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Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level (Read 7933 times)

Offline pianodannn

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 How do people find coming to terms with the idea that they are not capable of reaching a high standard at piano. How do you deal with the frustration of endless effort without result?
  I know the topic of talent has been flogged to death. There are those who refuse to admit individual limitations, and those who accept them. As far as I am concerned, there is very little doubt at all that some people are vastly more gifted from birth, or certainly a very young age, than others. I do not even entertain the idea that something about a persons early learning or practice regimen accounts for the huge variation in ability witnessed between individuals. I have read pretty much all literature ever published on the topic of skill aquisition, and concluded that talent to a substantial extent is inherited.
     I am extremely persistent, to the point that my level of persistence might be described as a form of insanity, yet it is to no avail. I cannot play advanced music, certainly not  at the tempo required of advanced music.No amount of practice, and no type of practice seems to make any difference at all. No matter who I take advice from, no matter which practice tecniques I adopt, there is simply no result. It may take me 6 months or a year to bring a single line of music up to 75% of the prescribed tempo, practising extremely hard each day using only the correct, professionally recommeded practice regimen. I see others who can play the same line at 100% tempo and it takes only 2 weeks. Why is the difference so absolutely enormous? I have already deduced that there are certainly neurological shortcoming playing into this equation. things that are terribly taxing mentally for me are simply effortless for others. I have memory loss, ordinary motor control and i really think these biological elements are holding me back. Further to this I was a late beginner, not taking piano seriously untill 32 years of age. I have now been practising circa 3 hours each day for the past 10 years. although I can play some pretty good pieces, my overall ability would be not remotely close to expert level, which kind of contradicts the 10,000 hour rule (which is bunkum, and not actually a rule) I do wander whether there is actually any possibility for a mature age student to get to the highest level in skill, or even close for that matter. Anders Ericcson actually suggested expert musicians take between 15 and 25 years on average to "master" an instrument, and that is when they begin at 5 years of age when the brain is much more plastic. Not that I actually aspire to become professional in any way, but i would like to be able to play a few advanced pieces somewhat near to a professional level. This is proving to be absurdly difficult. I really think I would need 15 hours per day of training under the supervision of a 35 year veteran concert pianist, in order to become actually good. I do wander sometimes if I should give it away...

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #1 on: August 09, 2021, 05:55:52 PM »
"It may take me 6 months or a year to bring a single line of music up to 75% of the prescribed tempo, ..."
It could be that you are attempting pieces that are beyond your capability  - in order to integrate within a reasonable amount of time - .  This is where a good teacher can be very helpful in choosing repertoire which is appropriate for you at this time.
Do you have a teacher?
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Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #2 on: August 09, 2021, 06:30:29 PM »
 The question becomes, why after 10 years of daily practice, would any reasonable piece be beyond my level? Also i feel that the only way to make any progress is to challenge yourself to the most difficult music you are able.You cannot learn fast difficult passages, by learning songs with slow, less demanding passages.You cannot go back 3 or 4 years in difficty level, then get back to where you are currently, and find that 3 or 4 years practising easier material will better prepare you for the difficulties ahead.Practising slower wont teach you to become fast.I already have 10 000 hours of practising easier pieces.

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #3 on: August 09, 2021, 06:50:06 PM »
 I dont understand why practising, as a general rule, doesn't enable you to exceed a specific threshold.For example, a C major scale.One person can play it at 150bpm, up and down through 4 octaves perfectly without an error.Yet another person can practice eternally from birth to death, and never increase beyond 120pbm.There is always a point at which it becomes exponentially more difficult to acheive any gain, and this point occurs drastically earlier for some individuals than others.I chose the scale to illustrate that it doesn't matter if the task is advanced or elementary.practice should produce improvement of any specific task, yet for some it simply doesnt.A c major scale is learned in the first year of study, so definately not too advanced for ANY student.Yet still, some students NEVER master a C major scale, no matter how they practice.A point comes where it is simply impossible to get any faster, even after tens upon tens of thousands of attempts.

