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Myra Hess – Piano to Combat Evil

During the war years and the blitz, Dame Myra Hess organized over one thousand concerts at the National Gallery. The Gallery had removed all the paintings, keeping just one on display each month, and thousands of people (many not regular concertgoers) came to listen, be inspired, and possibly garner a little hope from these wartime concerts. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Can You ACTUALLY Learn Piano as an Adult??  (Read 3274 times)
outin
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« Reply #50 on: July 12, 2017, 02:09:05 PM »

The are out there aplenty.

Sorry, I thought you meant actual SCIENTIFIC theories based on research or being researched. I am sure people have plenty of faulty ideas, but that is a different matter.
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outin
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« Reply #51 on: July 12, 2017, 02:11:54 PM »

What you suggest is precisely what wrecked my first studies.  

Sorry about that but my experience is different. I seem to thrive on that way of teaching.

I think we have exhausted this discussion on some parts and sorry if I won't address everything you wrote. Too much to do and too little time.
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outin
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« Reply #52 on: July 12, 2017, 02:26:05 PM »

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.

I can very much relate to that Smiley Except not sounding exactly like xx but as good as xx but still me. So indeed we are not coming from the same place. I can see the other way too and most of my adult friends seem to think more like you. But I guess I am just naturally ambitious in that way (whatever I do I want to do perfectly) , although I am not competitive as in wanting to be better than others.

And this is probably more about learning than teaching, because I honestly believe there's only so much a teacher can do. At some point being an individual learner becomes more important. Your focus seems to be much on what the teacher does or thinks (obviously because you want to teach yourself) while mine is more on what the student does. I would never blindly follow a teacher, although I respect the expertise of them, so I worry less about the things you do.
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keypeg
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« Reply #53 on: July 12, 2017, 02:58:59 PM »

Outin, I am almost 100% sure that we have fallen into a common trap.    When two people talk about a topic, each person already has a picture in his head of the thing the other talks about (names), and that picture involves his own experiences and ideas.  The name of a thing may have a very different meaning. A name is like a package, a box, and what is inside two identical looking boxes can be absolutely different.  When you respond to me, you are responding to the contents of the box you know, rather than what is inside my box.  Thus we talk about very different things, but it's not apparent - that makes it a miscommunication.
Here, for example, there may (?) be room for meeting in a more common place, because I don't think you actually see my attitude or view yet.
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because I honestly believe there's only so much a teacher can do. At some point being an individual learner becomes more important. Your focus seems to be much on what the teacher does or thinks (obviously because you want to teach yourself) while mine is more on what the student does. I would never blindly follow a teacher, although I respect the expertise of them, so I worry less about the things you do.
The missing element may be both of our backgrounds.  I don't know whether you are coming from a place where you were taught a lot of things by teachers, and are now moving toward independent learning - while I have a long history of being an autodictat, by necessity.  In music, this was 100% until I approached 50.
There are many, many things that I can do and find myself. There are things I can't. That's where I need a decent teacher.  When I'm at the beginning of my journey, I simply won't know what is missing and what I need to ask for.  I want to be given the tools that the teacher knows about, and don't want him to hold back on those tools because a study says that as part of a group I don't have the ability or interest.  Make no bones about it: I am ambitious and have high standards too.  A lot of professionals have told me of periods of being mistaught or undertaught, and they had to waste precious years fixing it.  That might delay their career.  When you approach your 70's or 80s, you might simply be dead.  I don't want to waste my time on nonsense.
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and most of my adult friends seem to think more like you.
I have a feeling that if I talked to your adult friends, there would be some significant differences in how we think. Wink
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Your focus seems to be much on what the teacher does or thinks (obviously because you want to teach yourself) while mine is more on what the student does.
My focus is absolutely on what the student does.  But what the student does is intertwined with what the teacher has taught.  Once you have some degree of knowledge, you can begin judging and assessing what you're given.  But in the beginning when you follow principles that seem to make sense you may be digging yourself in a hole because you don't have the big picture yet for perspective.  In this intertwining it is important that the teacher addresses me, and not a hypothetical me.  This part goes straight to experience, and it has created a mess at times.

Your goals actually seem quite similar to my own.
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keypeg
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« Reply #54 on: July 12, 2017, 03:00:11 PM »

Sorry, I thought you meant actual SCIENTIFIC theories based on research or being researched. I am sure people have plenty of faulty ideas, but that is a different matter.
That is what I did mean.
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keypeg
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« Reply #55 on: July 12, 2017, 03:01:28 PM »

I agree that this has gone far afield, takes up a lot of time - it's becoming a dialogue between two, which is never that good in a forum discussion.  Thank you, Outou, for sharing some interesting views.
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outin
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« Reply #56 on: July 12, 2017, 03:22:05 PM »

Here, for example, there may (?) be room for meeting in a more common place, because I don't think you actually see my attitude or view yet.The missing element may be both of our backgrounds.  I don't know whether you are coming from a place where you were taught a lot of things by teachers, and are now moving toward independent learning - while I have a long history of being an autodictat, by necessity.  
I have never really liked being taught nor learnt much that way, because I cannot help zoning out when people are over-explaining things to me (does not happen with my present piano teacher fortunately). I rather study things myself, but I don't mind exploiting a teacher's knowledge sometimes when it is the easier way to get results. But I do LEARN much better on my own. So being an autodidact is natural for me rather than a necessity. I go to my teacher more for feedback than actual teaching to be honest...
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keypeg
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« Reply #57 on: July 12, 2017, 04:28:57 PM »

