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Have I reached my ceiling of skills at Grade 1?


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#16 Latin pianist

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 09:04

Watch for 3rd fingers coming together on G and C. Be aware that you play the white notes GABC in a row. On the sharps you'll have fingers 4 in one hand and 2 in the other. And thumbs on the E in the middle.
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#17 YellowLemon77

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 09:26

Thank you LatinPianist! Having a go now :)
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#18 helen_flute

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 13:43

I'm not a pianist, so I don't have any practical advice on playing hands together, however the advice to slow down is excellent. My teacher is trying to drum that one into me when I'm doing my scales.

 

I would also say that, in my own experience at least, my progress has had peaks and troughs. It's definitely not a journey in which I'm always travelling at the same speed. I have little breakthroughs, and then things slow down a bit. It can be disheartening at times, but overall, it's a upwards trajectory.

 

Added to this, the pressures of life do have an impact, even if you are someone for whom music helps you to deal with the stresses and strains you have to cope with.

 

Good luck with it, and be kind to yourself!


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#19 hummingbird

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 15:23

 have I already hit my ceiling?

If you're anything like me, you will wonder the same thing at every grade.  I've got to Grade 4 on both clarinet and piano, and I would never have dreamed of even getting Grade 1 on either instrument.  Felt the same way about Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4.  Currently feel the same way about Grade 5 piano, but I don't think my teacher has got any other expectation but that I'll do Grade 5 at some point.  Do you have a [good] teacher, YellowLemon77?

 

Scales-wise, I remember when I first encountered contrary motion, I couldn't imagine ever being able to play it.  I felt the same about chromatic scales - which then seemed ridiculously easy when I encountered HT chromatic scales, but even these are now achievable (note I didn't say easy laugh.png but one day they will be!).

 

Learning the piano (or any instrument) is just a series of hurdles.  But unlike hurdles in the Olympics, it's not a race, nor are you in competition, nor is there any end.  But if you enjoy running and jumping over hurdles for the sheer pleasure of it, then the reward is not only a Gold Medal (oh OK, a certificate) if you do exams but a lifetime of satisfaction from the challenge and achievement.


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#20 gav_1988

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 03:05

Gav_1988 I think you are right. Its feeling bad about not having as much time to practise. I know you say I did well but my pieces took me 6 to 9 months to really learn and perfect. I was playing them for so long that I had time to perfect them and pretty much memorise them (although I still needed the music to prompt me).
My sight reading is just terrible though. Someone once said it just clicks at some point. I know it has improved somewhat of course but boy I wish it would click, especially my recognition of rythym.

Is E Minor Harmonic not the same as Eb Minor then? E Minor Harmonic has Bb Eb Ab in it? Perhaps I am getting confused. Its this one that I am finding tough though. I need to slow right down, many of you have said that and I agree. I should slow the scale down completely.

ThePianist, I hadn't thought to sight sing too. Thats a really good tip! Thank you. No need for essay apologies. I am greatful that you all took the time to reply to my insecurities. I won't give up, I have plenty of perseverance but I need to bring a bit of perspective again and expect this new learning curve. I still enjoy playing and relax when doing so. This is the whole point, not just exams. I need to remember this.

I feel like that length of time to prep your pieces is perfectly reasonable! I probably spent somewhere around 6 months prepping my sax exam pieces (and still felt I could have done more with them in places by the time exam day rolled round) - I think perfectionism is probably an occupational hazard of being a musician :P - either way, I don't think you should let that detract from your excellent results.
 

I also find working out rhythms one of the harder parts of sight reading. In my exam I scanned the piece quickly for the bit that was rhythmically tricky and spent most of the prep time figuring that out! I find a metronome and some good old-fashioned clapping (or banging on the nearest surface) helps a lot. Maybe have a look at the 'Improve Your Sight Reading' series of books by Paul Harris. You might find working through that will help, or at least give you a bit more confidence in your sight reading ability. 

 

Other people have answered your scales questions (and frankly I haven't got a clue what notes go into E flat minor :P


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#21 Latin pianist

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 06:26

It's quite a fun scale but not at grade 2! It is the relative of Gb Major so has 6 flats in the key signature.
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#22 EllieD

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 08:45

Rhythms in sight reading is hard!! As i learned music a long time ago, I'm relatively OK with them - but under pressure, it's still difficult! Yes, just try lots of practice and metronomes, and try clapping rhythms (mentally if it would otherwise cause embarrassment) at odd moments during the day if you get chance.

