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Topic: Returning to piano at age 34 - anyone else? how far do you think i can go?  (Read 1668 times)

Offline evenstar749

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Morning everyone,

I have just taken up piano after a long time (20 years) away. I am curious to hear from students who have come back after a long break. Seen lots of post about new students starting when they are old, but not low intermediate students who had all the basics "in there". I am now 34.

Within a week of getting the piano, all the scales just muscle memorised in there (except A flat minor... lol) and many of the grade 3-4 pieces just flew out. all technique gone, but the notes were still in my head. I was so surprised.

I reached Gr. 5 in about 1996 then stopped playing and just tinkered with Christmas carols and the like until we moved countries in 2000 and the piano had to stay. (Nice piano I was very sad).

I would like to return and finish my grade exams to grade 8 and be considered a "good pianist" (Yes loaded question). I would like to aim for some concert piano pieces eventually because if you don't aim you wont get, but I am keenly aware that I am very behind.

Has anyone on here done something similar? started again in mid 30's? how far have you got?

I'm not wanting to play with an orchestra, but it would be nice to have some opportunities to play in some public setting.


EDIT: I currently probably have about 1-2 hours a day I could dedicate to playing the piano. Probably a good thing to know it isn't 4 hours. (Maybe I could do that sometimes).
My passion is classical piano, as I have always listened to classical music above modern. So I guess even in my 20 years away ihave done my quota of keeping my head in classical music :-)

any thoughts, encouragement..?

Love the forum have been reading quietly for a few days now.

Thanks

Sarah

Offline lostinidlewonder

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I've taught several students who are in a similar situation as yourself, some have gone to concert level others are happy at a different level and others struggle to achieve. What stood out for me is the time and persistence of your rate of practice, this is very valuable and will line you up with success, pretty much all of my successful students have this persistence factor in common. You need a good teacher who you can ask these questions in detail and give you the confidence to achieve/set your goals, a good teacher will save you a lot of precious time. If you aspire to play in public then start doing it as soon as possible even with easier works, sharpening that performance sword starts with even playing for a couple of people.

Your memorisation skills seem quite good so ensure you know how to further develop/awaken that as well as work on your reading skills and score analysis.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.pianovision.com

Offline evenstar749

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Thank you,

I have found a lovely teacher who I hope should be great. Only had the one lesson but she picked up on many issues and good things straight away, so now hoping she can help me fix and develop.

Yes once something is IN my head it does tend to stay there. I find that things I really learnt well stay. Phone numbers from childhood, great long passages from Shakespeare, and long poems I learn by memory as a child will just come back out as well... getting them IN there however I find that I am a bit slower than average.

that is rather frustrating but I shall just have to be persistent and know that once they are learnt they should stay. Wishing I could have learn more as a child so there was more hiding in my memory. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I wish I had learnt more, been more interested as a kid.. ah well...

That being said I think I have the dedication now to learn that I never did as a kid, that can NEVER be taught to you.

I think my main issues are going to be

1. Getting my technique back (Easier said than done I think...lol)
2. finding easy ways to get passages into my head in the first place (I know my methods are not always best so I will need help there)
3. knowing when to push forward and when to stop and go back to basics.

just need to jump in I guess.

thanks for the encouragement

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Good to hear you have a teacher you work well with. You have all great questions to ask them and you certainly could prepare work just based off what you feel needs attention! You won't regret getting back to the basics, learning tons of easier pieces and get the process of learning a piece to completion running through your head. I allow my students to learn difficult works but it should not become their main focus, their main focus generally is with pieces they can learn mostly efficiently.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.pianovision.com

Offline evenstar749

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Thanks my main issue I think is going to be memorizing techniques. Need to know the notes before I play them... lol. (well other than sight-reading)

but i'm going to start a new post about this as I think I had a bit of an epiphany today..

:-)

thanks again.