This is what I mean about two boxes that look the same on the outside (the box being a name or named concept) while the content is very different.  You write about "that way" (the content you imagine is in the box), but what you write following it shows a much different way than I have been envisioning.  There is a possibility of the meeting of the minds if we can get past that --- if you can see that my box has different contents than the box you are envisioning.
I have never really liked being taught nor learnt much that way, because I cannot help zoning out when people are over-explaining things to me (does not happen with my present piano teacher fortunately).
If there are explanations, they are very short.  Often it is not by way of explanation, but by way of instruction to do a particular thing, and learning from that.  Actually I find that people who over-explain often don't have a good handle on their subject. Wink

Here is a fun thing that was done almost on a whim one day.  I was to play "C7" and "shrink it inward", which gives you F, or F7, or Fm, or Fm7.  Then I was to play "C7" and "expand it outward", which gives you B or B7 or Bm7 or Fm.  This could not have taken even 3 minutes.  It gives instant access to what is usually explained in pages and pages of complicated theory about "augmented 6 chords", the "German/Italian/French" 6th.  It's an instant, uncomplicated gesture that cuts to a chase - and it also illustrates what I wrote about a teacher being aware of the student in front of him, and addressing that person's mindset, rather than a hypothetical mindset. I do not have a slow mind, nor has it "addled with age".
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outin
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« Reply #58 on: July 12, 2017, 05:43:24 PM »

This is what I mean about two boxes that look the same on the outside (the box being a name or named concept) while the content is very different.  You write about "that way" (the content you imagine is in the box), but what you write following it shows a much different way than I have been envisioning.  There is a possibility of the meeting of the minds if we can get past that --- if you can see that my box has different contents than the box you are envisioning.If there are explanations, they are very short.  Often it is not by way of explanation, but by way of instruction to do a particular thing, and learning from that.  Actually I find that people who over-explain often don't have a good handle on their subject. Wink

Here is a fun thing that was done almost on a whim one day.  I was to play "C7" and "shrink it inward", which gives you F, or F7, or Fm, or Fm7.  Then I was to play "C7" and "expand it outward", which gives you B or B7 or Bm7 or Fm.  This could not have taken even 5 minutes.  It gives instant access to what is usually explained in pages and pages of complicated theory about "augmented 6 chords", the "German/Italian/French" 6th.  It's an instant, uncomplicated gesture that cuts to a chase - and it also illustrates what I wrote about a teacher being aware of the student in front of him, and addressing that person's mindset, rather than a hypothetical mindset. I do not have a slow mind, nor has it "addled with age".

I already tried to point out in my earlier post the difference between intelligence and specific cognitive abilities. One can be very intelligent and productive into old age even with the eventual degeneration of some cognitive processes. Unfortunately you cannot play the piano purely on understanding and intelligence, you use many more or less automated cognitive tools including different types of memory, visual skills and reaction ability etc. The more complex the music, the higher the demands. To develope them and on them will eventually be to some level affected by aging and surely that has an impact on learning, especially when there's no background from younger days to rely on. This is how I see it. But things like this are difficult to prove because we cannot arrange comprehensive enough controlled exams in a lab with people, so ultimately you just have to either believe what the evidence you see in literature and practice suggest or not. If I looked for it I could also find individual cases suggesting otherwise. But to me it all makes sense until I run into evidence that profoundly tells me it does not happen.

Not sure you understood what I meant by over explaining...and no wonder because it is my very personal issue. Metaphors, analogies and "real life" examples are part of it. I actually like to read old fashioned theory books rather than have someone try to explain things to me in layman words. So I don't respond well to elaborate examples like your explanation on boxes. I feel much less was needed to bring your point through Smiley
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dogperson
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« Reply #59 on: July 12, 2017, 06:38:45 PM »

I'll let you know when my cognitive abilities affect learning the piano😊  For now, in my 60s, I have greatly increased my skills and dexterity in the last two years and still Memorize well.  What is happening with me is the only thing I care about, not some study that tells me what I should be doing

I won't interrupt the personal Internet debate further. 
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outin
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« Reply #60 on: July 12, 2017, 06:48:03 PM »

I'll let you know when my cognitive abilities affect learning the piano😊  

But how would you even know because there's no way you could compare your present self with your 40 year old self in exactly the same situation? Smiley

Nodoby is telling anyone what to do. It's a general discussion. Why some people insist on making it about themselves is a little beyond me. But I do not really care for personal debates on the internet so you are free to interrupt....

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dogperson
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« Reply #61 on: July 12, 2017, 07:53:55 PM »

But how would you even know because there's no way you could compare your present self with your 40 year old self in exactly the same situation? Smiley

Nodoby is telling anyone what to do. It's a general discussion. Why some people insist on making it about themselves is a little beyond me. But I do not really care for personal debates on the internet so you are free to interrupt....




