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Author Topic: Can You ACTUALLY Learn Piano as an Adult??  (Read 3281 times)
keystroke3
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« on: June 28, 2017, 04:19:44 PM »

I get this question from students a lot.

And I think it's sad that there's a myth out there that if you didn't learn piano as a kid, it's somehow "too late".

I've personally had TONS of adult students succeed with piano, and asking some of my piano-teaching friends, they feel the same way.

People look at a 12-year-old who's really good, but don't think of the fact that the 12 year old has been playing since he was 5, which gives him SEVEN years of experience. Then an adult plays for 6 months and expects to be better, which doesn't make sense.

Then I hear all this stuff about "kids brains learn faster. I mean, look at how fast kids learn language".


Have you heard a 4 year old talk???

If you sat me down in a crib and told me my only job 24 hours a day was to learn Spanish, I hope to god I'd be better than a 4 year old. It's not that kids learn faster, it's that they're just perceived as inexperienced because they're little, but a lot of folks don't stop to think how much experience they really have in terms of years-of-learning.

Here's the way I see it...

Kids have some advantages. They have less going on, which gives them more time to practice. And they have parents constantly keeping them on track.

But adults have a lot of advantages as well...and can use them to easily navigate and turn around the disadvantages.

Anyway, there's 3 main things I've found as a teacher that separate the adults who make it from the adults who don't. If you want to see the whole rant, here ya go:



Anyway, let me know your thoughts!

-Zach Evans
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mjames
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« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2017, 08:51:50 PM »

Started when I was 16, think I'm doing pretty fine so far. So the answer's no i bet.
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2017, 03:18:47 AM »

Zach, thank you for your post.  When I first joined the boards, first for another instrument, and then a board that isn't around anymore, what was written back then was shocking.  We've come a long way since then.  I remember one article advising adults that they don't have the dexterity of a five year old.  I taught grade 2.  My kids were graduating from fat pencils because they finally were getting the fine motor control.  The younger grade 2's with earlier birthdays were still wobbly.  What dexterity?

You also mention practising toward specific goals, consistently, in a planned way, with regular timing.  Back then I'd read one teacher tell another "Give them anything they want.  They won't last anyway.  Let them have fun." and similar.  If you taught a young child in as haphazard and arbitrary manner, how long would that child last?

We also have the phenomenon of adults learning faster than the children, but not getting the basic grounding, which trips them up later when they need that grounding.
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keypeg
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2017, 03:20:58 AM »

duplicate
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nw746
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« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2017, 08:41:26 PM »

I think the question is not "can you actually learn piano as an adult", it's "if I start learning piano as an adult, will I ever be as good as someone who started learning as a child?"

And I think the answer to that is pretty self-evidently no—I can't think of any concert pianists who started learning as adults, or even as teenagers.

At the same time, very few five year olds are going to have the discipline to practice for five hours a day, and the natural musicality to comprehend music easily and learn new pieces quickly. So the vast majority of people who start learning piano as kids will drop out.

So it's not exactly a fair comparison, because an adult learner is being compared to someone who not only has all the extra experience of learning piano as a child, and the extra physical flexibility gained from early practice in childhood, but who then had enough talent and dedication to stick with it for a long period of time, and the social support to identify this talent and encourage this dedication.

Adults who have that level of musical talent and dedication are just as rare, and since they missed out on years of experience and so much of the classical piano world is segregated according to age, they will always be at a deficit relative to their chronological peers, or at least until they have reached a professional skill level and can get jobs teaching or performing or whatever (at which point that kind of thing stops mattering so much).
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dogperson
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« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2017, 10:13:55 PM »

I think the question is not "can you actually learn piano as an adult", it's "if I start learning piano as an adult, will I ever be as good as someone who started learning as a child?"

And I think the answer to that is pretty self-evidently no—I can't think of any concert pianists who started learning as adults, or even as teenagers.

At the same time, very few five year olds are going to have the discipline to practice for five hours a day, and the natural musicality to comprehend music easily and learn new pieces quickly. So the vast majority of people who start learning piano as kids will drop out.

So it's not exactly a fair comparison, because an adult learner is being compared to someone who not only has all the extra experience of learning piano as a child, and the extra physical flexibility gained from early practice in childhood, but who then had enough talent and dedication to stick with it for a long period of time, and the social support to identify this talent and encourage this dedication.

Adults who have that level of musical talent and dedication are just as rare, and since they missed out on years of experience and so much of the classical piano world is segregated according to age, they will always be at a deficit relative to their chronological peers, or at least until they have reached a professional skill level and can get jobs teaching or performing or whatever (at which point that kind of thing stops mattering so much).


I don't believe there was any comparison intended between a Five-year-old who starts learning the piano and continues lessons to an adult whobwants to learn at the  beginning age of 50.  It was simply "is the 50/year-old too old to learn".   The answer is, no, he is not too old to start.  
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lostinidlewonder
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« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2017, 03:47:24 AM »

I find that adults have the advantage of being able to structure/sharpen their practice approach where children have the advantage of an elastic brain. Adults tend to need to be aware of everything they do and can't just "do it" where children can do actions without having to consciously be aware of every movement (or at least they can forget about it all faster and feel it more readily). The children that do the best have their parents pushing them to practice every day, adults often require self discipline to be able to do well which is in general much more difficult. Adults generally have more distractions in life (raising a family, working a job, this and that) than children which is why children can often do better than adults within a given time frame.

Exactly how to practice is very detailed and depends on the individual, you just can't formulate a method that will work for everyone. This is what I love about teaching music, discovering what causes greatest change in individual students. Yes certain common factors arise but the content and way in which we put it all together is generally quite unique.

Each individual has different potential and rate of learning regarding their coordination and changes they can make to this. I used to think that everyone can play at the highest level with enough practice but it's just not true, everyone can play at a good level though with enough years behind them. Even with detailed, well crafted practice instructions there will always be some limitation when they practice with a teacher let alone by themselves.

Adults tend to compare themselves with others and thus limit their progress where children simply get on with the job and don't really compare themselves or are aware of their capabilities as much. I think this has a huge benefit to someones progress. Comparing ability with others puts unnecessary mental obstacles in ones path more so than acting as a source for inspiration.

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keypeg
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« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2017, 09:48:59 AM »

I think the question is not "can you actually learn piano as an adult", it's "if I start learning piano as an adult, will I ever be as good as someone who started learning as a child?"

