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#16 Espresso Addict

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 01:35

That sounds very focused! Kudos!

 

Can I ask how difficult you found it getting back to your original grade 5 standard? I'm 4 months into attempting to get back to my childhood grade 5 piano after ~30 years away, and finding it extremely hard going without a teacher. Do you have any tips?


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#17 Big Mike

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 21:56

Hi Expresso Addict,

                                Well done for returning to piano studies. I am presuming that 30 years ago you where either still at school or a young person in your 20s?. 30 years is a long time to take a break. In what way are you struggling?. I am finding that I have difficulty in processing and remembering information. Whereas I could previously play and remember scales etc in my sleep,i now have to really think about key signs and there relative Majors and Minors etc. The same applies to Theory and rhythm patterns. This is probably an age related memory problem for me and the only way to solve it is through sheer hard work,practice and focus. Another problem I am finding is that my concentration span is now very short. So much so that I have to be more or less locked in the room whilst practicing with no distractions whatsoever.

                 I would take your time learning your pieces and start by playing them slowly,and take one hand at a time and don't put them together until you have completely mastered each passage. Be strict and disciplined  with yourself whilst practicing,but don't put to much pressure on yourself. 30 mins a day is better than the odd hour now and again which causes you to miss 2 or 3 days practice consecutively.

            Its quite possible that a piece that was deemed Grade 5 in 1987 could now have become a Grade 6, or vice-versa. I have no knowledge of how pieces are Graded but standards are tougher compared to 20 or 30 years ago.

Above all enjoy your music.

   If you can afford a teacher then do so. There are far more resources available now,with Apps and online courses and tutorials. You Tube has some excellent videos to watch.

      Hope this helps.

                                    Mike.


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#18 EllieD

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 15:39

 

 

Can I ask how difficult you found it getting back to your original grade 5 standard? I'm 4 months into attempting to get back to my childhood grade 5 piano after ~30 years away, and finding it extremely hard going without a teacher. Do you have any tips?

 

My top tip would be - don't think about what you could play before, or how good you were before or stuff like that. Remember why you are playing the piano - for the love of the music and the sound of the instrument and the sheer pleasure of making those beautiful chords all by yourself .... well, that's what it is for me anyway ... the point is, enjoy it, however you are now, whatever you can play now, just enjoy it. I found a piece in a Grade 1 anthology that gives me goose bumps, you don't have to play Chopin and Liszt to make good music.

 

Mike - you are totally right that music exams have got harder - well, they would seem to have done. My mum had an old ABRSM Grade 3 exam book which I borrowed, and there's a piece in there which has more recently appeared on the Grade 2 syllabus.


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#19 Espresso Addict

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 00:04

 

 

 

Can I ask how difficult you found it getting back to your original grade 5 standard? I'm 4 months into attempting to get back to my childhood grade 5 piano after ~30 years away, and finding it extremely hard going without a teacher. Do you have any tips?

 

My top tip would be - don't think about what you could play before, or how good you were before or stuff like that. Remember why you are playing the piano - for the love of the music and the sound of the instrument and the sheer pleasure of making those beautiful chords all by yourself .... well, that's what it is for me anyway ... the point is, enjoy it, however you are now, whatever you can play now, just enjoy it. I found a piece in a Grade 1 anthology that gives me goose bumps, you don't have to play Chopin and Liszt to make good music.

 

Mike - you are totally right that music exams have got harder - well, they would seem to have done. My mum had an old ABRSM Grade 3 exam book which I borrowed, and there's a piece in there which has more recently appeared on the Grade 2 syllabus.

 

This is good advice, EllieD. I've wasted quite a bit of time trying (and mainly failing) to get some of my old pieces back. It feels embarrassing to be back playing grade 2/3 but I'm sure I'm playing them a lot more musically than I did as a kid. It's also different selecting & learning pieces on my own, rather than being fed pieces by a teacher, who helped with fingering & interpretation.

 

I'm not sure whether the pieces in exams have got harder or easier. There's a piece in an old ABRSM grade 1 collection that was later set as ABRSM grade 3 (!), and there are several pieces I recall from my day that seem to have gone up a grade.

 

There again my experience of ABRSM is limited. My childhood teacher did Trinity because she thought the pieces were harder and more fun (in my day you had to do four pieces for Trinity grades 6-8), but eg the sightreading requirements of ABRSM are certainly far harder now than Trinity was then.


