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What does the "average student" look like? (Read 8048 times)

Offline outin

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #100 on: April 22, 2016, 04:19:25 AM »
To answer the question about major works I'd have to wait until I have been retired for at least a couple of years. The time required to learn long works just isn't there when you have the obligations of adulthood. It certainly is among my goals to complete some, but I have realized that it won't be possible until a more relaxed schedule will make it possible to practice longer sessions with a rested mind and body. So I study short works with technical challenges instead in hope to have what it takes to learn these later.

Since I started at 45 I find it a bit hard to believe it isn't possible for someone in their 20's if the drive, some natural ability and time is there. It's probably not possible to build a very large repertoire, but I think it should be possible to master a few major works. I have found that despite my small hands and physical ailments I have so far been able to conquer the technical challenges in pieces with enough time and help from my teacher. Of course I will never have the quality of the masters in my playing but with a good instrument I would expect to be able to play decently if I can keep up my motivation. But we will have to see... If PS still exists when I have been in retirement for a few years we can return to this thread and see if I can play any of the pieces on the top of my list: Chopin Barcarolle, Berceuse, one of the Ballads, Franck's Choral, Prelude & Fugue and one of the Scriabin sonatas...maybe even a Medtner sonata ;)

Online mjames

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #101 on: April 22, 2016, 09:02:49 AM »
If you consider Chopsticks op.44 to be a major work then will be able to answer this soon, with a recording too. I started when I was 17 tho, so I still counted as an adult beginner right? :D

*bookmarks thread*

Offline bronnestam

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #102 on: April 22, 2016, 03:07:40 PM »
I think my view can probably be best summed up with this idea...

Find 100 people over 40 who can play a Chopin Ballade or Scherzo and ask for a show of hands for how many started the piano for the first time after 20...

My strong gut feeling is that you will not see any hands raised.  I may be wrong and there may be someone HERE that started as an adult who can play an advance opus in a proficient manner.  I personally have never met such a person.  I have met many who can play these pieces however and, to date, they all started young.

You may not buy the brain plasticity idea, but is there really any doubt that the young brain is forming neural pathways at a speed that exceeds that of an adult?  Or, perhaps the PROBLEM with the vast majority of adults is NOT that they cannot be wired - but that they cannot be UN-wired.  I had two students that come to mind, both adults.  Neither of them could play a note with their middle finger without some other finger also playing a key.  I kid you not.  There was nothing I could do in 3 lessons to get just ONE note to sound from these people's right hands.  Their hands were apparently neurologically 'wired' as a single unit or there was some abnormality that was turning the hand into a fist as opposed to individual fingers.

....

Now, for any who read this...  out of genuinely wanting to understand this - have any of you started as an adult (call it starting the piano for the very first time at 18 or older) and ended up being able to play a major work of Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy - you know - something that would be a good piece for an entrance audition to a good music school?  

If anyone has done this, I think it would serve this thread well if you could speak up with your experience.  And, no, I have not read every post in this thread... so maybe someone already has.  Could you do so again?

I started to play the piano when I was 11. Which to me is to be considered as "young" but according to quite a lot of self-appointed piano experts this is close to retirement age in piano student terms.
I did quite well at first. I could already read notes as I had been playing the recorder (self-taught, later lessons and ensemble playing) for years. Before I got piano lessons, though, I did not have a piano at home and when I pretended I was playing (poor kid me) I just COULD NOT make my hands and fingers move independently. What the right hand did, the left hand did too.

Then I got my lessons and I learned the big mystery rather quickly and both me and my teacher were enthusiastic. But school got more demanding and, as outin has already written here, piano teaching in the late 70's was not ... as fun as it is today. I practiced less and less, school took all time and energy and when I had to quit at 19 according to the rules, I had not made any progress whatsoever for years. So my brilliant peak level were Clair de Lune, Für Elise, the Raindrop Prelude and some other little stuff.

Then the usual story, I took a Master degree in engineering and had my job career and my family and all that. I also had a piano which I tried to play from time to time but I was a pale ghost of my former glorious me (Clair de Lune, yeah!) and when I decided to get serious about piano playing again, at the age of 45, I could not even play Twinkle twinkle little star without making it sound like a shaky walz, out of rythm.  

In September 2012 I was bold enough to LEARN SOMETHING NEW, which I had not done at all during all these years. I choose the Adagio of the Pathétique sonata. It took a couple of weeks before I had even worked through the first 10 bars. I was so confused by all these notes, they were so difficult to read, not to mention all these flat marks ... sigh ... Two months later I reached the end of the piece. By Christmas I could play it reasonably fluently ... I had also suffered my first severe muscle inflammation (left arm) and some months later my right arm and my right hand were in deep trouble. I had to take a long break from piano playing during the summer months. I did not know you could injure yourself at the piano! As a kid I never practiced that much ... ever ... And also keep in mind that my profession involves writing on a computer keyboard, sometimes 12 hours a day, and I did not find that troublesome at all.