And I think the answer to that is pretty self-evidently no—I can't think of any concert pianists who started learning as adults, or even as teenagers.
Ok - "as good as someone who started learning as a child" - and then you jump to concert pianists. Only a small proportion of people who started learning as a child become concert pianists.  So you are really asking "Can an adult ever be as good as the very rare person among the many who started as a child, and then decided to perform professionally, and made it as a concert pianist?"  If 1% of those who started as children become successful concert pianists, why is such a question even up there?  How about - can an adult become as good as the other 99% who started as a child?  In all likelihood, given good teaching and applying himself to that good teaching, he will probably play quite a bit better - and progress faster - than the average child-student who may not want to be there in the first place.  Or whose parents mess up that process; or poor quality teacher.
[quote...So the vast majority of people who start learning piano as kids will drop out. [/quote]
Exactly.
Quote
So it's not exactly a fair comparison, because an adult learner is being compared to someone who not only has all the extra experience of learning piano as a child, and the extra physical flexibility gained from early practice in childhood, but who then had enough talent and dedication to stick with it for a long period of time, and the social support to identify this talent and encourage this dedication.
But nobody was asking that.  You brought up the concert pianist idea.
Quote
Adults who have that level of musical talent and dedication are just as rare, and since they missed out on years of experience and so much of the classical piano world is segregated according to age, they will always be at a deficit relative to their chronological peers, or at least until they have reached a professional skill level and can get jobs teaching or performing or whatever (at which point that kind of thing stops mattering so much).
You seem now to be talking about whether the adult will be able to get into the profession: get engagements to perform, etc.  This no longer involves the question of the ability to play well.  The question was whether one can learn to play the piano as an adult.  If you are now asking whether he will learn to play as well as a career concert pianist who made it, it is still about skill level, rather than being able to break into a profession.
Re: "chronological peers" ---- If a 35 year old has been learning for 2 years, of course he will not play as well as a 35 year old who started at age 6 and has been playing for 26 years, and learning for perhaps 15 - 20 years.  By the same token, the 8 year old who has been learning for 2 years will also not play as well as the concert pianist with 20 years learning.
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keypeg
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« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2017, 10:22:59 AM »

keystroke?
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nw746
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« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2017, 01:02:07 PM »

I'm using concert pianists as an example because all of them are roughly similar in skill level (some are better than others, but all concert pianists can basically learn to play whatever you put in front of them with few mistakes) and all of them started as children. Obviously if one starts learning as a child and continues playing consistently until adulthood, one won't necessarily reach the skill level of a concert pianist.

That skill level—of being able to learn the Bartók Second Concerto or Liszt's Transcendental Etudes or Stockhausen's Klavierstück X or a completely new piece written specially for you by some hotshot young composer, to a technical standard that matches what is achievable by professionals, in a reasonable amount of time—is a prerequisite for having any kind of job in the field, but not enough to secure one. Lots of people who can play that well do something else simply because there aren't jobs available or they'd rather sell insurance or whatever.

Can an adult learn to play as well as they theoretically would be able to if they had started as a child and continued playing consistently until their current age? That might not be the question the OP was asking, but it's mine, and I think the answer is no. Can an adult learner reach the skill level necessary to learn and perform technically difficult pieces to modern standards of quality (i.e. note perfection, or near-perfection, and appropriately interpreted)? I would think the answer is maybe, depending on the person.

No one is too old to learn how to play the piano, obviously. But the question then becomes why someone would want to learn the piano, and what they hope to do with it: whether it's playing pieces that would impress their friends and family, or being able to accompany a choir or a jazz band or whatever, or being able to play live music at a fancy Italian restaurant from 5-7 pm two days a week, or being able to play pieces from the solo repertoire, or achieving a high level of artistry, or becoming a teacher, or just having something to do on Thursday nights after work. I imagine that for adult learners, the more ambitious goals should be considered out of reach, and I do say that as one.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2017, 03:58:16 PM »

Ok - "as good as someone who started learning as a child" - and then you jump to concert pianists. Only a small proportion of people who started learning as a child become concert pianists.  So you are really asking "Can an adult ever be as good as the very rare person among the many who started as a child, and then decided to perform professionally, and made it as a concert pianist?"  If 1% of those who started as children become successful concert pianists, why is such a question even up there? 

Very good point, and you can go more than one direction with it. 

We tend to compare ourselves to unrealistic examples.  Most of us can learn to hit a golf ball acceptably.  None of us will ever threaten Tiger Woods. 

I would guess all of us can get as far as fluent SATB hymns, two part inventions, fake book playing, simple rock band stuff, sing-alongs, P&W bands etc..  If your goal is the Rachmaninof stuff, probably not.  Again, that's 1% level. 

On the other hand.  Large numbers of adults try for that more realistic level, and fail.  On the whole they must be more motivated and disciplined than the children who don't progress, so why does it happen?

Maybe it's piano instruction itself that is wrong.  If only 1% succeed, that's not much of a success rate. 

Bertholy wrote a method book for adults to learn golf, because he said they can learn, but they can't learn using the same approach children use. 
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Tim
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« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2017, 12:55:42 PM »


No one is too old to learn how to play the piano, obviously. But the question then becomes why someone would want to learn the piano, and what they hope to do with it: whether it's playing pieces that would impress their friends and family, or being able to accompany a choir or a jazz band or whatever, or being able to play live music at a fancy Italian restaurant from 5-7 pm two days a week, or being able to play pieces from the solo repertoire, or achieving a high level of artistry, or becoming a teacher, or just having something to do on Thursday nights after work. I imagine that for adult learners, the more ambitious goals should be considered out of reach, and I do say that as one.

I am trying to figure out why this comment makes me so furious. I don't suppose you meant any harm with it, but it was like an echo of the +1 zillion comments I have read before in about the same style. With the exception, maybe, of the phrase "achieving a high level of artistry", you don't even MENTION the reason a person like me, for example, study the piano. I think it looks so pathetic: Impress family and friends. Have something do do on Thursday nights after work. To me, it is like a slap in the face. Was that all???

I play the piano because I love to play the piano. I love the music I have chosen to practice (or else I wouldn't play it), and even if I easily can find recordings that are technically far, far better than what I can achieve at the moment, the actual work gives me more dimensions, a richer experience. There is no better way to come close to a musical piece than to play it yourself, using your own body to create it instead of just listening to someone else's interpretation, follow your own personal whimsies and ideas, make them melt together with what the composer probably intended, making something unique that is YOU in symbiosis with this music.

It is also a constant challenge, I always struggle to push my own personal limits. It is difficult, I have to think a lot, plan a lot, repeat insanely lot, I constantly seek for new methods and ideas on how to learn and to practice, I have to go into the tiniest details as well as sometimes stepping back and try to grasp the whole perspective from different angles. It is a dynamic, evolving, fascinating process, a story about learning, about my brain, about life as it should be - if you ask me. It is like working with a sculpture that will never be finished, but where the grades of refinement never stops either.

Now, who thinks I care about the opinion of others? It is MY sculpture, my life.

The piano studies also gives me better insights and understand as a listener, of course. The more I learn about piano playing, the more I appreciate a great performance. Often I sit with my eye fixed at the pianist's hands. If I know the piece well, which you do if you have studied it and read the notes, my arms sometimes twitch a bit. I catch myself making faces, smiling, nodding, feeling the pain, the vibrations. And I also admire the enormous work I know is behind this master performance. If there are mistakes, I recognize that too. I don't get mad or annoyed, because I know that mistakes are a natural part of every performance.
As LvB expressed it - playing a wrong note is insignificant. Playing without passion is unforgivable. I THINK I understand what he meant.

