May 13 2005, 08:40 AM
Hello to everybody here, and thanks for this very interesting forum. This post is a sort of request to the ABRSM...
As adult instrument learners, I think we're often plagued by doubts about whether we can progress as rapidly or as far as children. We all know the encouraging and discouraging arguments here, and I won't repeat them.
What would be interesting would be to see some hard statistics comparing the ABRSM exam performance of child starters and adult starters. [By adult starters I mean people who take up their first instrument after say age 30.] Is there a significant difference between child and adult starters' mean marks in Grades 1 - 5? What about Grades 6 - 8? Do adult starters tend to progress through the grade system more or less rapidly than children? Do adult starters tend to stop at around Grade 5, or is the proportion who progress to higher grades similar to that among children?
Any chance of the ABRSM publishing some statistics of this type? Or even just posting some informal subjective observations? Though if the latter, brutally honest please
May 13 2005, 06:02 PM
I don't know enough about the information that the ABRSM collect to know whether they can extract that information, but one idea that might be useful would be to ask the various organisations around the country that offer tution to adult starters. Admittedly it would exclude those adults learning with private tutors but might be a start. It is hard to see how the ABRSM would have the information about the other instruments that adults have played or not in the past and when they started lessons.
Certainly in the adult learners orchestra that I go to there are a variety of people with different levels of prior learning, but progress seems more closely related to motivation and time spent practicing rather - which are variables it is hard to factor for.
it would be interesting to hear how many people do start from scratch as adults and go on to do the higher grades (6-8).
good luck with your learning and your questions
May 13 2005, 07:08 PM
No one at the ABRSM, or anyone else for that matter, has ever asked me for my date of birth when nearing the date for/or attending an exam. I would guess then, that the board have no knowledge of the ages of any students at all, and would be unable to provide the information you seek.
However, exam statistics for the UK can be found herehttp://www.abrsm.org/?page=press/factfile/...ticalStats.html
which can give you the facts about how many actually take the exams
May 13 2005, 07:19 PM
As far as I'm aware (from talking to instrumental teachers and other sources) , there are relatively few adult learners who do the higher grades. Talking to the lady who does the stewarding at the local centre she would agree with that. (She greets me as a long lost friend, and remembers my name, as though I am some sort of rare breed!!)
May 13 2005, 08:29 PM
I agree with Andy-piano-flute. I took my grade 7 clarinet last term and was greeted with surpise especially as have only been playing for 4 years! I know of one other adult clarinet player who is taking exams - she's just passed Grade 3.
I do think that the requirement to have Grade 5 Theory before being able to go onto the higher grades puts some people off. If you are one of those people please do not be put off - Grade 5 theory is passable - it's not impossible and should not be a barrier to some-one who really wants to progress to the higher grades.
My advise to any-one is have a go. The sense of achievement and satisfaction is well worth it.
May 13 2005, 09:35 PM
I've taught both children and adults. With complete beginners, ie. no previous musical experience or learning, all age groups learn at the same rate, but if it is a second or third instrument they've taken up progress can be extremely rapid, especially in adults and teenagers.
It's easier to explain technical aspects to adults and for them to take the concept on board without too much trouble, while young children usually need a simpler approach and more complex issues have to be dealt with in small chunks - the latter sometimes slow progress down, but it can also depend on the age of the child, how quick they mentally tag onto the concept and whether they have good hand-eye co-ordination.
The one problem I do find with teaching the violin, is that adult arms, hands and fingers can sometimes be a bit rigid - especially the left arm in the more 'mature' student - and require a little more coaxing to form the correct shape over the fingerboard. However, with perseverance and lots of practice, flexibility can be improved considerably.
I've not yet had an adult student brave enough to take an exam. Most of them feel they are just learning for their own enjoyment and while they can see the value of benchmarking, it's no use putting them into stressful situations if exams are not what they want to do. I always teach with the philosophy that music lessons should be pleasurable and fun, not a chore or something to dread.
At the end of the day, no matter what the age of the student, if they want to progress then they need motivation and commitment.
May 13 2005, 10:34 PM
|QUOTE (AmandaL @ May 13 2005, 09:35 PM)|
| The one problem I do find with teaching the violin, is that adult arms, hands and fingers can sometimes be a bit rigid - especially the left arm in the more 'mature' student - and require a little more coaxing to form the correct shape over the fingerboard. However, with perseverance and lots of practice, flexibility can be improved considerably. |
I've read that if you start the violin by about age 7, your muscles actually develop differently... so it's easy to see how this could be much harder for adults. I know that even though I'm not a great violinist, I find holding it perfectly natural because I've been doing it for nearly 20 years, and when I try to show others how to hold it they find it incredibly awkward.
