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Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah? (Read 1647 times)

Offline heriwalone

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Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
« on: December 12, 2019, 09:06:28 AM »
Dear all, I'm a "serious" amateur piano player aged 21. Practice being amply sufficient, the most I can manage are Liszt etude f minor, Liszt sonata, and similar - pure mechanically speaking. Have a question for you all: will I still be able to - or how difficult is it going to be - pick up the pure mechanical aspect of my playing after 6 years of predominant inactivity?

Due to pursuing school, the best I can get around to doing in terms of practice is 2-3 hrs every Friday/Saturday.When I do get to resume long hours of daily practice - which is not until 6 to 7 yrs later by which time I'll be 28 - how much of it is going to be permanently gone however much you fight to compensate? You all should be no stranger to the common sense that age 20 or thereabouts is where the window closes on substantial technical abilities growth. Very limited practice over the last 2 years and already, fingers are getting a bit sluggish - although chances are it can come back to me fairly easily for right now.. But in 6 years - I'm feeling alarmed, especially with the things I've heard said and been haunted by about how one's body starts plummeting the minute you're past your early 20s - a theory that might strike some as absurd - or might not: guys in early 30s tell me they feel as if their body is declining already, in metabolics and such.

Online ted

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #1 on: December 12, 2019, 10:29:29 AM »
...You all should be no stranger to the common sense that age 20 or thereabouts is where the window closes on substantial technical abilities growth.....

In that case somebody must have forgotten to close my window and the night air came in because my physical mechanism is far better at seventy-two than it ever was in my twenties. I don't think I have done anything too different to most players aside from regular use of my Virgil Practice Clavier; that might have some bearing on it I suppose. I find the above statement unduly pessimistic, far from common sense and quite wrong as it applies to me.
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #2 on: December 12, 2019, 01:02:05 PM »
Could others pitch in as well? I'd really like to know if this is true and if so to what extent, being a beginner in my twenties.

Online dogperson

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #3 on: December 12, 2019, 02:21:45 PM »
Short version; I had over a 40 year gap.  Not only did my technique return but it is still improving..., and at a faster rate than it did as a child.  Learn how to practice, practice consistently, be patient.  In my case, having a great teacher has been invaluable.  As a child, I never questioned and my analytical skills were not fully developed.  As an adult, I can better analyze, ask questions and participate in a meaningful discussion with my teacher.  Being an adult student is, IMHO, much better. 

You are limited by the limits you set for yourself and 20 is a great age. Anyone who tells you that technique can only be developed in childhood is full of hot air.

Offline heriwalone

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #4 on: December 12, 2019, 04:38:49 PM »
In that case somebody must have forgotten to close my window and the night air came in because my physical mechanism is far better at seventy-two than it ever was in my twenties. I don't think I have done anything too different to most players aside from regular use of my Virgil Practice Clavier; that might have some bearing on it I suppose. I find the above statement unduly pessimistic, far from common sense and quite wrong as it applies to me.

Well ok Ted, guess I have to admit that one's mechanism does in some way continue to evolve well past mid-age. Although certain other "hard-n-fast" aspects of it, I still believe, are critical to be developed in adolescence; my childhood piano teacher had been telling us(and as any fair person would I suppose) since day 1 to stretch our hand span & try to gain as much finger flexibility as possible b/c your hands will be set the way they are at 17, 18 - if you can't reach an 11th now, you won't at 25(the bones do lose many potentials to develop at this point). Meantime it *is* heartening to hear your story as it was when I read another thread on old age.

Offline heriwalone

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #5 on: December 12, 2019, 04:45:43 PM »
Short version; I had over a 40 year gap.  Not only did my technique return but it is still improving..., and at a faster rate than it did as a child.  Learn how to practice, practice consistently, be patient.  In my case, having a great teacher has been invaluable.  As a child, I never questioned and my analytical skills were not fully developed.  As an adult, I can better analyze, ask questions and participate in a meaningful discussion with my teacher.  Being an adult student is, IMHO, much better. 

You are limited by the limits you set for yourself and 20 is a great age. Anyone who tells you that technique can only be developed in childhood is full of hot air.

More mature understanding, yes; pure mechanicality-wise, I'm still a little bit in doubt. But - wow - 40 years - good for you, and to my great encouragement as well!

Offline heriwalone

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #6 on: December 12, 2019, 04:59:42 PM »
Could others pitch in as well? I'd really like to know if this is true and if so to what extent, being a beginner in my twenties.
I'd say that in a general sense the answer is obvious: sadly you do miss out on a great deal of potential to wire your hands and brain differently. But as always, it varies with the individual and, it is not uncommon at all for late beginners to have great accomplishment. Now my musing is, having started early on - in my case - and coming back to it is going to be easier, while starting at a later age would be a somewhat different matter, to me it seems.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #7 on: December 12, 2019, 08:32:08 PM »
I'd say that in a general sense the answer is obvious: sadly you do miss out on a great deal of potential to wire your hands and brain differently.

