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The piano is an instrument of torture for me. Let me explain:

Stage 1: Regular practice with some improvement
Stage 2: Regular practice with the realisation that things aren't sounding the way I want them to
Stage 3: Attempt to gain sufficient control of my physical movements to convert musical imagination to reality
Stage 4: Extreme frustration verging on rage when continued practice does not succeed
Stage 5: The taking of a solemn vow never to touch the piano again
Stage 6: Over a period of weeks/months the memory of the frustration fades and I'm drawn back to Stage 1

The cycle has repeated itself at least half a dozen times over the past few years. I'm sick of it. I feel like an addict that keeps trying to kick a habit but can't help himself. Very sadistic and sad. I just want to sell the piano and have it all over and done with, but my wife (who doesn't play) won't agree to this.

Has anyone had a similar experience, or is this emotional and psychological turmoil uniquely mine?


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If you are in a rut where you feel like you are making no improvement, why don’t you get a teacher that will help you break this cycle? If you live in an area where there are few teachers, there are options now for remote lessons.


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You could maybe look to reframe how you view progress. What does it look like? If the answer is to get through a piece you're working on to a level where you feel satisfied, maybe ask if that is a realistic, or necessary, outcome.

I'm definitely a one for stats when it comes to personal development; by which I mean, I like to use numeric values as a means of identifying progress in what I do. For example in the gym I can lift a heavier weight, or run an extra mile, and I can visibly see progress.

With piano studies, it just doesn't work like that. We have to trust that whatever it is we're working on, be it pieces, scales, theory etc., is somehow being absorbed and progressing our journey.

I guess my point is that you will be making progress but that it may not be apparent amongst the emotions of it all. Can you throw a bit more variety into your practise routine? aural games, rhythm tests, theory work, listening to a new composer, playing some improv? - just to quell those frustrating moments on a piece.

Also, don't worry about discarding a piece that's causing resentment or that feeling that you don't want to continue - find something new!

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Originally Posted by L'Orfeo
The piano is an instrument of torture for me. Let me explain:


The cycle has repeated itself at least half a dozen times over the past few years. I'm sick of it. I feel like an addict that keeps trying to kick a habit but can't help himself. Very sadistic and sad. I just want to sell the piano and have it all over and done with, but my wife (who doesn't play) won't agree to this.

Has anyone had a similar experience, or is this emotional and psychological turmoil uniquely mine?

It seems like many if not most adult beginners experience the situation where there is a large disconnect between what they would like to do in their head and what they actually can do given their skills. One issue of adults is that they often strive to perfection right away, ie if they cant get to play something, even simple, really well, then there is no interest or they get frustrated. The problem with the piano is that it is a complex instrument to master (like many instruments) and that you have to accept that you will be playing "poorly" even simple pieces, when compared with your expectations or pro versions, until you get skilled enough. Patience and slow progress is the key here and you have to accept the pace at which you can progress. Also adults tend to see things on the negative side, ie instead of looking at the fact that they do make progress and acquire skills, they often tend to look at all the things that they dont know or do wrong. You have to keep a positive attitude or else indeed if that is causing more pain than joy, then maybe piano isnt the right thing for you.

Below a video I found on the topic; on this channel there are more on that same topic, I just dont have the patience (I am an adult, am I not ...) to look for them.


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Originally Posted by L'Orfeo
The piano is an instrument of torture for me.
Has anyone had a similar experience, or is this emotional and psychological turmoil uniquely mine?
How are you getting on with the F-I?

Incidentally, I first "learnt" it as a teenager, never got very far with it (not because of the polyrhythms but because of the awkward RH finger movements which seemed completely beyond me to play smoothly and swiftly), sometimes felt like I was banging my head against a wall......but finally, as an adult - after a long hiatus (several decades) away from the piano - relearnt it and successfully performed it for the first time a few years ago. It was just one of several pieces that I thought I'd never be able to master when I was a kid, but history proved me wrong. I never looked back since. Success breeds success, as they say......

'Good things come to those who wait', according to an alcoholic beverage which I wouldn't touch with a barge pole. I'd re-phrase it to "Good things come to those who refuse to be beaten."