You are so right! There is no way to compare a 60-year-old to a 40-year-old brain in the exact same situation, because that comparison can never exist. And gosh, as  a 60-year-old with diminished capacity, I wouldn't be able to think of a similar situation from my 40s and compare nor certainly have  the cognitive ability to look at piano now as a standalone issue.   I'll go back to my nap now
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outin
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« Reply #62 on: July 12, 2017, 08:20:46 PM »



You are so right! There is no way to compare a 60-year-old to a 40-year-old brain in the exact same situation, because that comparison can never exist. And gosh, as  a 60-year-old with diminished capacity, I wouldn't be able to think of a similar situation from my 40s and compare nor certainly have  the cognitive ability to look at piano now as a standalone issue.   I'll go back to my nap now

Of course there are good animal studies on the subject...we just need to teach them piano and then we'll have some proper results Smiley

BTW. My need of proper sleep has greatly increased between 40 and 50. Since lack of ability to sleep enough is a common problem for the elderly, do savor those naps! Wink
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keypeg
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« Reply #63 on: July 12, 2017, 11:54:58 PM »

Why some people insist on making it about themselves is a little beyond me.
I have never understood why some people would do so either.  Fortunately that rarely occurs and it has not happened here.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #64 on: July 13, 2017, 01:10:43 AM »



You are so right! There is no way to compare a 60-year-old to a 40-year-old brain in the exact same situation, because that comparison can never exist.

1% of 60 year olds have dementia.

40% of 85 year olds.  (excepting left handers for obvious reasons)
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Tim
keypeg
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« Reply #65 on: July 13, 2017, 05:25:46 AM »

How does this type of "information" help anyone learn to play the piano, or be better at teaching piano?
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outin
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« Reply #66 on: July 13, 2017, 06:08:19 AM »

How does this type of "information" help anyone learn to play the piano, or be better at teaching piano?
Now why should it? I never thought it was the purpose of this thread anyway... but instead open a discussion over a matter of interest.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #67 on: July 13, 2017, 12:06:50 PM »

How does this type of "information" help anyone learn to play the piano, or be better at teaching piano?

It is evidence for a progressive decline in memory function and cognition with age, which some here deny happens.  For those of us whose memorization ability has declined, such as myself, other strategies are necessary. 

Also timing functions are known to decline, and older players probably need to do much more metronome work.  Metronome work is another idea sneered at by many, but can be highly useful.
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Tim
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« Reply #68 on: July 25, 2017, 12:48:14 AM »

Yes, it is true pretty much all concert pianists started from an early age. But like I said before, I really think that's because they have more TOTAL practice time.

If you start at 5, by the age you're 40 and touring the world as a concert pianist, you'll have 35 years of experience. If you start at 40, it'll take you to 75 till you have the same experience, and it's more difficult because you don't have peers around all pushing you like you do if you go to school for it.

But I think if a 40 year old WAS that self motivated, they absolutely could become a concert pianist. It's just rare that most 40 year olds practice for 35 years straight.

But beside that point, most 40 year olds that start learning piano don't have the goal of becoming a concert pianist. And I truly believe ANYONE (minus possibly if they have a severe mental illness) can become good to the point where people would say "yea, he's really good at piano".

I know that's a very subjective measure, but you can't really objectively measure "how good" someone is at piano.

Also, I think whatever cognitive decline there is, it can be made up for by being more efficient and other life skills and experiences that can apply to learning piano.

Just my thoughts Smiley
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« Reply #69 on: July 26, 2017, 01:47:57 AM »

Here's an experiment I am trying over the next 6-12 months. I started the piano 18 years ago at the age of 40. I've worked very hard; for the last 5 years I've had a very good teacher who has greatly helped my technique, removing lots of tension, improving my sound, loosening up wrists and arms and fingers. I've done fairly good performances in concerts with her students of Haydn Sonatas in B minor and D major, the first movement of the Pastoral Sonata of Beethoven, the first movement of Beethoven Sonata 12 in Ab, the D major Prelude and Fugue from WTC I, Brahms arrangement of the Bach Chaconne for left hand. But.... there are always mistakes, usually not enough to stop the flow, but enough to be pretty noticeable. And, there's too much stage fright - I used to perform classical guitar (which I learned very young) and never was bothered by stage fright.

I think what happened is that learning as an adult, with a decent background in music, I didn't play enough very easy pieces. Didn't give my brain enough of the experience of playing something over and over again that was so easy that I could totally not worry about notes or technique, just enjoy playing the music. So my experiment is that for the next 6-12 months I'm going back to very, very easy pieces, things like the Anna Magdalena Notebook, easy movements from the early Haydn sonatas, Clementi sonatinas, ultra, ultra easy stuff, and just play them until they are second nature. That way, I hope, my brain will get used to the experience of care-free playing and just getting into the music. Even after just a couple of weeks I do notice that I can "let go" more easily than before. Hopefully if I work like this for a good while I can return to the more difficult pieces I was playing with more ease and freedom.

I've met lots of adults who started as adults and were able to be intermittently musical in their playing, who had generally good technique, and who play fairly difficult pieces, but I've never met any with the ease and comfort at the keyboard of a 15 year old who's been playing for 10 years. And my hypothesis is that adults who are motivated enough to stick with it and musically interested are skipping over the simple repetition of simple pieces that produces that instinctive comfort at the keyboard, because they want to get on to "real music." I may be wrong, but it will only cost me a year or less to find out.

