or ignorant / sloppy practising. I'm very aware and been (obsessively) thinking / reading / talking about this fact for years.

I'm now totally convinced that I lack the level of musical and motor-skill talent to get anywhere close where I want to be. All I have is grit and and analytical mind, but it can only take you so far.
Sad to say, you're suffering from the incurable adult student malady: severe over-thinking and even more severe over-expectations.

Any kid who progressed like you have (near-maximum marks in both practical & theory Grade 5 exams after five years) would be deemed by his teacher to doing pretty well, and his teacher will expect him to go all the way to Grade 8 and even diplomas in the next five years or so. You don't get to where you are without having a solid technical and musical foundation, which you'll be able to build on - should you choose to. And you've obviously been well taught.

BTW, my progress as a kid was pretty similar to yours. Five years later, I achieved my performance diploma, and started doing piano recitals and lecture-recitals later in adulthood.

The difference between my teenage self and you is that I had no expectations, no real ambitions to be anything other than to (try to) play the music I love......even if it might take years before I could manage some of them. (And there were many pieces that took several years from when I first set my eyes on them.) And I was enjoying every minute of my practising, and playing - for fun, and with friends in duets etc. And I also joined the school choir, making use of my aural skills that I'd developed as part of my piano learning, thus widening my musical participation.


Quote
I'm starting a new chapter this year, a happier chapter.
If you can't change your mindset about piano and music, perhaps that's best.

However, your malady, though incurable, is treatable......


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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aph123 Offline OP
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
What does your teacher say about this?

I have spoken (and still speaking) to all my teachers about this. I've also been to piano 'conferences' (before covid) talking about progress with fellow adult beginners.

Last year and a half I've been with a teacher focusing on piano technique (to overcome my tendonitis). It has helped me, my pain I mostly gone. I'm taking her word for it, that my technique/playing has actually improved as well, much less tense and awkward. However, to me, my playing hasn't improved much.

I honestly think all my teachers have done their best, we've been very open about my practising and progress. They do adress what they can see and hear. Nothing is swept under the carpet, various approaches have been talked about / tried (I constantly being new ideas I have seen / read about). I don't blame them in any way, I really like them personally and adore their playing.

But at the end of they day, it does come down to lack of talent.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Sad to say, you're suffering from the incurable adult student malady: severe over-thinking and even more severe over-expectations.

Any kid who progressed like you have (near-maximum marks in both practical & theory Grade 5 exams after five years) would be deemed by his teacher to doing pretty well, and his teacher will expect him to go all the way to Grade 8 and even diplomas in the next five years or so. You don't get to where you are without having a solid technical and musical foundation, which you'll be able to build on - should you choose to. And you've obviously been well taught.

BTW, my progress as a kid was pretty similar to yours. Five years later, I achieved my performance diploma, and started doing piano recitals and lecture-recitals later in adulthood.

The difference between my teenage self and you is that I had no expectations, no real ambitions to be anything other than to (try to) play the music I love......even if it might take years before I could manage some of them. (And there were many pieces that took several years from when I first set my eyes on them.) And I was enjoying every minute of my practising, and playing - for fun, and with friends in duets etc. And I also joined the school choir, making use of my aural skills that I'd developed as part of my piano learning, thus widening my musical participation.

However, your malady, though incurable, is treatable......

Thanks for this feedback, very honest and to the point. Great to read about your progress, but I'm really struggling to see myself progressing much further. To me, the choice is between accepting that my current level is 'as good as its going to get' or doing something else with my time (lots and lots of time required to improve in music).

First of all; about my exam results. I think ABRSM is suffering from a severe point inflation at the moment. I don't deserve anything close to that score. My scales, sight reading and aural are strong (for grade5 atleast) but my performance of the pieces on that day deserved a much lower score. So I don't see myself being at distinction grade5 level.

Your point about wanting/trying/expecting too hard/much I'm definitely guilty of (something one of my teachers keep bringing up). But the alternative to me (caring much less) is the same as not practising and playing video games instead.

Finally, you also mentioned enjoying your journey, this is probably crucial. I'm definitely not (never) happy with my playing and thus my enjoyment is always low.

