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Like BlakeOR, for me it depends if the problem is morale or fingers.

If my fingers are refusing to cooperate, constantly making silly mistakes, I’ll cut down my work to the tiniest morsel of a tricky part - no more than 2 measures - and tell myself I’ll only practice it a few times, less than 5 minutes, and then stop. Sometimes that is enough to trick my fingers into working again. Otherwise, I’ll focus on chords or a new form of scale, whatever takes maximum concentration.

If I’m in a mental slump, I’ll read through easier older pieces, have a sight-reading binge, or simply tinkle, letting my fingers play whatever soothes my soul.

My take on it is that learning the piano is a long journey with many skills to master. Sometimes taking a break from working on one gives my brain time to consolidate what it knows to date. I can use that break to practice other skills. Finally, the occasional total day off isn’t what is holding me back from surpassing Horowitz...

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I'm happy to hear that other members benefited from all the responses too. I read them all and appreciate all the advice it was very helpful. Yesterday was just an off day all around too much brain fog. However, I took a long break then ended up still getting in a good practice session thanks to support here.

I think I figured out the primary cause that kicked off the frustration. Woke up early and jumped right on the piano and went straight into my exercise where I had to apply swing 1/8s and it has some ties, all new to me and I went straight for it and failed. Today I took many steps back on it just counting out loud with a swing feel, with metronome, then clapping a swing, then using a single note swing, and today I made a huge step forward on it. While yesterday was frustrating at some points I learned a lot from it now I can apply all the advice here next time it happens.

Thanks, everyone.

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Originally Posted by Sebs
I think I figured out the primary cause that kicked off the frustration. Woke up early and jumped right on the piano and went straight into my exercise where I had to apply swing 1/8s and it has some ties, all new to me and I went straight for it and failed. Today I took many steps back on it just counting out loud with a swing feel, with metronome, then clapping a swing, then using a single note swing, and today I made a huge step forward on it. While yesterday was frustrating at some points I learned a lot from it now I can apply all the advice here next time it happens.
I think this a perfect example of solving a problem at the piano.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Four choices:
1. Start practicing a different piece.
2. Take a short break.
3. Take the day off.
4. Try and solve the problem. Figure out what's causing the difficulty. You can't just practice something over and over with the hope that it will eventually improve or the problem will disappear.

Any of the above are reasonable.

All of these. For me "nap" can go in either #2 or #3.
And sometimes, it's so bad I just have to laugh.


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If I get days like that I just stop playing and go make a coffee.


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Originally Posted by Sebs
I'm happy to hear that other members benefited from all the responses too. I read them all and appreciate all the advice it was very helpful. Yesterday was just an off day all around too much brain fog. However, I took a long break then ended up still getting in a good practice session thanks to support here.

I think I figured out the primary cause that kicked off the frustration. Woke up early and jumped right on the piano and went straight into my exercise where I had to apply swing 1/8s and it has some ties, all new to me and I went straight for it and failed. Today I took many steps back on it just counting out loud with a swing feel, with metronome, then clapping a swing, then using a single note swing, and today I made a huge step forward on it. While yesterday was frustrating at some points I learned a lot from it now I can apply all the advice here next time it happens.

Thanks, everyone.

Hi, I would like to share a thing as what you described above resembled my own experience. I always played by ear or used chords as a basis for playing songs (church or pop). Playing with a score sheet is is relatively recent experience to me.

I am studying Alexis FFrench's Dreamland. Measures 13-16 were very challenging, as both hands fight for the space smile (video below atarting at 0:18). Maybe for players used to classics this is trivial. So I practiced one or two hours (split in several days) very slowly; it felt very awkward, to say the least. Then, suddenly, one day, I could naturally play those measures. One day, that awkwardness, the other playing reasonably OK, and from that on improving with practice. They say our brain burns memories on permanent synapses while we sleep. We call it muscular memory but once I read there is not such a thing, the memory is really in our brain. That may explain why taking a rest helps learning these pieces.

I hope all this makes sense.



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Originally Posted by Sebs
Today I'm struggling with the simplest things at the piano and feeling very frustrated and hard on myself. When this happens do you walk away or just work on something even easier like playing some scales? I know it's up to me I'm wondering what others typically do if they experience this. It's one of those self pity days where I feel like I'm the worse, slowest and that simple things are so hard.

Do even advanced pianist have these days where simple things are a struggle (simple being relative to the person)?

Do you just keep at it and try to focus?

I do try to remind myself of the days where I feel like I'm a rock star too but those are rare laugh
I can’t remember the last time I felt frustrated at the piano- maybe 35 years ago. Every practice session now is just an opportunity to learn something new or play something I enjoy. Learning takes time and patience. The more difficult the piece the longer it will take. I struggle with learning new pieces just as much as anyone else out there. I’ve come to realize that professional concert pianists differ from the rest of us by the fact that they spend much more time practicing then we do. They are more efficient at practicing and have more experience and years being under fantastic teachers themselves and the rest is God given talent. But I think it is the first 2 that really limits the hobbyists progress and the fact that most of us started later in life. I’ve learned over the years that if I trust the process and practice efficiently the results will come and they always do. 2 years ago I took on the challenge of learning Busoni’s D-minor Chaconne. When I began I thought I was looking at Mount Everest but 2 years later the piece has been read through most technical challenges figured out but now it’s all about polishing the piece at my own pace and I’ve moved on to other pieces. That 2 years were with an average of 20 minutes a day of practice some days very long some days no practice time at all. If I had 4 hours a day I probably could have finished the piece in a few months but 15 hour work days get in the way.