So I was not a beginner at the age of 45. I was just veeery rusty. And did I start early enough in life to take benefit of that brain plasticity and wiring and all that stuff? I don't know. I don't believe much in that, actually. It may contain some grains of truth, but it is definitely not the whole truth. I believe that 95 % of the "brain stiffness" we have as adults  ;D  is an attitude problem. You think you cannot, and then you cannot. And why should you not believe this "truth", when everybody says it is so? But what if ... it is not true?

Anyway, I have learned the rest of the Pathétique sonata by now. I am learning the Appassionata sonata now - my all-time-piano-favourite. I will never be able to play it so well that people will pay to hear me, but I will be able to play it. I don't doubt that anymore.

I find it tragic and a bit heart-breaking that so many define "success" as "being a world class, celebrated concert pianist". Nothing less than that. Is that all what matters to such people, the approval from a big audience? To me, it is music that matters, and the sheer joy of playing and learning. I love to sit at the piano and combat the challenges there. I love the music I create with my hands, even though it is far from flawless. And my husband says he loves to hear me play.
In that aspect, I have really made it now. I can learn whatever I want to learn, even though it may take years or even decades. So what? I'm just 50, I may die soon or I may live for yet another 50 years.

In summer 2014 I went to a piano summer school in Manchester, UK, for the first time. I met plenty of people who were happy amateurs like me, and plenty of ambitious young students as well. The teachers were top class, some of them concert pianists of world-wide reputation. Then I went back last year. I will go there this year as well ... I have also been to a summer school in my own country, Sweden. I have been to a master class with a terrific concert pianist who is my friend. No teacher in these occasions has raised an eyebrow at my amateurish level and told me that I don't belong in this neighbourhood and should get off their playground.

On the contrary, they have treated me very seriously. I am happy to have got teachers whose skills are at the level of Barenboim and Zimmerman or whoever, and they have dealt with my  issues like "so, you have a problem here, now, let's fix it" and not with "forget about it, you are too old and too bad for this and besides, who let you in here?"
I believe this attitude has meant a lot to my development. I would never have got this far otherwise. I used to say about some pieces that I would never be able to learn them, they are far beyond my horizon. But they are not.  

  

I have never taken any exam. To tell the truth, I did not know there was a such a thing until I joined this PS community a few years ago ... :)  And I see absolutely no point in taking any such exam. The day I do, I will go for it, but right now I don't.

To me, playing the piano is a life style, not a career that may be successful or not.

Offline briansaddleback

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #103 on: May 17, 2016, 08:11:01 PM »
The best answer to this philosophical question is:

The average student looks average.
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #104 on: May 18, 2016, 04:01:53 AM »
The average student struggles to consistently practice piano away from the teacher. The average student lacks discipline and drive to achieve.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #105 on: May 18, 2016, 04:35:59 AM »
The average student struggles to consistently practice piano away from the teacher.
Typical lessons are once a week, which means a student does not have access to a teacher 6 days out of 7.  So of course a student will be practising away from the teacher. (?)  And when in the presence of a teacher, then the student is learning and not practising.  So all practice is away from the teacher. (puzzled)

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #106 on: May 18, 2016, 02:15:23 PM »
Typical lessons are once a week, which means a student does not have access to a teacher 6 days out of 7.  So of course a student will be practising away from the teacher. (?)
It is really quite simple what I said. The average student struggles to CONSISTENTLY PRACTICE AWAY FROM THE TEACHER. How is that confusing I dunno, I don't think I can say it in any simpler manner. Students lazy, they no want to practice piano much when the teacher is not around, so lazy students, such a common situation.... is that easy to understand? lol

And when in the presence of a teacher, then the student is learning and not practising.  
Well an effective teacher will teach their students HOW TO PRACTICE so of course you practice with your students in the lessons often. Ignoring learning to practice is a trait of ineffective teachers imo. Maybe you have had experience with many lesser teachers who dont know how to help students of all levels learn to practice effectively and they simply rely on brute force repetition.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #107 on: May 18, 2016, 11:59:26 PM »
It is really quite simple what I said. The average student struggles to CONSISTENTLY PRACTICE AWAY FROM THE TEACHER. How is that confusing I dunno...
It could mean that the student's struggle involves being away from the teacher and practising away from the teacher (which is how I understood it).  It could mean that the student struggles to practice consistently (in which case why say "away from the teacher" since that's when students practice.  It was not as clear as you might have been thinking.

You say this average student is lazy.  Well, when you are lazy, you are not struggling, you just don't bother.  If the student is struggling, then the student doesn't know how to practice, or has problems with part of what he is supposed to practice. 
Quote
Maybe you have had experience...
I did in fact have some bad experiences some years ago, but at the present time am fortunate.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #108 on: May 19, 2016, 02:02:44 AM »
It could mean that the student's struggle involves being away from the teacher and practising away from the teacher (which is how I understood it).
Err.... That is exactly what I said except the part about struggling to be away from the teacher, I am only talking about practice.... Why are you pretending to be confused about what I wrote? That is the confusing part lol.