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Originally Posted by L'Orfeo
The piano is an instrument of torture for me. Let me explain:


The cycle has repeated itself at least half a dozen times over the past few years. I'm sick of it. I feel like an addict that keeps trying to kick a habit but can't help himself. Very sadistic and sad. I just want to sell the piano and have it all over and done with, but my wife (who doesn't play) won't agree to this.

Has anyone had a similar experience, or is this emotional and psychological turmoil uniquely mine?

It seems like many if not most adult beginners experience the situation where there is a large disconnect between what they would like to do in their head and what they actually can do given their skills. One issue of adults is that they often strive to perfection right away, ie if they cant get to play something, even simple, really well, then there is no interest or they get frustrated. The problem with the piano is that it is a complex instrument to master (like many instruments) and that you have to accept that you will be playing "poorly" even simple pieces, when compared with your expectations or pro versions, until you get skilled enough. Patience and slow progress is the key here and you have to accept the pace at which you can progress. Also adults tend to see things on the negative side, ie instead of looking at the fact that they do make progress and acquire skills, they often tend to look at all the things that they dont know or do wrong. You have to keep a positive attitude or else indeed if that is causing more pain than joy, then maybe piano isnt the right thing for you.

Below a video I found on the topic; on this channel there are more on that same topic, I just dont have the patience (I am an adult, am I not ...) to look for them.


I believe the UK Government are still at Stage 1 - unconscious incompetence!

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I have almost the EXACT experience as the OP. Only substitute "golf" for "piano."

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Stage 4: Extreme frustration verging on rage when continued practice does not succeed


How much time do you mean by "continued". Is my experience that daily practice gets you to improvement if you keep it for 12-18 months.

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Rage is a pretty good sign to stop what you're doing, close the piano lid, and go do something else (preferably physical), and then come back another time.

The real issue starts when there's a deadline to meet (such as a performance on other form of contractual obligation), otherwise enjoy the journey and stop when the stress starts.

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I don't know the pieces you're working on or your current level so can't make many suggestion. Are you learning from method books? Songbooks? What are some of the pieces you're playing?

I learned violin years ago and already know some music theory so I don't have to start with the fundamentals learning to read music & counting beats. My first 2 pieces on a digital keyboard was "When the Saints Go Marching In" & "Ode to Joy" from a book for easy piano. There are many songbooks with pieces arranged for easy piano in large print. You can start with the popular "Alfred Basic Adult Piano Course".

Compare to learning violin before, learning piano has never been easier. Practically all the pieces you learn somebody already posted a recording online except for pieces from the Middle Ages by anonymous composers. A year ago my teacher got her students into playing "Georgia" out of the Faber "BigTime Piano Jazz & Blues" book. She gave a quick demo in class. I found the Ray Charles and the Michael Bublé versions online. A year ago I played the Shostakovich Waltz #2 arranged for piano. Listened to a few orchestral versions to hear how fast the tempo should be and what it sounds like. I didn't know the piece very well so the sound recordings provided the roadmap what to aim for. I'd break the piece into section and work on each individually. As the pieces started coming together, playing became more enjoyable.

The first & last thing I wouldn't do when working on a piece is to play through from top to bottom. I'd work on trouble spots and only play the whole piece when I'm ready. To make sure my playing is consistent, I'd do quick recordings with my phone and listen to the playback when I'm not playing.

I've been playing piano for over a decade and have no reason to stop. A few people in the family took lessons ages ago before I got into playing. At the moment nobody at home plays at my level. The more pieces I learn the more I want to keep going.

Good luck...


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I don’t think you are alone in your feeling of deep frustration over learning to play piano. It takes tons of patience. But I wonder why you keep at it if it provides no pleasure. There must be other hobbies and activities you could pursue that would provide you with gratification.



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Originally Posted by PianogrlNW
I don’t think you are alone in your feeling of deep frustration over learning to play piano. It takes tons of patience. But I wonder why you keep at it if it provides no pleasure. There must be other hobbies and activities you could pursue that would provide you with gratification.