I

Offline kuska

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No, I won't write the same third post :D Just read please the other two at the top. I'm also 34, returning after 12 years. It's not that bad as I thought. It's not super as well but the life goes on and no need to cry over spilt milk right now ;)

Offline evenstar749

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Hi Kuska,

For sure nothing to do now but practice and try and make up for it.. :-)

nice to know I'm not the only 34 year old here returning after a long break. May I ask where you are up to in your playing?

only curious :-)

good luck

Offline kuska

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May I ask where you are up to in your playing?

Well, basically, if you go to youtube through this video e.g.
[ Invalid YouTube link ]

You'll find my channel. I've never played The wild Horseman before and I did it in one day session (not sure how many hours exactly but I guess up to three max). I know the right hand goes a bit too hard in the second part but oh well. I liked the possible interpretation that came to me afterwards ;)

Generally all or a significant part of those pieces there were done just during my holidays. There's nothing spectacular (yet ;) ) but for now this is more of a vlog to me than a regular performance channel. I'm gonna develop the idea but I need time :)

Now working on Invention no. 13, Manha De carnaval, Rondo Alla Turca the part with broken octaves, Big my Secret from The Piano soundtrack and Hayd Sonata E minor XVI/34 Presto will be my next pick. And yeah I sometimes go with Czerny as well :)

Offline dogperson

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 20 year gap?? Hmff, I can double that.  At first, I really wondered 'how far can I go', but soon realized that was a self-defeating question for me to continually ask  myself ... also self-defeating is 'am I going fast enough for where I want to be'? 

Once I quit asking those two questions, and am just working on developing/re-developing skills,  I have progressed much faster than before.  You really just need to take one day at a time and see where the road ends.  Yes, you will reach brick walls that you feel like you can't get over.. but then you will find a way to scale the brick.   Only you can determine when you will content with the level you reach.

Like many returning adults, my practice time is limited-- so I have done a lot of reading and thought a LOT about how to make practice more productive.  I realized that HOW to practice was never discussed with any teacher..  which is sad.  Ineffective practice is, well, ineffective and doesn't help you progress. To practice 1 hour per day,  EFFECTIVELY, is better than 3 hours of ineffective use of your time.

That, and a great teacher, has made a lot of difference.

Offline evenstar749

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love the "gizmo" Kuska :-) super cute.

I actually don't think I have heard that piece before. So much in the classical world to pour through isn't there. Up till recently mine was more orchestral pieces and ballet music. I can't comment on the technique as I have no clue :-) but it sounds really good especially considering the time it took.

looks like a fun piece. :-)

although I can never listen to alla turka because once a very non musical family member asked me if I liked the Pride and prejudice piece... "you know" she said.. "The Turkey Rhonda..."

I think I snorted a glass of water at that... never been able to call it anything but the turkey rondo... lol.

dogperson. Exactly the nail on the head that started me thinking today. my practice is inefficient. 45 mins of extremely focused and best practice is better that 2 hours of playing the same shite over and over again and getting nowhere other than tiring hands for no reason.

Tomorrow I have a lesson and will ask just this question.

I will just push and push and find where I can get to. get as much done while in the highly motivated early stage.