So that is what piano playing is for me: PASSION. Pure passion. It breaks my heart that you didn't even mention that little detail. Instead you gave the usual list that looks so dull, so diminishing, so lifeless. Learning some pieces from the solo repertoire, sigh. Well, maybe you can express it like that, but to me it sounds like a big shrug.

Play because you cannot come up with something better to do with your spare time. Play because you have some unrealistic dreams about becoming the next shining global star, or because you need a job, or because you want to impress someone. Or - this sickness I see far too often among young students - because you are helplessly competitive and think life is about getting approval, grades, points, and to beat Him or Her or Them. To get a diploma that soon will be yet another piece of dust-collecting paper in your home, meaning absolutely nothing but to remind you that you had about 10 minutes of local fame somewhere, sometime.

We live in a difficult time where it is no longer enough to compare yourself with the kid next door, but with the whole world, with every living or dead Master you can come up to, and no matter how hard you try, you will always be mocked because someone knows someone who is better than you. How depressing if you are raised in this spirit of competitiveness!

And if you, like me, simply do this because it is your own private joy and passion, you will meet endlessly many people who simply have NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT, and they will comment this passion of yours, your piano playing, with "what's the point, you know you will never be that good. First of all, you are too old ..."  and give you the standard lecture about brain plasticity which says quite a lot about their brains but nothing about yours.

Yeah, what's the point? If you don't know about passion, I can clearly see why the whole project seems pointless, "because you will never become a concert pianist". Sob. I would say that SOME people have a very limited definition of what "success" means!!!   
You say that the more ambitious goals should be considered as out of your reach, if you are an adult learner. So only outer approval goals and money-making goals are to be considered as "more ambitious", or what?
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timothy42b
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« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2017, 01:42:04 PM »


I play the piano because I love to play the piano. I love the music I have chosen to practice (or else I wouldn't play it), and even if I easily can find recordings that are technically far, far better than what I can achieve at the moment, the actual work gives me more dimensions, a richer experience. There is no better way to come close to a musical piece than to play it yourself, using your own body to create it instead of just listening to someone else's interpretation, follow your own personal whimsies and ideas, make them melt together with what the composer probably intended, making something unique that is YOU in symbiosis with this music.


You make an elegant and articulate case for producing music as an individual art, for its own beauty and with no other consideration required.

Nicely done.

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Tim
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« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2017, 01:44:46 PM »

You make an elegant and articulate case for producing music as an individual art, for its own beauty and with no other consideration required.

Nicely done.



But.

(you knew there was a "but" coming, right?)

I didn't want to dilute your comment in the same post. 

Music is also communication to an audience, and for some of us that IS the primary motivation.  Just wanted to add that in.  You didn't include it, it may not be important to you, and there's nothing wrong with that. 
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Tim
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« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2017, 01:50:34 PM »

You make an elegant and articulate case for producing music as an individual art, for its own beauty and with no other consideration required.

Nicely done.


 

Bronnestam,

 Smiley  Thanks so much for posting this very elegant case for studying music as an adult...     We all should print and frame the post
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« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2017, 02:56:31 PM »

There is no better way to come close to a musical piece than to play it yourself ...

Agreed. Just a few words for those that are fortunate to have good hearing but unfortunate to not be able to play the piano or other instrument due to health or other reasons:  It is possible to receive great enjoyment by just listening to music.  Do you feel extreme emotion when you listen to a well performed Beethoven late string quartet?  Yes?  Then you are 90% there!  Music is a wonderful gift for everyone able to hear or play.
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« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2017, 10:13:34 PM »

bronnestam, you gave a much better answer than I could have come up with. In fact, I have no idea what to do with the response I received, since it really doesn't have anything to do with anything.  Bravo, and thank you.
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georgey
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« Reply #17 on: July 06, 2017, 10:56:11 PM »

Very good point, and you can go more than one direction with it.  

We tend to compare ourselves to unrealistic examples.  Most of us can learn to hit a golf ball acceptably.  None of us will ever threaten Tiger Woods.  

I would guess all of us can get as far as fluent SATB hymns, two part inventions, fake book playing, simple rock band stuff, sing-alongs, P&W bands etc..  If your goal is the Rachmaninof stuff, probably not.  Again, that's 1% level.  

On the other hand.  Large numbers of adults try for that more realistic level, and fail.  On the whole they must be more motivated and disciplined than the children who don't progress, so why does it happen?

Maybe it's piano instruction itself that is wrong.  If only 1% succeed, that's not much of a success rate.  

Bertholy wrote a method book for adults to learn golf, because he said they can learn, but they can't learn using the same approach children use.  

Just for fun: Wink

I follow most of this except:  You say “On the other hand.  Large numbers of adults try for that more realistic level, and fail.”   So let’s say a more realistic level is “top 30%”.   So if they reach the top 29%, they have reached the realistic level target and so they are successful.

Then you say:” If only 1% succeed, that's not much of a success rate.”  But in my example defining success as making the top 30%, the success rate will be much higher than 1%.  I may be misunderstanding your logic.

I would say that even if you had the “perfect method of teaching”, only the top 30% will reach the top 30%.  You will never get 100% to reach the top 30%.

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« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2017, 12:46:41 AM »

Music is also communication to an audience, and for some of us that IS the primary motivation.  Just wanted to add that in.  You didn't include it, it may not be important to you, and there's nothing wrong with that. 
Music can be communication to an audience.  It can be composing.  It can be exploring.  It can be personal enjoyment including while playing at a high level.  The communication with an audience should definitely be included in these can-be's, without its absence taking anything away from the activity.
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« Reply #19 on: July 07, 2017, 04:19:23 AM »

I feel very much the same as Bronnestram about music and my reasons for learning are rather similar. But I feel sligthly different about the limitations on what can be achieved: I do not think anything is possible when starting late. While the same goes for most children as well, the obstacles to tackle tend to be greater with someone starting as a mature adult. I am not talking about someone in their 20's or someone who has gained competence when young and kept playing occasionally, but a real late beginner. So NW746's post did not upset me at all and I did not read it as negative, only realistic. When one is over 40 there are more and more life circumstances and the natural loss of resources that cannot be ignored.  But being a realist does not reduce my motivation to try and invest what I can to the task of learning. I never was one to gain motivation from big dreams, but rather from the work itself and the smaller or bigger victories. Or maybe I am just too stubborn to not try the almost impossible. Which for me means to sound like a real pianist even when managing just easier repertoire and a small fraction of the repertoire they have.
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My summer projects: Scarlatti K87, K466, K109, Scriabin op74 preludes, Chopin Waltz 69-2 and Berceuse. And just exploring more music...
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« Reply #20 on: July 07, 2017, 05:26:16 AM »

What's a real late beginner? 40+? I was under the impression (from the various threads) that if you're not below the age of 10 then it's too late, because of neuroplasticity lol. I've always hated those threads, they really did a good job of demoralizing me - thank god I stuck it out. I'm quite sure those threads have done a good job of making a lot of "late beginners" lurkers quit, which kinda pisses me off.
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« Reply #21 on: July 07, 2017, 05:57:15 AM »

What's a real late beginner? 40+? I was under the impression (from the various threads) that if you're not below the age of 10 then it's too late, because of neuroplasticity lol. I've always hated those threads, they really did a good job of demoralizing me - thank god I stuck it out. I'm quite sure those threads have done a good job of making a lot of "late beginners" lurkers quit, which kinda pisses me off.