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#20 Espresso Addict

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 00:48

                                Well done for returning to piano studies. I am presuming that 30 years ago you where either still at school or a young person in your 20s?. 30 years is a long time to take a break. In what way are you struggling?. I am finding that I have difficulty in processing and remembering information. Whereas I could previously play and remember scales etc in my sleep,i now have to really think about key signs and there relative Majors and Minors etc. The same applies to Theory and rhythm patterns. This is probably an age related memory problem for me and the only way to solve it is through sheer hard work,practice and focus. Another problem I am finding is that my concentration span is now very short. So much so that I have to be more or less locked in the room whilst practicing with no distractions whatsoever.

                 I would take your time learning your pieces and start by playing them slowly,and take one hand at a time and don't put them together until you have completely mastered each passage. Be strict and disciplined  with yourself whilst practicing,but don't put to much pressure on yourself. 30 mins a day is better than the odd hour now and again which causes you to miss 2 or 3 days practice consecutively.

            Its quite possible that a piece that was deemed Grade 5 in 1987 could now have become a Grade 6, or vice-versa. I have no knowledge of how pieces are Graded but standards are tougher compared to 20 or 30 years ago.

Above all enjoy your music.

   If you can afford a teacher then do so. There are far more resources available now,with Apps and online courses and tutorials. You Tube has some excellent videos to watch.

Thanks for the very useful advice, Mike! I gave up entirely when I went to university in the mid-1980s, but I'd plateaued years before, when my homework commitments got out of hand. I did end up with a piano again in my late-20s, but for various reasons never played regularly or really practised at all, and then I was entirely without a piano for 2.5 years after a house move, until we acquired the digital earlier this year.

 

Some of the problems I'm having seem similar to those you mention -- I find it very hard to learn new pieces, even extremely easy ones. It takes weeks of dedicated practice (slow, hands separately) before it gets noticeably better than a couple of sightreads. I spend literally months working daily at a piece for 20-30 mins, without ever getting to the play through largely without errors stage. I've had to give up on pieces because I'd just exhausted my capacity for practising them without improvement, and when I stop playing a piece daily, I can forget it almost entirely within a few weeks!

 

I'm also finding I'm playing nearly everything far too slowly, which seems to be at least in part a physical limitation. And I get very tired, achy and even tingly in the forearms and fingers if I play for more than ~30 minutes in a session or about 2 hours in any one day.

 

I don't know whether exam standards have gone up or down -- I suspect one could find pieces  that have moved up a grade as well as those that have moved down. I took Trinity as a child (it was the only board my teacher supported) and I do think some of Trinity's requirements other than pieces back then, ie sightreading and the absence of the grade 5 theory requirement, were easier than ABRSM is currently. On the other hand, Trinity then required four pieces for grades 6 to 8, which I don't believe ABRSM ever has.

 

I'd love to get a teacher, but I'm having no luck finding one. We've moved to a Scottish island, and the nearest teacher is 1.5 hours drive away (and in any case, full). We don't have proper broadband, so even Skype lessons are out for now! There is a lot of good stuff on Youtube, I know, but it's mixed in with a fair amount of trash, too, in my opinion.

 

Thanks again for the advice. I will keep at it, and try to feel more enjoyment and less anxiety!


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#21 BrokenChordsGirlCG169

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 01:43

I did notice the Haydn minuet and trio I just played for grade 4 piano was set for grade 3 in 1996...by noticed I mean I learned it back then, although didn't actually play it for the exam...a mere 21 years between the grades.


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#22 Big Mike

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 22:02

Hi Everyone,

                    Expesso Addict,

                                                Well what can I say?. As for trying to find a teacher its a shame you live in a remote location,although I would probably love to live in what must be a beautiful part of our Island,if only to escape the Rat Race and clogged up roads we have here in Gt Manchester. I imagine you already have good discipline for practice then if you have no means of any teaching aids or help. Its a real pity that your Broadband signal is poor. Another plus point with my teacher is that she organizes 2 concerts a year for her pupils to perform in front of relatives etc. This gives the students confidence in performing. I know that 1 and a half hours travelling time is not really practible.. But would it be worth putting your name on the waiting list,and if a place crops up,may be just have a lesson once a fortnight?

                Otherwise just keep on and stay positive. I had the same problem as you with regards to achy arms etc. But I found that the discomfort did go (after a long time),as long as I was practising regularly. I compare it to running or cycling where after 3 or 4 weeks you do improve. Your body adapts to the muscle movements. Have you tried some warming up exercises before you practice? Ie,stretching your arms and neck etc and playing some scales before the more serious practice.