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #4 on: August 09, 2021, 07:06:08 PM »
Also i get very, very frustrated, with experts and teachers recommending exercises and techniques, assuming that they will produce gains, because it did for them or for other students. Invariably following these exercises and strategies does not yield good results.The outcome is ALWAYS months of relentless practicing for minuscule gains that are not at all encouraging.It just boils down to innate ability.Either you have it, or you don't.Effort or strategy or persistence will never even begin to make up for it.

Offline brogers70

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #5 on: August 09, 2021, 07:28:35 PM »
Also i get very, very frustrated, with experts and teachers recommending exercises and techniques, assuming that they will produce gains, because it did for them or for other students. Invariably following these exercises and strategies does not yield good results.The outcome is ALWAYS months of relentless practicing for minuscule gains that are not at all encouraging.It just boils down to innate ability.Either you have it, or you don't.Effort or strategy or persistence will never even begin to make up for it.

I think that if you are using an approach to, for example, increase the speed of your scales, and you work with that approach for a few weeks and feel no improvement at all, then that approach is not right for you. There are very many things that might be causing a difficulty and therefore many different approaches that might help you overcome that difficulty. If one approach does not work after a modest amount of time, then it's probably not an approach that addresses the root of whatever your difficulty is.

There is always the possibility that you have inherent limitations that are holding you back, but it's also very possible that you haven't yet found the right ways to practice.

At two points, as someone who started at age 40, I've hit walls. Once I just could not get anywhere playing in front of others. I was playing decently advanced things, Schubert Impromptus, Bach WTC Prelude and Fugues, Mozart and Haydn Sonatas, but I could not play them fluently in front of other people. I realized I just was not at ease at the piano, so I sent a full year playing ultra easy "Music for Millions" beginner pieces until I was totally relaxed and confident with them. After that, when I went back to harder stuff, I had already made friends with the piano and had much less trouble playing for others.

The other wall happened as I was trying to play harder things, a few of the Chopin Etudes, fast movements from some Mozart and Beethoven Sonatas, things like that. My last teacher had been totally focused on arm weight, a loose wrist, and a mobile elbow, and worried that working on the fingers would increase tension. When we started, she was right - what she offered was just what I needed. But once I'd loosened up the arm and wrist and reduced my overall tension a lot, I was not able to play cleanly and quickly. I could make a quick mush of the Aeolian Harp etude using the correct circular motions, but even allowing that the individual notes are not meant to be sharply articulated, it was a mess. What I needed at that point was lots of ways to work on the fingers, and specific approaches to increasing speed. Once I started working on that, things improved suddenly and dramatically.

One more thing, that last teacher had given me, what was for me, a poor way to practice jumping between separated chord positions. I got nothing out of it except tensed up hands. When I found a different way to practice them, very quickly they became easy.

So I'd say, consider not resigning yourself to the idea that you lack something inherent. You may just need different ways of practicing. Look up Josh Wright, Graham Fitch, and Nahre Sol on Youtube. They all have lots of different approaches to difficult technical issues. It's more effective to try a lot of different things for a week or two each, than to pick one thing and hammer away for months. If something will work for you, you'll feel the change quickly. No need to bang your head against a wall.


Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #6 on: August 09, 2021, 07:57:28 PM »
How do people find coming to terms with the idea that they are not capable of reaching a high standard at piano. How do you deal with the frustration of endless effort without result?
Interesting, I have never actually faced this. Whenever I have put in a lot of effort, I have usually seen at least some improvement. I think what matters is aggressively zoning in on the problem, boiling it down to its constituent elements, making sure that each such element is as simple as possible so that I can focus on them individually. For example, if I'm certain that there is an issue with rhythm, I will try to tap it or hum it, then record myself and listen back, until I get it right. Since there is a clear feedback loop, it is almost certain that you will notice improvement as long as you can perceive the shortcoming in the sound or physical feeling.

In other words, if you want to learn trigonometry, there's no point in trying to browbeat it into your head without knowing basic geometry such as the Pythagorean theorem. It may not be obvious that your shortcoming is, in fact, not understanding the Pythagorean theorem correctly, but if you look carefully enough, you will hopefully see it at that point, and then you can immediately correct it.

