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Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1? (Read 17627 times)

Offline roniman

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Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
« on: September 25, 2008, 03:14:37 AM »
Hello,

This is currently my favorite piece. Actually, it has been my favorite piece for quite some time... However, I would like to hear your opinions on how difficult it really is.

I started playing piano when I was 18 (really, really late...) and now I am 22. The problem is that I started playing when I was just starting college (engineering), so I never had the time to practice for many hours every day. My teacher was always very nice and allowed me to play any pieces I wanted, according to my level, plus she gave me some Hanon and Czerny, which I always ignored, actually, and never really spent time practicing them.
Anyway, even though I never had the time to really practice piano as much as I wanted, my teacher always said I was progressing quite well. Here are the pieces I learned:
Moonlight Sonata, first mvt. - after 3 months of piano classes. Took me one month to learn this one.
Fur Elise - after 5 months. Took me 2 months to learn.
Funeral march (the one from Chopin's sonata) - after 7 months. took me 1 month to learn.
Chopin's nocturne no. 2 - 1 month to learn
nocturne no. 1 - 2 months to learn
nocturne no. 7 - 3 months
nocturne no. 20 - a little less than a month.
Polonaise op. 40 no. 2 - 4 and a half months.
Beethoven pathetique sonata, first movement - 6 and a half months.

I don't know if I am progressing in an adequate level, I think some pieces take me even longer to complete, because I have this obsession of not moving on to the next bar until I get the current bar in a correct tempo (usually Claudio Arrau's recordings are my reference).
As I progressed in college, unfortunately I started having less and less time to practice.

So given my background, do you think I would be able to play Chopin's Ballade no. 1? Which is the most difficult part in this piece? Maybe I should try learning this difficult part to see if I can manage this piece?
How difficult is it compared to the Polonaise Heroic, Scherzo no. 2 and the barcarolle?

Sorry for the long post!
Thank you very much!!

piano sheet music of Ballade 1


Offline frank_48

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #1 on: September 25, 2008, 03:26:44 AM »
the presto con fuoco bit might be a bit challenging i would think. apart from that i have no idea, im just the same as you i suppose, started piano at 17, now 18, only have a few chopin pieces done, and i do plan to play the 1st ballade also. fantastic piece. if i were in your position i would play alot of his easier works before going onto the ballade
Playing Piano is the easiest thing in the world, All you have to do is have the right finger on the right key at the right moment.

Offline avguste

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #2 on: September 25, 2008, 05:50:44 AM »
Personally I think the hardest in the 1st Ballad is the musicality and of course the presto is quite a challenge
Avguste Antonov

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Offline archneko

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #3 on: September 25, 2008, 08:25:15 AM »
Just play it slowly, correctly, and passionately. You'll do fine.
Anyone can learn to play the presto with accuracy and speed, but only a few can play it with umph! If you know what I am saying.  :-[

Good Luck!

Offline frank_48

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #4 on: September 25, 2008, 12:11:03 PM »
Just play it slowly, correctly, and passionately. You'll do fine.
Anyone can learn to play the presto with accuracy and speed, but only a few can play it with umph! If you know what I am saying.  :-[

Good Luck!
yes i know what you mean! ive listened to a tonne of recordings of this ballade and for me, maurizio pollini is really the only pianist ive heard who really gives that section a real kick, played just as its supposed to be. 'con fuoco'  ;D
Playing Piano is the easiest thing in the world, All you have to do is have the right finger on the right key at the right moment.

Offline teresa_b

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #5 on: September 25, 2008, 11:34:53 PM »
I would say, it will be very challenging (never say never! ;)).  I have learned this Ballade, although I have never gotten the coda to sound the way I want it.  I have small hands, and that is a bit of a handicap in this piece, although obviously you can get around it. 

You might find some sections more problematic than others--the coda is definitely the toughest.  I had a hard time with those leaps, but not so much trouble with runs and lyric passages. 

