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 Post subject: Scared..
PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 2:36 pm 
Hello everyone, i have a problem, i have played guitar for 3 years (im 17) and have been a long time piano lover, but ive always been put of by the thought im to old to start learning. Piano seems so strict that i feel i would be doing an injustice having not started earlier, i know this is a silly way to think. I have this mental block saying "no matter how hard you try you will never be able to play chopin"

My brother plays and i would be easily able to put 3+ hours a day practise in. So what im wondering is can i actually start now and get to a respectable level in years to come? Thanks.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:29 pm 
I started at 17 years old and my recent piano teacher says I will go far. It does not matter when you start, but it is true that you learn some of the mechanical actions easier when young, but the major thing is that at young age you don't have any mental blocks. If you keep telling you're self that you will never become good is the best way to make sure you won't improve.

For example: If you start playing at 6 years, you might graduate at around 20. If you start at 17 and work hard you maybe graduate at 25. It is not too bad.

There are good and bad sides when starting later than most pianists, but still there isn't any right time to start playing. For example many people who start at young age hate music and doesn't play at all when they get around 15 years. But if you start later and you have passion to play and some patience to practice there are no blocks which will block your dream to play piano.


(just my opinion)

Edit: I have so much to say about this subject but I guess this is enough :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:37 am 
There shouldn't be anything stopping you from reaching a respectable skill level. I came into piano from guitar (a similar amount of time) when I was 12, and I have done okay for myself. The most important thing to do is get a good teacher - a year of my learning was self-taught, and quite slow, but once I got a teacher (a great one at that) my progress was much much faster.


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 Post subject: Re: Scared..
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:15 am 
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fronkpies wrote:
Hello everyone, i have a problem, i have played guitar for 3 years (im 17) and have been a long time piano lover, but ive always been put of by the thought im to old to start learning. Piano seems so strict that i feel i would be doing an injustice having not started earlier, i know this is a silly way to think. I have this mental block saying "no matter how hard you try you will never be able to play chopin"

My brother plays and i would be easily able to put 3+ hours a day practise in. So what im wondering is can i actually start now and get to a respectable level in years to come? Thanks.



Hello fronkpies, welcome the forum. Relax, you're among fallable friends.

About your problem, if you wish to play the piano, you reserve the right to do so. The first order of business is to resolve your anxiety. If you can relax, you will make steady progress, slow, but progress nonetheless.

How? Since I can't read your mind, I'll make an educated guess.

Say a daily affirmation. Every morning, I give a maximum effort to convince myself: "I will work hard; I will work properly; I will always be honest to myself and others; I will gain pleasure through admitting my faults and casting away pride to fix them; I am finite, I cannot bridge all the chasms alone; I have much to learn and I will ask aide of those, who hold the knowledge; I will devour any books that broaden my horizon; The piano is not easy, but I trust myself enough to try; I will learn the best way I can, while asking guidance of the erudite; There will be good times and bad times; When at the bad times I will NEVER!!NEVER!! give in; I will savor the good times; At the piano, there is an infinity of sound, I will make this infinity of beauty show its self; When I am tired I will rest; When I am spiteful, I will nourish my soul with joy; My playing is not perfect; Other people might laugh at failure, let them! They're not in the hot seat, so ignore them."

My point is, you must banish negative emotion at the piano and replace it with (said out loud) positive ideas and hard work. Realise that you will make countless mistakes, we all make mistakes. Heck, last week I completely butcherd several Beethoven Sonatas. I didn't get frustrated. Instead of telling myself "Oh no, I can't do it". I became not scared but irritated, saying "I must have done somthing wrong, therefore it can be fixed and I WILL FIX IT!!!! The next day, I practiced the sonatas with an almost psychotic concentration, I muttered to myself all day,"MY WILL BE DONE! IT'S MY CHOICE TO PLAY IT AND I WILL PLAY IT WELL BECAUSE IT CAN BE DONE!!MY--WILL--BE-- DONE!!! :twisted: On the very next day, I played them much better. 8)

Once a teacher said to me, "When at the wild piano-beast, make quite sure you are the alphamale, lest you be devoured.



______________
Pete :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:40 am 
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Well said PJF. Concentration, will-power, and above all self-confidence are what matters, not age.
Your mantra is hilarious yet contains a very sensible advice. But why all the boldface ?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 12:17 pm 
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This is a "problem" so many people face... and my answer to it is simple: You are never too old to learn, as many people say. Have confidence, do your best and just see what comes out of your effort. Good luck!