thanks folks

Offline indianajo

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I quit piano age 16 to concentrate on a school loaned band instrument, which I took to the All State Band level.  Then there was college, which kept me very busy besides paying for it.  Then living without a piano, various jobs, ending up in the Army age 32 with weekends very boring for anti-social me.  
So I bought a piano.  I lived out near the Army post, so no teacher or tuner was available.  I just started back doing the things the teacher taught me age 8-16. Plus I concentrated on Scott Joplin rags, which are physically challenging and built up my muscle tone.
After the muscle tone was regained, I was able to do any exercises or pieces I had done previously.  The memories were there, quite accurately,  but it took some time to regain the physical ability to execute them.
I'm now playing pieces I hear on master's recitals over at the university across town.  I couldn't go as far as the pieces I heard the Van Cliburn competition contestants rehearsing on television, but I didn't like those pieces anyway. I don't learn as fast as music school students, but that is not my goal.  Playing interesting music that runs through my head is my goal, and I am accomplishing that to my satisfaction.  Two pieces completed to my satisfaction are Beethoven Moonlight mvt 3, and Moussorgski Pictures at an Exhibition.  I've  started rehearsing the two piano version of Gershwin Rhapsody In Blue.  
 I'm extending my sight reading ability by playing hymns out of the book for charity dinners downtown and  services in a little church in the country I visit in the summers near my summer camp.  I'm dabbling in playing pop tunes by ear, which is an entirely different set of skills than playing academic music off the score.  Life is interesting, and piano is an art that you can do alone without a lot of money expended.   I still don't take lessons; it seems all piano teachers around here  own oriental manufactured pianos and several have mentioned the beautiful green eyes of the local import piano dealer.   I personally enjoy great pianos that were made by ordinary people who lived just up the road (Baldwin in Cincinnatti) or in a middle class community like mine (Sohmer in Long Island).  My piano provided jobs to people who might have bought products manufactured in my town.  Free trade works in only one direction: money goes to the orient, then is sent on to countries providing oil, iron ore, or other resources.  I don't want to live in tiny dormatories as those "productive" workers do. 
I have had a couple of lessons on pipe organ playing, since an AGO chapter is active in my town and they are affordable.  The physical skills especially posture of playing with your feet are quite different, and the instrument sounds different as well.  I have acquired an electronic organ for practice since used ones are so affordable now.  
I'm looking for a friend who could play two piano four hands arrangements of classical repretoire as was popular before the phonograph was invented, but it seems anybody with that kind of skill expects to be paid for their efforts.  Pity, I play piano just to enjoy myself.  
So you see, you can go as far as you wish if you have the time.  Retirement has been a great benefit to my breadth of repretoire.  Enjoy yourself.  
 

Offline bernadette60614

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Not 34, just add about 20 years to that!

For me, the biggest challenge has been finding the right teacher.  I took lessons with a teacher at a community music program, one who primarily taught children (this was to encourage our son to take lessons) and I have now found an absolutely wonderful teacher who is a working classical musician.  The prior teachers added value, but this teacher has taught me how to approach practice in a serious, disciplined way.

I can't attest for how far I can go, but she has suggested to me that in four years or so, I might apply for admission to a music degree program..not to a Julliard, or a program of similar caliber, but to one at one of the local colleges.

I think a tremendous amount is attitude.  The window on my being a wunderkind is most emphatically closed, but the window on my being a wunderelder remains open forever!

Offline kuska

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20 year gap?? Hmff, I can double that.  At first, I really wondered 'how far can I go', but soon realized that was a self-defeating question for me to continually ask  myself ... also self-defeating is 'am I going fast enough for where I want to be'? 

I agree. I still have problems like I expect too much from myself. Which is a good thing in general as it pushes you forward. The bad thing I just can't settle with the fact I wasted many years. Well, I've never really been very technically correct. I was practising on a very hard upright and the only positive outcome of this my hands were very strong, lol. When I try to play on it now I feel like at the gym. Apart from it needs to be tuned.

But being confident, being fluent and being on the right track to progress seem to be very important things to me right now. I'm aware how my thinking is wrong and that I need to find balance but it isn't an easy task.

although I can never listen to alla turka because once a very non musical family member asked me if I liked the Pride and prejudice piece... "you know" she said.. "The Turkey Rhonda..."
I think I snorted a glass of water at that... never been able to call it anything but the turkey rondo... lol.

lol, you've just made my day ^^


For me, the biggest challenge has been finding the right teacher.

Yep, that too.

Offline tenk

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You can go as far as you like. If you have a good attitude, are motivated to practice, and have (lots of) time, why worry about your limits?