The Ballades are very difficult, both technically and musically.  You might try another piece or two first--maybe even look at Brahms rhapsodies (Op 79/1, Op 119), then progress to the Chopin Ballade. 

have fun!
Teresa

Offline eric_wong1387

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #6 on: September 26, 2008, 12:46:55 AM »
Hi roniman,

I'm also 22 and studying a major other than music (Comp Sci) so I'm in much the same situation as you.   However I started piano when I was very young (younger than 10 for sure) so I've been for the most part able to get a good grip on what I am able to play and how I would learn and polish it.

The Chopin Ballade No. 1 is a very challenging work.  Given what you have played, I would personally not recommend it yet.  I have noticed nobody has mentioned the Scherzando section yet - that part is tremendously difficult, some may argue more so than the Presto con fuoco.   Even when you've learnt the notes for that section, it is very hard to execute it well every time.  Personally I was *much* more consistent with my Presto con fuoco than my Scherzando.

As for the relative difficulty:
I have not played the Polonaise or the Scherzo, but my guess is that they're about the same.  There is more repetition in both of those works, so they may be easier to learn.   But as far as technical demands go, I would say they are at least equal.

The Barcarolle, which I have played, *may* be a little easier on the technical side, depending on your comfort with 3rds, 6ths and octaves, albeit they are relatively slow.  But making its melody flow can be quite challenging, and I found that this work really requires a good stretch in your hands to be able to play the legato properly.

My suggestion is try to complete the Moonlight or the Pathetique first.  If you need more Chopin, go with some more nocturnes or try some Waltzes or easier Preludes.   

And don't ignore Hanon and Czerny - they have their uses.  I admit I haven't really kept up with these in recent years either but I do recall that I found Czerny to be quite helpful in playing Beethoven.   I know its hard with your time constraints - but try to devote at least a little time to them every day.  If you need some more musical works that could help develop your finger dexterity, you can look up some Scarlatti, Bach, or Mozart.

Oh and lastly, I'm a fan of Claudio Arrau too.  Some may find him a bit slower in alot of traditionally faster pieces, but I find that it really allows him to bring out the depth and expression of the music.

Cheers and good luck!
Eric



Offline nyonyo

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #7 on: September 26, 2008, 02:26:20 AM »
We do not know what level of quality that you are striffing!
To play Ballad No.1 at fine quality is extremely difficult. Even Pathetique 3rd movement can be very challenging to play at professional level. Many people posted their Pathetique 3rd Mvmt. None of them is acceptable, except those professional pianists. Again it is depending of the quality that you want to achieve.

The more we understand or know, the harder and more frustrating for us, because we know that it is extremely hard to play well. If one does not know what one does not know, everything can be easy. I am totally surprised when a person who just learn to play piano for a year tried to tackle Chopin Etude. None of Chopin etudes is easy to play with good quality.

Offline roniman

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #8 on: September 27, 2008, 09:55:17 PM »
Thank you very much for all your suggestions.
Eric gave me a good idea - maybe completing the two sonatas before trying the ballade. How is the 3rd movement of the moonlight sonata compared to the ballade? It might be a good idea to finish the moonlight, since it is my favorite sonata and my teacher has been insisting that I should have a complete sonata. I tried the begining of the 3rd movement (the first two bars), and I was able to put it up to speed (Claudio Arrau's speed) hands separately, and almost up to speed hands together in about 1 hour practicing it. Maybe I should try it?

Thank you very much again! You're all very kind!

Offline eric_wong1387

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #9 on: September 28, 2008, 08:56:47 PM »
The 3rd movement from the Moonlight is easier than the Ballade for sure, but not easy by any means.

How comfortable are you with scales and arpeggios?   If you're solid with those, I think the Moonlight 3rd movement is achievable - do follow your teacher's opinion of course.

I had a bit of trouble keeping my wrist relaxed for the parts where the left hand plays very fast Alberti bass figures - those parts practically felt like tremolos.