May 14 2005, 09:24 AM
What's a hard statistic? Is it one where its correlation with another factor is 1.
May 14 2005, 09:25 AM
It's one without soft edges
I guess it just means not assumptions or guesswork.
May 14 2005, 12:09 PM
Very many thanks for these replies. It may be the case that the ABRSM doesn't collect sufficient information to allow any sort of detailed analysis: and of course I realize that whatever the "hard statistics" might say about adult learners in general, we're all different. Still, it'd be nice to see statistics of this type, if for no other reason than to refute (or support) the widely held view that adults don't progress as fast or as far as children.
I should have clarified my own situation. I'm a slow-but-tenacious cello learner entering my third year. I plan to sit Grade 3 in November/December: as long as I don't suffer extreme nervousness, I think I should be able to get a decent pass, i.e. I think I'm doing OK. I've certainly seen a few child violin/cello learners who are doing much better than me: but also plenty who are doing no better or worse (though most of these children no doubt practice much less than I do). For the future: I'm not especially daunted by the theory exam, but I suspect that if and when I reach the higher grades I may only be able to get scrape passes at best, because of things like slow sight-reading and inadequate dexterity. Still, only time will tell. My own belief (not based on statistics either hard or soft) is that a dedicated adult should be able to progress to upper-intermediate or advanced amateur level, but that the higher levels are basically reserved for child starters: in the same way that an adult can learn a foreign language to near-native level, but will almost always retain a slight accent and make occasional grammar errors.
Thanks again for all the interesting replies
May 14 2005, 12:19 PM
Although it is also possible that the progress of a late starter might be partly determined by natural ability.
Could a 'gifted' adult who began learning late because of whatever circumstances achieve as well as if they had had the opportunity to begin as a child?
Does that make sense to anyone?
May 14 2005, 01:45 PM
|to refute (or support) the widely held view that adults don't progress as fast or as far as children.|
No particular statistics, as far as I can remember, but you might like to look up the following website:
www.musicalfossils.com where you might find a few articles of interest.
I 've never subscribed either to the view that adults necessarily progress more slowly than children. In some cases they do, but I always start out by expecting them to progress "normally " whatever that is! There are advantages and disadvantages at any age I guess. Good motivation and enthusiasm can go quite a long way.
May 14 2005, 03:37 PM
|QUOTE (sbhoa @ May 14 2005, 12:19 PM)|
| Although it is also possible that the progress of a late starter might be partly determined by natural ability.|
Could a 'gifted' adult who began learning late because of whatever circumstances achieve as well as if they had had the opportunity to begin as a child?
Does that make sense to anyone?
Yes, it makes sense. I think there are pros and cons: as has been said, adults are doing it because they want to... the children who have real talent, real dedication, AND real enthusiasm in spades are the exceptions. Mostly even the really musical kids who enjoy it a lot will not practice for hours a day. A friend and I who were both relatively late though not adult starters at our now best instruments (both of us started vaguely in early to mid teens but didn't have lessons till late teens) bemoan the fact that we'd be so much better if we'd started at an early age, but we've both also talked about the possibility that we would have gone off it if we had started too young, and that faster progress in later years is from dedication that most younger children aren't always so capable of.
I think it depends partly on the instrument - certainly for violin or similar, early exposure to the posture etc needed is highly beneficial because it's just not very natural - and I'm sure there are similar things for other instruments. I do think it also depends greatly on the musical background: someone of any age who's learning a second instrument or has been exposed to a great deal of music or whose family sing together will have an advantage over others.
|in the same way that an adult can learn a foreign language to near-native level, but will almost always retain a slight accent and make occasional grammar errors.|
It is possible for adults to learn languages perfectly, given the right kind of teaching and a high level of dedication, and it's also possible (though by no means easy) to entirely lose one's foreign accent. It has more to do with teaching than age. & accents have also to do with which pair of languages - ie whether the two accents are compatible... which sometimes works one way but not the other: I'm reliably informed (by Russians and Croats who know) that well taught Brits have very little or no accent once they're really fluent in those languages, but I've never met one of either nationality who speaks accentless English.
I suspect similar holds true for musical instruments to an extent: the right instrument and the right teacher can enable even a late starter to reach remarkably high levels, a bad teacher or an instrument that doesn't suit won't go so well even for a child who starts at a very early age. It seems unlikely that an adult learner will reach concert-soloist level, just because of the hours of practice and years of learning it takes to get to that sort of level for most, but I don't think it's necessary to start one's instrument at 4 to stand a chance of that, (and I think someone who has the sheer talent and dedication to get that far probably will, even if rather late, whenever they start) and I think a talented adult starter who's willing to work has every possibility of getting to at least grade 8 if they want to, and I think a large majority of people who don't even consider themselves that musical could probably manage to reach grade 5 if they really wanted to and so would work hard; the main disadvantage, it seems to me, is that most adults don't have the time to practice that they would like.