Last edited by aph123; 01/01/21 09:08 AM.
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bennevis is correct about adult expectations.

However you might want to expand your musical style to other genres like Blues if that can help your self esteem and overall mood. I mean, non-classical genres like Blues require different skills which you might find to be strong at.


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Have you thought about something different such as guitar or singing or drums? Throughout my life I've jumped around between quite a few different instruments. Sometimes you have to switch things up. You probably do have quite a bit of musical talent and if you try something else it may really click for you.

But hey if you decide music is not for you, that's OK too. We'd much rather you be content with how you spend your time than frustrated and unhappy.

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Hm, I thought making "give up the piano" your new year's resolution was quite clever, since the vast majority of new year's resolutions are broken smile


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I understand how you feel. 5 years into practice is a very tough point for an adult. The novelty is far gone. And the mastery is still far away. But I've been practicing 6 years, just 1 more than you. And i can tell you this last year has been awesome. I've made lot of progress. And i can really see myself in a few years playin like a true advanced pianist. Im sure if you keep it you won't regret.

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I have to say I'v had a load of fun on the piano since coming to piano world and before. My level will be no more than 6 and that with some difficulty; reading music has always been hard work, and gets harder when you're the wrong side of seventy. If you fail to enjoy it, then don't play; surely it's not a matter of expectancies. We wish you well in your choices but don't get rid of the piano. It might come in handy again!


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My Achievemints may be even less impressive or minty fresh than the OP. Perhaps the only area where I excel is in my lack of talent.

Still, I enjoy the whole process.


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Regarding my last post, you might ask why Blues or Jazz or non-classical in general?

Because I feel that too much focus classical training puts on the sight reading and learning third-person pieces and this might make one feel bored at some point in their learning journey. Jazz is about improvisation. You'll need strong theory as far I as know and then the playing skills, and that'd be enough for you to have fun making your own improvised piece. Maybe that'd be more fun for you?


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The initial post was rather heavy on negativity: lack of adequate skills, lack of musicianship, lack of progress and an overall sense of disappointment. What is an essential benchmark for student pianists, but particularly for adult piano students is not only a sense of accomplishment but also a strong feeling of enjoying the journey. I haven't ready anywhere - unless I missed it - that you have any feeling of enjoying your time at the piano. This is, for most adults, a hobby and hobbies should always give a sense of enjoyment.

That playing music "has always been a dream" of yours has evidently clashed with the reality of the actual experience. That you have discussed this with others including your teachers suggests to me that unless you can find some joy in the music that you can play, and unless that joy can encourage you to achieve further progress, then perhaps the piano is not the instrument for you. A hobby, particularly one that involves so much of our emotional input to it and expectations from it should not be one that causes only frustration, dissatisfaction and disappointment.

I hope you find a resource that brings you a happier 2021.

Regards,


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I understand what you are going through. Here are a few thoughts about it. First one is that 5 years is really not that much for an adult learning the piano. Maybe that you feel like the amount of pleasure you get back is low in relation to the amount of time and effort you invest. But in my view this is related to the fact that you are likely driven by an objective rather than by the satisfaction of doing what you are doing.

So it is like someone who would be training for playing tennis with the expectatation to reach a certain level of game, but not enjoying playing at current level. I also agree with you that the examination level tend to be sometimes a bit forgiving, but they are what they are nevertheless.

My sense is that if you really are not enjoying playing, that is an issue. However, a couple of suggestions i can give. One is to try to forget about your objectives for a time and try to play just for playing. Dont try to be perfect, just practice for the sake ot it. Relax and dont think about what you could do better. Do sight reading, even if at ultra low speed and discover new music. See if that helps in any way.

My second advice is to diversify your musical activities. Try to play easier music. Some easy pop arrangement with a simple melody and a few chords and see if you like that. Maybe some singing would be enjoyable, composing simple pieces or more in depth theory and analysis. In other words, you dont necessarily have to be ultra profficient in piano to enjoy activities related to music. I know several very well known musicians who arent very good in any instrumental playing and yet they managed to achieve a pretty good musical carreer.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by aph123
Been practising for ~5 years.