You say this average student is lazy.  Well, when you are lazy, you are not struggling, you just don't bother.  If the student is struggling, then the student doesn't know how to practice, or has problems with part of what he is supposed to practice?
You are making up situations yourself now, I am simply saying the average student doesn't practice much on their own. Probably English not ur first language if it is I'm worried!
Struggle to CONSISTENTLY practice, not struggle with practice method, they struggle with practice method if their teacher is crap and don't realize their student doesn't know how to.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #109 on: May 19, 2016, 03:57:25 AM »
LiW, your message was not clear the first time.  We can always assume what someone means to say by guessing, but I prefer to find out what they actually meant by asking questions.  Thank you for explaining what you meant to say.  Now it is clear.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #110 on: May 19, 2016, 12:24:24 PM »
LiW, your message was not clear the first time.  We can always assume what someone means to say by guessing, but I prefer to find out what they actually meant by asking questions.  Thank you for explaining what you meant to say.  Now it is clear.
I didn't add anything new and I re read what I initially wrote several times and am not confused, so I'm sorry if you were so confused and it was not clear just to you.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #111 on: May 19, 2016, 02:46:51 PM »
When we write something, we know what we intend to say, and we are in tune with our own mindset and context, therefore it will be clear to us.  Putting oneself in the shoes of a diverse readership is another matter.  Unfortunately the trend in cyberspace is to be as brief as possible, with no additional clarifications or examples, and that contains a high risk of misunderstanding and misinterpretation.  A second unfortunate trend is that of assuming we understand what a person meant, which often is not the case.  Seeking clarification should be welcomed, since it means the person is paying attention and interested in understanding.

You are a teacher who teaches one-on-one.  You will see from your student's face, actions, and tone of voice whether he has understood.  None of those clues are available in a forum, where you throw out one or two lines with responses coming hours or days later, if at all.  Again, the additional information you provided removed any possible ambiguity and made clear what you meant.  I tend to agree with what you wrote.  Thank you for takingt the time.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #112 on: May 20, 2016, 01:50:18 AM »
It's just that you are confused over something so simple its ridiculous keypeg, just makes me think that english must not be ur first language.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #113 on: May 20, 2016, 06:44:15 AM »
The confusion appears to be yours since you appear not to have understood what I wrote.  This is getting silly.  Could we perhaps move on?

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #114 on: May 20, 2016, 07:03:59 AM »
You know I like to string on conversations especially if one member is trying to make me look like I am writing something confusing, wrong etc when it is clearly not.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #115 on: May 20, 2016, 01:19:02 PM »
You know I like to string on conversations especially if one member is trying to make me look like I am writing something confusing, wrong etc when it is clearly not.
You know, the thought occurred to me this morning that something like that might be going on and I was about to ask you privately.  Especially when you tried twice to attack me by questioning my command of the English language, and I wondered why, and why it felt like a "counter-attack" - meaning that you thought you were being attacked, and I thought "huh?".

It is as I said.  In my initial response I wanted to make sure that I understood what you wrote in the manner that you meant it, rather than assuming I understood, because what you wrote was very brief and had several potential interpretations.  There was not trying to make you look any way whatsoever.   There is only one thing that I distrust here - the Internet as medium of communication.  We don't communicate in real time so that the listener can say "Do you mean...?", or so that you can see in the other person's facial expression that they understand what you are saying.  Now I have explained this before, but if you have made up your mind about what my attitude is, then you will disregard everything I wrote since it doesn't fit the attitude you imagine.  I hope this time to have broken through this.

Since what you meant has been established - i.e. it can't be misinterpreted because you were kind enough to clarify when requested - I would be more interested in discussing those ideas.  Can we move on to that now?

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #116 on: May 20, 2016, 04:43:47 PM »
Attack you now? Wow that escalated fast lol. I simply asked if English was ur first language. Why do I have to walk on eggshells? You are misunderstanding simple English and that is just confusing, there are not multiple interpretations of my sentence requiring clarification unless you are simply misreading and elaborating within your own mind details you like added. You say I'm not being clear but it's simple English! I mean come on lol.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #117 on: May 21, 2016, 03:43:13 AM »
I would be more interested in discussing those ideas.  Can we move on to that now?

Offline bernadette60614

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #118 on: May 21, 2016, 08:32:47 PM »
Coming in late to this:

I think to derive an answer you have to ask the right people the question.  I'm going to speculate that the "average" student is not a frequent participant in a forum such as this one.  I've been a lurker, a respondent to questions and someone who frequently asks questions, and consequently, I've come to know different personalities and personality types.  The people who are members, and more than lurkers, seem to have a passion for piano that seems significantly greater than "average".

I think asking this group what characterizes an average student is like asking a group of kids who spend all their free time playing Minecraft what the "average" Minecraft gamer looks like.

Interesting question. Thank you for asking.