May 14 2005, 04:54 PM
Jane and sarah-flute: Sorry, don't misunderstand me, I certainly didn't mean to imply that Grade 8 is in any way beyond adults' reach, though it may be beyond my particular reach
May 14 2005, 05:34 PM
|QUOTE (celloguy @ May 14 2005, 12:09 PM)|
| My own belief (not based on statistics either hard or soft) is that a dedicated adult should be able to progress to upper-intermediate or advanced amateur level, but that the higher levels are basically reserved for child starters: |
I can't say I would subscribe to that particular opinion.. My own take, is that musical talent is something you are born with. That isn't to say you cannot become just as proficient if you work very hard at it. It's just some people need to work much harder than others to achieve the same standards or goals. It is most likely the case, that you are unaware you have a talent for music until you pick up an instrument, later in your life. But bearing that in mind, I can take sbhoa's point on board, and wonder if those same talented people had started to play at 14 instead of 40, how good would they have become then?
May 14 2005, 10:07 PM
|QUOTE (celloguy @ May 14 2005, 04:54 PM)|
| Jane and sarah-flute: Sorry, don't misunderstand me, I certainly didn't mean to imply that Grade 8 is in any way beyond adults' reach, though it may be beyond my particular reach |
Sometimes I think it's beyond mine... oh well!
May 15 2005, 07:12 PM
|QUOTE (celloguy @ May 14 2005, 04:54 PM)|
|Jane and sarah-flute: Sorry, don't misunderstand me, I certainly didn't mean to imply that Grade 8 is in any way beyond adults' reach, though it may be beyond my particular reach |
Hey.....no probs, understood.
Just that as a positive thinker I have to believe that I can achieve my goals, even if sometimes they *feel* ..well.....ambitious.
So stop even allowing yourself to have the thought that Grade 8 is beyond your reach. The subconscious is a powerful thing, you have to tell it what you want in order to achieve it. So if you want it, you can do it.
You have to have a dream......(if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true......soz I'll stop singing now )
May 16 2005, 07:12 PM
|I think it depends partly on the instrument - certainly for violin or similar, early exposure to the posture etc needed is highly beneficial because it's just not very natural - and I'm sure there are similar things for other instruments. |
I think the violin and viola are probably about as awkward a posture as you can get , but I agree that they are instruments probably worth taking up before the age of 25 - which is when the bones and joints finish fusing.
|but I've never met one of either nationality who speaks accentless English.|
All the Swedes I've come across speak English perfectly, with no nordic accent at all. Forget the ABBA accent, the Swedish these days speak English with an English accent.
|the right teacher can enable even a late starter to reach remarkably high levels |
Good amateur orchestra standard is usually within the talented/dedicated late starter's achievement, if not some amateur solo work.
|It seems unlikely that an adult learner will reach concert-soloist level, just because of the hours of practice and years of learning it takes to get to that sort of level for most, |
Especially on an an instrument like the violin. Getting the intonation sorted out takes years, and even then we all still have slips from time to time. I've sat in orchestras and seen/heard some really seasoned players working on intonation, especially when the piece makes use of high positions.
|but I don't think it's necessary to start one's instrument at 4 to stand a chance of that, (and I think someone who has the sheer talent and dedication to get that far probably will, even if rather late, whenever they start) and I think a talented adult starter who's willing to work has every possibility of getting to at least grade 8 if they want to,|
There is no reason to start at 4 to become a professional. Sure if you do then you've got a lot more time to hone your skills, but I know of professional cellists and double bass players who didn't even start learning until the ages of 11, 12 and even as late as 14. If you have a natural ability and are willing to work hard, anything is possible.
The only thing that undermines us all is the fact that sterotyping (and historic factors in society) forces us to think that learning stops when we leave school. Not that many decades ago, this was true. You went out, got a job and that was that, but a lot has changed in the last 20 or so years. Learning is now recognised as lifelong, and there is nothing to stop people from achieving their ambitions later in life. We don't all suddenly become incapable of learning just because we are adults, what stops us is usually a lack of time to pursue what we want to learn. In a world where there is no longer such thing as "a job for life" more and more people are successfully aquiring new skills and totally changing careers in their mid-40's. And why not!!! Life's short enough as it is, so why not have two cracks of the whip for the price of one
May 16 2005, 09:00 PM
but I've never met one of either nationality who speaks accentless English.