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Yiteng

"Without music, life would be a mistake."
Friedrich Nietzsche


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 12:18 pm 
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I like your mantra, PJF. Mine is: You Can Do This!

As far as age goes, I was typical in beginning piano when I was young, around six years old, and made fast progress. I don't remember having to practice a lot because playing came easily for me. In high school, I became an accompanist for some of the choirs but quit the piano lessons. And then in college I majored in business and only played the piano in a 'fifties' band. Fast forward ten years: The piano 'bug' bit me and I bought a new grand piano and began practicing hard. When I was younger, I could play Mozart, Chopin, and the rest of them but not their more difficult pieces. Now I can, though. (some of them, anyway) And it's because I had the passion and desire to do so. I still do and when I hear someone play something that "gets me", I have to run to the piano and start working on it. And it doesn't matter how hard it is, anymore. And that's the age thing again. I didn't want to tackle big pieces when I was younger, being a concert pianist was not my dream. I guess if it was, I would have continued the lessons and gotten better at an earlier age. What's funny is that now I do want to take lessons again. I know there's plenty more for me to learn that I'm not capable in teaching myself.
So what are we talking about again....Oh yeah, Fronkpies, you can do anything your heart desires, (play great piano music) if you have the passion inside.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 12:38 pm 
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Some more tips which may be useful :-

Do not be frustrated by what you cannot (yet) play, but be content with what you can play, and try to make that better. Polishing pieces to perfection does more for technique and musicality than desperately tearing through works that are not (yet) within reach. This way, more difficult repertoire comes in scope almost unnoticed.

Listen to yourself very closely and critically, as if you were another person listening to you. Do try not to hear what you want to hear, but to hear what you actually hear (hm.... did that make sense at all ? :lol: ). This gives you a way to objectively evaluate your own playing.

Rejoice in every progress that you make, even if it is small. And progress you will make, if you are serious about it. As the Chinese say, "a journey of a thousand years starts with a single step".

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Nothing is always absolutely so -- Sturgeon's law
Chris Breemer


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 12:50 pm 
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Great tips from all sides here.

What I like to add from my side is, that maybe it is so that one can learn faster at younger age. However, if there is not the passion, and one is more or less forced by teacher or parents to practise, this does not help much.
In my case it was so that I got lessons from age 5 to 19, however with about age 14 the interest in piano playing decreased, and the interest switched to guitar playing in a band. Practised often only before the next piano lesson...
20 years later I started again with piano playing and practising. I have the feeling that there is still progress, even with 44 years. Maybe more progress than as teenager in my case. Because now I have the passion, and like Pianolady said already, the urge to work on difficultier pieces which seemed far out of reach in former times.
So I can only confirm from own experience, passion, honest practising, that is what counts much more than age.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 3:50 pm 
Thanks everyone, you have all really helped with your great advice and now i feel i would be doing myself a wrong if i missed out on such beautiful music, i will start practicing right away :D

I agree that there are both up and downsides of starting younger/later.

Anyway thank you all.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 4:57 pm 
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Fronkpies, I forgot to mention:
Do you know that Swajatoslav Richter (without doubt one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, if not the greatest at all) started piano playing in your age? I think he started as late teenager, played before violin (also exceptional well) and worked as conducter in that age too. Some say, he was a great painter as well, and that if he had devoted his time to painting, he would have reached the same heights...

You see, since you love the music and played guitar before, no problem. Man, you are just 17 and ask whether it 's too late! If you were 71 instead 17, I would say don't expect too much, but in your case all is possible of course!

Look for a good teacher and take off!

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Olaf Schmidt


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:47 pm 
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techneut wrote:
Well said PJF. Concentration, will-power, and above all self-confidence are what matters, not age.
Your mantra is hilarious yet contains a very sensible advice. But why all the boldface ?


I don't know, I like boldface. Should I do away with it? I just find it easier to read, I guess.

I see the hilarity of my mantra! :lol: When I'm at the piano, I must have 100% faith in my abilities. If I ever have the slightest doubt, anxiety and frustration overwhelm me. By sheer force of will, I manage to maintain confidence. I've consciously developed a reflex; the instant I feel fear or doubt, I force those feelings out of my head and replace them with a sense of urgency to get it right. It works.