Offline ranjit

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #119 on: October 23, 2020, 06:59:21 PM »
All of this discussion regarding piano students who start as adults is so completely different from my experience that it makes me confused. Unless adult means > 45? Anyway, I started as an adult (kinda), when I was around 17, without guidance and without a piano until very recently, and I'm pretty sure I will get to playing the Chopin ballades eventually (someone posted earlier saying that he didn't know anyone who knew anyone who started later than 20 who managed to learn them).

It's a bit hard for me to compare my progress, but within a few months I was able to play melodies by ear. When I started seriously attempting to play the piano, I could already kind of play melodies with one hand. My first order of business was to learn how to add chords and an accompaniment with my left hand, and I worked obsessively until I was able to play arpeggio patterns and stride (octave+chord) patterns with my left hand along with the melody. This took a few months. I could play one or two grade 8 pieces shoddily after a couple of years.

Comparing this to what posters have commented about their progress as more mature adults (reaching grade 2 after around 3 years for example), the difference is absolutely insane. I wasn't a young kid when I started but a college student. Surely the difference doesn't have to be that large? It's scary from my perspective because I start questioning whether I can ever "make it".

What's the real difference in learning speed, which can't be surmounted by "willpower"? Is it intellectual memory? Muscle memory and undoing old habits? Inability to conceptualize as fast as one used to? Mental/psychological hangups? Inability to focus deeply? Plain old lack of time? Of course, one could argue "declining neuroplasticity", but that answer is nearly tautological, and therefore kind of useless from a practical perspective.

I think the answer to this question is very important, because for example, if the reason is a lack of time or physical health, then the statistics would not apply to someone fit with plenty of time on their hands. Most people aren't very determined when they start to play, and that very fact will skew the statistics immensely to the point where it doesn't really even matter to a person who is ready to commit a lot of effort.

However, the fact that the primary factor affecting the progress of the average student is, for example, time spent practicing, doesn't mean that it's impossible to talk about the average progress of a student who spends a certain amount of time per day with a good teacher etc. It just means that such a study would be hard and probably expensive to conduct, and hasn't been done yet.

It's true that these questions have been asked time and time again, but I haven't really found any satisfactory answers as of yet, so I don't see much harm in continuing the discussion.

Offline quantum

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #120 on: October 24, 2020, 01:53:56 AM »
The bump post is questionable.  Watch out for edits.  The first post from this user contains an external link to a questionable site. 

Reported.

EDIT
Post in question removed. 
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 outin

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #121 on: October 24, 2020, 08:54:24 AM »
What's the real difference in learning speed, which can't be surmounted by "willpower"? Is it intellectual memory? Muscle memory and undoing old habits? Inability to conceptualize as fast as one used to? Mental/psychological hangups? Inability to focus deeply? Plain old lack of time? Of course, one could argue "declining neuroplasticity", but that answer is nearly tautological, and therefore kind of useless from a practical perspective.

I do think it's theoretical because real life tends to interfere, but IF we consider that good teaching, physical health, time, motivation and mental strength are all there, I would say the only limits are inborn properties such as cognitive and physical abilities and "musicality" (which is not so easy to define). If those too are present, I don't see how one cannot progress far as a late starter when it comes to skills and individual works. One may still be behind those who have learned 20 or 30 years longer with similar resources because the repertoire is so big and some of the depth in playing comes from experience and maturity with the music. But I don't think that is even relevant except in the highest level of professional artistry.

But if you are looking for empirical evidence, it's just impossible to find because it would be extremely rare to tick all the boxes above.

PS: I don't even consider a 17 year old an adult but a teenager.

Offline ranjit

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #122 on: October 24, 2020, 09:29:43 AM »
I do think it's theoretical because real life tends to interfere, but IF we consider that good teaching, physical health, time, motivation and mental strength are all there, I would say the only limits are inborn properties such as cognitive and physical abilities and "musicality" (which is not so easy to define). If those too are present, I don't see how one cannot progress far as a late starter when it comes to skills and individual works. One may still be behind those who have learned 20 or 30 years longer with similar resources because the repertoire is so big and some of the depth in playing comes from experience and maturity with the music. But I don't think that is even relevant except in the highest level of professional artistry.

But if you are looking for empirical evidence, it's just impossible to find because it would be extremely rare to tick all the boxes above.

PS: I don't even consider a 17 year old an adult but a teenager.
Agreed with you on the empirical evidence part. I would say it's also true that most adults don't develop strong interests in new topics for whatever reason. It could perhaps be argued that that a reduced drive to learn something new is in itself a consequence of having lower neuroplasticity. Most people seem to argue that there is significant decline in capability in addition to all of the factors listed -- that even given a hypothetical adult who has the time and motivation, they will just not be able to progress as fast as a child would by an order of magnitude, and give up during the process. There is also the aspect of individual variability which is very tricky to talk about -- if someone in their 40s is functioning as well as an average 20 year old (mentally), does that mean that they retained their abilities, or does it mean that they were far above average when they were 20, and declined in terms of ability?

Well, you're right that a 17 year old isn't exactly an adult, but it's tricky to draw the line because I have been learning on my own and often without an instrument. In that sense, keypeg for instance also had some experience teaching herself when she was young, but still qualifies as an adult learner imo.

