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Hi

Hope you are well and keeping safe

I have been playing for just over 5 years, I am 60. I work about 80 hours a month in a demanding job. I practice every day for about half an hour to hour each evening and am blessed to have a fantastic teacher, although for the first 18 months I had someone else. I never wanted to learn to just play notes I wanted to learn technique.

Although I of course struggle at times with sections understandably, I am not relaxed and too tense, I need to feel the music and play, I am trying to close my eyes and always eventually play from memory, but I am struggling.

Any suggestions I love playing but frustrated and disappointed.

Look forward to your advice

Blessings to you

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Your progress is your progress.

Can't force it, let it run its course.

Compare it to a profession or sport. It is hard work that takes a lot of time.

It is a marathon, not a sprint.

Be realistic, if you were to pick up golf. You don't expect a hole in one ever.

Enjoy the ride, accept your limitations.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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I don't think you can play notrs without a reasonable technique, particularly as the complexities increase.
Don't worry about techniue; your teacher will sort that out. just enjoy the music. I write my own just so I can hammer away to my heart's content. I write the music to suit my fingers ha ha


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Originally Posted by Chemblue
I am not relaxed and too tense [...] I am trying to close my eyes and always eventually play from memory, but I am struggling.

Hi Chemblue!

Playing in a relaxed way, without tension, can be learned without closing your eyes. It is a very important part of piano playing technique, and it takes time to learn this. Now you have a fantastic teacher, so ask them to help you with this.
If tensed hands is a general problem for you, not only when you play the piano, you can do some hand relaxation. I like this video!



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It is normal to be tense when one lacks the technique. Playing relaxed is not something that you can decide, but it is the result of conscious focus of course but mainly a well mastered technique. If you put someone on a pair of ski for the first time, he will be completely tense. That is not something that can be avoided until one learns the proper balance and starts to be comfortable.


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Originally Posted by Chemblue
I am not relaxed and too tense, I need to feel the music and play, I am trying to close my eyes and always eventually play from memory, but I am struggling.

Any suggestions I love playing but frustrated and disappointed.
Firstly, why do you feel you need to 'always eventually play from memory'? Not to mention 'trying to close my eyes'?

I'm sure you're aware that ABRSM (which you've talked about following its syllabus and comparing your progress to its grades) - as well as other music exam boards in the UK - doesn't require playing any piece from memory, not even at Grade 8. And there are very good reasons for that, which I've mentioned ad nauseam in the past, but for our purposes here, the biggest reason is about playing for pleasure. Why put yourself under the stress and pressure of having to memorise and play everything (or even any piece) from memory if you don't fancy yourself as a concert pianist, when you could play your favourite pieces from the music - and play lots of them because you're not wasting time trying to commit anything to memory, and instead use your precious free time to learn many more pieces and develop your technical skills with the help of your teacher? Or even use your sight-reading skills to just romp through all those appealing tuneful pieces you've always wanted to try, like The Maiden's Prayer wink . Technique comes with time, not by putting extraneous and irrelevant stresses on yourself.

(Incidentally, I got to Grade 8 ABRSM as a teenager after eight years of lessons, without ever having memorised a single piece - but I had a lot of fun sight-reading through lots of stuff with friends, as well as by myself.)

If you feel you must have some music that you can play from memory, by all means find something - perhaps just one or two pieces - you really love and want to keep forever (anything you don't want as a keeper is really, really not worth the effort of committing to memory - trust me whistle). Maybe the Moonlight(I) which you learnt a few years ago?