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keypeg
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« Reply #70 on: July 26, 2017, 05:00:50 AM »

It is evidence for a progressive decline in memory function and cognition with age, which some here deny happens. 
I know people in their sixties who have hearing loss.  I don't.  I know people in their sixties who have sharp eyesight.  My eyesight has declined.  I know people in their sixties whose memory is not what it was, and I know others in their eighties whose memories and minds are sharp as a whip.  When you talk of denying that "it happens" then it sounds like it is a thing that happens to everyone, and that is simply not true.
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For those of us whose memorization ability has declined, such as myself, other strategies are necessary.  
Yes, that is absolutely true.  If your ability in some area has declined, then you need other strategies.  But the fact that somebody has created a blanket statement does not mean it is so for everyone, and it also does not help you find these other strategies.
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Also timing functions are known to decline, and older players probably need to do much more metronome work.  Metronome work is another idea sneered at by many, but can be highly useful.
Working on timing through some strategy is a good idea.  Some teachers have other strategies and also do not like metronome work.  In the way I am taught, I have been given exercises and things to do, and the metronome is not part of it.  This also makes sense to me, because when I was on my own and using the metronome it was observed that I was ignoring it anyway.
I have no "decline" in timing functions.  I simply sucked at it, at any age, because it was not developed, not taught, I was not ever in a band, etc.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #71 on: July 26, 2017, 12:56:37 PM »

I've met lots of adults who started as adults and were able to be intermittently musical in their playing, who had generally good technique, and who play fairly difficult pieces, but I've never met any with the ease and comfort at the keyboard of a 15 year old who's been playing for 10 years. And my hypothesis is that adults who are motivated enough to stick with it and musically interested are skipping over the simple repetition of simple pieces that produces that instinctive comfort at the keyboard, because they want to get on to "real music." I may be wrong, but it will only cost me a year or less to find out.

I think that is an excellent idea.

What you are practicing is what so many adults lack, fluency. 

There may be many reasons they don't develop it, but one is probably they don't practice it.

I started playing in church my first year of lessons, with a nice but indifferently skilled teacher.  I spent most of my practice time working on fluency on simplified melodies and very basic chords.  I have a good friend who's been taking lessons for years and can't play anything fluently.  I think a little change in focus might help.
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« Reply #72 on: July 26, 2017, 12:58:25 PM »

I know people in their sixties who have hearing loss.  I don't.  I know people in their sixties who have sharp eyesight.  My eyesight has declined.  I know people in their sixties whose memory is not what it was, and I know others in their eighties whose memories and minds are sharp as a whip.  When you talk of denying that "it happens" then it sounds like it is a thing that happens to everyone, and that is simply not true.

Of course you're right, there are exceptions.

But they are outliers.  Most of us will lose capabilities as we age.  There may be ways to resist but some of it is inevitable.

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« Reply #73 on: July 26, 2017, 04:49:28 PM »

Of course you're right, there are exceptions.

But they are outliers.  Most of us will lose capabilities as we age.  There may be ways to resist but some of it is inevitable.
I am not saying that there are exceptions.  I am saying that people are different, and this type of generalization cannot be made. 
A practical application would be to ask "How can I make memorizing more efficient / what inefficiencies have always existed and I was not aware of it?" or "How can I address the actual, real problem that I presently have?"  I am not about to research hearing aids because some people in my age group having hearing problems.

My concern is with what gets done with this kind of generalization.  Will the next teacher dumb things down for me because he has read that my age group associates with growing stupidity, when what I need is anything but, due to who I am?  Will a student manifest what he has read about "himself", not dare to learn what he could learn, because he is already deemed incapable?  These kinds of generalizations have real consequences.  At the same time they have no use, because you have to deal with who the actual person is - or who you are - not some generic "them" that doesn't exist.
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« Reply #74 on: September 02, 2017, 06:47:07 PM »

Yes, an adult can learn piano, ballet, yoga, French, physics, fashion design.  What stands in our way is that we think everyone is judging and we are our own harshest judges.

I live in a major metro American city with several adult music programs.  I take lessons at the largest, and every quarter the adult students get together and play for one another.  The ones who improve the most are the ones who focus on practice and incremental improvement. The ones I see drop out are frequently the most advanced because they are most concerned with how many pieces they master each year, what the level of those pieces are, and are there performances as good as a concert professionals.

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« Reply #75 on: September 04, 2017, 11:14:03 PM »

Yes, an adult can learn piano, ballet, yoga, French, physics, fashion design.  What stands in our way is that we think everyone is judging and we are our own harshest judges.

I live in a major metro American city with several adult music programs.  I take lessons at the largest, and every quarter the adult students get together and play for one another.  The ones who improve the most are the ones who focus on practice and incremental improvement. The ones I see drop out are frequently the most advanced because they are most concerned with how many pieces they master each year, what the level of those pieces are, and are there performances as good as a concert professionals.



Thank you for a very accurate picture of the difference between the two types of adult students, in terms of the way they matriculate.  I, personally have never seen it broken down that way, Dear Bernadette.  Congratulations!


What you are saying is that:  adults who have never been (and accordingly indoctrinated) at a "Conservatory Method" music school, take their music instruction just as they would any other arts project.  That is: they start when they start, and then they finish?, when they come to a particular stopping place.  There focus is on the "Art."

The rest of the students have had their brains "wired" to a "Semester System" of learning a particular piece within a 16 week period of time.

Thank you so very much for your insight.

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« Reply #76 on: September 05, 2017, 03:41:28 AM »

I see this thread has been running for some time, but feel compelled to add my thoughts as a 60 yo who started learning piano in January this year. I have read everyone's comments with interest! For me, it was simple. It didn't occur to me to even ask the question......why would I or any adult with the desire and motivation not be able to learn piano?   Do I want to be a concert pianist....no!   But I am interested to see where this musical journey takes me.....my expectations for now are to enjoy the process of learning a new skill as an adult  and enjoy making music with the piano.  The cognitive aspects interwoven with the technical skills ...assisted by a fantastic teacher I found by chance.
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« Reply #77 on: September 05, 2017, 04:37:51 AM »

What you are saying is that:  adults who have never been (and accordingly indoctrinated) at a "Conservatory Method" music school, take their music instruction just as they would any other arts project.  That is: they start when they start, and then they finish?, when they come to a particular stopping place.  There focus is on the "Art."