Offline outin

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #123 on: October 24, 2020, 02:32:35 PM »
Agreed with you on the empirical evidence part. I would say it's also true that most adults don't develop strong interests in new topics for whatever reason. It could perhaps be argued that that a reduced drive to learn something new is in itself a consequence of having lower neuroplasticity. Most people seem to argue that there is significant decline in capability in addition to all of the factors listed -- that even given a hypothetical adult who has the time and motivation, they will just not be able to progress as fast as a child would by an order of magnitude, and give up during the process. There is also the aspect of individual variability which is very tricky to talk about -- if someone in their 40s is functioning as well as an average 20 year old (mentally), does that mean that they retained their abilities, or does it mean that they were far above average when they were 20, and declined in terms of ability?

Well...personally I have not noticed any decline with my learning abilities yet. More like the opposite. I still struggle with exactly the same things as I did when 7 years old, but have more patience to try to work around them. I started learning cello at 53 and I think I progress ok although I don't expect to advance far with the little time I practice atm.

I have even managed to improve my physical condition in the last few years, but I guess when you start very low level it isn't that hard ;)

Offline dogperson

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #124 on: October 24, 2020, 06:47:24 PM »
I haven’t noticed any degradation in my ability to learn— at the piano or in my career ( where it is imperative  to learn new concepts quickly).


Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #125 on: October 24, 2020, 11:30:08 PM »
The bump post is questionable.  Watch out for edits.  The first post from this user contains an external link to a questionable site. 

Reported.
In case anyone is confused, it appears that the person who bumped the post has since been removed.  The other post went to the usual "we'll do illegal activities for you if you pay us" site.

Offline quantum

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #126 on: October 25, 2020, 01:25:48 AM »
In case anyone is confused, it appears that the person who bumped the post has since been removed.  The other post went to the usual "we'll do illegal activities for you if you pay us" site.

The bumped post appeared between those of bernadette60614 and ranjit.  Though, the way the reply numbers were reordered there appears to be no trace of it now. 
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 lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #127 on: October 25, 2020, 01:34:31 AM »
... when I was around 17, without guidance and without a piano until very recently, and I'm pretty sure I will get to playing the Chopin ballades eventually ....
It is not an average experience that a student will come across. That is if you take the average pool of all students that ever learn piano. If you go for the average student at a music conservatory or some other sample space of concentrated musical talent you of course will see different results.

...This took a few months. I could play one or two grade 8 pieces shoddily after a couple of years.

Comparing this to what posters have commented about their progress as more mature adults (reaching grade 2 after around 3 years for example), the difference is absolutely insane. I wasn't a young kid when I started but a college student. Surely the difference doesn't have to be that large? It's scary from my perspective because I start questioning whether I can ever "make it".
Well I think you should feel confident with your current progress rather than questioning it, I've seen your playing and it's great for the short amount of time you have studied. As you develop in level the problem comes to how you can process the information of the more difficult repertoire efficiently, that is where most people plateau and unfortunately are in a situation where they "don't know they don't know" and can become trapped learning in an inefficient manner for many years with a lot of opportunity cost lost.

What's the real difference in learning speed, which can't be surmounted by "willpower"? Is it intellectual memory? Muscle memory and undoing old habits? Inability to conceptualize as fast as one used to? Mental/psychological hangups? Inability to focus deeply? Plain old lack of time? Of course, one could argue "declining neuroplasticity", but that answer is nearly tautological, and therefore kind of useless from a practical perspective.
Everyone has different musical potential and that is a simple fact. I used to believe that anyone who wanted to could study hard enough to become as good as the best concert pianist but it's just not true. Sure if we lived 1000 years perhaps it's true.

One example I can give (amongst many) is that I teach two older students who are mid 70s both are friends and both learned around the same time. They both have no music experience at all, one was a businessman another was a dentist. I found the dentist actually has better nautral coordination skill at the piano than the businessman because of his past experience in his work requiring to use a lot of fine motor skill. But the businessman who was very successful and a multi millionare has incredible discipline towards work and studied on average 2+ hours a day. He has poor coordination skills but after 2 years has progressed fairly average and plays around grade 2 level despite his huge amount of effort. The dentist doesn't do as much practice but has achieved around the same level.

So there certainly is these two factors: Discipline and musical talent and they heavily effect ones progress. You can work on discipline and you can become more talented as you become more proficient with your learning/playing tools, but some people simply have this natural pool of talent and it can be very deep, others really need to work hard to hollow out space for that pool!

Most people aren't very determined when they start to play, and that very fact will skew the statistics immensely to the point where it doesn't really even matter to a person who is ready to commit a lot of effort.
Most students I come across are hyper excited to learn at the start. The honeymoon period of fast progress of the early beginner is exciting. Start hitting those real plateaus of progress is where most people give up.