You are learning piano in order to play for your own pleasure, rather than to impose more stress in your life, so - don't stress yourself out by pushing yourself and over-thinking (like: "I need to feel the music and play" - what does that mean?) and having unrealistic expectations of what you need to achieve. Go with the flow and enjoy the journey: you are not taking a helicopter straight into Everest Base Camp from Kathmandu in order to climb & summit the hill (because you'll expire from AMS smirk ) - instead, you are on holiday, trekking the Everest BC route in order to enjoy the fantastic scenery along the way: the little villages, the friendly welcoming people and their even friendlier yaks, the tasty dal bhat and yak steaks and dodgy apple pies, all the while surrounded by amazing mountain scenery which becomes ever wilder and more imposing..........as you pant and groan your way up the steep trails in the thin air - but only if you try to rush, therefore, take your time and stop frequently to admire the scenery around you, take photos and chat to fellow trekkers. You'll find that there are things almost everyone does which works, like: don't burden yourself with heavy kit in your daypack which you don't need (in your case, what I've already mentioned above), and take as much time as you need, and relax and breathe (not close your eyes) and don't force. The ultra fit mountaineers may be rushing past you because they have a specific objective which they've trained specially for (- the little hill everyone can see in the distance) but you are there for the journey with no end goal, like everyone here in ABF.

As for 'feeling the music' in order to play it, remember that feeling is not the same as playing. Read up about Laurence Olivier advising Dustin Hoffman when making the movie Marathon Man, about how to do his torture scenes (hint: don't torture yourself smirk ).


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Originally Posted by bennevis
I'm sure you're aware that ABRSM (which you've talked about following its syllabus and comparing your progress to its grades) - as well as other music exam boards in the UK - doesn't require playing any piece from memory, not even at Grade 8. And there are very good reasons for that, which I've mentioned ad nauseam in the past, but for our purposes here, the biggest reason is about playing for pleasure. Why put yourself under the stress and pressure of having to memorise and play everything (or even any piece) from memory if you don't fancy yourself as a concert pianist, when you could play your favourite pieces from the music - and play lots of them because you're not wasting time trying to commit anything to memory, and instead use your precious free time to learn many more pieces and develop your technical skills with the help of your teacher? Or even use your sight-reading skills to just romp through all those appealing tuneful pieces you've always wanted to try, like The Maiden's Prayer wink . Technique comes with time, not by putting extraneous and stresses on yourself.
(My bold added) Agree completely.

I've spent at least the last ten years playing almost exclusively transcriptions of performances by the great jazz pianists. Since those pieces often involve harmony that's more complex than many classical composers and I don't understand it, I'd estimate that I would have learned about 10% of the considerable rep I've learned if I had tired memorizing those pieces. And I still would have been quite nervous performing them for fear of a memory slip. With a little practice at page turning(I carefully mark exactly when and with which hand I turn the page) and memorizing or printing out single measures to allow easy page turning one can play almost anything with the score and even without a page turner or Ipad.

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I was a memorizer and getting better at reading. I don't let my weaknesses bother me.

As an adult learner, I'd download pieces outside the teacher's assigned repertoire to keep me motivated. Being able to play a few holiday tunes at a Christmas party already exceeded my expectations. I don't need to compare myself to other people. There are always those who are better and others who struggle.

I'd play through the teacher's assigned scale & arpeggio exercises but not spend too much time on them. There are pieces like "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Grieg Peer Gynt Suite that require staccato playing. I'd work on staccato techniques when I get to it. The last thing I need after a stressful day at work is more stress playing music. There are many interesting pieces to practice I'd rotate my repertoire.

Work on each piece at a slow tempo and observe any hand issues including tension. Otherwise pick slower pieces to practice.

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Chemblue,
I'm confused. You love playing, but are frustrated and disappointed?

How about you let go of the frustration and disappointment and just stick to the playing that you love?

Of course, sometimes it will be necessary to work out fingerings, practice slowly and hands separately before the "love playing" happens. But so what?! The mouse may escape the pounce, but the cat does not give up. Is the cat humiliated and disappointed? Perhaps, but so what?! The cat may groom to decompress, but will continue to stalk the prey.


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Firstly, can I thank you for all your wonderful comments. I really don't wish to take up any more of your time but I recognise that I didn't explain myself very well and having read my post again realise how negative I was, which at the time I was frustrated, but not to the extent I shared. Also I was trying to build up a picture of my situation which has come across as a period of, 'moaning ' rather than explanation.