All the Swedes I've come across speak English perfectly, with no nordic accent at all. Forget the ABBA accent, the Swedish these days speak English with an English accent.
I think they really take languages seriously in Scandanavia - and it shows. I met a Danish girl once whose English was as natural and colloquial as mine, and whose accent was actually nicer...
*wry grin*... it certainly IS possible to lose one's accent starting late.
Especially on an an instrument like the violin. Getting the intonation sorted out takes years, and even then we all still have slips from time to time.
I agree with Amanda... you can achieve masses, and I do believe that late starters have the potential to get a lot further than most realise. There are limitations on some instruments, physical or otherwise (like the violin, as has been mentioned!) but with a good teacher and the time to practice, it's possible to get an awful long way.
May 17 2005, 10:44 AM
I believe it is certainly possible to become more than very good, no matter what your age. I posted on this forum last year on the subject of adult starters who turned pro, Adult Learners Who Became Professional?
I would agree with anyone who says this is probably the exception to the rule. But it does show you of just what you are capable of achieving, if you have the self belief and the right amount of talent.
May 17 2005, 03:00 PM
|I believe it is certainly possible to become more than very good, no matter what your age. I posted on this forum last year on the subject of adult starters who turned pro|
I can't remember what the exact title of the book is - something like "Never Too Late" (I'm sure an Amazon search would find it), but it's written by an American man who decided to take up the cello at the age of 40.
He subsequently became a professional player and teacher.
I'll try and find out what the full title was, and post it here.
May 17 2005, 03:04 PM
The book is indeed called "Never Too Late", and it's by John Holt. Amazon stock the book.
The following is the synopsis taken from the back cover:
The myth that in order to be successful, one must start an instrument (or a sport, or a language) in early childhood is forever demolished.. If I could learn to play the cello well, as I thought I could, I could show by my own example that we all have greater powers than we think; that whatever we want to learn or learn to do, we probably can learn; that our lives and our possibilities are not determined and fixed by what happened to us when we were little, or by what experts say we can or cannot do.Best known for his brilliant insight into the way children learn, John Holt was also an intrepid explorer of adult learning. At the age of forty, with no particular musical background, he took up the cello. His touching and hilarious account of his passionate second career demolished the myth that one must start an instrument (or a sport, or a language) in early childhood, and will inspire any reader who dreams of taking up a new skill.
May 17 2005, 03:30 PM
There's hope for me yet, then!
May 17 2005, 03:55 PM
|QUOTE (AmandaL @ May 17 2005, 03:04 PM)|
|The book is indeed called "Never Too Late", and it's by John Holt. Amazon stock the book.|
I had a look on the U.S. Amazon site at this book. Mainly to get some reviews, as there generally isn't many reviews, if any at all, posted on the Uk site. Some of the reviewers there, have got down exactly how some of us probably feel and I couldn't resist the urge to post some quotes.
|"we have to imagine ourselves doing something new, difficult, and demanding before we do it; if you insist on learning a difficult activity, take it up for its own sake, *not* to help solve some "problem"; testing, tests only our ability to take tests, nothing more; while adults have the advantage of posing their own problems (and finding solutions), we're hindered by seeing our tasks--even our art--as a series of tests at which we can only pass or fail (we do *far* too much of the latter). "|
|My favorite insights are those the author found through personal--rather than especially theoretical--experience. He found himself giving "alibis in advance"--appeals for sympathy before even beginning an activity ("I'm not very good, but ...")--and reminded himself: do the best you can! Either shut up and play, or go home!|
I am sure people can relate to one or both of these.
Certainly I can
May 17 2005, 04:16 PM
Durn it... another book to add to my wishlist!
May 18 2005, 08:19 AM
Thanks again for all the continuing debate. In fact I remain to be convinced that genuine adult starters can reach high professional level; but in any case that's really not what I'm asking, since I suspect that few of us aspire to this. I guess that most of us aspire to advanced amateur level. So, to simplify my original question... the ABRSM awards about 2000 Grade 8 distinctions each year: anybody know of genuine adult starters (i.e. first instrument after say age 30) who've obtained a distinction at this level? What instruments?
May 18 2005, 09:02 AM
|anybody know of genuine adult starters (i.e. first instrument after say age 30) who've obtained a distinction at this level? What instruments?|
Yes. Me. Singing - March 2004. Aged 36 and a bit. After 15 months from first singing lesson. Don't play any other instrument to any standard (working on grade 2 piano, recorder a bit above that but no grades)
Currently working for my LTCL diploma (having passed my ATCL at Christmas). Not sure how much further I'll take my music- it's gathering momentum rather than slowing down, and I've recently started being paid to sing and asked for lessons/coaching.