 

I think you are amazing to do Grade 1 with two children to look after!! Just wondering if you could rope them in to play rhythm based games or something ... who knows, you might inspire one of them to play an instrument (if they don't already).

 

Good luck with Grade 2!! smile.png 


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#23 corenfa

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 09:59

A work colleague did grade 1 after having started from scratch. He didn't find it easy, he said his Phd in physics was easier. I think piano especially hands together playing is just such a different set of skills from what we're normally used to.

Said colleague is now aiming for grade 3, no reason why that wouldn't be you in a few years time! He did not do one grade a year but took a more relaxed couple of years between grades. All the best with your piano journey.
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#24 Keron

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 10:39

Rhythms in sight reading is hard!! As i learned music a long time ago, I'm relatively OK with them - but under pressure, it's still difficult! Yes, just try lots of practice and metronomes, and try clapping rhythms (mentally if it would otherwise cause embarrassment) at odd moments during the day if you get chance.

I was (poorly) bluffing my way until recently my teacher got me to start counting. It took a lot of concentration saying 1 and 2 and etc.. but I found it really helpful. Hopefully with enough practice, I can get that count internal. 


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#25 R-W

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 13:53

YellowLemon your post is heartbreaking!

 

Thoughts, even though I'm not much more experienced at all - (G2 Cello), but anyway:

 

  1. You're here, on this forum asking this question, which means you care. That actually counts for a lot!
  2. What everyone else has said about feeling at your limit at various points, yep!! The hilltop analogy from BadStrad is brilliant. Probably we all need to get used to this cycle! I vividly remember outright stating I am incapable of my grade 2 pieces and will never be able to do them....and then passed the exam. I remember saying the same of G3... now it's in a reasonable shape. As others have said, it happens every time... surely cannot be coincidence? ;-) Difficult to see when you're 'in the thick of it' though 
  3. ...following on from one above. Don't get overwhelmed by the bigger picture. How am I ever going to reach x? How will I ever learn to do y? If x and y are years away, then don't get bogged down in it. Concentrate on a and b, which is now. I won't worry about how I'm ever going to play Elgar's cello concerto.. if I ever will.. (or even a less lofty goal of...oh I don't know... vibrato) if I haven't even sat grade 3 yet! Almost like a ten year old worrying about how he will afford to retire.. when all he needs to worry about is listening in school and doing his homework. The 'bigger picture' whilst great, can sometimes be overwhelming and unhelpful depending on which way you look at it! Concentrate on, enjoy and celebrate a and b. The rest will come. smile.png
  4. Any adult, learning any instrument and finding time for any amount of practice and/or progress, is amazing.
  5. 'A little bit of what you 'can' do, and a little bit of what you 'cannot' do' I find is a happy basis for my practice!
  6. During practice stop and ask yourself if what you just said to yourself was:
    1. Kind?
    2. True? (I mean absolute, indisputable 100% fact)
    3. Helpful/Necessary?

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#26 helen_flute

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 18:16

 

Rhythms in sight reading is hard!! As i learned music a long time ago, I'm relatively OK with them - but under pressure, it's still difficult! Yes, just try lots of practice and metronomes, and try clapping rhythms (mentally if it would otherwise cause embarrassment) at odd moments during the day if you get chance.

I was (poorly) bluffing my way until recently my teacher got me to start counting. It took a lot of concentration saying 1 and 2 and etc.. but I found it really helpful. Hopefully with enough practice, I can get that count internal. 

 

 

My teacher has recently twigged that I'm not nearly as good at rhythm as I appear to be. Listening to my pieces on Spotify and learning the rhythms by ear is a terribly good way to fake it! I'm now working on developing my inner musical "pulse", which translates as lots of slow scales in a regular rhythm, plus strict use of the metronome. It's hard work!


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#27 YellowLemon77

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 12:37

Hello Everyone,

Gosh what a blessing to receive so much encouragement from you all. Thank you so much. You have all given me some great advice and insight. I must get used to the Grade cycle 'Hill Peaks and troughs' analogy.