I read a study that suggests that our cognitive skills start to decay significantly at around 45. Add to that the physical damage most of us do to our body in office and computer work and not enough exercise I would say 40+ could be considered late. I started at 45, but I did have the benefit of other musical activities. I know there may be one or two super achievers among the millions who try, but I am not among them Smiley
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My summer projects: Scarlatti K87, K466, K109, Scriabin op74 preludes, Chopin Waltz 69-2 and Berceuse. And just exploring more music...
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« Reply #22 on: July 07, 2017, 09:13:28 AM »

What counts for me is reality, not the theoretical constructs of studies that suggest what that reality might be.  Perhaps studies suggest to those who did them, in whatever manner, that cognitive skills "decline significantly" as of age 45.  My reality is that at age 63 I have never learned better or faster.  If there was some "significant decline" at the suggested age, I certainly didn't notice it.  Ultimately I cannot find any use to such studies.  I am in the middle of learning things, and a study that tells me that I cannot learn them, or will be "significantly" slower than in the past, does not help me in that learning.  There is another, old, study, which suggests that if you tell students that they can't do something, they start failing.  That's at any age.
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« Reply #23 on: July 07, 2017, 09:14:25 AM »

I am disappointed that Zach has not come back to his own thread. What is the use of posting, and saying "Let me know your thoughts." if you don't return to respond.
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« Reply #24 on: July 07, 2017, 12:37:05 PM »

  The communication with an audience should definitely be included in these can-be's, without its absence taking anything away from the activity.

I'm not pointing to the absence as a fault. 

I bring it up because I believe it changes the entire character of the activity.  It is not a minor change (I like stride, you like ragtime, I only play Bach, you don't like to pedal).  I see it as a paradigm shift level of change. 

I'm not saying either approach is superior.  I am saying I think they are very very different. 
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« Reply #25 on: July 07, 2017, 12:46:57 PM »

Just for fun: Wink

I follow most of this except:  You say “On the other hand.  Large numbers of adults try for that more realistic level, and fail.”   So let’s say a more realistic level is “top 30%”.   So if they reach the top 29%, they have reached the realistic level target and so they are successful.


I hadn't done the math to that level.

What I considered success was the ability to play nonvirtuoso repertoire fluently. 

Large numbers of adults AND children fail to do that.  With children it is quite understandable.  Most of them are forced into lessons as an enrichment activity.

Adults are different, they choose to do this, and while they have less time and memory, they have more motivation and discipline.  Still, you don't run into many who succeed. 

How many people who pick up a guitar, with or without lessons, succeed in playing nonvirtuoso pieces at a level that lets them jam with friends, do sing alongs, etc?  probably 90% or better. 
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« Reply #26 on: July 07, 2017, 04:42:55 PM »

What counts for me is reality, not the theoretical constructs of studies that suggest what that reality might be.  Perhaps studies suggest to those who did them, in whatever manner, that cognitive skills "decline significantly" as of age 45.  My reality is that at age 63 I have never learned better or faster.  If there was some "significant decline" at the suggested age, I certainly didn't notice it.  Ultimately I cannot find any use to such studies.  I am in the middle of learning things, and a study that tells me that I cannot learn them, or will be "significantly" slower than in the past, does not help me in that learning.  There is another, old, study, which suggests that if you tell students that they can't do something, they start failing.  That's at any age.

Maybe you don't care about research...I do because it helps me understand the world more objectively than my own experiences and my subjective reality. The fact that you think you learn better now than before can be explained by many other factors and does not mean the findings of the study are not valid.

But please read again what I wrote:
Start to decline significantly=Before that no signs of decline were found that would be in any way significant (used here as a statistical concept). After that something starts to show. Which does not mean they increase rapidly or prevent one from learning.

In practice it would mean that if you start at 10 you will have 35 years of premium learning time before even starting to see any signs of decline. If you start at 45 you will after 35 years be 80 and the effects of aging are quite probably showing long before that. The more I learn the more I realize that playing the piano to highest level is extremely complicated and extremely demanding. When you see a world class pianists play for over two hours and hear how everything is fined tuned and polished to utmost perfection I realize that even with lots of natural talent the 35+ years of premium time is definitely needed to achieve something like that.

So sure, we can learn to play but we won't play like someone who has kept working on it seriously since childhood.
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« Reply #27 on: July 07, 2017, 05:05:51 PM »

What is the use of posting, and saying "Let me know your thoughts." if you don't return to respond.

To see what other people think without engaging in lenghty debates maybe?
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« Reply #28 on: July 07, 2017, 07:25:38 PM »

To see what other people think without engaging in lenghty debates maybe?

No, it's a sales pitch, the OP isn't interested.

But it generated some conversation among the rest of us, and that's the point of a forum. 
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« Reply #29 on: July 07, 2017, 07:36:46 PM »

No, it's a sales pitch, the OP isn't interested.


Actually my answer was to the question asked, not specific to the OP...
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« Reply #30 on: July 08, 2017, 04:18:51 AM »

No, it's a sales pitch, the OP isn't interested.
That was my unspoken thought.
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« Reply #31 on: July 08, 2017, 04:45:09 AM »

That was my unspoken thought.
What is the use of asking questions if you already have an answer?
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« Reply #32 on: July 08, 2017, 11:08:41 PM »

What's a real late beginner? 40+? I was under the impression (from the various threads) that if you're not below the age of 10 then it's too late, because of neuroplasticity lol.
I was always under that impression too, for the record, and still kind of am. (Although I think it's 7, not 10) I wasn't trying to be hostile or negative towards anyone though.... this is honestly more about processing my own failures, and I probably shouldn't drag anyone else into it. My apologies.

I do wonder how well controlled the study showing cognitive capacity to decrease after 40 is—people who are over 40 tend to have a lot more going on in their lives (jobs, children, etc) and be more physically stressed than younger people, which would have the same effect in practice. They would have to compare 40-something year olds to retirees to see whether it is a genuine age-based limitation or just a time- and stress-based one. Many older people I know took up new interests once the pressures of career and family were behind them and thrived—e.g. one of my mum's university professors, who retired from teaching, taught herself to work with clay and began a second career as a potter, which she kept on doing right up until her death at 92.
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« Reply #33 on: July 09, 2017, 12:57:14 AM »

I hadn't done the math to that level.