'Acheivemnts';

- 3 teachers
- 4 ABRSM exams (highest - Grade5 practical 141/150, Grade5 theory 99/100)
- I've 'learned' ~100 pieces upto grade5 difficulty
- Severe tendonitis in right hand/wrist about 1.5 year ago (better now)
- Deep feeling of inadequacy and dissatisfaction, tarnished self esteem

To be honest, I've heaven't learned to do a single thing properly at the piano. I've never been able to 'bank' anything, i.e. I don't have a solid foundation on which to progress. This is not due to the lack of trying or ignorant / sloppy practising. I'm very aware and been (obsessively) thinking / reading / talking about this fact for years.

I'm now totally convinced that I lack the level of musical and motor-skill talent to get anywhere close where I want to be. All I have is grit and and analytical mind, but it can only take you so far.
Sad to say, you're suffering from the incurable adult student malady: severe over-thinking and even more severe over-expectations.

Any kid who progressed like you have (near-maximum marks in both practical & theory Grade 5 exams after five years) would be deemed by his teacher to doing pretty well, and his teacher will expect him to go all the way to Grade 8 and even diplomas in the next five years or so. You don't get to where you are without having a solid technical and musical foundation, which you'll be able to build on - should you choose to. And you've obviously been well taught.

BTW, my progress as a kid was pretty similar to yours. Five years later, I achieved my performance diploma, and started doing piano recitals and lecture-recitals later in adulthood.

The difference between my teenage self and you is that I had no expectations, no real ambitions to be anything other than to (try to) play the music I love......even if it might take years before I could manage some of them. (And there were many pieces that took several years from when I first set my eyes on them.) And I was enjoying every minute of my practising, and playing - for fun, and with friends in duets etc. And I also joined the school choir, making use of my aural skills that I'd developed as part of my piano learning, thus widening my musical participation.


Quote
I'm starting a new chapter this year, a happier chapter.
If you can't change your mindset about piano and music, perhaps that's best.

However, your malady, though incurable, is treatable......

100% agree with bennevis. I’ve been there. It’s not necessarily just a piano thing though. It can be a pervasive mindset. It’s either 100% or nothing at all. It’s either I do it perfectly or I quit altogether. I’d consider myself successfully treated at the moment but the malady is incurable as bennevis says.

OP, I wish you good luck, whatever you decide to do.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 01/01/21 02:07 PM.

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I can relate to a lot of the OPs frustrations especially when some folk seem to play more effortlessly than me. Personally I try and enjoy it for what it is. I know I. Never going to be great but as long as l feel I can improve il keep going.

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I think 5 years and getting to grade 5, with almost perfect score, is great progress. I mean to get over 140 is nuts! That is practically perfect and yet you critic yourself. I think a year per grade is the norm for good progress. I think you have the incurable adult student malady as suggested with overthinking. I personally did one exam but then stopped doing exams as an adult. If you are getting obsessive about exams it may be best to have a break from this. As for K545 that you mention you should be able to play no. Its only the first movement that may be beyond what you manage now. I would recommend the second movement which I did record for one of these piano world online recitals.

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

Good luck.

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Ask yourself this: if you quit today, five years from now will you regret quitting?

Back in 2014 I did a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia - over 2100 miles in 5 months. Many times I thought about quitting. At one point I got sick and came home for a week. But I went back and finished, and I am so glad I did. If I hadn't, now I would be thinking back on my uncompleted hike.

One important point about hiking for months - it has to be about the journey, and not the destination. Take joy every day from something, even if it is something small. Every day those miles add up. If you focus too much on the goal, it seems impossible to reach.

I'm not trying to tell you not to quit. You sound pretty negative about it all. If you can't take some pleasure in everyday practice, then it must be an awful drudgery to play everyday.

But first picture yourself in the future. Will you regret quitting? Will you think, "If I had only stuck with it, today I could be making music on the piano?"

Sam

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Or just cut back a bit- don’t know how much time you dedicate to piano, but if it’s a lot then sometimes less is more beneficial

Last edited by Wayne2467; 01/01/21 03:19 PM.
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