This is my philosophy while approaching new subjects in general. For the piano as well, I just keep asking questions until I'm satisfied. It might drive a teacher crazy, but *shrug*.

I have read pretty much all literature ever published on the topic of skill aquisition, and concluded that talent to a substantial extent is inherited.
The problem is that while it's arguably clear that talent is inherited, it's not well-studied what this implies for the bounds of ability for a particular individual. There's no straight line from "average linguistic ability" to "cannot read above 400 wpm". Even if someone thinks the latter is impossible for them, it's quite possible that it isn't.

I am extremely persistent, to the point that my level of persistence might be described as a form of insanity, yet it is to no avail. I cannot play advanced music, certainly not  at the tempo required of advanced music.
People keep thinking of persistence as a great trait in itself, but I would argue it isn't. It's only useful if you know how to apply it. A lot of people try to study really hard, spending hours a day for years, but do not get anywhere, and this is not necessarily due to lack of ability, but is very often because they hold misapprehensions about the nature of learning the topic. One very common one in school, for example, is the idea that repeating something x times will commit it to memory. A relentlessly persistent person, who holds that idea, will be wasting almost all of their time, since the key to memory is association (I might not be completely correct about it, but I think it's a good analogy). Learning anything is full of pitfalls like this, it's not like hitting the gym x hours a day.

No amount of practice, and no type of practice seems to make any difference at all. No matter who I take advice from, no matter which practice tecniques I adopt, there is simply no result.
If you're not already, I would suggest hiring a teacher, and spending several hours practicing with them during lessons. The way you talk about "type of practice" makes it seem like you are thinking about this in terms of practice regimen and exercises. Once one set of exercises does not work, you move on to another set of exercises. The problem is that advice only works if you really understand how to apply it, and can do that consistently. It's very hard to figure out if you are applying a piece of advice correctly, and the closest you can get in a situation where you cannot understand a piece of advice is to have the person giving the advice right beside you, observing what you are doing and correcting you until you have really understood it. Be really clear in communicating when it's not working. If the teacher is any good, this will go back and forth until you understand the concept much better. You will almost always see at least a little improvement during the session. If the teacher is bad, they will often tell you to just practice it at home while you protest that it doesn't seem to be working, and from my experience this is a very frustrating and unproductive situation to be in.

It may take me 6 months or a year to bring a single line of music up to 75% of the prescribed tempo, practising extremely hard each day using only the correct, professionally recommeded practice regimen. I see others who can play the same line at 100% tempo and it takes only 2 weeks. Why is the difference so absolutely enormous?
First of all, you said you started at 32, and have been practicing for 10 years with an ineffective learning method (no offense, but there are a number of red flags for this in your write-up). This cannot compare to someone who has been learning for a decade, since they were a child, with really good teachers. When I'm playing the piano, there are so many minute changes which I have to keep making and trying out, and some which I would have never thought of which my teacher suggests. It is often those minute, almost imperceptible movements which hold the key to various aspects of technique, and beginner students often make the mistake of underestimating the complexity of this. They don't realize that certain comments by teachers, such as "hold you hand in an arch" are shorthand for executing something which is very tricky, and very difficult to do at a high level. It's a naive point of view, such as someone thinking that all of mathematics is how to solve more complicated addition problems. There are layers and layers of complexity hidden beneath, which you need to figure out. This may be easier as a child, but even as an adult, what matters is that you try to achieve those sensations and movements.

In fact, this whole idea of spending 6 months to a year to bring a single line of music up to tempo seems ridiculous to me. If you have the technique for it, you should be able to play a line of music immediately, or at least within a week or two by which time it would be memorized (which removes the cognitive overload aspect). If you can't do that, you figure out what is the exact reason why you can not learn the passage, and try to come up with solutions for that particular problem. Otherwise, again, it's like trying to beat trigonometry into your head without knowing basic facts about triangles. You can try to speed up how fast you learn all of the prerequisites for a topic, but you cannot start something from the middle of nowhere.