What I considered success was the ability to play nonvirtuoso repertoire fluently. 

Large numbers of adults AND children fail to do that.  With children it is quite understandable.  Most of them are forced into lessons as an enrichment activity.

Adults are different, they choose to do this, and while they have less time and memory, they have more motivation and discipline.  Still, you don't run into many who succeed. 

How many people who pick up a guitar, with or without lessons, succeed in playing nonvirtuoso pieces at a level that lets them jam with friends, do sing alongs, etc?  probably 90% or better. 

I understood your point.  I was just kidding.  Wink  I agree with what you are saying here. 
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« Reply #34 on: July 09, 2017, 01:03:29 AM »

I feel very much the same as Bronnestram about music and my reasons for learning are rather similar. But I feel sligthly different about the limitations on what can be achieved: I do not think anything is possible when starting late. While the same goes for most children as well, the obstacles to tackle tend to be greater with someone starting as a mature adult. I am not talking about someone in their 20's or someone who has gained competence when young and kept playing occasionally, but a real late beginner. So NW746's post did not upset me at all and I did not read it as negative, only realistic. When one is over 40 there are more and more life circumstances and the natural loss of resources that cannot be ignored.  But being a realist does not reduce my motivation to try and invest what I can to the task of learning. I never was one to gain motivation from big dreams, but rather from the work itself and the smaller or bigger victories. Or maybe I am just too stubborn to not try the almost impossible. Which for me means to sound like a real pianist even when managing just easier repertoire and a small fraction of the repertoire they have.

Great thoughts here.  I am starting to learn chess at the age of 58.  Ranking chess players, (or pianists in your case) from 0 being the worst to 100 being the best, I put myself at some very low number X and my goal is to get to X + 10 at some point in time and have fun doing it.  If I make it to X+10, then set the new goal of X+ 20, etc.  That's all.  It's just that simple.  Smiley
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« Reply #35 on: July 09, 2017, 03:43:13 AM »

I was always under that impression too, for the record, and still kind of am. (Although I think it's 7, not 10) I wasn't trying to be hostile or negative towards anyone though.... this is honestly more about processing my own failures, and I probably shouldn't drag anyone else into it. My apologies.

I do wonder how well controlled the study showing cognitive capacity to decrease after 40 is—people who are over 40 tend to have a lot more going on in their lives (jobs, children, etc) and be more physically stressed than younger people, which would have the same effect in practice. They would have to compare 40-something year olds to retirees to see whether it is a genuine age-based limitation or just a time- and stress-based one. Many older people I know took up new interests once the pressures of career and family were behind them and thrived—e.g. one of my mum's university professors, who retired from teaching, taught herself to work with clay and began a second career as a potter, which she kept on doing right up until her death at 92.

You have to realize that a decrease in some type of cognitive capacity does not mean the same as decrease in intelligence. Playing a piano is very demanding both physically and mentally. Once learned well it can still be done up the a very old age. But the learning process might still slow down when learning completely new things. An experienced pianist will face less new challenges with repertoire and might notice the effect mostly when required to memorize. A good theory basis of course helps with that. A novice however has to put a lot more pressure on the brain when learning pieces.

Such studies are always statistical and don't suggest that everyone is the same. In the science world you often see people active to the old age, but in many disciplines the new discoveries are  mostly done by younger folks. The professors often lead the groups and get their name on everything though  Wink But age often does increase our general understanding even if some functions may not be as fast and sharp as she you are young. So nothing about this is straightforward and has to be seen in context.

I do not think everyone understands the difference in playing the piano on amateur level and actually working as a classical pianist. When I look at the demands of that, I just cannot see how those could be met starting 40 years later than they did. This does not mean that 15 or even 20 is too late to get anywhere Smiley

Btw. If I also thought that it's too late to learn at all in the mature age, those thoughts were changed by the folks on this very same forum. At some point I did think anything is possible, but gradually my eyes opened to the amount of things one has to learn to play like someone who has played almost daily for 50 years. So now I have moderated my expectations to a more realistic level. I also don't have the natural capacity of someone who managed to build a career in music. Those who have may get further even with a later start. It is also very true that kids usually don't have to worry about some other parts of life such as work. Compared to a 40 year old those who start after retirement do have some benefit in the time management part.

Anyway, everyone should just play the piano and invest as much as they can to learning, despite their age. Think how much better place the world would be if we spent more time making music and less time arguing Smiley
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« Reply #36 on: July 10, 2017, 11:12:05 PM »

I see nothing useful in ideas derived from studies suggesting a slowing down in the ability to learn according to age.  Such a thing does not help me to teach anyone, and it does not help me to learn.  By entertaining such ideas, it may have a psychological effect, lowering results because of lowered expectations.  That effect can be on a student who holds such beliefs, and can also affect how a student is taught by the student.  That is a study I do know about, which was in our educational psychology course decades ago.  You give a teacher 30 students, telling her that it's an experimental class mixing advanced and slow students, and identifying half as slow. The teacher sees the students accordingly, and the results at the end of the year follow suit, even though the whole thing was fake.  That's the essence of the old study.

Many years after having read this study, I had a conversation in a grocery store with a stranger (for some reason) and he told me his story.  He was a successful, retired civil engineer.  He was born to a poor fishing family in the Canadian Maritimes, and his parents scraped their pennies together to send him to an elite boarding school.  The teachers knew he was poor.  He was vaguely puzzled that they always used little words when talking to him, his grades were not great and also puzzling.  Then around grade 11 there was a provincial exam which was graded outside of the school, where his parents' financial background was unknown.  His exams all came out in the highest percentile, and he was perceived as brilliant.  Overnight the attitude of the school and teachers changed.  They talked to him as if he was intelligent.  His grades in school soared. His own confused sense of self changed, since the message had never matched his inner reality.

But I've digressed.  I do not see how a study in the soft sciences suggesting things about cognition, learning etc., can be of practical use.  Personally, I would not want to study with a teacher who holds such beliefs.  I want that teacher to see where ** I ** am, and teach accordingly, in an effective teaching manner.  In fact, I have been harmed by music teachers who addressed me according to who I was theoretically, responded to that theoretical manner.  Such a thing is frustrating beyond description.
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« Reply #37 on: July 11, 2017, 03:52:44 AM »

I see nothing useful in ideas derived from studies suggesting a slowing down in the ability to learn according to age.  Such a thing does not help me to teach anyone, and it does not help me to learn.  By entertaining such ideas, it may have a psychological effect, lowering results because of lowered expectations.  That effect can be on a student who holds such beliefs, and can also affect how a student is taught by the student.  That is a study I do know about, which was in our educational psychology course decades ago.  You give a teacher 30 students, telling her that it's an experimental class mixing advanced and slow students, and identifying half as slow. The teacher sees the students accordingly, and the results at the end of the year follow suit, even though the whole thing was fake.  That's the essence of the old study.