I love playing the piano and being on this journey and blessings to you all

Take care and keep safe

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My recommendation is to just to completely avoid getting frustrated when learning the piano. Just enjoy the experience of not being immediately awesome etc at the piano. Enjoy spending time practising and learning ----- regardless of the rate of progress. I just know in advance that if we keep working on it, we definitely are going to advance/progress. Don't even worry about putting a time limit on where we need to get to. Just relax and enjoy learning. Watch all the good youtube videos that teaches us various techniques - including music theory, music composition methods, exercises and practising techniques.

Don't worry about closing the eyes. One can still feel everything with no eyes closed. I don't close my eyes when I play the piano. And in fact, I don't even sway my body (eg. back and forth - I don't do that ----- not my style) or roll/tilt/shake my head etc. I just let my arms, hands/wrist, fingers, eyes and brain/mind do all the playing. The feeling is in our brains - that's where it is.

Actually - people can really do what they like ----- as long as it works for them, then that's great. But no ------ closing eyes - is not necessary. Impressive - but unnecessary. Although ----- I certainly do appreciate talents like Stevie Wonder etc ----- that really do incredible things like that.

Also - playing from memory is actually fantastic. For cases where you don't want to (or need to) play a piece or written music to a tee ....... you can just get the 'essence' of it ..... and you can have heaps of fun building it up for yourself. It doesn't have to be 'identical'. Although ---- I do agree - that if you don't want to play from memory, or don't need to play from memory --- then don't play from memory. Just play from memory when you want to work on playing from memory. It is true that - the more we work on something - the better we get at it - with time ---- regardless of whether is 1 year or over many many many years.

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Lovely reminder SouthPark. Just to enjoy.

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Originally Posted by Chemblue
... I never wanted to learn to just play notes I wanted to learn technique....... I am not relaxed and too tense, I need to feel the music and play, I am trying to close my eyes and always eventually play from memory, but I am struggling.

From the above, I am going to venture a guess that you meant that you would like your playing to be more 'musical' and less dry/mechanical/rigid. If this is the case, I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Find high quality performances of pieces you have learned, or are learning, on YouTube, Soundcloud, CDs, etc. Listen to them with an ear for what they do to make the music more musical and less boring. Then, imitate them..Incorporate the nice things into your own playing. And, enjoy! There is nothing wrong with a learner imitating a master. It can be highly effective for the learner.

2. Pick a couple of songs from the songs you have already learned and play them everyday. Since you already know them, you are free to focus entirely on musicality.

3. With the songs that you already know, think of each as a series of expressions rather than just a massive collection of notes. Play with how you could articulate each of those expressions. Tinker with the breathing between expressions. Where is it helpful and where is it not? Experiment with the dynamics, where to go softly, where to go loudly. See what nice things you can accomplish with tempo variations. Like speech, musical expression involves many varied elements, and we can develop them by listening, imitating, and practicing.

Lastly, please don't ever feel like you are taking up others' time by posting here. This is a community that learns and improves together. Although you were the only one who posted your post, you can be assured that everyone here benefits from it. You benefit from the feedback. Anyone who replies benefits from the exercise of gathering and organizing his/her thoughts on the topic. Those who do not reply in the thread benefit from reading what you and others have written. And future pianists who come here to search for and find answers benefit. You have not dragged us down a one way street. We all benefit. This is how we all grow.

Last edited by Ralphiano; 03/08/22 07:09 PM.

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Originally Posted by Ralphiano
....Lastly, please don't ever feel like you are taking up others' time by posting here. This is a community that learns and improves together. Although you were the only one who posted your post, you can be assured that everyone here benefits from it. You benefit from the feedback. Anyone who replies benefits from the exercise of gathering and organizing his/her thoughts on the topic. Those who do not reply in the thread benefit from reading what you and others have written. And future pianists who come here to search for and find answers benefit. You have not dragged us down a one way street. We all benefit. This is how we all grow.
Well said, Ralphpiano. You have expressed in words the heart and soul of the ABF.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Chemblue
I am not relaxed and too tense, I need to feel the music and play, I am trying to close my eyes and always eventually play from memory, but I am struggling.