Also i get very, very frustrated, with experts and teachers recommending exercises and techniques, assuming that they will produce gains, because it did for them or for other students. Invariably following these exercises and strategies does not yield good results.The outcome is ALWAYS months of relentless practicing for minuscule gains that are not at all encouraging.It just boils down to innate ability.Either you have it, or you don't. Effort or strategy or persistence will never even begin to make up for it.
Well, here is where you're wrong. It's possible that certain things boil down to innate ability, but there are various aspects in your write-up where it would be clear to most pianists that your way of approach is terribly wrong. You can't really say for sure until you fix those things. There is this myth which a lot of people hold, that regardless of how they approach a subject, it will get better eventually, but this is completely false imo. You can make absolutely zero progress despite spending hundreds of hours, and this gets truer the more advanced you get in something.

Don't be too hasty to ascribe things to lack of talent. (Don't take this to mean that I think talent does not exist, I do.)

Offline joe000

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #7 on: August 09, 2021, 09:19:06 PM »
There is no such thing as someone naturally incapable of anything at the piano. You may be practicing wrong, either reaching beyond your abilities or simply using inefficient practice methods.

Yes, talent does exist, but talent can only help you reach a certain level faster. Those who are not born with such talent can also reach a higher level. The top pianists today are people who differ from the crowd, and only that is natural. You can achieve their level by practicing the right way and challenging the impossible.

The only thing not guaranteed by hard work is fame, which depends on luck and audience tastes. However, there are thousands of pianists who are lesser known who achieved the same level as the big names.

No one can be stuck at a certain level, anything is possible.

JOE

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #8 on: August 09, 2021, 09:42:19 PM »
Yes, talent does exist, but talent can only help you reach a certain level faster. Those who are not born with such talent can also reach a higher level. The top pianists today are people who differ from the crowd, and only that is natural. You can achieve their level by practicing the right way and challenging the impossible.
This is not true.

Offline joe000

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #9 on: August 09, 2021, 10:18:09 PM »
This is not true.

Care to elaborate?

JOE

Online lelle

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #10 on: August 09, 2021, 11:54:20 PM »
The question becomes, why after 10 years of daily practice, would any reasonable piece be beyond my level? Also i feel that the only way to make any progress is to challenge yourself to the most difficult music you are able.You cannot learn fast difficult passages, by learning songs with slow, less demanding passages.You cannot go back 3 or 4 years in difficty level, then get back to where you are currently, and find that 3 or 4 years practising easier material will better prepare you for the difficulties ahead.Practising slower wont teach you to become fast.I already have 10 000 hours of practising easier pieces.

I think this is where you might be going wrong. With good teacher guidance and good quality practice you'll learn a lot of what is needed for playing fast through playing easier material. Playing material that is too difficult for you, on the other hand, may stunt your growth or even give you bad habits that make playing fast impossible until you correct them.

When I started working on changing my technique a couple of years ago, I went back to easier repertoire, that's far below in difficulty to the most difficult things I have played, to have an easier time relearning how to use my body. Practicing easier material helped prepare me for the difficulties ahead in this case.

It's not necessarily about practicing 10 000 hours but HOW you practice during those hours. Practicing slowly may not help you learn how to play quickly, but it certainly can if you know how you need to be to play fast, and then do that, but slowly. Your posts show signs that you may not be practicing in an efficient manner. I don't think all hope is lost because of that. Do you have a teacher?

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #11 on: August 10, 2021, 12:54:14 AM »
Interesting, I have never actually faced this. Whenever I have put in a lot of effort, I have usually seen at least some improvement. I think what matters is aggressively zoning in on the problem, boiling it down to its constituent elements, making sure that each such element is as simple as possible so that I can focus on them individually. For example, if I'm certain that there is an issue with rhythm, I will try to tap it or hum it, then record myself and listen back, until I get it right. Since there is a clear feedback loop, it is almost certain that you will notice improvement as long as you can perceive the shortcoming in the sound or physical feeling.

In other words, if you want to learn trigonometry, there's no point in trying to browbeat it into your head without knowing basic geometry such as the Pythagorean theorem. It may not be obvious that your shortcoming is, in fact, not understanding the Pythagorean theorem correctly, but if you look carefully enough, you will hopefully see it at that point, and then you can immediately correct it.