That do as an example?
May 18 2005, 09:27 AM
|QUOTE (celloguy @ May 18 2005, 08:19 AM)|
| Thanks again for all the continuing debate. In fact I remain to be convinced that genuine adult starters can reach high professional level |
If Holt (as a starter at 40 with no musical background) doesn't count as a genuine adult starter... who does?!
I have a feeling Katyjay's not the only adult starter who's reached a high level round here...
May 18 2005, 10:19 AM
My piano teacher teaches a man who started from scratch in 2000 (in his 40s) and has just passed Grade 8 with a high pass. Not distinction, but still an amazing effort from a complete beginner.
May 18 2005, 10:47 AM
Wow, Katyjay, I'm duly impressed, and thanks for replying: but voice is obviously not a "normal" instrument. What about instruments that aren't part of the player's anatomy?
Thanks too for telling us about the adult starter who reached Grade 8 high pass in 5 years, andante-in-c: certainly that's very impressive. Surely this person is capable of reachng Grade 8 distinction with a bit more work, so I'll take this as a valid case, though I'd prefer to see a few more
May 18 2005, 12:41 PM
|QUOTE (celloguy @ May 18 2005, 10:47 AM)|
| voice is obviously not a "normal" instrument. |
May 18 2005, 01:03 PM
Because the sound is produced directly by your body, not via a machine. We might classify voice as an instrument in some senses, but if we're talking about the difficulties of learning an instrument, it's clearly a rather special case. Apart from anything else, you don't use your hands and fingers
Subsequent edit: Additionally, we all learn the basics of sound production with voice as children, even if all we do is speak (in itself, a massively sophisticated and complex capacity). Most children learn to sing thousands of melodies; many (like Katyjay, apparently) join choirs; so while Katyjay may not have received high-level technical training as a child, she certainly learnt the basics of sound production with her instrument. In short, it strikes me as QUITE BIZARRE and absolutely untenable for you people to persist in considering voice as equivalent to other instruments in the present context. Of course Katyjay doesn't see fine-motor control as a major difficulty at higher levels: but try telling that to a pianist or violinist!
May 18 2005, 01:29 PM
I think any of the singers round here will tell you that singing is as technical as learning to play any instrument properly. The only difference being that we are more used to using our voices. However that doesn't mean we learn to use them in a correct way that would help with lessons. And it doesn't actually mean that it's any easier than learning to play and instrument - some would contend it is harder than many instruments (someone commented recently that her teacher offered to teach her piano when she had learned to sing "necause it's much simpler"!)
I still think the guy mentioned who wrote that book - professional cellist from non-musician starting at 40 - is a good start on proving that yes, it IS possible to get to a very high standard from late in life. Not all of us may be capable of that, but he's certainly proved it is far from impossible.
May 18 2005, 01:43 PM
Well I don't want to be tedious, but 1) I'm not saying singing is easy, just different, and not a very central example of instrument learning; and 2) as for Holt, did he really reach high professional level, or only community orchestra level (which is great, of course, but not the same as high professional level)?
Anyway, my question stands: excluding voice, any examples of Grade 8 distinction by adult starters?
May 18 2005, 02:03 PM
I don't want to be tedious either, but the voice is an instrument like any other with the one exception - that it doesn't require manual dexterity. There is a high level of technical skill to good singing, just as there is to good 'cello playing.
But performing at high levels as a singer, like any other instrumentalist, is less about the mechanics and more about communication, stamina, musicality, understanding of genre etc. OK the skill has to be there, but it's only one element of the whole.
And of all the instruments, the one that most conservatoires put an upper age limit on for students is the voice - the RCM for example won't take singers over 30. Because of this, it's certainly not easier to progress to high levels as an older singer, in some ways it's tougher.
For that reason, I think I'm a valid example, and that you don't need to move the goalposts.
May 18 2005, 02:12 PM
2 questions in return:
What would you class as "high professional level" as opposed to just professional? (personally just professional'd do me, lol)
I have lost track - what are you classing as "genuine adult starter"?
(I rather suspect if someone can get to any kind of professional level then people can also probably get to grade 8 distinction...)
ps currently trying to find out what level he played at
|I'm not saying singing is easy, just different, and not a very central example of instrument learning|
It's still a case of having to learn technical stuff in order to be able to sing well... it still requires training, dedication, practice... it's still probably somewhat more difficult to get going in if started at a later age...