Is it that obvious? There can be no doubt that lost time will almost certainly pose a missed opportunity, but I don't find it obvious how you miss out on a *great* deal of potential.

And there's no consensus on what is meant by a great deal of potential being lost. I've heard people interpreting it as (1) being unable to ever play Chopin, (2) being unable to play hard Liszt such as the Transcendental Etudes, (3) being able to do so but unable to do so at a sufficiently high level, and (4) that you're never going to become a concert pianist.

The issue is that unless you come up with a clear notion of what that level of proficiency means, it is very easy to keep shifting the goalpost. Everyone ends up convinced that you can't learn something/ miss out on potential as an adult -- while at the same time believing in fundamentally different things.

Online dogperson

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #8 on: December 12, 2019, 09:07:03 PM »
I'd say that in a general sense the answer is obvious: sadly you do miss out on a great deal of potential to wire your hands and brain differently. But as always, it varies with the individual and, it is not uncommon at all for late beginners to have great accomplishment. Now my musing is, having started early on - in my case - and coming back to it is going to be easier, while starting at a later age would be a somewhat different matter, to me it seems.


The answer is not obvious. We can’t even answer the question ‘what if I would have started earlier/later?’ for ourselves..., much less for anyone else.  We are all different—- and how far you can get is very personal.

Offline heriwalone

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #9 on: December 12, 2019, 09:20:18 PM »
Is it that obvious? There can be no doubt that lost time will almost certainly pose a missed opportunity, but I don't find it obvious how you miss out on a *great* deal of potential.

And there's no consensus on what is meant by a great deal of potential being lost. I've heard people interpreting it as (1) being unable to ever play Chopin, (2) being unable to play hard Liszt such as the Transcendental Etudes, (3) being able to do so but unable to do so at a sufficiently high level, and (4) that you're never going to become a concert pianist.

The issue is that unless you come up with a clear notion of what that level of proficiency means, it is very easy to keep shifting the goalpost. Everyone ends up convinced that you can't learn something/ miss out on potential as an adult -- while at the same time believing in fundamentally different things.

Is it that obvious? There can be no doubt that lost time will almost certainly pose a missed opportunity, but I don't find it obvious how you miss out on a *great* deal of potential.

And there's no consensus on what is meant by a great deal of potential being lost. I've heard people interpreting it as (1) being unable to ever play Chopin, (2) being unable to play hard Liszt such as the Transcendental Etudes, (3) being able to do so but unable to do so at a sufficiently high level, and (4) that you're never going to become a concert pianist.

The issue is that unless you come up with a clear notion of what that level of proficiency means, it is very easy to keep shifting the goalpost. Everyone ends up convinced that you can't learn something/ miss out on potential as an adult -- while at the same time believing in fundamentally different things.

"lost time" during a critical period for learning too, which, fine, I can chalk it up to nothing but my perception if this is not consensus, as I suppose it is true in acquiring many types of skills, being a non-native english user trying to adapt to the native environment. Older immigrants(after ~25) just can't come to be able to think in a new language. Upon early 20s your hands as well other bones elsewhere stop growing - now imagine would they have been the same if you'd shaped them with finger training since you were 5? It is why my teacher would urge us to get more hand stretching and try to gain more flexibility&strength while we were still little to take advantage of what was referred to smth to the effect of "the child feat". I would go "wow" if there's no equivalent notion in the English language.

As far as defining the level goes, sure, I was mostly referring to my expectation for myself there. Working up to play that liszt etude that I was playing at 17 - which is nothing impressive btw - is prbly going to take you longer than it did me, all due respect. But again I'm talking about the avrg person.

Offline heriwalone

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #10 on: December 12, 2019, 09:27:14 PM »
Is it that obvious? There can be no doubt that lost time will almost certainly pose a missed opportunity, but I don't find it obvious how you miss out on a *great* deal of potential.

And there's no consensus on what is meant by a great deal of potential being lost. I've heard people interpreting it as (1) being unable to ever play Chopin, (2) being unable to play hard Liszt such as the Transcendental Etudes, (3) being able to do so but unable to do so at a sufficiently high level, and (4) that you're never going to become a concert pianist.

The issue is that unless you come up with a clear notion of what that level of proficiency means, it is very easy to keep shifting the goalpost. Everyone ends up convinced that you can't learn something/ miss out on potential as an adult -- while at the same time believing in fundamentally different things.

To clarify still more, (4) almost certainly, (3) is the damage I was thinking in my head that's caused by "lost time" before adulthood(give or take)

Offline thirtytwo2020

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #11 on: December 13, 2019, 01:48:31 PM »
As so often, we're talking of several different things at once here.

To go back to your original question, heriwalone: should you feel alarmed because of the fact that you will not be able to practice for several hours a day over the next 6 or 7 years?

Just listening to your own arguments, and some of the feedback you've gotten from ted and others, it seems very likely that you will be able to get back to your previous level (and improve) if and when you start again with a more intense practice regimen. After all, you are one of the lucky ones who actually did quite a lot of work on finger & hand flexibility and strength during your formative years, aren't you?