Many years after having read this study, I had a conversation in a grocery store with a stranger (for some reason) and he told me his story.  He was a successful, retired civil engineer.  He was born to a poor fishing family in the Canadian Maritimes, and his parents scraped their pennies together to send him to an elite boarding school.  The teachers knew he was poor.  He was vaguely puzzled that they always used little words when talking to him, his grades were not great and also puzzling.  Then around grade 11 there was a provincial exam which was graded outside of the school, where his parents' financial background was unknown.  His exams all came out in the highest percentile, and he was perceived as brilliant.  Overnight the attitude of the school and teachers changed.  They talked to him as if he was intelligent.  His grades in school soared. His own confused sense of self changed, since the message had never matched his inner reality.

But I've digressed.  I do not see how a study in the soft sciences suggesting things about cognition, learning etc., can be of practical use.  Personally, I would not want to study with a teacher who holds such beliefs.  I want that teacher to see where ** I ** am, and teach accordingly, in an effective teaching manner.  In fact, I have been harmed by music teachers who addressed me according to who I was theoretically, responded to that theoretical manner.  Such a thing is frustrating beyond description.

I personally would love to study with a teacher who understands science with it's uses and limitations rather than works on beliefs based on personal experience only. Theoretical knowledge and applying it to practice can help with developing new methods and understand situations that are in contradiction with what one is used to. I come from a culture where education is heavily based on science and research and is constantly being developed. Sometimes the experiments do not work as expected but only by proper research can that be assessed and corrections made in a useful way.

Rather than questioning the usefulness of research I would question the individual teachers' ability to understand their pupils if things go wrong in the way you've described.

May I also remind you that this is a discussion forum, not an actual teaching situation. Discussing the various affects of aging does not lead into an older person being taught worse than a young one. You need to be able to put all knowledge into context, but that does not mean that knowledge as itself is somehow dangerous....

May I also add that for me personally research has been imperative in understanding my learning problems and creating methods to tackle them. If I didn't understand why I have certain problems it would be difficult to adjust the methods to suit me better and create new unconventional ones. It dawned me gradually that teachers know very little about such things and could only offer the common solutions that work on most students. A researcher on the other hand greatly helped me in the process. Instead of the usual "you just need to practice this more until you see results" she encouraged me to use my lifelong experiences on what helps me and experiment until I found a way to get results in reasonable time. I also understand now that some walls you cannot break but need to find a way to go round.
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« Reply #38 on: July 12, 2017, 12:55:41 AM »

I personally would love to study with a teacher who understands science with it's uses and limitations rather than works on beliefs based on personal experience only. Theoretical knowledge and applying it to practice can help with developing new methods and understand situations that are in contradiction with what one is used to.
That essentially is how I understand professional teaching to be, and how my own teacher training went.  Science, its use, and limitations, theoretical knowledge etc., and also testing such things out.  I do not teach piano.  I aim fortunate to be studying with a teacher of the kind that you describe.

I would be interested in knowing how you see the theory about aging as you put it forth as helping students learn, or teachers teach.  For a forum such as this, that would seem paramount, since it is inhabited by students and teachers, both involved in the act of teaching and learning.
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« Reply #39 on: July 12, 2017, 04:33:55 AM »

That essentially is how I understand professional teaching to be, and how my own teacher training went.  Science, its use, and limitations, theoretical knowledge etc., and also testing such things out.  I do not teach piano.  I aim fortunate to be studying with a teacher of the kind that you describe.

I would be interested in knowing how you see the theory about aging as you put it forth as helping students learn, or teachers teach.  For a forum such as this, that would seem paramount, since it is inhabited by students and teachers, both involved in the act of teaching and learning.

I think it should be obvious that realistic expectations, practical goals and reasonable demands by both the teacher and student himself are more helpful than comparing one's learning rate and results to a child prodigy or a teenager going for a career in music. Also understanding why some things may be more difficult than one expects (memorizing for example) can be helpful in adjusting one's goals and learning methods. The achievements by older people can easily be slighted if we completely ignore the added challenges of aging. To say that everyone has the same possibilities regardless of age is as unfair as claiming that natural talent has no role: If you cannot play like a young concert pianist after studying the same amount of years it's just because you have not worked enough, smart enough or your teacher is not good enough.

It seems to me not everyone understands all the demands of high level piano playing (that it's not just about finger dexterity) and that does lead to unrealistic expectations. When those are not met many end up quitting. So both too high and too low expectations can be  harmful for one's learning.

And to put this discussion back to context: I was originally commenting on nw746's posts.  People have different ideas about what it means to play the piano well and he and I obviously are discussing really advanced playing. If one is satisfied with playing intermediate music sounding reasonably good then these things matter less.

Btw. I have had a couple of lessons by teachers who normally teach people going for a piano career. I have this problem of looking younger than I am and they did not even ask how long I have been playing when starting the lesson. I think they just assumed I've been playing since childhood. It was an interesting experience...and a bit overwhelming Wink
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« Reply #40 on: July 12, 2017, 06:10:13 AM »

I think it should be obvious that realistic expectations, practical goals and reasonable demands by both the teacher and student himself are more helpful than comparing one's learning rate and results to a child prodigy or a teenager going for a career in music.  
I was talking about the usefulness of a study that talks about diminishing abilities, i.e. how such a thing can be used.  I have only seen a potential harmful effect.  At no time would I have considered comparing my learning rate, or the learning rate of a student of mine, to someone else, or to some group.  Now if you're going for "child prodigy", then you would have to compare the "average child" and the "untalented child" with the "child prodigy".  What would be the use of that?

Your "teen going for a career" --- That would be a teen who has been studying music for ten years, I take it?  Perhaps an adult who has studied seriously and been taught properly would be at the same level.  An adult who has studied music two years will not be at the level of a teen who has studied music ten years, especially if the former has been taught improperly.  Why are we discussing such comparisons in the first place?
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Also understanding why some things may be more difficult than one expects (memorizing for example) can be helpful in adjusting one's goals and learning methods.  
Those difficulties should be MY ACTUAL difficulties, or my student's if I'm teaching ... not the hypothetical difficulties put upon me.  Goals and teaching methods are adjusted according to the student in front of you.  I have personally had seriously frustrating experiences because of being approached hypothetically rather than realistically, and some of that was due to somebody interpreting me according to scientific studies.
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The achievements by older people can easily be slighted if we completely ignore the added challenges of aging.
I'm in my sixties.  Aging has affected my eyes.  Those challenges must be addressed.  My hearing is very good.  I started practising yoga at about 14 and so while I don't have the yogic flexibility I had as a teen, I am still quite flexible.  Movement should be more efficient, since the body doesn't "bounce back" from injury as much.  I have not noticed any cognitive problems though I discovered I have a tendency to shut down and turn off when things are dummied down - which unfortunately is exactly what happens when the older student is addressed!  (I am VERY lucky with my present teacher).  I don't want to be taught by someone who will compensate for my supposed decline.
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The achievements by older people can easily be slighted if we completely ignore the added challenges of aging.
By "slighted", do you mean what other people think of your achievement?  Who would care about what others think?  We pursue our studies for our own reasons.
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To say that everyone has the same possibilities regardless of age is as unfair as claiming that natural talent has no role
Everybody has possibilities according to their own abilities.  A good teacher works with what is in front of him.  It develops and finds its direction as you work.  There is no "regardless of age", "regardless of gender", "regardless of race", "regardless of economics" ... it's who you are and what you can do.
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If you cannot play like a young concert pianist after studying the same amount of years it's just because you have not worked enough, smart enough or your teacher is not good enough.
If a student the same age as the young concert pianist can't, after studying the same amount of years ---- same thing.  Age has nothing to do with this question.
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When those are not met many end up quitting. So both too high and too low expectations can be  harmful for one's learning.
Perhaps we differ about "expectations".  I expect to learn what I can learn, and reach my potential in the years that I have left.  I understand that some people try to "be like" somebody (famous) and then the buggaboo of expectation comes in, perhaps in the manner you are using it.