I think "distinction" has more to do with the musicality than the technicality of the music anyway, especially at higher grades. Technical ability serves the music.
May 18 2005, 02:50 PM
Oh dear, I think I am getting tedious, but I've started so I'll finish
Katyjay: In no way do I wish to imply that singing is in any way "easy" in terms of technique or musicality: and of course your particular achievement is technically and musically outstanding. However, for the reasons I've stated, I really don't think that learning to sing can reasonably be considered closely equivalent to learning to play violin, piano, guitar or sax. The very fact that you got there in 15 months is I think confirmation of this: I can't imagine that even Bach or Steven Isserlis or Charlie Parker progressed this fast on their (non-anatomical) instruments. Can we agree to differ?
Sarah: "genuine adult starter" = someone who starts first instrument after say age 30. Yes, Holt was an adult starter on this definition. It's just that from what I've seen on the Internet it's not at all clear to me that he reached professional level.
In general: on this thread so far I've found out about an adult piano starter who reached Grade 8 high-pass after 5 years (good, nice example); adult cello starter John Holt (but I'm not really clear what level he achieved); and a viola player in a car advert! Three examples is not much of a haul! [The virtuoso guitarist mentioned by Fletch apparently started around age 18 or 19, so he doesn't really meet my criteria.]
May 18 2005, 03:11 PM
|The very fact that you got there in 15 months is I think confirmation of this: I can't imagine that even Bach or Steven Isserlis or Charlie Parker progressed this fast on their (non-anatomical) instruments. |
I think where you get to is more to the point than how long it takes. Katyjay has probably been singing for a lot longer than she has been having lessons - I rather think that rather than singing being any technically simpler is probably what contributed to such a speed of learning, along with a hefty dose of just being mighty talented!
|Yes, Holt was an adult starter on this definition. It's just that from what I've seen on the Internet it's not at all clear to me that he reached professional level.|
I could find no clear info either way except that it was decsribed as a "second career" which strongly suggests he was professional to some degree or another, and others in this thread have said he reached professional standard... someone who's read the book will no doubt know more.
edit: reading back over that other thread, the viola player was not just in a car advert: she was featured in a car advert, she was an orchestral player (I imagine from context professional but I don't know)
May 18 2005, 03:21 PM
You make an assertion - that one can't start music as an adult and get to a high level. You are provided with at least four counterexamples, and each time, rather than admit that YOU ARE WRONG, you have to redefine what you mean by either "musician", "adult" or "high level".
Why are you doing this? What are you trying to prove? Are you trying to give yourself a get-out clause for being an adult who's currently at Grade 3 and sees Grade 8 or the diplomas as being a bit of a way to go yet?
Why not try a positive attitude - it's not too late, the high grades are do-able over time and a career change to music is not entirely impossible, even for us oldies.
May 18 2005, 04:28 PM
I have posted a link already in this thread. But to put the info on this page, I will stick on some biographical info.
At approximately age 21 or 22, that he developed an interest in classical music and the classical guitar in specific.
In 1965 Rak entered the Prague Conservatory where, for the next five years he studied the classical guitar and composition for the guitar with the teacher-composer, Stepan Urban. During the period 1970-1975 that Rak established himself as a composer-performer. In 1973 his symphonic composition Hiroshima won second prize, i.e., a silver medal, in the Czechoslovakian National Competition for Young Composers. In 1975 Rak entered the Prague Music Academy to continue his studies on composition, and earned diploma, which he received on 5 September 1975. In 1991 the Academy awarded Rak the honour of docent (which is similar to a doctorate in other countries) - a singular honour which has never been bestowed on a guitarist.
I know 21 isn't 41 but all the same, it is an amazing achievment from an adult learner.
May 18 2005, 05:14 PM
I don't think I'm trying to prove anything; or moving the goalposts; or under-valuing the technical (and musical) demands of singing; or doubting that adult starters can achieve a musically satisfying level; or questioning the power and importance of positive thinking.
I'm just asking if any of the 2000 or so Grade-8 distinctions each year are awarded to people playing a first instrument started after age 30-ish (excluding voice please). If you asked me to guess, I'd say there probably are 2 or 3 (maybe even 20 or 30) cases of this each year: but that's only a guess, and I'm a big fan of hard facts.
[PS Fletch: Yes Rak's achievement was certainly remarkable, though to nitpick I've read he was 18 or 19 when he started.]
May 18 2005, 07:46 PM
|QUOTE (celloguy @ May 18 2005, 05:14 PM)|
| [PS Fletch: Yes Rak's achievement was certainly remarkable, though to nitpick I've read he was 18 or 19 when he started.] |
He was 18 or 19 when he picked up the instrument for the first time and started to strum chords with a pick.
