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Joined: Sep 2021
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Hello all, I was looking to get back on playing the piano, but not quite sure where to start. Hope you guys can give me some advices.

I started learning when I was around 8, and stopped learning at 16 due to family issues. I was at ABRSM level 8 equivalent before I stopped, and only played rarely on an non-weighted digital piano since then…Now I’m 34 frown

Some problems that I encountered such as very weak fingers and not able to play fast, getting rusty on some of the music theories, especially chord theories and not able to play without sheet music. I’m hoping to be able to play some higher level classical pieces and be able to play/improvise without sheet music. Usually I’m able to play the melody when I hear a music, but have no ideas what chords to go with it…

I hope to self-taught myself if possible, should I start by practicing scales, Hannon, Czerny, etc. again? Or should I look for a private teacher?

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You will learn a lot more and a lot faster with a good teacher. In terms of classical, you could just start where you left off or go back a grade or two. Whether you work on old pieces or new pieces is completely up to you. Certainly select pieces you really want to play. Learning to play popular music without any score is a different ball game. You might need a different teacher. There are lots of online resources for learning classical or popular if you decide not to get a teacher. If you think you might want to get a teacher but don't want a weekly lesson, consider a lesson every two weeks.

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Originally Posted by Chocolaty
I started learning when I was around 8, and stopped learning at 16 due to family issues. I was at ABRSM level 8 equivalent before I stopped, and only played rarely on an non-weighted digital piano since then…Now I’m 34 frown

Some problems that I encountered such as very weak fingers and not able to play fast, getting rusty on some of the music theories, especially chord theories and not able to play without sheet music. I’m hoping to be able to play some higher level classical pieces and be able to play/improvise without sheet music. Usually I’m able to play the melody when I hear a music, but have no ideas what chords to go with it…
As always, a good teacher is your best bet, but you have had 8 years of lessons and you started at a young age so - assuming you actually did some ABRSM exams (meaning that you have aural skills as well as rusty technical and musical ones) - you should be able to get back on track and regain your former skills within a few months, simply by playing your old scales & arpeggios and your old pieces. Start from ones that are well within your current abilities, not where you were when you left off, and you should be able to move back up the ladder little by little, and even keep progressing beyond your previous level after some months of daily practising, assuming you had acquired decent technical skills by the time you were 16..

As for learning 'chord theory', if you have well-developed aural skills, you can easily learn from various books and online and YT videos. Lucinda Mackworth-Young's 'Piano by ear' is a good book that will take you from near-beginner (in terms of playing by ear and improvising) to being able to 'hear' the inherent harmonic progressions in simple tunes and know - and therefore play - the harmonies that fit.


"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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Give up piano thats all I can say it's just a burden on your shoulders.



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Chocolatey- I was in a similar place to you about a year ago, when I decided to start playing again. I had also sustained a wrist fracture a year and a half before that. I think because of this, I was very cautious about the possibility of overdoing things at the beginning. I really took things pretty slowly for the first month, very gradually building up my practice time — no more than 15 minutes a day at the beginning. I started with Hanon, scales, and reviewing some of the repertoire I had played as a youngster (initially looking at things I learned several years before I stopped playing, but pieces that I really enjoyed). I found that things came back pretty quickly, including finger strength. But I think that easing into things very slowly and gradually really helped avoid any injury issues and was also good in terms of mentally adjusting to playing the piano again.
I hope this helps and that you find great joy in your piano playing!

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Originally Posted by Chocolaty
I hope to self-taught myself if possible, should I start by practicing scales, Hannon, Czerny, etc. again? Or should I look for a private teacher?

Just as other have said, I would advise you to look for a private teacher who can help you figure out how to come back to the piano.
However, if you want to get started already now, before you have found a teacher and have had your first lesson, my advice would be not to start with scales, Hanon or Czerny. It is just not fun enough!

Instead, I would find a teacher on youtube who teaches different pieces, chose a piece that is of your liking and your present level, and follow the teacher's instructions. For instance: Shirley Kirsten
In this way, it will also get more clear to you which old capabilities come back to you naturally, and which ones you'll need to work on again.