This is my philosophy while approaching new subjects in general. For the piano as well, I just keep asking questions until I'm satisfied. It might drive a teacher crazy, but *shrug*.
The problem is that while it's arguably clear that talent is inherited, it's not well-studied what this implies for the bounds of ability for a particular individual. There's no straight line from "average linguistic ability" to "cannot read above 400 wpm". Even if someone thinks the latter is impossible for them, it's quite possible that it isn't.
People keep thinking of persistence as a great trait in itself, but I would argue it isn't. It's only useful if you know how to apply it. A lot of people try to study really hard, spending hours a day for years, but do not get anywhere, and this is not necessarily due to lack of ability, but is very often because they hold misapprehensions about the nature of learning the topic. One very common one in school, for example, is the idea that repeating something x times will commit it to memory. A relentlessly persistent person, who holds that idea, will be wasting almost all of their time, since the key to memory is association (I might not be completely correct about it, but I think it's a good analogy). Learning anything is full of pitfalls like this, it's not like hitting the gym x hours a day.
If you're not already, I would suggest hiring a teacher, and spending several hours practicing with them during lessons. The way you talk about "type of practice" makes it seem like you are thinking about this in terms of practice regimen and exercises. Once one set of exercises does not work, you move on to another set of exercises. The problem is that advice only works if you really understand how to apply it, and can do that consistently. It's very hard to figure out if you are applying a piece of advice correctly, and the closest you can get in a situation where you cannot understand a piece of advice is to have the person giving the advice right beside you, observing what you are doing and correcting you until you have really understood it. Be really clear in communicating when it's not working. If the teacher is any good, this will go back and forth until you understand the concept much better. You will almost always see at least a little improvement during the session. If the teacher is bad, they will often tell you to just practice it at home while you protest that it doesn't seem to be working, and from my experience this is a very frustrating and unproductive situation to be in.
First of all, you said you started at 32, and have been practicing for 10 years with an ineffective learning method (no offense, but there are a number of red flags for this in your write-up). This cannot compare to someone who has been learning for a decade, since they were a child, with really good teachers. When I'm playing the piano, there are so many minute changes which I have to keep making and trying out, and some which I would have never thought of which my teacher suggests. It is often those minute, almost imperceptible movements which hold the key to various aspects of technique, and beginner students often make the mistake of underestimating the complexity of this. They don't realize that certain comments by teachers, such as "hold you hand in an arch" are shorthand for executing something which is very tricky, and very difficult to do at a high level. It's a naive point of view, such as someone thinking that all of mathematics is how to solve more complicated addition problems. There are layers and layers of complexity hidden beneath, which you need to figure out. This may be easier as a child, but even as an adult, what matters is that you try to achieve those sensations and movements.

In fact, this whole idea of spending 6 months to a year to bring a single line of music up to tempo seems ridiculous to me. If you have the technique for it, you should be able to play a line of music immediately, or at least within a week or two by which time it would be memorized (which removes the cognitive overload aspect). If you can't do that, you figure out what is the exact reason why you can not learn the passage, and try to come up with solutions for that particular problem. Otherwise, again, it's like trying to beat trigonometry into your head without knowing basic facts about triangles. You can try to speed up how fast you learn all of the prerequisites for a topic, but you cannot start something from the middle of nowhere.
Well, here is where you're wrong. It's possible that certain things boil down to innate ability, but there are various aspects in your write-up where it would be clear to most pianists that your way of approach is terribly wrong. You can't really say for sure until you fix those things. There is this myth which a lot of people hold, that regardless of how they approach a subject, it will get better eventually, but this is completely false imo. You can make absolutely zero progress despite spending hundreds of hours, and this gets truer the more advanced you get in something.

Don't be too hasty to ascribe things to lack of talent. (Don't take this to mean that I think talent does not exist, I do.)
  I think you have made assumptions regarding my approach which may not be accurate.That is to say, i do not simply practice a line of music constantly for 6 months, but rather practice it, for a limited amount of time each day, as part of a more varied practice regimen that might include scales, several fingering exercises and several pieces of repertoire.Maybe even meditation or subliminal suggestion included.
  Having extensively researched the variety of methods one might use, I would not commit too excessively to any one exercise or section of music, as I understand the importance of interleaved practice etc..
   Having said that, you are probably right to an extent, that a certain teacher would be the next viable option.Not that i havent had formal trainings before.I do not currently see an instructor, but do draw extensively from self help material provided by established  professionals.