The rest of the students have had their brains "wired" to a "Semester System" of learning a particular piece within a 16 week period of time.
I just reread Bernadette's comment carefully.  She did not talk about music schools, "conservatory methods" or "semester systems" though I suppose in some cases these might be involved. I do recognize what Bernadette is talking about.  I first found a name for what I was looking for when I stumbled across the site of a senior teacher calling herself "Marbeth" who postulated "project-oriented" and "process-oriented" teaching and learning.  "Process-oriented" seeks to develop skills in the student, while "project-oriented" seeks to accomplish things such as learning to play piece X brilliantly, passing an exam, or doing well in a recital or competition.  There is some cross-over, since you can't learn skills without working on pieces, and you can't improve on pieces without learning skills.  But the orientation is fundamentally different.  I discovered that what I sought as a student was "process".  Unsurprisingly, because as a trained teacher originally at the primary "formative" stage, that's what I aimed for myself.

Many people caught up in this have nothing to do with conservatories or semesters.  To begin with, many non-musicians are used to grades, grade levels, report cards and expect similar in lessons.  Unless taught differently they may also believe that the purpose of lessons and practice is to produce lovely pieces.  Parents may also compete against each other on this basis.  Sometimes teachers are trapped in this, esp. if they have to compete against other teachers in the area offering shiny superficial promises.  With adults, the "adult education" publishers and the like will preach that adults want instant results (project orientation), don't want much technique and theory or to spend a lot of time.  Unless you understand how much study works, and also what can go wrong along these lines and why, it's like entering quicksand and not even knowing you are sinking.

The bottom line in music study and developing in music is that you build skills gradually, that mistakes are wonderful opportunities, that you should be guided in terms of skills and necessary knowledge - "number of pieces" and such things can actually get in the way of that.  The students in Bernadette's group who are doing well seem to be in that mindset.  It might be possible that some of the others are indeed products of things such as conservatories as you suggest, but it also seems to be a much broader malaise.  (It's a thing I feel quite strongly about. Smiley )
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timothy42b
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« Reply #78 on: September 05, 2017, 12:15:26 PM »

Perhaps there are three P's:
process, project, and perform.

I add the perform P, because it is an important motivator for some students.  Someone too focused on process may not apply it to perform readily. 
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« Reply #79 on: September 05, 2017, 02:49:56 PM »

Perhaps there are three P's:
process, project, and perform.

I add the perform P, because it is an important motivator for some students.  Someone too focused on process may not apply it to perform readily. 
"Perform" is part of "project".
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« Reply #80 on: September 07, 2017, 09:45:39 AM »

It is really a pity that most of us seem to live in a materialistic society where "success" is only counted in terms of money and grade of fame. As not everybody can be equally successful when you have that perspective, you also implement a most unnecessary competitive factor in it, where you have to "defeat" your competitors in order to get into that school, top that list, win that competition and sell those tickets.

If you are an ambitious teen piano student, you might be so affected by this perspective that you simply DON'T BELIEVE older students (say, +50 years) when they claim that they are not interested in that kind of "success", they play out of other reasons and have other goals. You think "that is what they are saying to mask the truth, which is that they CANNOT reach up to that level." You cannot get rid of the idea that "that level" simply is the highest and most desirable, that we are ... well, competing about the position on top of that mountain. And that playing as a hobby is another way of saying "to kill some spare time".

But one advantage of getting older is that you - or most of us - shift that perspective. We realize, eventually, that this kind of life, the top-concert-pianist-life, is not very glamorous and fun as such, not worth the price. And that "success" could mean a lot of things. I would say that a piano teacher who inspires lots and lots of young and old students and arranges many kinds of nice activites connected to piano playing, is incredibly successful. So is the senior who plays for his own pleasure only and constantly experience the joy and thrill of taking on challenges and learn new things, which makes him feel young and curious again. So is the worn-out housewife who finally has found a private sanctuary, away from family duties and the "serving-someone-else" syndrome. Because these people find a deep sense of meaning and personal achievements in their life and THAT, my friends, is the true meaning of the word "success".

We are all unique, and we are all born with a desire to express ourselves, our uniqueness. As pianists we must also be allowed to be unique and have our personal goals. A personal thing for me, for example, is to play the Appassionata, as I adore this piano work. Nobody will probably ever pay money to hear my version of it, and frankly I don't care. I just love working with it, to explore all the new depths in it while I work with bar after bar, constantly seeking new ways to conquer, learn and improve. I have the time of my life! What else matters? So, my goals are about learning and playing some of the music I love, not to impress an audience and get "famous". I don't like performing.

It is a pity that we so often deny people to reach their goals and enjoy their own successes, with stupid comments like "at that age, you are too old", making them finding excuses to diminish themselves. "Oh, I have no ambitions, I just dabble a bit, you know". "I am not very talented, really, I just want to have a little hobby."