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #12 on: December 14, 2019, 01:55:36 AM »
...will I still be able to - or how difficult is it going to be - pick up the pure mechanical aspect of my playing after 6 years of predominant inactivity?
Easier than if you have not done anything at all.

Due to pursuing school, the best I can get around to doing in terms of practice is 2-3 hrs every Friday/Saturday.
I think here you are not being honest with yourself, if playing piano was something you needed to maintain your very life you would certainly be able to practice other days too. In general 2-3 hours in 2 days is not as effective as doing a little every day. Development works best with consistent application of efforts rather than cramming.

When I do get to resume long hours of daily practice - which is not until 6 to 7 yrs later by which time I'll be 28 - how much of it is going to be permanently gone however much you fight to compensate?
First of all what makes you think you will have more time when you are older? What about family, work and other life interruptions?? Life always gets busy, if you feel too busy now you will always feel that way, it doesn't really change. People always say life situation makes it impossible to practice etc but it really isn't the case for the vast vast majority of people who say this. If studying piano is important enough you can make time for it every day.

You all should be no stranger to the common sense that age 20 or thereabouts is where the window closes on substantial technical abilities growth.
I don't see this happening when I look at the results from teaching students over the years. Sure most obvious and rapid growth is early on in your learning and you notice large leaps and bounds in progress which flattens off periodically as you reach closer and closer to your natural potential in various places, but you can experience this when you are far beyond 20 years old. There is certainly that "natural development potential" people have that is different and varies per individual, their natural ability to learn and play (talent), but hard work and efficient/continuous practice method development will propel you further past that (discipline). Someone might be considered "talented" when they play something impressive but if the observers knew the exact amount of work that goes behind it all they would realize it is more a display of discipline.

...I've heard said and been haunted by about how one's body starts plummeting the minute you're past your early 20s ...
Playing the piano for a lifetime is about getting to know your own hands and how to use them with as least effort as possible to produce your desired sound. If you require the body of a teenager or 20 year old to play piano then there is something wrong. You do not need to be an example of the perfect physical specimen to play the piano even at the highest level. I've seen plenty unhealthy pianists who play the piano like a beast.



...my physical mechanism is far better at seventy-two than it ever was in my twenties.... I find the above statement unduly pessimistic, far from common sense and quite wrong as it applies to me.
I'm with you on this one ted. Even though I was more physically energetic back then today I can do a lot more with less effort. The fear in the the OP to me makes me think about dancers where it is something often said even by the professional dancers that they feel they are on the decline and struggle to physically keep up with their abilties (though I'm sure there are those who break this mould). Piano is different though.
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Offline heriwalone

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #13 on: December 15, 2019, 08:45:55 PM »
Someone might be considered "talented" when they play something impressive but if the observers knew the exact amount of work that goes behind it all they would realize it is more a display of discipline.

Not entirely. Neuhaus's father practiced hard all life long, octaves, thirds, sixths, still his techniques just sucked - I say this w the greatest respect. Natural talent does assume a big part. Performance is a sport, a physical thing just as much.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #14 on: December 16, 2019, 01:48:13 AM »
Not entirely. Neuhaus's father practiced hard all life long, octaves, thirds, sixths, still his techniques just sucked - I say this w the greatest respect. Natural talent does assume a big part. Performance is a sport, a physical thing just as much.
I am speaking from my experience teaching (one on one) hundreds of individuals of all ages and skill levels over years, whom are guided through the process of learning putting countless hours of their own into their study with consistent effort. So I am not just thinking this in my head or reading it from a book, I actually see it in reality.  From my experience there are far more untalented pianists than there are talented ones and far more do well because of hard work than just incidental natural talent solving all their problems. I also have taugh a lot of talented lazy students who have a knack for piano but don't work hard, they are almost always overtaken by students who are consistent and discplined with their approach.

It is some kind of fantasy that some people put up, fantasy or barrier I'm not sure, they think that one who plays something astounding on the piano must be talented, naturally gifted and there is no way a normal person could work through that, you simply must be talented! I'm glad as a teacher I have helped remove that type of thinking in my students and demonstrate it all from their own results.
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Online ted

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Re: Restore techniques after a hiatus: hard or nah?
«Reply #15 on: December 16, 2019, 03:09:40 AM »
...It is some kind of fantasy that some people put up, fantasy or barrier I'm not sure, they think that one who plays something astounding on the piano must be talented, naturally gifted and there is no way a normal person could work through that, you simply must be talented! I'm glad as a teacher I have helped remove that type of thinking in my students and demonstrate it all from their own results.

The same thing applies to improvisation, probably more so. Famous improvisers cannot resist creating an enigmatic mystique around themselves, as if it all came out of the blue. You never hear any of them talk about exactly what it is they do in factual terms. They want people to say "genius" but whatever it is it certainly isn't genius and it can be discussed and analysed quite rationally. Anybody with a reasonable technique, ear and strong desire to create can do it with time and work, but they don't want that fact known because it would make them feel less special. 
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