However, the fact that the primary factor affecting the progress of the average student is, for example, time spent practicing, doesn't mean that it's impossible to talk about the average progress of a student who spends a certain amount of time per day with a good teacher etc. It just means that such a study would be hard and probably expensive to conduct, and hasn't been done yet.
Of course if we had infinite time to practice we all would be world class experts. Not only is time a factor but how effectively that time is used. You may have the best practice methods at hand but your brain cannot process all the information. I notice with my own students that there is a point where their brain is full, that occurs at different points for each and is a bottle neck to their progress.
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Offline quantum

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #128 on: October 25, 2020, 01:56:30 AM »
There is also the aspect of individual variability which is very tricky to talk about -- if someone in their 40s is functioning as well as an average 20 year old (mentally), does that mean that they retained their abilities, or does it mean that they were far above average when they were 20, and declined in terms of ability?

To bring an analogue situation: many people decide to enter graduate school (not specifically talking about music) years after they completed their undergrad studies and have already built up significant real work experience.  They have been out of school for some time, could be in their 40s.  The work involved within grad school requires a very different skill set that that utilized in undergrad studies, or even that persons real work requirements.  It means they need to learn and apply new skill sets - and many people are successful.  Essentially it is starting new things as an adult. 

Back to learning an instrument, I think available time is a factor.  Younger people are immersed in a learning mode for a good part of their day, whether it be for music studies or just school in general.  They also have the time to devote towards working stuff out. 

There is also commitment.  Many adults may not be willing to devote effort into the serious commitment that is needed to learn an instrument well.  There are too many competing activities for them to devote themselves to serious learning of a new skill.
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 outin

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #129 on: October 25, 2020, 11:38:13 AM »
There is also commitment.  Many adults may not be willing to devote effort into the serious commitment that is needed to learn an instrument well.  There are too many competing activities for them to devote themselves to serious learning of a new skill.

There are also a few things that challenge the motivation in adult starters. When you are 6 everyone praises your efforts no matter what you play. If someone asks a child to play, they seldom expect something advanced or even entertaining. It is considered cute anyway.

The comments adults get when they talk about learning to play can be something like: You have started playing the piano/any instrument? When are you giving us a concert?
So most people simply have no idea how much work and time it can take just to get a proper sound from an instrument and how much time it takes to prepare something to performance level. Someone stuying seriously would rather take that time to learn many skills and pieces. And if you do agree to play something you can informally, if it does not happen to be they favorite song they will start chatting...

It may also be a bit difficult to explain to an average adult that you will stay home to practice instead of going to a social activity or leave a work meeting early because you have a piano lesson :)

So it takes self confidence too to keep it serious when there are no real prospects of becoming a performer.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #130 on: October 25, 2020, 11:01:11 PM »
My biggest obstacle in starting lessons as an adult on a new instrument, when I had never studied an instrument with any teacher, or music, was how it was approached.  I have sort of lobbied for what was missing ever since.   There are things like building basic skills both physically and in things like reading music, counting, and whatever.  Also, how to approach things in practising.  If you have played music self-taught on other instruments, and if you have listened to music, you will be able to get at some things very fast, and faster than the kiddies.  You end up without foundations, which catches you out later.  Meanwhile, the teacher will often expect you to want instant type results, and that you will rebel against anything more methodical aiming at skills.  Eventually this breaks down.

If you have had formal (and decent) lessons before, you will send off those vibes, be "speaking the language", or maybe you actually tell the teacher your background.  This will already set things up differently from the start.  And the start of something tends to set up what happens later on.

The parameters have changed a bit since I had the experience.  The Internet is much more developed than when I started my adventure.  You have a chance to understand what it's about, check things out, ask the right questions and so on.  You are less likely to fall into those holes.  Ranjit, I know that you were able to avail yourself of those resources, if that's ok to ask, and to use them intelligently.

If the teaching has holes in it, or is paper thin, then results will reflect that, unless the student realizes it, is proactive, and compensates.

Offline pearlk

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #131 on: October 26, 2020, 07:08:04 AM »
Typically in the US band instruments are taught in a group setting.  A few students who are more interested or more talented might be encouraged to take private lessons but I wouldn't say that is the norm.  Therefore the kind of technical instruction you are picturing is less evident than you would think.  School band directors have to be generalists and know a little about every instrument, but not necessarily the fine points. 

Private lessons go into a little more detail but with many teachers the focus will be on expression, musicality, solo preparation, etc., with an avoidance of really discussing mechanics.  It is goal focused and not process focused.  I personally sought out a teacher who knows and teaches the mechanics at a detail level but that is fairly rare. 

Prior to that, the best lessons I had were simply playing next to someone really good, and trying to absorb all I could about how he/she was doing it.  Every gig is an audition, but also every gig is a lesson, if you're paying attention.