Yes; I strongly agree. One has to enjoy the journey and not focus entirely on the goal. If the journey itself is not rewarding then the goal becomes more and more elusive.

Regards,


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My situation is a bit different to what some (kind) respondents have assumed.

I learned piano as a teen and young adult, getting up to Grade 8 AMEB. Took it up again a couple of years ago and practiced about 6 hours a day (I'm a disability pensioner and have too much time on my hand). I gained a BMus from the Melbourne Con, part of Melbourne Uni, 25 years ago, but with trumpet as my instrument of study.

With this background and surrounded by a plethora or rather good pianists my expectations are rather different to that of some. As I don't perform the only person I need to please is myself. Rather than pleasing myself practice sessions become a metaphorical exercise in banging my head against a brick wall.

I strongly agree with the opinions expressed by @PianogrlNW and and @BruceD. I've gently asked my wife to consider allowing me to sell the piano, explaining the pain it causes me and expecting that it will take weeks or months to reach a decision. I bought my K300 new about 2 years ago for $7.5K AUD and since then prices have risen to an RRP of $9.3K but can be had new for $8.5K. Shouldn't have too much trouble selling it for what I paid for it.

Thanks for your advice everyone.


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Originally Posted by L'Orfeo
I learned piano as a teen and young adult, getting up to Grade 8 AMEB. Took it up again a couple of years ago and practiced about 6 hours a day (I'm a disability pensioner and have too much time on my hand)

As I don't perform the only person I need to please is myself. Rather than pleasing myself practice sessions become a metaphorical exercise in banging my head against a brick wall.
This is stating the obvious, but restarting piano by obsessive practising 6 hours a day is the quick route to an early burnout, which is obviously what's happened. The thing to do now is not to touch the piano at all for a while (weeks to months), while deciding whether you really do want to get rid of it, after only two years of buying it new. Don't keep 'banging your head against a brick wall' by continuing to practise hard until the day your piano is gone for good.........because you might well regret its absence afterwards.

In case you think that is pointless, in fact I know some pros and semi-pros did exactly that during the pandemic, when their motivation (i.e. concerts) for practicing and learning new rep disappeared, and some retrained to do other jobs (like driving delivery vans). One pianist said he never once touched his instrument, and a cellist said he never even looked at his cello (in its case) for several weeks. But all eventually got back to their instruments when they realised they missed playing and making music, even if it was just for themselves, with no prospect of performing.

If you can't just have fun playing easier stuff you enjoy on it, rather than spending hours obsessively plugging away at something difficult like the F-I that you were talking about last year, then maybe the only solution really is to get rid of your piano. But do you have alternative plans for what you want to spend your retirement time doing instead?

I know several people who restarted piano in late adulthood, having reached various grades when they were kids. Some of them were intent on picking up where they left off (or 'unfinished business', as one termed it) i.e. getting a teacher and back into the ABRSM/Trinity exam syllabus, and then go on to achieve their grade 8. Others were just happy to stay at their level, playing (or sight-reading) only music they liked and can play without much effort, and not learn anything new.

As for me, an adult restarter (like many others here), when I bought my piano in 2010, full of enthusiasm to regain my old piano skills and play again all the pieces I enjoyed as a teenaged student, I never practiced anything approaching 6 hours a day: 4 was my maximum, and that was only on some days. OK, I had (and still have) a full-time job, but music is my principal means of taking my mind off the stresses of my job. Not a means of 'relaxation' ('relaxing music' isn't my thing), but of taking me into a different world in which I can lose myself completely.

Which is why, during the worst period of the pandemic here in the UK (when my work became extremely stressful and also risky to myself), when I managed to get home, I'd play - and often vent my frustration and despair at the rising death toll where I worked - on my piano, playing only pieces I already had in my performing rep and could play without any mental effort, completely ditching all my previous plans to learn new stuff. In fact, it was a whole year before I started working on new pieces again, and 'practising' properly........


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L’Orfeo
If you decide to quit playing piano, because it makes you frustrated, I hope you have thought about other potential interests that you would enjoy. As a early pensioner, replacing the piano with nothing is not a good plan. Maybe that is your wife’s motivation for not wanting you to sell the piano?