If you just practice you will improve. If you allow yourself to get frustrated you are just wasting time. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have or how many years you have been at it. Work small sections at a time. Sleep on it and like magic the notes and technique are under your fingers. I almost feel as if I learn the piece in my sleep not actually on the day I practice. It’s on the following practice session that the improvement manifests itself. Most people who have been at this for a long time should notice this as well. We rarely really see great improvement on the day we practice. If you try to look for the improvement on the day you practice you will just get frustrated and that’s all you are going to retain to the next practice session. Frustration. Trust the process. Take it slow and the results will come.

Last edited by Jethro; 04/17/21 08:36 PM.

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I used to have off days when I was young but haven’t had one for many years. I usually find that everything comes right after a few minutes. The dystonia required a lot more push and shove but after getting rid of that nothing seems much of an effort any longer in comparison. In any case I find it more productive to think about the possible causes of exceptionally good sessions rather than brood on less remarkable efforts.


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Well, I'm older too, and cannot play to the degree I used to even a year or two back. So I practice stuff I once knew, stuff I like and the occasional new material. But there's som much other non-piano stuff I do that I can't really spend too much time worrying over a bad day . . but my piano still sounds good on a bad day.
So that makes it a good day!


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Originally Posted by Sebs
I think I figured out the primary cause that kicked off the frustration. Woke up early and jumped right on the piano and went straight into my exercise where I had to apply swing 1/8s and it has some ties, all new to me and I went straight for it and failed.
I think my brain wakes up about half an hour after I wake up. laugh

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Yesterday I worked on only 1 connecting measure that tied 2 lines together. Not even a section of a piece but nonetheless made progress...

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Yesterday I worked on only 1 connecting measure that tied 2 lines together. Not even a section of a piece but nonetheless made progress...
Work like that is what even the most accomplished of pianists sometimes must do. My teachers who are all fantastic concert pianists tell me they do such things for hours sometimes. A few bars here or there or one specific area in a piece. I couldn’t believe it at first but it’s true and it keeps things for me in perspective.


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For the first time in about two weeks, I was able to connect all measures of the 2nd passage of Chopin Waltz B.159. Immediately my impatient self attempted to perform it at high tempo, which almost threw me down in confidence. I stopped and picked myself up at slow tempo. The days I hate most are when I assume too much when all is needed is slow practice.

When I practice slow, I'm able to relax the fingers, breathe, and most importantly I'm consciously aware that I am feeling so!


A man must love a thing very much if he practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practice it without any hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the toils of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it.
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Sebs
I think I figured out the primary cause that kicked off the frustration. Woke up early and jumped right on the piano and went straight into my exercise where I had to apply swing 1/8s and it has some ties, all new to me and I went straight for it and failed.
I think my brain wakes up about half an hour after I wake up. laugh

I read something about dopamine deprivation states which occur both as a natural cycle, but also induced by spikes caused external stimulation, such as coming off of caffeine highs, these cycle disruptions can bleed across multiple days, so it isn't always the case that sleep fixes the cycle.

Last edited by EinLudov; 04/19/21 09:43 AM.
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Originally Posted by Jethro
Work like that is what even the most accomplished of pianists sometimes must do.
This is an incorrect description : precisely because the are most accomplished of pianists , they know when such in-depth work is required. This is the norm.

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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Jethro
Work like that is what even the most accomplished of pianists sometimes must do.
This is an incorrect description : precisely because the are most accomplished of pianists , they know when such in-depth work is required. This is the norm.
I’m missing the subtle difference but I’ll take your word for it.


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Originally Posted by EinLudov
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Sebs
I think I figured out the primary cause that kicked off the frustration. Woke up early and jumped right on the piano and went straight into my exercise where I had to apply swing 1/8s and it has some ties, all new to me and I went straight for it and failed.
I think my brain wakes up about half an hour after I wake up. laugh

I read something about dopamine deprivation states which occur both as a natural cycle, but also induced by spikes caused external stimulation, such as coming off of caffeine highs, these cycle disruptions can bleed across multiple days, so it isn't always the case that sleep fixes the cycle.
Very interesting.

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Originally Posted by Jethro
I’m missing the subtle difference but I’ll take your word for it.
I hope I understood you correctly; then even the most is completely redundant when it comes to professional pianists. If you know how difficult it is to play Mozart, then I often sat with the students for a whole lesson over 2- 4 bars of his music.

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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Jethro
I’m missing the subtle difference but I’ll take your word for it.
I hope I understood you correctly; then even the most is completely redundant when it comes to professional pianists. If you know how difficult it is to play Mozart, then I often sat with the students for a whole lesson over 2- 4 bars of his music.
I think it's somewhat of an expression in English language, "by even the most". But it's just semantics and I understand what you are saying.

explanation


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