Who knows, we may be on the same page, and it's all a communication thing.
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« Reply #41 on: July 12, 2017, 06:22:33 AM »

Trying to get back to a practical realm:
The biggest obstacle that I have found in adult lessons has been in the manner that adults were commonly taught, in those cases where the adult was serious.  That includes my own beginnings, lesson-wise, when I was not studying piano.  I will be writing "scientifically" this time.

Learning begins at a concrete stage, and concepts grow out of experience first, ideally.  By mid-adolescence especially, one tends to shift toward abstract thinking.  When you conceptualize, you remove yourself from direct experience, which is not a good thing for learning music.  The same is true when you categorize things, and tend to put things into categories of what you already know.  Our linguistics professor used to refer to the "phonological sieve" to explain accents: the same is true in music.  You intellectually understand and categorize what the teacher demonstrates and says, instead of experiencing and discovering in a raw way, as a young child does.  These are habits, and habits can be changed if one is aware of them.
Very often teachers of adults will zone in on the intellectual side, and side step the concrete experiential part they give young students.  They may also go at "interesting music" faster, move ahead faster, without giving time for very basic skills to form.  A house without foundations won't function well as it grows taller - or maybe my metaphor should have included something with moving parts. Wink  There are also theories about teaching adults that go in the direction of "shortcuts", "don't make them study much / do theory / technique" which means less tools.
Statistics are gathered about the kinds of results that adults have, without going into how those adults studied and how they were taught.

What I find more useful is looking at effective ways of learning and teaching, including circumventing present common pitfalls.
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« Reply #42 on: July 12, 2017, 06:32:19 AM »

I was talking about the usefulness of a study that talks about diminishing abilities, i.e. how such a thing can be used.  I have only seen a potential harmful effect.  At no time would I have considered comparing my learning rate, or the learning rate of a student of mine, to someone else, or to some group.  Now if you're going for "child prodigy", then you would have to compare the "average child" and the "untalented child" with the "child prodigy".  What would be the use of that?
But many adult student DO compare and it's a natural thing to do even of not in any way helpful... And they seldom have other mature starters to compare with. And teachers do compare as well and many let they expectations affect their teaching. This is not about you but people in gereral with their less than perfect thought processes.

Your "teen going for a career" --- That would be a teen who has been studying music for ten years, I take it?  Perhaps an adult who has studied seriously and been taught properly would be at the same level.  
But in practice they just aren't. Does it not interest you to consider different explanations why? Which are clearly numerous and age is just one thing among them.  And I think I made it quite clear that I am talking about mature adults starters over 45, not any adults.

Those difficulties should be MY ACTUAL difficulties, or my student's if I'm teaching ... not the hypothetical difficulties put upon me.  

Now who suggested anything like that? Aren't you underestimating other posters here?

How well would you able to assess or work on a difficulty without ANY theoretical knowledge about it's possible reasons? We all use a frame of reference when interpreting our observations and imo some of it should be based on more than just personal experiences. But I guess people do think differently about this, some greatly value personal experience and feelings above applying theoretical knowledge.

By "slighted", do you mean what other people think of your achievement?  Who would care about what others think?  

Everybody cares about what other people think even if they claim otherwise. At least those who are not total sociopaths...

 Age has nothing to do with this question.

Well just have to disagree on that...
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My summer projects: Scarlatti K87, K466, K109, Scriabin op74 preludes, Chopin Waltz 69-2 and Berceuse. And just exploring more music...
outin
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« Reply #43 on: July 12, 2017, 06:52:48 AM »

There are also theories about teaching adults that go in the direction of "shortcuts", "don't make them study much / do theory / technique" which means less tools.

I have not seen any such theories.

But I actually think there's merit in teaching mature adults differently (not worse) than kids. And this is based on the assumption that not everything is necessary to be taught in the same order to everyone and some things can learned early while others can be looked into later. Also to spend too long with "foundations" that may not be necessary for the individual learners goals can be wasting valuable years for someone in the later part of their life. But that's just my opinion and based on my own experience and observing other mature starters rather than theory.

Of course my goal was always to be able to play the kind of music that *I* like in a way that *I* could find acceptable. It was never my goal to be able to play *any* music rather well. To reach my goal in the good years I hopefully have left I feel I need to work differently than someone whose goal is to gain as much general piano skills as possible. If I started serious study at 25 I would have many more years to spend (although I might not have much more patience for the average slow teaching method).
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My summer projects: Scarlatti K87, K466, K109, Scriabin op74 preludes, Chopin Waltz 69-2 and Berceuse. And just exploring more music...
outin
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« Reply #44 on: July 12, 2017, 06:56:48 AM »

Statistics are gathered about the kinds of results that adults have, without going into how those adults studied and how they were taught.

Seriously?? Research in adult learning exists that is much higher quality than that, although there's probably very little about piano playing specifically.
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My summer projects: Scarlatti K87, K466, K109, Scriabin op74 preludes, Chopin Waltz 69-2 and Berceuse. And just exploring more music...
keypeg
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« Reply #45 on: July 12, 2017, 09:08:15 AM »

I have not seen any such theories.  
The are out there aplenty.
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And this is based on the assumption that not everything is necessary to be taught in the same order to everyone and some things can learned early while others can be looked into later. Also to spend too long with "foundations" that may not be necessary for the individual learners goals can be wasting valuable years for someone in the later part of their life.
What you suggest is precisely what wrecked my first studies.  The lack of foundations and being taught differently than children is precisely what ultimately slowed down everything.  I am now in the unenviable position, with that instrument, of relearning very basic things, which means undoing the habits that formed, and that takes ten times as long.  In every difficult that I have had, in every roadblock, the answer has always been in foundations.
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Of course my goal was always to be able to play the kind of music that *I* like in a way that *I* could find acceptable. It was never my goal to be able to play *any* music rather well.
To me both are synonymous.  The skills I need to play the music I like, are also the skills I need to play any music.
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If I started serious study at 25 I would have many more years to spend (although I might not have much more patience for the average slow teaching method).
Here is an invisible thing we have not discussed: how you may perceive the teaching of fundamental things.  If you mean teaching "methods", whether modern or older traditional books, my studies are much more individualized than that.
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keypeg
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« Reply #46 on: July 12, 2017, 09:18:24 AM »

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Everybody cares about what other people think even if they claim otherwise.
When it comes to my music studies, the opinion I care about is that of my teacher, perhaps some other professionals in the know, and my own.  This involves practical, concrete things.  When I met my teacher, he listened to a recording which some other people had heard as "beautiful" and "moving".  He heard that some notes did not sound.  This pointed to two things: 1. a technique weakness 2. my inability to listen and hear such things.  We worked on both things, and both improved.  That is the kind of thing that I care about.  This is also the proper way of working on any skill.