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Pete


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 Post subject: How to practice -- and get good at playing the piano.
PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 2:53 pm 
Hello to Fronkpies and other contributing members to this thread,

I can understand your concern about your ability to learn a new instrument such as the piano; your feelings are very real to you. While it is true that children under, say, the age of 12 can acquire piano playing skills faster, YOU have a quality about yourself that overrides what they have. Do you know what that is??? It is DESIRE, MOTIVATION!

Seeing that I currently teach 63 piano students per week (I am a retired metallurgical & materials engineer from the steel industry), I can give you some insight into the road ahead of you.

First some words of encouragement: Nearly everyone on the planet believes he or she is too old to start learning piano. Even some parents of 6 year olds "regret" they haven't introduced their children to piano lessons at age 3! Seventeen is a fine age to begin learning the piano. After all, you have perhaps another 75 to 85 years ahead of you to perfect your craft!

I tell my adult beginning students the following: The human mind is an amazing thing, because parts of the brain can be taught new things to do at any age in one's life. Take, for example, stroke victims who (God forbid) may have lost the ability to speak, or walk, or write with pen on paper. The affected portion of the brain has ceased functioning in its normal way.

Physical therapy takes the form of three activities: 1) showing the patient how to correctly perform a given task; 2) repetition, repetition, and repetition; and 3) positive reinforcement for each gain, no matter how small or large.

Something happens when a stroke victim is administered the correct therapy -- a DIFFERENT part of the brain, usually one that was NEVER intended for a given new function, happens to acquire the function lost previously by the stroke in a different part of the brain! This can occur spontaneously, especially with help from the three steps described above.


Do you know what, Fronkpies? The IDENTICAL method applies to piano lessons, when administered by a competent teacher!!!! So remember this -- if a stroke victim can re-acquire the ability to speak, or walk, etc., by means of the brain re-configuring itself, then playing the piano is literally child's play!


Now, down to the basics of learning to play the piano: Your ability to play the guitar has already demonstrated that you are aware of musical notes, rhythm, and hopefully the ability to read music. I would go one step further -- it is actually EASIER to play a note on the piano than it is to hold down a guitar string at the correct fret, and simultaneously excite the correct string with the other hands! In other words: One note on piano = one use of one finger VERSUS one note on guitar = combined effort of pressing the string with one hand, with sufficient downward force, and simultaneously coordinate the other hand to pick the correct string!!


What you gain in ease of making beautiful tones on a piano is offset by the usual requirement to play both the melody and accompaniment on the piano at the same time. Restated: Guitar = relatively few notes played at one time but with fair degree of difficulty VERSUS Piano = easy to play individual notes, but you usually have to play many more notes at the same time!


On practicing the piano -- I highly recommend that you find an instructor who directs you to perform far more hands separate practice than most teachers of beginning students. The more practice you can get, hands separately (AS A BEGINNER), I believe the faster you will progress. I would also leave you with these bits of information regarding practice:

Once you find a passage that is difficult to play, you will most likely determine that only two or three notes are the problem, rather than the whole passage. By all means, do NOT waste time repeating the entire passage, when you can concentrate your corrective action on the few notes that need correcting!

It is also a good idea, especially for a beginning student, to be able to play at a hands-separate tempo that is FASTER than performance tempo. Then when you put the two hands together, you will have already worked out the fingering problems, and your brain will have become acclimated to playing the piece!

Enough of my rambling.

If you find this reply helpful, please feel free to ask questions on this subject.

Sincerely,

Joe


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:41 pm 
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Quote:
It is also a good idea, especially for a beginning student, to be able to play at a hands-separate tempo that is FASTER than performance tempo. Then when you put the two hands together, you will have already worked out the fingering problems, and your brain will have become acclimated to playing the piece!


Hi Joe,
I enjoy reading your posts. You have a lot of great ideas and your music is wonderful. I just have to add my two-cents-worth to this one paragraph. I make better progress when I practice hands together very slowly and then gradually increasing the tempo. For me, practicing hands separate for any length of time doesn't help when in the end, you have to be able to control both hands moving at the same time. I hope that make sense. It's nice to have this forum to share our ideas, isn't it?