Timothy42b.   I agree not all adults will complete their ambition or pastime  in wanting to play piano efficiently. But you do seem to write off all adults as never achieving as  the learning is much slower.    I think it depends on that particular adults personality,  commitment and hard work put into their undertaking of piano lessons. As an adult learning myself for instance  would look at a couple of  Grade 3 pieces and think , I will never do this, get  that crest fallen feeling,  what's the point , etc.. well I picked myself up again and said I don't care how long this takes me, I shall do it even if it takes me two years,  and I did it, with  determination and undying commitment, and afterwards enjoying the warm glow of achievement.   
Adults don't  embark on piano lessons so that they will one day perform publicly. I don't think I will  do that, but the sheer bliss of learning what previously looked  an impossible goal is what keeps us going and our minds healthy. 
Perhaps piano teachers , teaching adults can assess fairly  quickly if and adult will stick it out or not, but he would he be honest with that adult student  at tell her/him that he is not  going to make the grade. Or will he just keep giving her/him lessons for the fees? 

Offline timothy42b

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #132 on: October 26, 2020, 02:04:15 PM »

Timothy42b.   I agree not all adults will complete their ambition or pastime  in wanting to play piano efficiently. But you do seem to write off all adults as never achieving as  the learning is much slower.   

Well, a four year gap in a thread isn't a record, but it has been a while. 

I reserve the right to change my opinions every four years, or even sooner.  And this year COVID makes a difference.   My emphasis during the thread was on adult students rather than children. 

Here's what i still think.

Few children who take piano lessons reach a significant level of skill.  There are some good reasons for that, and we probably all know them.

Learning a skill like piano is more difficult for an adult than for a child, and in some ways is more difficult than other tasks an adult takes on.  I don't know if there is an average adult, but probably many or even most are more motivated than children.  They are often unprepared for the sheer difficulty of the task. 

Keypeg has pointed out that one of the reasons adults fail is that some teachers tend to skip a thorough grounding in fundamentals, with the idea adults will get bored and quit.  That is a risk factor that we should stay aware of.   

There is another philosophical point that is important to me and maybe nobody else!  It has to do with the basic approach to playing an instrument.  For many it is just like math, the attempt to master an esoteric skill that has no real world application.  Adults pay for lessons, buy quality instruments, and practice diligently solely for the satisfaction of learning the skill.

That is a concept so alien to me that I had difficulty believing it was true for my first year or two on piano forums.  Why would anybody do that?  Yet reading posts on the two main piano forums, it is clear that most adults approach piano that way.  The motivation is purely internal.

I can tell you that this is not true for any of the musicians I know personally.  We all take lessons and practice for the purpose of playing with groups that we enjoy, and an external reinforcement is a huge part of why we do it.  Of course mastery of any element of skill is internally rewarding for us too.  But such mastery has additional rewards, like the respect of our peers, like being invited to play with higher quality groups, like (sometimes, and before COVID) paid gigs. 

One of the youngsters in our church plays piano and organ at a pretty decent level, despite not having taken piano before music school nor organ before graduate school.  He was a performance major on clarinet and doing music from an early age, but didn't start keyboards until later.  So I would say he's an example of an adult who learned to play fluently starting at a later age, and he's continued to improve.  But he had a long musical background and some decent instruction, too.  It was his intent to play professionally, so he has always been motivated to practice, and does not fit that concept of playing solely for individual mastery I mentioned.

And now, COVID.  None of my performance groups are still active.  The secondary reinforcements are gone.  I get up at 0530 every morning and practice before work out of habit.  I always do the basics but am a bit less dedicated than before.  It's a different world.  I haven't reoriented well yet. 

Tim

Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #133 on: October 26, 2020, 09:04:17 PM »
Tim, I want to turn some of what you just wrote on its head.

To start with professional musicians.  If you play with a group, or if you are a soloist, you have the skills to be able to do that.  You did the work to reach it.  There may be three main reasons for playing an instrument: a) to play in a group, b) to play as a soloist c) to enjoy playing on your own because you love having music emanating from your instrument.  It remains that some level of skill and prerequisite knowledge is needed to be able to do this.   If as a musician you have those abilities, you don't have to seek them.

Next: the context of lessons.  Why does one take lessons of any kind, if it is not to either gain knowledge or a skill, or both?   A "student" is a person who is a learner: so either in the teacher forum, or the student forum, it will come up.  "How do I play for the fun of it?" will not come up in either forum.   However - why do skills even come up, and so much, in these fora?  Answer: because we cannot take them for granted.   You can have 5 years of "lessons" and the essentials are skirted the whole time.  Enough of us have experienced it.  Therefore we stress it.

Getting skills for the sake of it?  Well, the advertisements certainly go that direction.  Prevent cognitive decline as you age, by learning to play the piano (at some condescending level); get your child to become a brilliant mathematician through piano lessons (who cares if the child enjoys music). Some people probably get pulled in to that.  But when many of us are after skills, it is probably for the sake of being able to play.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #134 on: October 27, 2020, 03:05:26 PM »
Tim, I want to turn some of what you just wrote on its head.

To start with professional musicians.  If you play with a group, or if you are a soloist, you have the skills to be able to do that.  You did the work to reach it. 

Well, you should at least have the level of skill to fit in that particular group, and they vary considerably, but basically I'd agree. 

But with a couple of caveats.