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If you play music as an academic exercise, you won’t enjoy the experience.

I’m with a group of adult learners playing for fun & stress relief. When you get to my age, my piano buddies don’t aim to play technical concertos or even fast movement of Beethoven sonatas. We get into slow pieces like Chopin nocturnes or anything with a slow to moderate tempo. There are enough pieces in books & online to last a lifetime. Even with basic reading skills you can learn pieces on your own.

Getting a teacher is a good idea eventually. Before you get into interesting pieces, there are scales & arpeggios exercises and etudes to practice on the side. If you’ve reached a certain level in the past and kept your repertoire books, get a keyboard with weighted keys and start playing. The pieces you learned in the past is going to come back in a few months. Get into a routine to play for an hour a day. My pieces include the ones assigned by the teacher & my own downloads.

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I agree with the others that finding a teacher is your best bet — that gives you a rhythm of learning, a person to bounce ideas off of, someone that knows your strengths and weaknesses, and someone to try not to disappoint every week or every month.

That said, if for some reason a teacher's not an option or you are really averse to it, I would say: if you made it to 16 and got to ABRSM level 8 (I assume that's advanced piano, but I never got to know the levels), then I would start with a few pieces you remember the most from when you were 16, something that you got to concert level or close to it. Pick the one that comes to your fingers the most easily, and work on getting it to a level where it feels comfortable, reach back and think about what you remember about learning the piece and the parts you found hardest and the ones you found most interesting, etc., and try to coax that comfort back into your muscle memory. If you can get it back to something you enjoy playing, then it becomes your repertoire of one piece and you can use that as an anchor to explore other pieces, a good mix of familiar ones and unfamiliar ones. Always having at least one piece you can play well is a nice goal to start with.

In parallel, I would look for some pieces that are a bit below the level you last played at — maybe some inventions, the Kinderszenen, some Lyric Pieces, Songs without Words — something that has a bunch of pieces in it that you can work through. Use these to work on your sight reading. Getting your brain to remember how to read music fluidly and reduce the friction in reading is going to be a vital part of this process. Playing a piece the first time through uses one part of the brain. Doing it a second, third, fourth time pulls other parts of the brain into the process. And then doing the same piece again the next day. And then move onto another piece. I think technically only the first time through is really "sight-reading", but I think for the purposes of improving your sight-reading it's good to go through it as a two-day process as that feeds back into what your brain does the next time it encounters a new piece and anticipates the future readings you're going to make it do.

And then as a possible third track, picking a fugue and spending a few months working out the counterpoint and how to express it — this is something I've found I understand very differently as an adult than I did as a teenager. The exercise of playing a Bach fugue really improves one's ability to interpret classical and romantic pieces.

As others pointed out, the main thing is that you want it to be an enjoyable experience. The enjoyment is not something sitting on a shelf waiting for you to perfect your piano playing before you can take it down and play with it — it should be there in the beginning, like a dim ember that you are trying to coax back into a flame.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
If you play music as an academic exercise, you won’t enjoy the experience.
Did the OP ever hint at doing that?

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Some of the Classical pieces I get into I have a connection to the music. In my school days I learned violin. The music class did a project on different composers. Bach came up and "French Suite #3" was used for class presentation. No surprise that I'd eventually learn to play these pieces when I started piano. After graduation a friend joined a Catholic seminary and moved to Germany where Bach's choral pieces comes up a lot including the massive oratorio "Matthew Passion". The piece I worked on recently is a personal arrangement of a Bach piece intended to be performed in church without a piano. A reminder of the friend who lives thousands of miles overseas.

I hear people talk about playing certain pieces assigned by their teachers all the time. Playing assigned pieces is ok. We all learned to read and we can read through any piece at a certain level so no need to restrict ourselves to only playing the pieces from a teacher. A piece I arranged, improvised or added embellishments is very personal.

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Self-teaching at your level is possible, still getting a teacher is a better option.