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 Post subject: Hands Separate versus Hands Together practice
PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 5:41 pm 
Hello PianoLady,

Thank you for your kind comments about my ideas and musical expression as they pertain to this very fine website. We are all privileged to share ideas and learn from other peoples' experiences, good or bad.

By all means, I agree with you that it is most likely for fruitful for you to do much of your practice with your hands playing together. From the information I gather from your written contributions to the Piano Society, including your choice of repertoire to tackle, I suspect you are quite adept at the piano, and already possess a relatively good sense of musicianship.


You will notice, in my above post, that the word "BEGINNING" was capitalized and enclosed in parentheses and quotation marks. My remarks about much hands separate practice were intended for a novice piano student, to enable him or her to come up to speed in the most efficient manner.


With almost absolute certainty, I am convinced that you do not need to practice with hands separately as your beginning piano student colleague will require. I would like to share this experience with you: if, upon practicing with two hands, you do encounter a passage wherein you seem to make repeated mistakes of the same type, by all means, DO switch to hands separate practice to isolate and control the problem, whether that problem be fingering, rhythm, etc. When you return to hands-together practice, the previously chronic problem should be solved or nearly so.

Cheers

Joe


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 Post subject: Re: Hands Separate versus Hands Together practice
PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 7:28 am 
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Quote:
With almost absolute certainty, I am convinced that you do not need to practice with hands separately as your beginning piano student colleague will require.


For learning the Fantaisie Impromptus from Chopin, I forced myself to practise (AND memorize!!) the piece (beside the middle part) hands separated. My experience was that I learned and memorized it this way faster as if I did on comparable pieces hands together. The FI is maybe not the most demanding piece, but I would not call it a beginner piece.

Even now, if I like to perform this piece, I play it from memory hands separated and slowely. This gives me confidence, to be able to keep the track even if one hand would fail during a performance.

Maybe practising hands separated, has advantages even beyond beginner stadium. Just now, I am practising the g minor ballade from Chopin. The presto con fuoco part, I believe, get faster in the brain and faster in the fingers with hand separated practising. Just personal opinion.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 3:23 pm 
I wont be able to get a teacher for a few months, so i was wondering if anyone has any advice on a practice schedule and what exactly to practice.

I am familar with the treble clef so just need to put both the bass clef and were the notes are actually situated on the piano, i have started a few simple pieces (ode to joy 8) ) and the czerny etudes.

I think i just need some direction in my practice really.

EDIT: and once again thanks to everyone who has posted your advice has been so much help.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:42 am 
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Age matters. How much it matters depends on your lifetime goals. Do you want to simply have fun and make music for yourself or family? Perhaps you have greater aspirations. In the latter, age matters very much. The window of greatest opportunity begins to open at about the age of two, is fully open between the ages of seven and fifteen and is nearly closed by age twenty-five, this window is never fully shut, however.

Is there a best age to begin?

Here's my personal experience.

I learned to read music when I was 7 (I played the trumpet and the recorder for a couple years, just kid's stuff). Until the age of 13, I simply lacked the desire to learn piano. Now, 14 years later, I've learned 29 Beethoven Sonatas, most of Mozart's Sonatas and about half of what Chopin wrote, lots of Bach too, only recently adding piano concertos to my repertoire. At the age of 27, I'm improving very rapidly, both technically and artistically. This success came at a price; a nine year period of seemingly endless work and gradual improvement. All of a sudden, at age 22, I began to improve by leaps and bounds. Patience had carried me through.

Had I started at the age of seven, I believe I would have reached my current level at around 18 and with less work. Had I started at a later age, I would have reached my current level at a later age. A pianist's full potential can only sometimes be realized starting at a late age. This thought mustn't dominate the beginner's mind. Dwelling on unchangeable factors (like age or height) is the most destructive thing a pianist can do. Your main task is to identify and correct the problems that can be changed. (A good teacher is indispensible, here!)

The artist who starts late, should be very careful not to confuse artistry with virtuosity. Artistry is the goal, or (unfortunately) in many cases, it should be. If your neophyte technique prevents you from playing a certain piece, pick an easier one. Don't overreach. Just move at your own pace, trust your teachers and have faith in yourself. The only thing that needs to be done, is the next step. Be realistic, don't assign limits to your potential and most of all, have fun!

The piano will give joy to anyone who enjoys it.

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Pete


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