Carefully think about this— including the possibility of getting professional help for your ongoing depression/frustration.


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Why are you considering selling the piano?

Can't you just keep it and don't play for a while?

Maybe you might want to play it for pleasure once in a while

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Originally Posted by L'Orfeo
With this background and surrounded by a plethora or rather good pianists my expectations are rather different to that of some. As I don't perform the only person I need to please is myself. Rather than pleasing myself practice sessions become a metaphorical exercise in banging my head against a brick wall.

I looked at some of your previous posts. The 6 hours practice does seem like it led you to a burnout. But you are also probably expecting too much of yourself. Restarting the piano after many years and going straight to pieces like F-I is challenging. I am certain you can play well well pieces of a lower level of difficulty and which are beautiful nonetheless. After many years your level has dropped back to much less than 8. But certainly if you cant satisfy yourself with those and you dont have the patience to start back from a lower level and you dont enjoy the journey, then .....

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There are 2 reasons to like piano: the sound of the instrument and the pieces written for it.

I know people who had lessons when they were young and passed grade levels. After that the piano sits at home like a piece of furniture. They were neither crazy for the piano sound nor the repertoire.

I enjoy listening to piano music for many years. In my school days I played violin. The 2 pieces I enjoyed were the "Sarabande" and "Minuet & Trio" from the Bach French Suite #3 in Bm. I could listen to just these 2 pieces for the whole day. Back then I thought that I lacked the coordination to get into piano and waited 2 decades before learning any of the French Suites.

I don't have a problem finding pieces I enjoy listening to. The first piece I downloaded was "Rainbow Connection" from the Muppets movie. I was on vacation once and heard people singing the song. It reminds me of the good times I had away from home. I heard the Shostakovich Waltz on radio and soon after got the piano arrangement. I play pieces outside the teacher's assigned repertoire regularly. There is a whole library of music online at your finger tips so you'd never run out of pieces to play.

Practicing for 6 hours is a bit extreme. At my level I can only do up to 2 and usually just an hour and take a break. The piece I'm working on is my own arrangement in 3 pages. Even after weeks of editing the score on computer, I'm still finding new ways to play the piece with chord inversions. The piece is personal so I have no trouble getting into it.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
I am certain you can play well well pieces of a lower level of difficulty and which are beautiful nonetheless. After many years your level has dropped back to much less than 8. But certainly if you cant satisfy yourself with those and you dont have the patience to start back from a lower level and you dont enjoy the journey, then .....

+1.

Many good thoughts from the other posters…

I returned to piano last October. I have been playing much less than you do… usually 1 to 2 hours per day. At the beginning, much much less than that, as I was worried that I might aggravate my wrist (which I had broken a year prior). My experience has been very different. Overall, I was very happy for quite a bit of skills to return pretty quickly. Can’t say I have gotten very many things to ‘performance level.’ But I have a full time job, come home tired, and rather than feeling angry and frustrated, I find my time at the piano to be enjoyable, rejuvenating, and energizing. I have worked on a mix of standard, very well known repertoire, as well as pieces that I love but that are not well known (mostly Latin American compositions). It’s also a mix of things I learned as a teenager and new things. Much of it is in the category of ‘challenging but not impossible’ for me.

There should be a lot of wonderful repertoire that is significantly easier than the pieces that you are finding frustrating. So maybe try to work on some technically easier but musically fulfilling pieces. And/or, look for a teacher who can help you with practice strategies that are more conducive to your enjoyment and progress. I do think that piano should be enjoyable, and your story sounds like you find it to be the opposite. Ultimately, if there is no way that you are able to convert the piano from an ‘instrument of torture’ to an ‘instrument of enjoyment,’ I would let it go. But try doing things differently (including limiting practice time to 1-2 hours a day) and see if you can come to enjoy the piano again.

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What piece is F-I ?

As for the question: please relax dude. It's a hobby, not forced labour. You sound like you want to be a concert pianist in one year. You're reaching for the impossible. Take it easy.

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