It also took a fair bit of practice to tackle the part in the middle (development) where the left hand takes over the melody.

The Moonlight is a very satisfying sonata to learn I think.   It may be overplayed, but for many people I'm sure it is one of those pieces that really made them feel like their efforts in learning piano were worthwhile.

Offline roniman

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #10 on: October 02, 2008, 01:34:18 AM »
Thanks for the advice eric!
I'm pretty comfortable with scales and arpeggios. I was able to put all the arpeggios in the introduction up to speed, both hands together. Also, I practiced some of the Alberti figures that show up in the movement and I had no trouble playing them very fast and keeping my wrist relaxed. Maybe all the tremolos in the pathetique helped me learning how to keep my wrists relaxed?
Any other advices for the piece?

Thank you very much!!

Offline eric_wong1387

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #11 on: October 05, 2008, 08:49:14 PM »
Which section(s) are you working on right now?   You can pm me if you want, since it seems like this thread is going off-topic now that you're focusing on the Moonlight.

Offline richard black

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #12 on: October 05, 2008, 09:10:49 PM »
I don't want to sound snide, but I can't help feeling that if you have to ask whether you're ready for such and such a piece, the answer is bound to be 'no'.
Instrumentalists are all wannabe singers. Discuss.

Offline stringoverstrung

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #13 on: October 12, 2008, 07:56:36 PM »
Hi Roniman,

i'd suggest:

memorize it first

study the chopin etudes with related technical difficulty first. (might be a bunch of them).
 

Offline cmg

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #14 on: October 13, 2008, 04:37:22 PM »
Just play it slowly, correctly, and passionately. You'll do fine.
Anyone can learn to play the presto with accuracy and speed, but only a few can play it with umph! If you know what I am saying.  :-[

Good Luck!

Of all the good responses, this is my favorite!  At your level, you have every right to work on this Ballade, VERY slowly, memorizing it.  Keep it very musical as you work on it.  Don't worry about performance speed.  At the very worst, you will be able to play the Ballade at half tempo, but you will have learned the piece and discovered much about what you need to focus on to tighten your technique for this level of advanced compositions.

Keep it in your fingers as the months of study pass and you work on other repertoire.  One day, not so very long from now, you'll realize you can actually perform this piece at tempo.

As a teenager, I did this with the massive works in the repertoire, i.e. concerti, etc.  Of course, I couldn't perform them, but when my technical apparatus matured, I was ready.  And I returned to them with renewed confidence because I knew them inside and out.

Enjoy yourself.  You don't have to be a virtuoso to study virtuosic pieces.   
Current repertoire:  "Come to Jesus" (in whole-notes)

Offline pianisten1989

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #15 on: October 13, 2008, 07:40:55 PM »
I don't really think you are ready, if pathetique took that long time the Ballade will tae around a year. And you might get hurt while playing it...

Offline diinin

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #16 on: October 16, 2008, 04:46:58 AM »
Enjoy yourself.  You don't have to be a virtuoso to study virtuosic pieces.   

I agree!  Not all of us are studying to be concert pianists.  Some of us just play because we love to, solely for ourselves.  If you play it to your own satisfaction, then you've accomplished something.

I say go for it.

Offline general disarray

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #17 on: October 16, 2008, 08:14:41 PM »
I don't really think you are ready, if pathetique took that long time the Ballade will tae around a year. And you might get hurt while playing it...

Hurt yourself?  Gimme a break.  If you practice it slowly and without tension, you won't "hurt yourself."



Of course, if you throw the score on the floor and slip on it, that's another thing entirely.
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Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #18 on: October 20, 2008, 12:39:33 PM »
Sorry Roniman, but youre absolutely not ready for Chopin's first ballade. It would be an utter waste of time since you're technically not good enough to play it, and you're not going to improve anything with it.
1+1=11

Offline comsmcsc

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #19 on: October 24, 2008, 11:40:42 PM »
I agree!  Not all of us are studying to be concert pianists.  Some of us just play because we love to, solely for ourselves.  If you play it to your own satisfaction, then you've accomplished something.