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #12 on: August 10, 2021, 01:11:18 AM »
  Of course one must be carefull to be REALISTIC about what is or isn't actually required in terms of training to become "good".There are a lot of misunderstandings about the amount of training involved to become "expert". It is clear to me that some people CAN reach a high level, perhaps not mastery, but maybe close to expert, within relatively short time frames. Example, the youngest person to apply for a masters degree in piano did so at 9 years of age, after just 5 years of training at circa 2  hours per day. Such a feat would be utterly impossible for the vast majority of people. I suspect even 10 000 hours, even with correct approach, would not be sufficient for most people to get somewhere near "expert" level, particularly if they do not begin young. No matter how intensive the training, the brain requires considerable time to "re-wire" itself to suit the task.I believe this time frame to be highly variable, depending on a variety of factors, some of them almost certainly genetic.It may be 5 years, and for some im afraid it can be 15 or 20 years. Anders Ericssons research showed this, and then Malcolm gladwell authored a book that pretty well misrepresented  Ericssons' research.

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #13 on: August 10, 2021, 01:32:23 AM »
Are your hands tense when trying to play fast?  Are the wrists tense?  Are the arms and neck tense?
Usually it is tenseness that impedes speed.
If this is the case, you may need a different approach regarding the physicality/ergonomics  of playing. Sometimes, (without a teacher to point this out) it can be easily overlooked by the autodidact.
4'33"

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #14 on: August 10, 2021, 02:07:32 AM »
  I think you have made assumptions regarding my approach which may not be accurate.That is to say, i do not simply practice a line of music constantly for 6 months, but rather practice it, for a limited amount of time each day, as part of a more varied practice regimen that might include scales, several fingering exercises and several pieces of repertoire.Maybe even meditation or subliminal suggestion included.
  Having extensively researched the variety of methods one might use, I would not commit too excessively to any one exercise or section of music, as I understand the importance of interleaved practice etc..
I've recently changed my view on technique. What matters the most in the initial stages is how you approach each key. There are a number of different muscle groups you can use in a lot of ways. To enumerate the ones I know of: There is a kick from the finger, lever-like push from the knuckle, push from each of the finger joints, the muscle near the pinky and the muscle near the thumb which I think play a role in stability, push from the wrist, arm weight and/or body weight along with a supported arch of the hand, a push using the forearm, forearm rotation, the up-and-down and side-to-side movements of the wrist. I am sure there are many more. (Note: These are intuitive descriptions, and what they mean from an anatomy point of view is a bit trickier -- many of the muscles that move the fingers are located in the forearm, for example.)

Take a look at this post:
beginner's muscle development (bernhard)
https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=4145.0

Now, do you need to know exactly what each of these things are? No, and it's not possible to consciously control each muscle movement anyway. What you do need is the ability to create an internal representation which will allow you to generate these movements. Also, even most people who have been learning piano since early childhood can't execute all of these ideas perfectly, because what they learn depends on how open-minded and observant they are, and which school of piano technique (roughly speaking) they learn from. A lot of the information is not easily available, on the internet or even with pianists.

One thing I've realized over the years is that the internet is kind of an echo chamber. There are a few common opinions, and most people just parrot them without true understanding or insight. So, while it might appear that you've read psychology, you only end up reading "pop" psychology and pointless flame wars, such as the supposed debate over Malcolm Gladwell's 10000 hour hypothesis, which no respectable psychologist ever took seriously (since heritability is pretty well established and documented in the literature). Similarly, interleaved practice, and a lot of other similar practice strategies which you say you have come across are just the tip of the iceberg. Even a lot of the tips which bernhard suggests here, while useful for beginners, aren't as effective as the methods professionals use to learn in most cases. (Still, he has some very good ideas, which you should check out.)