I am the opposite to you as I tend to play and practice to fast. I am always being been told to slow down. And when I do I find that my pieces improve far better.

But not everyone is the same. Just keep on doing what you are and you will improve,im sure.

 

Best of luck.

                                  Mike


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#23 Espresso Addict

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 23:42

Thanks Mike -- sorry for the oversharing! I've been doing this alone for so long, it's amazing to find somewhere where I can talk about it to knowledgeable others. I talked to my physio today about my achy arms, and she said they are not a problem and should go away as I get more in practice. (Apparently the worrying pain is around the elbow, which I haven't experienced.) I do try always to warm up with a scale and arpeggio or so, getting me into the key of the piece, but pre-sitting down stretching is a great idea.

 

I can't imagine playing too fast! Aside from finger speed & processing time, I think I'm always seeking nuances in the music and so going at a snail's pace. Sometimes I find it's good to just play the notes without expression, just aiming to increase the speed/fluency.


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#24 MaggieH

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 07:28

   If you only have 1 hour and a half day it doesn't seem a lot, I need more, but that's just me .  1 and a half  hours during the course of the morning and about 2 hours  in the evening.   

Instead of going through three pieces and scales  in just  hour or so, without feeling I achieved much,  I started to concentrate on only one piece per day, plus scales.  It does help when I focus intensely on one piece at a time  and scales. That way I felt I got to know the piece better and play it more fluently, etc.   Grade 6 sounds too difficult for me.   I believe you have to take music theory before embarking on grade 5.  


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#25 Big Mike

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 20:10

Good advice MaggieH. One piece per day is a good idea,one that I never considered before. I shall try that from now on.

      Yes you do have to pass Grade 5 theory before taking a Grade 6 practical exam. I passed my Grade 5 theory in 1985 but I am thinking of taking some theory lessons to refresh my memory. There is quite a large gap from Grade 5 to Grade 6. Both in the workload and the standard of the pieces. But if you are thinking of taking 5 then give it a go. It will get you used to the increased practice load needed if you ever take Grade 6. Although 3 and a half hours a day of practice should easily prepare you for Grades 5 and 6.

                                                                                                                        Good Luck.


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#26 Ilewydh

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 09:34

Good advice MaggieH. One piece per day is a good idea,one that I never considered before. I shall try that from now on.

      Yes you do have to pass Grade 5 theory before taking a Grade 6 practical exam. I passed my Grade 5 theory in 1985 but I am thinking of taking some theory lessons to refresh my memory. There is quite a large gap from Grade 5 to Grade 6. Both in the workload and the standard of the pieces. But if you are thinking of taking 5 then give it a go. It will get you used to the increased practice load needed if you ever take Grade 6. Although 3 and a half hours a day of practice should easily prepare you for Grades 5 and 6.

                                                                                                                        Good Luck.

You can also take grade 5 practical musicianship or a solo jazz subject as an alternative to grade 5 theory.  There are other alternatives, but the link doesn't seem to work.


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#27 Thepianist

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Posted 05 September 2017 - 07:30

I used to spend 3-4 hours a day on scales but now spend 1-2 hours on learning a piece then do a scale/arpeggios/dminished(dominant) arpeggio
3rds and 6ths scale for that given scale. Intensive concentration but it does help.
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#28 cmw

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Posted 08 September 2017 - 12:02

I've read people's comments with great interest. Some useful advice. Currently I use a template to organise practice:

 

  1. Long notes
  2. Scales
  3. Studies
  4. Pieces
  5. Reflection

I sometimes find that I achieve more in 30 minutes practices than in an hour. I therefore tend to identify what the focus of my practice is going to be and what I want to aim to improve before starting practice. At the end of the session I reflect on the session which helps me plan what I'm going to focus at my next practice session.

 

I too suffer from pains in my arm occasionally and therefore ensure I do stretching exercises at the beginning or practice and take short breaks

 

If I have the opportunity 2 or 3 hours practice in a day then I spread this over the day.

 

There has been a lot of work on slow practice, that is playing scales or music slowly enough so that you do not make mistakes and then gradullay increase speed over a period of time. Apparently the brain learns better this way.

 

I bought a book by Gerald Klickstein - The Musician's Way. It has a lot of useful information about the art of practice.

 

I hope this was useful and look forward to hearing from you.

 

Colin Way

Clarinet Player


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