I want to tell all these people that YES, you really have the right to be as ambitious as you please, that you don't have to make up excuses for "not being that good" and you are NOT too old. Forget that sh*t about brain plasticity, please. It has been proven it is not very true at all. What matters is your own attitude, your own beliefs about your capability. And attitudes are not childish wish-lists to Santa, they are based on knowledge, experience and considerations that could be rather complex. So just saying "I want to, I want to" is not enough to make you succeed in your ambitions. It goes much deeper than that.

But ... if you still get the idea at the age of 57 that you want to learn to play the piano and pursue a career as a concert pianist, then? Is it possible? I say yeah, it is. You just have to pay the price and do the work that is needed. So far I have not seen anyone willing to do that, so the question is hypothetical, therefore irrelevant. Let's rephrase it: is it possible to reach your personal goal in piano playing even if you are not very young anymore?

Of course! And don't be "modest", just do what you wanna do. As long as you are willing to learn, you are able to learn. 

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timothy42b
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« Reply #81 on: September 07, 2017, 12:20:10 PM »

"Perform" is part of "project".

I don't see it that way.

Perhaps in the sense of preparing for a recital or solo competition, maybe.

I have zero desire ever to do that.  In fact my youtube videos are all unpolished, done in one take to illustrate some particular point we're discussing.

My trombone teacher doesn't emphasize preparing excerpts or solos much; he says practice anything you want, but only if you do it correctly.  Of course that's a bit of an exaggeration, I do prepare stuff for him to hear, but the focus is on process.

I practice to improve skills for the purpose of performing in an ensemble.  Much of the ensemble rehearsals will be sightreading and occasionally I'll be sightreading in a public performance, so the project aspect doesn't apply.  There are exceptions - pieces like Stars and Stripes that I know will appear on multiple venues I do spend some time working out tricky spots. 
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« Reply #82 on: September 07, 2017, 12:25:43 PM »

It is a pity that we so often deny people to reach their goals and enjoy their own successes, with stupid comments like "at that age, you are too old", making them finding excuses to diminish themselves. "Oh, I have no ambitions, I just dabble a bit, you know". "I am not very talented, really, I just want to have a little hobby."

I want to tell all these people that YES, you really have the right to be as ambitious as you please, that you don't have to make up excuses for "not being that good" and you are NOT too old. Forget that sh*t about brain plasticity, please. It has been proven it is not very true at all. What matters is your own attitude, your own beliefs about your capability.

You probably intend to be encouraging but the reverse is true.

You've made it clear that anyone can succeed, in your opinion.

So adults who find it difficult are just lazy losers.

I think it's a bit more empathetic to suggest it really is harder, and their difficulties are real.  There are some ways to cope, but you need some strategies for it, and some realistic expectations. 
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« Reply #83 on: September 07, 2017, 01:48:24 PM »

You probably intend to be encouraging but the reverse is true.

You've made it clear that anyone can succeed, in your opinion.

So adults who find it difficult are just lazy losers.

I think it's a bit more empathetic to suggest it really is harder, and their difficulties are real.  There are some ways to cope, but you need some strategies for it, and some realistic expectations. 

Difficulty was not quite a part of the argumentation here. I also find piano practicing difficult; in fact I just came here now from a practice session that was hard struggle and not much progress at all, not today. On the other hand, I wouldn't call difficulty and struggle a failure. The struggle itself is also a goal. And that struggle could be about mastering all the Chopin op 25 etudes in full speed or finding half an hour every week to practice at all or getting through the first Alfred book or find motivation in general to play the piano. Well, yeah, you may also choose to be lazy - fine then, you are simply prioritizing something else and that is perfectly all right! It is your own choice.

So when do you become a loser for real? When you spend your time complaining instead of taking action, even though nothing stops you from taking action. That is the loser attitude. 


Yes, there are many, many people who start to play the piano at a very mature age and they find it is much more difficult than they thought it would be. But why encourage the excuse "it is because I am too old"? They have probably just underestimated the amount of work that is needed. The hard truth is that advanced piano playing is much more difficult than anyone can imagine unless they have tried a bit themselves. But why not just say that - it is difficult. It is difficult for everybody. Don't get fooled by those smiling 5-year old progidies you see on YouTube or the showmanship of Elton John. Just don't blame your age - if you must, blame your life situation. You may be in an age where life forces you to focus on other things than piano playing. I am one of those persons too.

I find piano practicing and learning much easier today than I did when I was 13. Maybe I am totally abnormal then, but I do. I understand the music better today, I have access to resources that I could not even dream of in 1979. All these Internet resources, contacts, new techniques, pianos where I can play with headphones, online recitals ... I had nothing of that. I was locked up in a room with Hanon exercises and a teacher who was my only link to the rest of the piano world, and she filtered carefully what I should know and not know. Not because she was bad or evil, but because that was how things were in those days. I was little and shy and could not protest when something felt wrong, I had not alternative suggestions to come up with. I simply had to grow up first and get life experience, and the world had to change. So in my opinion, the age aspect is of less significance.

 
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« Reply #84 on: September 07, 2017, 07:49:17 PM »

I don't see it that way.
Timothy, when I wrote "perform is a part of project", I meant in terms of the two theoretical teaching categories that Martha Beth (Marbeth) set up as a kind of music pedagogy theory.  She divided teaching goals into two broad categories: Process and Project.  These are no absolute.  There are shades from one to the other, and each contains elements of the other.