Many of the things you mention, such as playing fast scales, are quite complicated. Of course, some may do it naturally. That said, there are a ton of things which can go wrong, which can prevent someone from playing fast. Tension, inefficiencies in hand movement such as raising fingers too high, not having enough finger strength and dexterity (which I think can be developed), inaccurate muscle memory and in general using the wrong 'tools' for the job. There are often a very large number of ways to play simple material (Chopsticks!), and very few ways which are actually effective for more difficult techniques (such as playing even scales at 180 bpm). And as I mentioned before, no amount of using the wrong muscle groups will help you acquire the knowledge to use the right ones, and hence you will hit brick walls. Sometimes, these can be very tricky to spot, such as a fingering which somehow mysteriously makes you mess up more often than you should, but which is still viable -- there might be an awkward stretch between 2&3 for example which you may not have noticed.

So there are a lot of things which you do not know. This is fine, and a very large percent of students and teachers are not aware of many of them either. Those who are aware of a number of such things (and many of the posters in the forum here are professionals with a lot of experience who are good at spotting these) tend to have a more optimistic view of what can be taught and learned, because they see the individual skills which a given piano player lacks, and it looks quite likely at the outset that they can be acquired with a moderate change in mental direction. Be aware of your very own Dunning-Kruger effect when you think you have exhausted possibilities in an area by researching about it. ;) There's more than what meets the eye.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #15 on: August 10, 2021, 02:33:20 AM »
I have now been practising circa 3 hours each day for the past 10 years. although I can play some pretty good pieces, my overall ability would be not remotely close to expert level
3 hours a day for 10 years, if that is consistently that is really disciplined, amongst the very top % of studying pianists. There are still "unknowns" about your ability and methodology which would be an idea to discuss to see what's blocking you. You also could be simply highly critical of yourself and a perfectionist which is not unusual to come across in the music world.

There certainly is a limitation to each person ability I've witnessed it myself teaching hundreds of individuals the piano over the decades. Everyone however can develop to a point where they can fully enjoy the music journey they are on. It is not and should not be a matter of how high of a grade level you can play or how fast you can play or what is the most difficult works you can play, this kind of attitude needs to be addressed. If your experience of enjoying music rests on difficult then it usually sets you up for a sad journey.

I have/had certain students who are very hard workers but gravitate towards working in their own way. In lessons they study the way I want them to and they can do it successfully but when I am not there they go off predominantly in their own way. I have noticed this has been a huge stumbling block for a few of them and has taken many years of "baby step" changes in their approach before they practice on their own in an efficient manner and they become sincerely interested to refine that process.
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #16 on: August 10, 2021, 02:36:23 AM »
There certainly is a limitation to each person ability I've witnessed it myself teaching hundreds of individuals the piano over the decades.
I'm curious how you can figure out whether someone has hit the limit of their ability. Also, at what level do those limitations lie, typically? Do you think it can be impossible for someone to play a scale above 120 bpm (which the OP alluded to)?

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #17 on: August 10, 2021, 03:15:40 AM »
I'm curious how you can figure out whether someone has hit the limit of their ability. Also, at what level do those limitations lie, typically? Do you think it can be impossible for someone to play a scale above 120 bpm (which the OP alluded to)?
It is not a limitation as such but more a rate of growth and which level of piano playing you want to exists in to expand your ability. I find many people are quite content playing works not at the highest level and work to steadily improve how they deal with the level they are happy with. They improve a great deal in terms of the rate of their learning or sight reading but they don't really study more and more difficult technical works, that isn't their interest.

There is a huge world of music out there and it playing difficult piano works is not the best and only path to take for all serious musicians and is not the sole or even best indicator of progress. A number of my students who I have taught over 10 years are in this boat, they do not wish to learn more and more difficult works, that isn't the sign of progress for them, they have built their skills from the bare basic level and improved to a point where they really enjoy the music that is being created. They want the process of learning the level they are content with to improve, get that final polished product to arrive quicker. Playing more and more difficult works is not an interest of all pianists, there are many musical journeys you can take and experience fully what it means to be a musician without playing the harder repertoire.