I say go for it.

I couldn't agree more.  Don't concern yourself with any of the arrogant, negative comments to this post.
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Offline quasimodo

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #20 on: October 25, 2008, 10:24:07 PM »
Enjoy yourself.  You don't have to be a virtuoso to study virtuosic pieces.   

That's true... but... you have to be a virtuoso to play them.
" On ne joue pas du piano avec deux mains : on joue avec dix doigts. Chaque doigt doit être une voix qui chante"

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Offline j.s. bach the 534th

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #21 on: October 26, 2008, 01:28:26 AM »
I know someone who can play this piece, and she only has 3 fingers on her right hand! It takes a lot of crazy handwork and a lot of pedal use, but she can still do it. This proves that you should keep trying something no matter how hard it seems at first, because you will get it eventually.

Offline mingkei

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #22 on: November 28, 2008, 01:06:33 AM »
the presto con fuoco bit might be a bit challenging i would think. apart from that i have no idea, im just the same as you i suppose, started piano at 17, now 18, only have a few chopin pieces done, and i do plan to play the 1st ballade also. fantastic piece. if i were in your position i would play alot of his easier works before going onto the ballade

frank_48,
  Are you sure you're ready to work on ballade no. 1? I really don't mean to sound negative...but ballade no. 1 takes a lot of musical maturity. Again, I am not saying you're musically immature...but are you sure you're ready? considering that you played the piano for ONE year. (You said you started at 17 now you're 18.) And I am not even talking about technique. Even if you have flawless technique, there's great musical depth in this piece. Are you sure you're ready?  ;) Maybe you're not planning to play it right now, you just said "I do plan to play..."

Offline frank_48

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #23 on: November 28, 2008, 01:44:13 AM »
frank_48,
  Are you sure you're ready to work on ballade no. 1? I really don't mean to sound negative...but ballade no. 1 takes a lot of musical maturity. Again, I am not saying you're musically immature...but are you sure you're ready? considering that you played the piano for ONE year. (You said you started at 17 now you're 18.) And I am not even talking about technique. Even if you have flawless technique, there's great musical depth in this piece. Are you sure you're ready?  ;) Maybe you're not planning to play it right now, you just said "I do plan to play..."

lol, i dont plan on touching any ballades for atleast 8-10 years :P

it was along the lines of "i was just saying, that one day i will play it.

as you can see here, http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,31844.msg370405.html#msg370405

i have plenty of other pieces before the ballades  :P
Playing Piano is the easiest thing in the world, All you have to do is have the right finger on the right key at the right moment.

Offline quantum

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #24 on: November 28, 2008, 09:02:40 AM »
Are you ready to perform the ballade, probably not.  Are you ready to start learning it? The only way to find out is to go at it.  As others have mentioned, you can successfully learn the notes now with the goal of letting your understating of this piece grow over a long time.  Will it be difficult, most certainly.  But it will be rewarding. 

I learned this piece somewhere around 13 years ago.  I am still learning from it and about it.  As mentioned in another thread - the Ballades are a life's work.  You will grow both technically and musically by getting to understand them.
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline pianisten1989

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #25 on: November 29, 2008, 08:26:58 PM »
Hurt yourself?  Gimme a break.  If you practice it slowly and without tension, you won't "hurt yourself."

Yeah, since everyone knows how to play without tensions.. But yeah, sure. Go for Chopin etudes and ballades b4 you're ready, and beak both your arms. Really clever eh?!

Offline mad_tom

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #26 on: September 28, 2009, 12:20:37 PM »
You probably won't be able to play it very well at your present standard.  It is a difficult piece.  The Presto is not even the hardest part.  Some of the pieces of bridging passage work that link the thematic sections take much more work that the Presto to get them sounding right.