In teaching the "project" model aims toward external goals such as preparing for a performance, for a recital, wanting to make a piece become as perfect as possible, an exam, a competition, a recital.  The "process" model aims toward shaping skills in a student: reading skills, physical skills, understanding theory and implementing it in interpreting music and so on.  A performance is not an aim toward the latter - it is the former - and in that sense it is part of "project".    There are not three categories in that model: project, process, and performance --- that wouldn't make sense.  When defining the two broad sets of goals, a performance as a goal is one type of "project" goal.
That is, if you are in "process" mode, and you want students to become comfortable /not be nervous in performing, then you may encourage performances in order to build that skill of comfort - handling performances, etc.  So "performance" can be part of "process" or part of "project".  But it is not a third category of goals.
Does this make sense?
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« Reply #85 on: September 07, 2017, 10:30:58 PM »

You probably intend to be encouraging but the reverse is true.

You've made it clear that anyone can succeed, in your opinion.

So adults who find it difficult are just lazy losers.

I think it's a bit more empathetic to suggest it really is harder, and their difficulties are real.  There are some ways to cope, but you need some strategies for it, and some realistic expectations. 
I remember the first time I read that it's harder for adults.  I was very grateful that I read this two years after having started my first lessons on an instrument, because even so, my heart sank and I had a momentary miserable feeling.  No, this was not at all "helpful" or "encouraging". I still don't know which effect it had: the creation of doubt in my abilities and potential - or the fear that a teacher would secretly have doubts, and not bother to do real and solid teaching with proper challenges.  The latter made me quite nervous.

That isn't "empathy" anyway. Telling somebody that it will take them longer, and they will achieve less, has nothing to do with empathy.  There is another word for that.  To say that it is hard, for anyone - now that I would accept.

What I would focus on instead is teaching someone how to get there - specifically - and what kinds of goals are real goals.  For one thing, if you know what the real goals are, you will also start experiencing successes and KNOW they are successes.
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« Reply #86 on: September 08, 2017, 05:59:05 AM »

Bronnestam's post 682 really resonated with me, and despite Timothy42b's  prediction, I found his views encouraging. Older students do have different qualities they bring to their learning, such as really wanting to learn, having prior experience as adult learners, having more time ( eg retired)and possibly the disposable income required for the needed resources. Add to this a piano teacher who is able to apply adult learning concepts and we students should be thriving.  Sadly there is opinion running through this thread ( hi, Timothy) that adult students don't persist or succeed ( reach their goals). Alarmingly I read in a historical thread on this site that 99% drop out by 6 months...even usually optimistic me was depressed by this number! ( opinion, experience or research based??)
What does a thread like this mean to the older adult beginner student like myself trying to make sense of this new musical piano journey, which while it constitutes purely voluntary learning feels quite serious.  So, she takes a deep breath, reinstates her optimism,  and chooses to believe that hard work, persistence, and a love of the process and anticipated results will be enough.....
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« Reply #87 on: September 08, 2017, 08:46:07 AM »

From my experience teaching piano some 20+ years professionally retired adults generally do well (that is are satisfied with their progress and learn for the long term), those who have a family and work generally do not. It is not that they don't have the ability it is that they are often very time poor. Time tends to be the leading factor limiting adults progress. Many of them do well initially but then to further improve requires consistent time, getting through preliminary stages of pianistic development can generally be done with limited effort. Many get disillusioned when they realise their progress plateaus due to their lack of time to study. This is a problem many more times than any other factor in my experience as a teacher.
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lostinidlewonder
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« Reply #88 on: September 08, 2017, 09:17:22 AM »

.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #89 on: September 08, 2017, 03:44:14 PM »

Many get disillusioned when they realise their progress plateaus due to their lack of time to study. This is a problem many more times than any other factor in my experience as a teacher.

That's an important distinction that should not be overlooked.

Learning requires an investment of time.  If you don't have that amount of time available, (and that time in hours per day is significant) then the answer is no, you can't learn.

A valid question at this point is whether the hours per day required are the same for a 6 year old versus a 60 year old.  I will leave that one open as it will provoke howls of rage if I think a 60 year old might on average need a little more time. 

I did ask my teacher once if people my age succeeded.  He said they could, but they usually didn't, because they usually didn't do what he told them. 
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« Reply #90 on: September 08, 2017, 03:46:57 PM »

Timothy, when I wrote "perform is a part of project", I meant in terms of the two theoretical teaching categories that Martha Beth (Marbeth) set up as a kind of music pedagogy theory.  She divided teaching goals into two broad categories: Process and Project. 

Yes, I understood what you meant, I just didn't agree with it.  Sorry.  I think there is more involved than two categories, and performance doesn't really align the way you described it. 

I think her categories were derived from her experience with piano as a solitary activity, which is true for 99% of her students, but fails if we try to generalize too far. 
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« Reply #91 on: September 08, 2017, 03:52:38 PM »

Timothy, I don't think that you have actually understood the concept as it was meant as the underlying teaching goal.  But I don't know how to explain it better.
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« Reply #92 on: September 08, 2017, 06:57:22 PM »

Timothy, I don't think that you have actually understood the concept as it was meant as the underlying teaching goal.  But I don't know how to explain it better.

Here's one way to look at it.

Performance can be developed or conceived in terms of a project (recital/specific piece) or process (the skills or intellectual modelling necessary for performance).  The semantics of the mapping of these relationships between these concepts makes sense.

The semantics moving around the other relationships don't make sense.  