No study that says adults after a certain age tend to have weaknesses in particular areas is going to help me with improving my playing.  If my sense of pulse is weak (it was) then I must work at getting that sense of pulse.  If my ear is very diatonic, then I expand that, and we find ways of doing it.  How does knowing that some people have trouble memorizing as they get older, help me, unless I have trouble memorizing?  How do such generalities help anyone in the practical act of learning?  I just see no practical use for such things for anyone, in terms of learning.
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nw746
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« Reply #47 on: July 12, 2017, 10:57:37 AM »

I think it should be obvious that realistic expectations, practical goals and reasonable demands by both the teacher and student himself are more helpful than comparing one's learning rate and results to a child prodigy or a teenager going for a career in music.
That is totally fair. Comparing a 45 year old who has three years of piano lessons to a 45 year old with 30 years of piano lessons doesn't really make sense—even comparing two 45 year olds with 30 years of piano lessons, but one of them practiced six hours a day and the other one practiced 20 minutes a day, isn't fair either.

Also it seems like the British pianist James Rhodes never advanced much beyond Grade 3 as a child and then didn't touch piano again until starting intensive lessons at 28 and beginning a professional career five years later, so I mean evidently one can still play at an advanced level without a significant childhood musical background and with long breaks.

As for why I'm going on about playing at an advanced level: what interests me in being able to play the piano is a love of music, specifically in this case the classical piano/harpsichord/clavichord repertoire from Frescobaldi to Ferneyhough. Almost all of that music—particularly a lot of the pieces I like the best e.g. Beethoven's Hammerklavier or Diabelli Variations or Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze or Bartók's Out of Doors or Stockhausen's Klavierstücke or Carter's Night Fantasies or Ligeti's Etudes etc, etc—is at an advanced level. Even relatively "easier" pieces like the earlier Beethoven sonatas or Chopin mazurkas or the Bach French Suites or whatever still require fairly significant amounts of skill to play well. I don't believe music is ever well served by a bad performance, and in many cases no performance at all would be better. So if I can't learn to play at the level required to be a good advocate for the music, it seems like it would be better for me not to do so at all and instead advocate for it by giving lectures or promoting performers/composers or producing recordings or whatever.

Btw. I have had a couple of lessons by teachers who normally teach people going for a piano career. I have this problem of looking younger than I am and they did not even ask how long I have been playing when starting the lesson. I think they just assumed I've been playing since childhood. It was an interesting experience...and a bit overwhelming Wink
I've had that problem every time I've started piano lessons, lol. Even when I was a child, because I could sit down and sightread something, the assumption was that I already had the fundamentals and there was no point covering them. This made lessons... awkward. ("how do I play this part?" "oh, just use the standard Bb major scale fingering" "...uh.... okay")
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keypeg
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« Reply #48 on: July 12, 2017, 01:33:21 PM »

Ok - this is addressed mostly to Outin, but not completely - by any chance, is this about comparing rather than about learning / teaching?  Is it about the fact that some people, when they start music, want to sound like great concert pianists they have heard, or make their playing sound like their beloved recordings .... and addressing that part of it?  Is that what is being addressed?  In that case I can understand the point of those studies a bit more.

If that's the case, I'm coming from a much different place.  I just want to learn how to play the blasted instrument, which means learning what anyone needs to learn to play it, and also means my teacher is observing my personal strengths and weaknesses as we go about it (same as for any student).  Then I will reach whatever I'm capable of reaching, just like anyone else, given my own potential, the quality of the teaching, and the quality of my work.  I don't want, for example, that if my teacher usually works with memory as part of his teaching, that he avoids doing so with me because he read a study that people my age have poor memory (if I am not so afflicted).  Thus depriving me of a tool that might have served me.

I cannot relate to "wanting to sound like xxx" which is why it never occurred to me.  If that is the focus, then some of this makes more sense.
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keypeg
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« Reply #49 on: July 12, 2017, 01:51:44 PM »

I've had that problem every time I've started piano lessons, lol. Even when I was a child, because I could sit down and sightread something, the assumption was that I already had the fundamentals and there was no point covering them. This made lessons... awkward. ("how do I play this part?" "oh, just use the standard Bb major scale fingering" "...uh.... okay")
This is actually a thing I see commonly among adults I talk to, and a version of this happened to me.  The instrument I started lessons on is one I had never played before.  I was, in fact, close to the age Outin mentions - I was 48.  I had self-taught various instruments since I was little, had developed a sense of "common practice" musical form, and I had a habit of forcing the musical sound out of the instrument somehow.  I covered the first grade levels in lessons in a very short time.  My ability to play fell apart after a bit over a year, and after I recovered, I still hit a glass ceiling.  Quite a bit later I discovered that foundations were lacking.
My experience at that point was this: I'd go after a foundation.  I might go after a very basic motion, including doing the kind of experimentation a child might do freely.  I would then go back to the piece I'd been assigned, that I'd struggled with for a long time, and not practised since, and to my teacher's astonishment, played it at an entirely different calibre.  My concepts of learning began to morph to something definite at that time.  Some years later, when I got a piano again, I started chatting with a teacher whose views went in that direction: foundations for everyone, any age.

One thing that may be confusing the issue is what it means to get foundations.  I realized last night that for some it may seem to mean going lockstep through the material of a method book or the older methodology of Czerny, Hanon, various standard pieces and exercises.  What I encountered was something much more free in terms of the actual material.  It was already different for regular (young or novices to music) students.  In my case it was even more free pieces-wise, but not in terms of getting at basic skills and making them the focus.

A lot of times when people fail in their lessons it's not because of psychology or age-related waning abilities, but because of a) inappropriate teaching approaches (such as skipping foundations) b) inappropriate practice approaches, or c) a combination of a) and b).

I was very heartened when Jaak Sikk announced his project maybe a decade ago, because he seemed to be addressing things that I had strongly felt were especially needed by adult students in particular.  This seemed a step in the right direction.  I have sought out the teaching of basic things, despite the rather higher level of material that I played even as a self-taught ten year old.
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