I don't know if you play the guitar at all, but give me an hour with you, and I could have you strumming along to any one of the thousands of C D G songs out there, like you've been doing it for years.
There is a world of difference between classical guitar and chord strumming.
May 18 2005, 08:14 PM
I've asked around, and I understand that John Holt did NOT switch to a cello career or reach professional level: he appears to have reached what people might call "accomplished amateur" level.
May 18 2005, 09:42 PM
To borrow once more from your languages analogy... I studied Russian ab initio at university, and by my 4th year (with absolutely NO previous knowledge of the language) was studying alongside students who were post A Level and being expected to match their standards. And you know what? All the oral module firsts, and the only overall firsts in my year, came from the ab initio group, and the only 2-2 was someone who'd been studying Russian since they were 11. And it was not surprising to any of the teachers, who said that the firsts always come from those who studied ab initio... I may have started at 19 (though I don't see how that fails to qualify as an adult) but certainly not the billingual child scenario, and in four years out-achieved those who had been learning for at least 10 years and in some cases more. And I was not even the highest of the ab initio group!
The opinion of a highly experienced teacher that I asked (I would quote her directly but haven't found out if she minds) is that it certainly can be done, and to put limits on someone's learning ability because of their age "is just plain silly". There are a fair few adult starters round here with very good marks in lower grades, who I have no doubt will be providing us with grade 8 distinctions in a couple of years: just because as yet people with those grades don't post here means very little (they're probably out busy playing for people and being paid...
) But the opinion of seemingly everyone who actually has the experience to know - teachers and high achieving adult learners - is that it is possible to achieve very very highly from a later start... no more or less possible than from an early start (I know dozens of musicians who started early with great teachers and never got *anywhere...*)
Re: the grade 8 with distinction thing... I suspect one of the reasons they're not so common is simply that an awful lot of adults don't bother with exams. They may well be able to play grade 8 pieces to a high standard - or even diploma level pieces... but they don't feel the need to take the exam to prove it. I'm sure we all know people (of all ages) who have abilities but no qualifications to prove it.
All I can say re: John Holt is that I've seen it said he taught and played at some sort of professional level... I haven't read the book, and ideally that would be the place to go to find out!
I second Fletch that there's a WHOLE difference between strumming chords and classical guitar - it's a different instrument entirely. And strumming chords at a basic doesn't even require any understanding of music, ability to read music (to ANY degree - pitch or rhythm) or even a high degree of manual dexterity (I know guitarists of this sort who would happily admit all of the above)
May 19 2005, 12:00 PM
On John Holt, from a learned correspondent on a cellists' forum (I don't think she'll mind me reproducing it here)...
>> According to Never Too Late, Holt played in The Little Orchestra of Cambridge, which, I believe, was an amateur group. No longer in existence as far as I know. He also played chamber music, was in a semi-regular quartet that tackled Mozart, Beethoven, etc. But comments within NTL lead me to believe he was an "advancing intermediate" player. Looking at his part for a Haydn quartet that he was assigned for a camp session at Apple Hill, he bemoans the fact that it's largely repeated notes. "Why didn't they send me anything more challenging than this? Do they think I can't play anything harder than this?" But then he shares how once he began working on it, realized it "was harder than it looked. To begin with, it was in the key of F minor, four flats, a key I had never played in." I found this to be an interesting passage and insightful regarding his playing level. <<
Subsequent edit: John Holt was presented earlier in this thread as an example of a late starter reaching professional level. Excluding the marginal case of Rak (a late adolescent starter), Holt is the ONLY example you were able to come up with. In this post I make clear that Holt did NOT reach a professional level. However, in subsequent posts nobody takes the slightest notice of this debunking; so allow me to remind you that (despite all the fine talk about the only barriers being in our minds) you have yet to cite a single example of a late starter who has reached professional orchestra level.
May 19 2005, 12:07 PM
I think one of the reasons you're not finding anyone who meets your criteria is, as Katyjay quite rightly says, you are being far too restrictive in what you will allow. Even ignoring the grade 8 distinction criterion how many adults are there here who have started their first instrument after the age of 30, not very many. Then Katyjay provides you with a valid example and you add more criteria. So how many people are there here who have started their first instrument after 30, don't sing and have even taken any exams? I know there are a few success stories here from that, Silver Pianist, for example, has done it and reached grade 6 so far.
I know jo.clarinet has got to diploma level learning the clarinet as an adult (although I have no idea how old she was when she started) but she again has already played another instrument before.