My teacher (who is superb btw!) and I had a lovely chat about these feelings and she feels the same as you all. This isn't a race for me at all, I just want to learn, grow and become a better pianist. With time and practise, thats almost garunteed. I will keep sight-reading as mucb as possie and not feel bad for the weeks when I can't put so much in. I will enjoy the weeks when I can or can't regardless.

Thank you all so much :)
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#28 Witzend

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 13:17

I can really empathise over scales! When I took up the piano again - over 50 years after passing grade 2! - I couldn't even play C major hands together, despite having had no trouble as a child.

After about a year of working on my own I joined a group LEA class where we had to fill in a form at the start of each half term, stating what our goals were. I could never think of much beyond 'play better with fewer mistakes' but at one point our group teacher suggested 'play E major scale hands together'.
I more or less thought, yes, in my dreams, but in fact it wasn't too long before I was able to, and I haven't really had any trouble with scales since.
All the best - I'm sure many of us get discouraged sometimes and feel we're not progressing - I know I do - but I only have to look at pieces that seemd so daunting a few years ago to see how far I've come, even if it has often been slow, with plateaus now and then where I feel I'm not getting anywhere.
FWIW I think passing your grade 1 as an adult learner, especially when you're so busy with work and children, is a brilliant achievement.
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#29 linda.ff

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 17:24

Two things stand out for me hee:

 

First the business about Eb minor and E minor harmonic. I know you've sorted this out now, but at grade 2 in Trinity there are only four scales to learn but two of them are B minor and Bb major - and boy, the number of times kids get them mixed up! Minor and flat both trigger an "ah, that's lower" response, and they go for the wrong one. They know what Bb is, but you say B minor and they think B and then go down one. It may be that word "harmonic" that's weighing you down.

 

Teachers here are generally divided into two camps. Minor is minor, and it's only what happens at the top of the scale that differentiates harmonic minor from melodic minor. They aren't keys, they're only scales, and it isn't even any kind of rule when wriring or playing music either - I've played a Mozart piece where he plays the descending part of the melodic minor while going up and vice versa - and it sounds fine! 

 

Those two camps are:

1. I only teach harmonic minors up to grade 5 because you have a choice, so why confuse them?

2. Melodic minors can be fun and are often easier to visualise on the piano and sometimes far more comfortable. And sometimes not, of course.

 

I belong firmly in this second camp, and when I teach E minor I first ask my student what they did at the top in A minor, and say, then do that at the top of E minor as well. Just add an F# near the bottom as it's related to G.

 

In my opinion the melodic minor is more satisfying for A minor and probably, therefore, for E minor. All the "funny business" happens on steps 6 & 7 - the first 5 are the same whichever minor you're playing - and this includes the "natural" minor which means the same as the key-signature. You could try A minor melodic, all whites till you get to steps 6 & 7 and then play two black keys (F# and G#). Coming down, drop those notes back to the naturals.It feels like an escalator, or more like someone running up and over a little hill in one direction and round the bottom of it to come back. If you like this, then apply it to the top of E minor as well,  Use the 3-4-3 fingering that almost all scales use for grade 1, don't forget that F#, but don't fall into the trap of turning your thumb under it, because you will run out of fingers before your next turn.

 

Rhythm: it's important to bear in mind that the paramount thing in rhythmis not how long a note lasts for. It's when you play it. If you have a rhythm that contains minims and semibreves and you play it on a woodblock, you cannont make any note sound longer than the previous. Counting in a bar is all about identifying the beats. i used to call them "times to play" until someone pointed out that it suggested they shouldn't play in any other times. But knowing that this note falls on beat 4, or that one comes on the "and" after (or "of") beat 2 helps you put them in the right place. You may be doing this automatically anyway, but I've always been surprised how many people didn't work out the rhythm in this way (and constantly got it wrong). They play a two-beat note and "then" (such a dirty word when talking about rhythm!) play a one-beat note, etc. 


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#30 Latin pianist

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 18:08

I'm of the other camp and I feel if someone's already getting confused and struggling, stick to the harmonic minor. Lazy teaching? Maybe but my post grade 5 students learn melodic minor very easily.
Maybe the OPs teacher will advise.
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