Any suggestions I love playing but frustrated and disappointed.
Firstly, why do you feel you need to 'always eventually play from memory'? Not to mention 'trying to close my eyes'?

I'm sure you're aware that ABRSM (which you've talked about following its syllabus and comparing your progress to its grades) - as well as other music exam boards in the UK - doesn't require playing any piece from memory, not even at Grade 8. And there are very good reasons for that, which I've mentioned ad nauseam in the past, but for our purposes here, the biggest reason is about playing for pleasure. Why put yourself under the stress and pressure of having to memorise and play everything (or even any piece) from memory if you don't fancy yourself as a concert pianist, when you could play your favourite pieces from the music - and play lots of them because you're not wasting time trying to commit anything to memory, and instead use your precious free time to learn many more pieces and develop your technical skills with the help of your teacher? Or even use your sight-reading skills to just romp through all those appealing tuneful pieces you've always wanted to try, like The Maiden's Prayer wink . Technique comes with time, not by putting extraneous and irrelevant stresses on yourself.

(hint: don't torture yourself smirk ).

I have a question about this. When I learn a new piece on the piano, I learn it section by section and go over it many many times. By the time I perfect the whole thing I have it memorized. I never look at the sheet music again. Don't need to.

Then after a while I forget parts of them.

I think it would probably be better for me to be able to read as I play so I don't forget it.

Do you have any ideas on how to develop this?

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Originally Posted by zzzjjj
Do you have any ideas on how to develop this?

I'm not an expert at this, but have been reading lots of posts from competent readers/sight readers in the forum. What (I think) I've learned is this:

- To become a good sight reader, you need to become a good reader.

- To become a good reader you need to force yourself to always read the music as you play it, even if you already know it by memory. Resist the urge not to look at the sheet. This is a bad habit I have. I'm trying to catch myself doing it and yell "READ THE MUSIC!"

- To become a good reader you also need to read a wide variety of music (different periods, styles, composers, etc.), or in bennevis's words: "read (and play) anything and everything you can get your hands on." :-)


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Originally Posted by zzzjjj
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Chemblue
I am not relaxed and too tense, I need to feel the music and play, I am trying to close my eyes and always eventually play from memory, but I am struggling.

Any suggestions I love playing but frustrated and disappointed.
Firstly, why do you feel you need to 'always eventually play from memory'? Not to mention 'trying to close my eyes'?

I'm sure you're aware that ABRSM (which you've talked about following its syllabus and comparing your progress to its grades) - as well as other music exam boards in the UK - doesn't require playing any piece from memory, not even at Grade 8. And there are very good reasons for that, which I've mentioned ad nauseam in the past, but for our purposes here, the biggest reason is about playing for pleasure. Why put yourself under the stress and pressure of having to memorise and play everything (or even any piece) from memory if you don't fancy yourself as a concert pianist, when you could play your favourite pieces from the music - and play lots of them because you're not wasting time trying to commit anything to memory, and instead use your precious free time to learn many more pieces and develop your technical skills with the help of your teacher? Or even use your sight-reading skills to just romp through all those appealing tuneful pieces you've always wanted to try, like The Maiden's Prayer wink . Technique comes with time, not by putting extraneous and irrelevant stresses on yourself.

(hint: don't torture yourself smirk ).

I have a question about this. When I learn a new piece on the piano, I learn it section by section and go over it many many times. By the time I perfect the whole thing I have it memorized. I never look at the sheet music again. Don't need to.
I believe that you use pattern recognition/theoretical memory in order to create a framework to solidify memory.

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Originally Posted by zzzjjj
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Chemblue
I am not relaxed and too tense, I need to feel the music and play, I am trying to close my eyes and always eventually play from memory, but I am struggling.

Any suggestions I love playing but frustrated and disappointed.
Firstly, why do you feel you need to 'always eventually play from memory'? Not to mention 'trying to close my eyes'?