If you take the number of people who are doing grade 8, have taken up their first instrument after 30 and are not singing you probably get about 50 each year (I'm thinking that's a generous estimate given the restrictions, from talking to people here it seems most people either took up a second instrument in adulthood or took up the instrument before 30 with a few exceptions) now factor in that only roughly 25% of grade 8 candidates will get a distinction this leaves us 12 people in the country if the adults are doing well! So I guess they would be hard to find, it's not really suprising there aren't many here. The statistics about being professional are also skewed another issue: let's assume that it will take 10 years (a low estimate...) for even the most talented adult (or child) to make it to a top professional level. Then that means at 40 the person will have to change careers: by that age most people are well established in an existing career and don't necessarily want to change (maybe have a family to support): they have taken time to work up the payscale to get to a high level, starting another career would probably put them right at the bottom again (or at least give them a large pay cut, musicians aren't noted for being the best-paid people).
I'm afraid to say that the AB would never be able to answer your question, even if they are willing to, because they never know when the person playing took up the instrument and if it's their first instrument. They do ask for dates of birth for candidates on entering (this information is not given to the examiners, it's presumably used to separate marks queried when two John Smiths want to know what they got and don't know their teacher's applicant number...) but there is no way of finding out if they fit the criteria.
May 19 2005, 12:24 PM
Well thanks for this new reply, but I have to say that I find the prevailing viewpoint on this forum to be strange. Pretty much everyone here seems to be responding to a silly old-fashioned myth (that adult starters can't achieve a decent level on a musical instrument) with an equally silly new-fangled countermyth (that adults retain the same potential for fine-motor learning as when they were children). The truth surely lies somewhere in between, and I'd certainly love to hear an ABRSM opinion.
May 19 2005, 01:36 PM
|QUOTE (celloguy @ May 19 2005, 12:24 PM)|
| Well thanks for this new reply, but I have to say that I find the prevailing viewpoint on this forum to be strange. Pretty much everyone here seems to be responding to a silly old-fashioned myth (that adult starters can't achieve a decent level on a musical instrument) with an equally silly new-fangled countermyth (that adults retain the same potential for fine-motor learning as when they were children). The truth surely lies somewhere in between, and I'd certainly love to hear an ABRSM opinion. |
No, Celloguy, that's not what we're saying.
No-one disputes that there are differences in the ways adults and children learn, or the ways they exhibit manual skills (which is, after all what you keep on about.)
The point we are making is that there is a lot more to music than that. And that therefore differences in "fine-motor learning" can be compensated for by levels of concentration, commitment, understanding and so forth in adults that just aren't there in children.
For this reason, it's not beyond the realms of possibility for an adult to learn an instrument and do well.
And I'd watch who you're calling silly. We give newbies some leeway but it's a finite resource.
May 19 2005, 02:26 PM
|QUOTE (celloguy @ May 19 2005, 12:24 PM)|
| Pretty much everyone here seems to be responding to a silly old-fashioned myth (that adult starters can't achieve a decent level on a musical instrument) with an equally silly new-fangled countermyth (that adults retain the same potential for fine-motor learning as when they were children). |
I think for you celloguy, the glass is always half empty instead of half full.
It seems to me, you are drawing conclusions about the performance of other people, based on your own experiences and your own barriers.
Not all adult learners have taken three years to get to grade 3. Although that is not in itself, a below par performance you rate it as slow. You have also built yourself another barrier
|but I suspect that if and when I reach the higher grades I may only be able to get scrape passes at best, because of things like slow sight-reading and inadequate dexterity|
And your quote above about the "silly new-fangled countermyth".
You are basing your logic about adult learners on your own self doubt and because you believe you are incapable of attaining a high standard. In short, if you can't do it, nobody can.
If you insist on being negative, you will never succeed at anything, and of that you can be sure.
Let me relate my own experiences;
I took up the guitar aged 41 with no previous experience, and tried to teach myself (to strum by the way). At 42 I decided to get a teacher who teaches classical guitar. I sat waiting for my grade 1 exam with a load of children and a couple of adults. 15 months after that, I sat there with some of those same children who were doing grade 2 or 3 while I was doing grade 5. Up to now for practical I have; 1 pass (because I forgot a piece half way through), 3 merits, 1 distinction, and 83% for the grade 5 theory. I am doing grade 6 practical just as soon as I can get in, and have started to work on my grade 7 pieces to give me a running start. And I am now 44.
I am not trying to show off or brag celloguy. I am trying to point out to you the benefits of positive thinking and self belief. It doesn't matter, how old you are. The only thing that matters is how much you want to get to where you're going.
This is a "lo-fi" version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here