I've seen posts like these that start out with something like, "I am currently playing Hot Cross Buns, but I want the play the Rach 3. Can I do it?" Well, hmm, that may be difficult, but think about this -- there is plenty of amazing and enjoyable music in between. Discover it, and enjoy the journey.

Similar to most I played as a child, and stopped during my 20's. Came back to it a few years ago barely being able to play the last three pieces I worked on before quitting. Worked hard for two years on my technique and playing without tension. Now in the last 12 months I've completed 6 Inventions, 6 Sinfonias, a few P&Fs, Aria + 16/30 Goldberg Variations, and some other random pieces thrown in. My old Ukrainian piano teacher always told me "Bach is the best teacher." I'm inclined to agree :)

Offline evenstar749

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thanks all,

glad you enjoyed the story of my unfortunate relative and the "turkey rondo..." :-)  ;D ;D


Listen
prioritise
sensible practice
push but enjoy...

I haven't looked at many Bach pieces Tenk... not recently anyway:-)

so much music.... not enough time..


Offline hfmadopter

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Getting in 1 to 1-1/2hours a day is a good steady pace. I used to do that and eventually found ways to stretch it out to 3 hours most days. And in getting ready for a recital I often did 5 hours. Non of this was in one full session, you find yourself with 20 minutes to spend , sit at the piano, it soon turns into 30 that just got added on to your regular practice time. You would be surprised how you can rearrange things in your life for a meaningful piano experience. And down the road a ways you also might find you want to branch off from the classical repertoire too. It's all good for your mind and technique.

Being age 34 is a restriction put on yourself by yourself and only if you let it be a restriction. Some things might not come as easy as when you were younger but maturity within your music can make up for that. As we emotionally mature, that comes out in the quality of even simpler pieces of music. In that regard, 34 can still be quite young, you very possibly haven't met your musical maturity level even yet.. Horowitz at 80 would play grade 6 and 7 pieces sometimes and make it sound like fine crystal, just sweet to the ears. The key is separation in tones, acquiring and controlling emotionally finer touch at the piano and well, just maturity in playing, mastering even simpler works. Don't discount them.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline evenstar749

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Perhaps I'm not seeing it as a restriction as such,

rather "missed opportunities"

I think, however, that my age and maturity will help me progress faster for sure. I am driven. Rather than being forced by parents to practice I am trying to find any time I can to practice. This last three weeks I have well out done my 1 hour practice a day. It would be nearer to 2.

thanks for the encouragement. :-)

Offline tinyhands

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I'm in a slightly similar situation returning at 38 , 2 years ago after a 21 year break. I now have an amazing teacher who is so passionate and has amazing technique herself. I really feel she has opened my eyes up to world of music I wasn't aware of before, or maybe I am more mature now so look at it from a  life of experience than being a child banging out the tunes I memorized for my family to clap at and say "how talented" ;-)  Some lessons we can talk for 20 minutes about composer's lives, politics, theories of music education etc.  She tells me tales of their lives, affairs,  problems, all bringing to life the characters as she says "these were real people..." I find it fascinating. I look at pieces I played as a child Moonlight Sonata, Maple leaf rag and feel now that I wasn't ready to play them...sure I knew the notes but I don't think I really knew them or performed them well. An example is Mozart k545, we spent about 3/4 months on it, and I saw and heard it in a way I don't think I would ever have done as a child.  We firstly went back to grade 3/4 pieces and worked a lot on technique, phrasing etc.  As my teacher said you can play a grade 3 piece to a grade 8 standard. What is interesting is that when I returned to piano I thought I was desperate work up to the grade 8 and beyond difficult pieces, I had a wish list of beautiful pieces I have heard over the years and would love to play.  But what has happened is that now I am discovering so many grade 5/6 pieces that are beautiful and I am loving learning them to a "higher standard".  I really see now piano as a life long learning process, and think if I had advice for younger people or people starting out ( not yourself I know) is don't just rush through the grades and churn out a few memorized pieces as there is a whole world of music out there. 
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