I'm sure you're aware that ABRSM (which you've talked about following its syllabus and comparing your progress to its grades) - as well as other music exam boards in the UK - doesn't require playing any piece from memory, not even at Grade 8. And there are very good reasons for that, which I've mentioned ad nauseam in the past, but for our purposes here, the biggest reason is about playing for pleasure. Why put yourself under the stress and pressure of having to memorise and play everything (or even any piece) from memory if you don't fancy yourself as a concert pianist, when you could play your favourite pieces from the music - and play lots of them because you're not wasting time trying to commit anything to memory, and instead use your precious free time to learn many more pieces and develop your technical skills with the help of your teacher? Or even use your sight-reading skills to just romp through all those appealing tuneful pieces you've always wanted to try, like The Maiden's Prayer wink . Technique comes with time, not by putting extraneous and irrelevant stresses on yourself.

(hint: don't torture yourself smirk ).

I have a question about this. When I learn a new piece on the piano, I learn it section by section and go over it many many times. By the time I perfect the whole thing I have it memorized. I never look at the sheet music again. Don't need to.

Then after a while I forget parts of them.

I think it would probably be better for me to be able to read as I play so I don't forget it.

Do you have any ideas on how to develop this?


I agree with Tslao’s response: concentrate on reading which includes lots of new music that you may not ever want to learn to play well. I never thought of it as sightreading’ but ‘playing around’. Sightreading sounds like work rather than the fun of hearing new music as I played it

I would also suggest not playing sections over and over until you have them partially memorized. Rather, find the measures/phrases where you have problems and really work on those. Limit your play through of the entire section to intermittent practice sessions. There will also be measures/phrases that are easy to play without a lot of repetitive work. Skip those.


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Originally Posted by zzzjjj
Then after a while I forget parts of them.

I think it would probably be better for me to be able to read as I play so I don't forget it.

Do you have any ideas on how to develop this?

Forgetting something after a while is considered normal among the bulk of people. You obviously know how to read sheet music. As long as you know how to re-establish the unremembered portion, then that will be fantastic already.

I agree that it's usually easier to remember the tunes and music that we enjoy ----- although there always some exceptional people with exceptional abilities out there can probably remember everything.

I reckon that - in general - if you learn a particular piece -- inside out, such as you have played it so many times, that you could play it super slow --- know every note better than the back (or even front) of your hand. So well that you probably even know it in your dreams or sleep. Then the music probably will have actually become part of you. Ingrained permanently. I think for normal people ------ they probably permanently learn particular sorts of music --- that they absolutely enjoy the most ----- that they can remember the tunes of in their mind --- same as remember songs and tunes you love the most. Or --- even if not remembered 'perfectly' --- every note, and every nuance etc --- they can at least remember the essence of the tune/song etc. And generate either something similar, or maybe even the same for some people ----- or equivalent.

Remembering perfectly and playing (without sheet music) a big collection of music scores written by others is indeed excellent - and very impressive. But recreating the essence of somebody else's music without playing the exact same sequence of notes (to entirety) is very nice too. And - if ever we need to go and refer to printed sheet music (to check things out), then that's just fine. Can definitely do that as well.

Remembering lots of pieces to a tee (aka 'repertoire') is certainly important for particular kinds of music performances. Not just remembering - but playing it with no hiccups at will --- when it counts --- is important for that sort of situation. How important it is for individuals obviously depends on their situation. If our life or job doesn't depend on it --- then we can keep working on it, and progress at our own pace.

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There is so much good advice already here with practical ideas about memorizing and playing well.

But, speaking directly to your closing words of ‘frustrated and disappointed’, you might enjoy this book, “The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart”. Inexpensive used-paperback copies are often available for a few dollars (US). Playing piano well is a long road; this author has wonderful, simple, kind, and sensible ideas that really help— it’s lovely and very relaxing to read. I’m finding her suggested exercises very helpful.

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Practicing-Guide-Making-Music/dp/0609801775/ref=nodl_

Here’s her website
https://artofpracticing.com/


Mary

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