And, difficult as this Ballade might be, it is a very long way from being amongst the most difficult pieces in the repertoire.  It is not even close.

But if you wait until you are  "ready" to play it, you probably never will, because however good we (i.e. pianists) might get, we are always more conscious of our deficiencies and inadequacy than of our strengths. 

Offline dcdgoth

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #27 on: December 23, 2009, 07:25:22 PM »
this is one of my favorite piece too.  i'm just letting you know that learning expression is lot harder than just playing the notes correctly.  even Horowitz himself had hard time learning this piece.  chopin was very much dedicated into his music and he hated when other people messed around with his pieces, therefore you must focus what chopin intended.  i suggest you go to library and research everything about it including Chopin's personality.  in this particular piece, chopin wrote about his early noble lady which he used to fell in love with, but it couldn't happen because he was born as middle class man.  the introduction in bar 1~7 expressed about what the entire piece would be about; chopin was sad because his love didn't come true.  it's not only just sadness but also his hatred about prejudice society as you can see in 'presto con fuoco'.  i had hard time to grasp such expressions as chopin intended especially on first main theme in bar 8~32, second main theme in bar 69~93, bar106~125, and appassionato in meno mosso. well......if u have any questions or concerns, e-mail me: dcdgoth2@hanmail.net

Offline nanabush

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #28 on: December 23, 2009, 07:52:46 PM »
You'll probably be able to tell by about the second page if you aren't able to learn it at the short, FAST passage for the right hand...

If you're literally playing it note-by-note and just memorizing each, then you probably will not stand a chance against  whatever comes next.  And there are parts that are on about the same level as the presto con fuoco (the Eb major section with the jumping left hand chords, and the tricky scales in the right hand). 

If you are learning too mechanically, you probably will not have a feel for it whatsoever, and it will sounds extremely dry if you perform it.  Pianists who have had 10 or so years looking at this will spot out some scales and little things they've seen before, and nearly sight read some of the harder parts in this (hands together even) at a decent speed.

See how long it takes you to learn a hard page, or find the Coda and try that out. 

If you find this one is just a bit too tough, maybe look at a Scherzo, or his Nocturne in C minor op 48.
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Offline alpacinator1

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #29 on: December 23, 2009, 08:20:37 PM »
I don't know about that. I can play the first 3 pages just fine, by the 4th page it starts to get harder and by the 5th I'm pretty much stumped. So I don't think you can really tell after the first 2 pages.
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Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #30 on: December 23, 2009, 08:53:36 PM »
I don't know about that. I can play the first 3 pages just fine, by the 4th page it starts to get harder and by the 5th I'm pretty much stumped. So I don't think you can really tell after the first 2 pages.

May i notice you that the op of this topic wrote this in 2008?
1+1=11

Offline tea cup

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #31 on: December 23, 2009, 09:05:54 PM »
I notice you, alpacinator1, and two others that have posted in this topic today.

Offline nanabush

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Re: Am I ready to play Chopin Ballade no. 1?
«Reply #32 on: December 24, 2009, 08:47:01 AM »
It's never bad to raise an old thread (especially with everyone complaining these days about starting new threads that have already been 'discussed').  I'm sure at some point in the next few months, a question will be asked about this piece, and someone's going to say "omfg check the old threads".

The second page thing was more of an example, but if anyone is serious about learning this, they might want to skim through some of the technical difficulties.  The right hand passage work in that little bit on page 2 (in my edition) was an example of something that an advanced level pianist should understand - if it's a beginner/intermediate pianist, they might not recognize the fingering/melodic patterns here, and tackle it as a bunch of individual notes... I really don't think that's the way to approach some of the parts in this... it IS a pretty good indicator of whether you should be learning this or no.

It's like when I look at 'Scarbo'.  There is some stuff in there I can't even find sense in, but I'm sure Haochen Zhang (who is my age) from the Cliburn competition CAN.  There is stuff you just need to wait a couple years before tackling.
Interested in discussing:

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