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Piano blues ...

Resuming piano playing

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#1 Juan Carlos

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 10:46

I’ve been toying with the idea of resuming my piano playing after one year without any practice or playing at all. At one point, about 1 year ago, I started to feel a slave to practice, the piano and to feel practice/piano playing as an imposition to raise my standard to Grade 8. Playing fast has always been a major problem as many pieces just fell through because I couldn’t get them played fast enough and couldn’t stand settling for a slower speed. Also my scales/arpeggios got to an acceptable standard but I couldn’t take them any further. My 61 years of age maybe play a part ... Before stopping altogether in December 2017, I changed teachers 4 times and always thought the fault lay with them but no … it is my very demanding superego that played me up, I guess.

Now, one year on, I am somehow sorry I stopped and feel like playing a little but keep blowing hot and cold and never get round to actually doing anything.

Has anybody ever felt like this? And did he/she overcome this difficulty? If so, how?

 


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#2 Nine and a Half Fingers

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 12:41

I've felt the same. Before my hand injury I was continually beating myself up over technique, cold hands, not practicing enough, poor scales, even colder hands, and perhaps most importantly always considering my playing to be "borderline rubbish". Two things have helped me - one was helping my daughter through her grades (she had a very good teacher - I was merely encouraging/helping) and the other was simply getting older. I have adjusted my expectations, and now play slightly easier pieces but to a more (to me anyway) exacting standard. I enjoy this more than I ever enjoyed struggling with something I might play well one in a hundred times. And I actually play the piano for pleasure now, rather than it being a (losing) battle.


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#3 ejw21

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 14:25

Well done Nine and a Half Fingers on finding a balance. I very much try to avoid berating myself - it's very easy to start! - and enjoy what I am playing. I aim to learn pieces of different standards so I can challenge myself with a difficult piece but have a few easier pieces on the go as well. 

 

Juan Carlos, why did/do you want to play the piano? Maybe focusing on your reason for playing and start from there. 


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#4 Crock

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 19:08

Hi Juan Carlos -  I'm just a few years younger than you and I took the piano up again after 30 years in around 2012 and I remember you on the forum when you were taking Grade 7 two years or so before I did in 2014.

 

You aren't alone! Like anything else my enthusiasm for the piano goes up and down, and sometimes I do very little. And at other periods I may do very little because I can be so busy at work that I just don't have the time or the energy and I have to travel a lot.  I try to do a bare minimum so at least my playing doesn't go sharply downhill.  I get very frustrated because my muscle memory is poorer than 40 years ago so it takes me for ever to learn the notes in new pieces (which are now typically Grade 8 level), even though my understanding of music and shaping it are much improved (relative to back then) and I'm much better at analysing ways of playing difficult sections. There are pluses as well as minuses coming back to the piano middle-aged!

 

When my enthusiasm is a bit low, I might try listening to some favourite piano music so I remember just how beautiful an instrument it is and so why I want to play it. Like ejw21 I'll try and not berate myself and just enjoy playing.    I've acquired, thanks to many visits to charity shops, a big library of music now and I might just sit down at the piano for an hour and pick out books from the pile at random (OK, at random from the easier ones) and just sight-read. I try and achieve a balance just like Nine and a Half Fingers.

 

I also suffer from the speed issue, so I think I know where you are coming from.  It wasn't an issue all those years ago. Part of this I think is the muscle memory problem, and then another is nerves, which strike often even when playing in front of my teacher. If/when I at last take Grade 8 I know I won't select the fastest pieces. But I haven't let this get me down.  First, we've worked a bit on this in lessons - my teacher pointed out for example that my hands and fingers were making lots of unnecessary movements - "flapping and waving around in the breeze" was a phrase he used. And ahem I find I'm often not using the optimum fingering. I've got rid of a lot of this, and I've also found that I must keep my fingers relaxed. I do a lot of practise away from the piano (sometimes ahem on a table top in the middle of a very boring meeting, hopefully surreptiously. Secondly, a slower speed is often absolutely fine.  Youtube is full of virtuoso fast playing - which both my teacher and I agree has often been achieved at the expense of a musical performance.  The ABRSM metronome marks in the exam books are often (most often?) just a rough guide - they aren't written in tablets of stone (and sometimes even ABRSM's own teaching notes say this).

 

As you say "Even the longest of journeys starts with a very small step" so I do hope you take a small step and play some pieces you just enjoy.  Best of luck!


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#5 Tortellini

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Posted 03 February 2019 - 15:01

Hello. I recognise your feelings of frustration. I am an adult restarter, stopper and restarter! I stopped a few years ago after a disastrous Grade 7 exam. I actually just scraped through but totally didn't deserve to - I think the examiner must have taken pity on me! More importantly though, I just lost the will to play. I was very stressed at the time (three young kids, work, finishing a Phd) and piano playing just didn't seem like fun. I gave up practising and it was even less like fun! I started again just before Christmas and things have been going better. Here are the things that helped me:

 

- I play things that are a challenge but I have "dropped back" to Grade 5/6-ish level. There are actually lots of pieces I love in the exam books that I never got round to playing so I am working my way through the ones I like. They are not too easy but, crucially, not to hard that I spend weeks and weeks seemingly getting nowhere. This gives me more time to..

 

- work on my musicality. I was getting so caught up in finishing pieces, I had given up on listening to the music I was actually making!

 

- I play a variety of styles. My teacher would like me to play just the classics but I have a wide range of musical tastes - I am currently introducing him to a medley of 7 Brides for 7 Brothers which I alternate with Tchaikovsky's Barcarolle. laugh.png

 

- I also work on my technique with Hanon and scales. I avoided this for a long time but now I am actually starting to see results. I am finding it easier to play more quickly too.

 

- I play every day- even on days when I don't think I have time. This makes a HUGE difference to how I feel about playing. It makes me feel like more of a pianist and less of a fraud!

 

- I am also following tutorials on Youtube and "messing about" at the keyboard more. Even though I studied music theory for Grade 5 I never really assimilated it. Now by looking at different videos to do with chords, circle of 5ths extra, I am gradually getting to feel more competent as a player.

 

Hope this helps a bit!


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