Yes, Hanon, Czerny, scales, arpeggios, exercises for double notes, chords. You need to get your hands back in shape before trying to play something challenging.

You'll need to find a book on how to improvise in the style you like. You may want to begin with browsing YouTube firstly and watching available online courses in order to find the improvisation style you want, there are quite a few courses currently. Often the author of a course also sells a book.

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Chocolaty, I was in a similar situation four years ago. But with a 40-year gap from when I lasted played the piano, after similar childhood training as yours. So don't despair about a mere 18-year gap!

My advice? Set simple goals that give you the satisfaction of small achievements every day. I started out with a mix of Grade 2/3/4 pieces, as anything beyond that was certainly too hard to attempt. I know that sounds ridiculously easy, but it was still a lot of fun reliving my childhood learning experiences, while remembering my dear old piano teacher.

I did not do anything that even slightly resembled drudgery, whether it was scales or finger exercises, useful as they are. My return to the piano in retirement was meant to be fun, and playing ever more complex pieces that I recalled learning decades earlier served to improve finger strength and dexterity over time.

I didn't set a requirement for a certain amount of practice, but it quickly became 1-1/2 hours every day, as that ensured good progress. And progress encouraged me to practice -- a self-reinforcing, virtuous circle! And now, a few years later, I am back to where I was as a teenager, if not beyond.

You don't need a teacher right now. There is enough musical knowledge in your head and hands to return to the piano, at your own pace. Just give it time and commitment.
All the best!
Lotus
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Working on: Mozart / Sonata in D, K. 284, "Durnitz"
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I had a 40+ year gap and started playing again last year. Besides being rusty as heck and nothing working, the major issue I had was tendinitis from practicing too much. After I got that taken care of, it was pretty much clear sailing....besides the difficulty of playing. After 6+ months, I found a teacher and am definitely moving forward. ENJOY!

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I re-started playing after a 50 year break. For six months, I re-oriented myself by playing music from my childhood. I did not work on the dreaded Hanon and Czerny. It did take energy, but it was not nearly as painful nor tedious as I expected. After the first six months, I returned to lessons.

I never had pain/tendinitis, even with practicing for many hours. But I have been lucky never to have had any hand issues.

Getting a teacher is a personal decision. I knew that I wanted to keep progressing beyond my level when I stopped, so getting a teacher was the right decision for me. Per-COVID, I also attended adult piano-camp once a year, with daily one-hr lessons and playing for the attendees nightly. A classical music immersion 😊


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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I had a few lessons at 5 but didn't get very far. When I started as an adult, I had no exercise / repertoire book for piano. The music books & sheet music I had from school were for violin. Fortunately I had enough reading and knowledge of music theory to get started. The only song I remembered from way back was "Twinkle" so all the pieces I learned were new.

Fortunately I had access to the Internet that wasn't available growing up in the '70s. There are apps like Piano Marvel & Simply Piano for self-learners and sheet music can be downloaded. This was especially helpful a year ago when the city was in lockdown. I couldn't visit a store but I had access to music.

The most important part is to get into a practice routine whether you do half hour/day or 1h/day. I learn pieces with a teacher and on my own. When my teacher goes on vacation, I practice just as much. Finding new & interesting pieces to play has never been easier.

My father played accordion many years ago. After his retirement he wanted to pick up the instrument again. The first thing was to go to a music store and get a beginner's book. Don't think he had a teacher or went very far in his younger days. After a month he stopped playing. He wasn't willing to commit himself to weekly lessons and not keen to learn pieces on his own. Before starting, it's important to have expectations what kinds of music you want to get into and how far you want to go.

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Teacher: Since I only took lessons for about one year, there is a TON I don't know. My teacher, a young guy (28) has taught me a lot...not only how to play, but in techniques of playing that I didn't have a clue on. I'm working on the 3rd Mvt to The Tempest, and there are two sections that were driving me crazy. I told him my issue and he said, 'practice it this way....' and my thought was, 'why didn't I think of that?' He has definitely allowed me to improve.


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