The professionals that I play with (or used to!) did not wait until they were good, practicing in the solitude of their basement for years.  They started in beginner band with every other raw beginner, and developed their craft over time, generally moving to more accomplished groups as they were able. 

Secondly, there's a phenomenon that we've noticed in the trombone forum.  Someone will join.  He/she has fond memories of playing trombone in junior high, and now that they're an adult, career is established, kids are no longer taking every spare moment, they want to get it out of the attic and restart.  They come to the forum with questions - what mouthpiece, what lubricant, how do I play high notes, etc.  They're eager and enthusiastic - for a little while.  And now they divide into two groups:  those who are going to practice until they're good enough to join a community band, and those who join right away and are going to practice until they aren't embarrassed anymore. 

Typically those in group one drop out of the forum shortly and are never heard from again.  Group two stays, asks more sophisticated questions, buys more expensive equipment, eventually often develops some significant level of skill. 
Tim

Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #135 on: October 27, 2020, 03:34:52 PM »
Well, you should at least have the level of skill to fit in that particular group, and they vary considerably, but basically I'd agree. 

But with a couple of caveats.

The professionals that I play with (or used to!) did not wait until they were good, practicing in the solitude of their basement for years.  They started in beginner band with every other raw beginner, and developed their craft over time, generally moving to more accomplished groups as they were able. 
Thinking:  If you start in a beginner band, you still have to be able to play the instrument at some level.  You do not come in totally unskilled.  Say your instrument is trombone.  I don't play trombone but I have a friend who does.  I know you can't instantly produce even a sound at first.  You have to develop "lip".  You also won't be able to instantly produce any desired pitch, even a single one, without practice.  Supposing that you can only manage to produce Bb and no other note.  And it keeps going out of tune. Can you join a beginner band?  Or put another way - how long does it take from never having touched the instrument, to be able to play in a so-so way, for trombone.   Is it weeks?  Or is it a couple of years?

Not sure what that has to do with practising in one's basement for years.  (I choose my living room myself.)  The point is that when we START a new instrument as adults, we need to get skills and some amount of knowledge.  We cannot take for granted that lessons will aim for this, and therefore it is prudent to ask.  When I took lessons the first time, I never dreamed that this would be necessary (to ask).

I have to think about your second point.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #136 on: October 28, 2020, 02:29:05 AM »
Learning a skill like piano is more difficult for an adult than for a child, and in some ways is more difficult than other tasks an adult takes on.
From my experience I've found that its about the same. Some kids yes can learn things fast but then some adults I've taught also have a knack for the piano and learn fast. I think with adults the free time to practice is much less but then again the propensity to come across an adult who knows about discpline and time management is much greater than when you look at children.

... There is another philosophical point that is important to me and maybe nobody else!  It has to do with the basic approach to playing an instrument.  For many it is just like math, the attempt to master an esoteric skill that has no real world application.  Adults pay for lessons, buy quality instruments, and practice diligently solely for the satisfaction of learning the skill.

That is a concept so alien to me that I had difficulty believing it was true for my first year or two on piano forums.  Why would anybody do that?  Yet reading posts on the two main piano forums, it is clear that most adults approach piano that way.  The motivation is purely internal.
What do you mean the motivation is internal? Do you mean the benefits from learning an instrument is merely a mental appreciation? Many people play because it brings them joy and they like doing it, they then can share that with others or benefit from the relaxation it gives them. One could argue then that playing music has an overall effect on ones life and is much more than merely a private interest kept secret, the benefits from playing has an outwards mental/emotional and physical realization also separate from the playing itself.

I can tell you that this is not true for any of the musicians I know personally.  We all take lessons and practice for the purpose of playing with groups that we enjoy, and an external reinforcement is a huge part of why we do it.  Of course mastery of any element of skill is internally rewarding for us too.  But such mastery has additional rewards, like the respect of our peers, like being invited to play with higher quality groups, like (sometimes, and before COVID) paid gigs. 
For me as a professional pianist it is mostly a private joy which then effects my entire life. Of course it is nice to share the music with others but ultimately you are alone with the music a great majority of the time. Music is a strange and mysterious force to me which foremost is a personal relationship which is mostly private but also opens up to the public.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #137 on: October 28, 2020, 04:16:20 AM »
Quote
For me as a professional pianist it is mostly a private joy which then effects my entire life. Of course it is nice to share the music with others but ultimately you are alone with the music a great majority of the time. Music is a strange and mysterious force to me which foremost is a personal relationship which is mostly private but also opens up to the public.
I think you have described my own experience.

Offline quantum

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Re: What does the "average student" look like?
«Reply #138 on: October 29, 2020, 01:04:24 PM »

For me as a professional pianist it is mostly a private joy which then effects my entire life. Of course it is nice to share the music with others but ultimately you are alone with the music a great majority of the time. Music is a strange and mysterious force to me which foremost is a personal relationship which is mostly private but also opens up to the public.

I can also relate.  It is nice to share music with others.  However, my greatest joys from music happen when I am creating it in solitude. 
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