Performance can be worked on in terms of either:
-Process
-Project

---------

Project can be be worked on in terms of either:
-Performance
-Process

Process can be worked on in terms of either:
-Project
-Performance

You can rephrase things to make the semantics of one set of relationships make sense, but direction of relationships matter so for a fair comparison you should maintain that same logistical direction, which is I chose the phrase (can be worked on in terms of).  

If you choose to maintain that the first statement makes semantic sense, then the last two don't make any sense, suggesting that project/process are on a different categorical level from performance.  














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« Reply #93 on: September 08, 2017, 11:59:38 PM »

It is really a pity that most of us seem to live in a materialistic society where "success" is only counted in terms of money and grade of fame. As not everybody can be equally successful when you have that perspective, you also implement a most unnecessary competitive factor in it, where you have to "defeat" your competitors in order to get into that school, top that list, win that competition and sell those tickets.


I agree with you. One of the great things about being older is that you can decide not to give a damn about anybody else's definitions of success. You've accomplished what you're going to accomplish, whatever "might have been"'s there were for you you've had time to reconcile with. You can just do whatever you like. That's not a perspective that a 17 year old applying to conservatory has. So you don't have to define success any particular way. If you never play anything smoothly, but struggling with masterpieces that are way above your level helps you understand those pieces better and enjoy them more when your hear them, that could be success. If playing a bunch of very easy pieces fluently and happily lets you express yourself musically, that could be success. If working on a lot of Czerny etudes and getting your technique on them just right gives you a sense of accomplishment and a physical pleasure in the motions of your arms, that could be success. If learning to read music so that you can sing in your church choir better makes your social life better, that could be success. And if devoting yourself to practicing hours every day so that against all expectations you can actually play some serious music beautifully, that could be success, too. Whatever you think of as success, you're more likely to reach it if you work hard than if you tell yourself that your age will stunt your progress.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #94 on: September 09, 2017, 12:30:16 AM »

Here's one way to look at it.

Performance can be developed or conceived in terms of a project (recital/specific piece) or process (the skills or intellectual modelling necessary for performance).  The semantics of the mapping of these relationships between these concepts makes sense.


There is more than one common usage of the word performance.  I'm using it specifically meaning to play for (and sometimes with) others.  I exclude an extremely artificial situation like a recital or master class but include most other playing with an audience.  I'm not using it in the sense of a level of skill.  Then,


Quote
Performance can be worked on in terms of either:
-Process
-Project
---------

Performance skill can be worked on in terms of improving the skills involved, which include technical playing skills but also the additional audience connection skills required.  That might be done by work on technical exercises like scales and etudes or by mastering individual pieces.  Performance can also be improved by increasing a polished repertoire of ready pieces. 

Quote
Project can be be worked on in terms of either:
-Performance
-Process

Pieces can be polished with the idea of improving future performance, or with the intent of learning some specific skill (process). 

Quote
Process can be worked on in terms of either:
-Project
-Performance

Process (fundamental skill) can be worked on by polishing a project (specific piece.)  I'm not sure this one makes semantic sense in terms of performance.

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« Reply #95 on: September 09, 2017, 03:26:21 AM »

I have been thinking about this.  Timothy, I think that you are thinking in terms of motivation.  I know that performance is important to you, as this is a thing that you do and enjoy.  I also remember that you like to do things in groups.

I am not thinking in terms of motivation but in terms of learning.  And to really explain this I should probably start at the beginning.  Marbeth's definition is not the beginning.  I was an adult student, a couple of years into lessons on a technically difficult instrument, and things did not feel right to me.  I also could not find the words to communicate with my teacher.  When I read M's process-project that was my aha.

I am process-oriented.  When I was assigned something, I thought "what will this teach me?" I assumed it was assigned because of what I would learn (skills etc.)  Things seemed random and made little sense when looking at skills: something started, the cut off suddenly - I was following a thread of skills and knowledge.  But if you followed a thread of "project" then suddenly it was no longer random.  Keep the student motivated by preparing for recitals, by going through the pieces and etudes in the book with frequent graduations along grades.  Two recital/year with a two month preparation for recitals neatly divided it into four "seasons".  Except I wasn't that kind of student.

Well, it's not just that I wasn't that kind of student.  It also doesn't work as well.  If you're only building skills superficially and sporadically, ultimately it doesn't carry you far, and your efforts become in a sense "inefficient".  You reach dead ends and glass ceilings.  If you are at all musical, you can't express what you want in the music, because you don't have the tools.  My first training was as a teacher at the primary - formative - level.  Later I tutored kids in gr. 7 - 9 whose problems stemmed from weak foundations at the start.

Piano came afterward.  I had played self-taught as a child.  I knew there would be all kinds of weird technical habits (there were!) and I knew that my ability to read music was weird and not really there, and there were holes elsewhere.  By this time I knew what's what, and pretty well bumped into the teacher I've had up to now, who is very process-oriented.  That is, his aim is to build skills; that is also my aim.  Going back to the beginning of my story, some of what I do in my studies would seem disrupted, non-sensical, random, sporadic, to a person who is project-oriented.  A piece may be dropped after a short stint, or only part of it worked on, or in a particular way, or resumed later at a different level - if you're following projects.  But if you're following process, there is a continual line of skills and knowledge which is governing what is being done.

The original teacher for the first instrument would have worked along these lines had he known it was my mindset, and near the end we did go that direction.  The problem teachers face is that students may not be willing to do the things that they know work best, and if the student won't do them, then they don't work at all.
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