I have some students who play pieces predominantly around grade 4/5 level but learn them super fast. They would certainly knock the socks off a number of people who can play many levels higher than themselves in terms of rate of learning. So what does it really mean to advance to a higher level? Is it simply measured by the difficulty of pieces you learn and the quality at which you play them? Rate of learning and improving your efficiency with works at a lower level should not be ignored.
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Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #18 on: August 10, 2021, 03:36:24 AM »
  I guess the best i can take from all this, is that research or observation on their own may not be sufficient to uncover nuances of the very rapid passages.There may be no choice but to work in person with a good pianist, and see what they may uncover that could be holding me back.I dont believe one on one instruction is always neccessary, some appear to do well without it.But there is probably no other choice for me, as i can see that using the general array of do this and that exercise at home, is not going to work. Even when they are prescribed by accomplished performers, and you are thorough to implement them just as recommended, there is something i cannot find that prevents me from reaching the high level.Mainly at this time it is the speed which frustrates me. Learning the notes and the dynamics are not such a problem.However the really fast pieces i cannot for the life of me get above 75% of the tempo.And even 75% is very difficult to acheive.At that level, each 1bpm is extremely difficult to aquire..

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #19 on: August 10, 2021, 04:10:42 AM »
I dont believe one on one instruction is always neccessary, some appear to do well without it.
It might look like that from the outside, but it has been necessary for everyone I have seen till date. Of course, some get further than others on their own, but I haven't yet come across anyone who managed to play undergraduate-level material with professional technique without a teacher. There are pianists out there, on Youtube etc. who have learned on their own and can attempt difficult stuff. However, it is never at a high standard. This has even been true for the prodigies/near-prodigies I've seen so far online. So, one on one instruction is necessary past some point for everyone, from what I've seen, pretty much without exception.

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #20 on: August 10, 2021, 04:28:32 AM »
It is not a limitation as such but more a rate of growth and which level of piano playing you want to exists in to expand your ability. I find many people are quite content playing works not at the highest level and work to steadily improve how they deal with the level they are happy with. They improve a great deal in terms of the rate of their learning or sight reading but they don't really study more and more difficult technical works, that isn't their interest.

There is a huge world of music out there and it playing difficult piano works is not the best and only path to take for all serious musicians and is not the sole or even best indicator of progress. A number of my students who I have taught over 10 years are in this boat, they do not wish to learn more and more difficult works, that isn't the sign of progress for them, they have built their skills from the bare basic level and improved to a point where they really enjoy the music that is being created. They want the process of learning the level they are content with to improve, get that final polished product to arrive quicker. Playing more and more difficult works is not an interest of all pianists, there are many musical journeys you can take and experience fully what it means to be a musician without playing the harder repertoire.

I have some students who play pieces predominantly around grade 4/5 level but learn them super fast. They would certainly knock the socks off a number of people who can play many levels higher than themselves in terms of rate of learning. So what does it really mean to advance to a higher level? Is it simply measured by the difficulty of pieces you learn and the quality at which you play them? Rate of learning and improving your efficiency with works at a lower level should not be ignored.
It is true that complex or fast arrangements are not neccessarily any more enjoyable than slower material.I do have more intermediate repertoire that is really some of my favourite to play, partly because i can play it quite well, and partly because the simpler arrangements can still be very powerfull. Sometimes arrangements built around speed sound just like somebody showing off just how fast they can be, but without the speed really adding to the feel of the piece.Many tunes are better served by slower, less demanding arrangements, so that you focus more intently to convey the emotions with subtle details which cant really be included in busy arrangements.
 So yes, being a master of the fast and complex works isnt the be all and end all.However you are left curious as to how such speed can be pulled off, assuming your not able to yourself...

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #21 on: August 10, 2021, 04:54:42 AM »
[...] being a master of the fast and complex works isnt the be all and end all.However you are left curious as to how such speed can be pulled off, assuming your not able to yourself...
Everything can be built up towards mastery, if it is fast playing that is really of interest one would want to focus on repertoire (especially etudes) which train those fast actions. There are a whole lot of easier repertoire which trains faster action but what exactly you would choose depends on your current situation. The technical movements you find in say a Liszt or Chopin etude really become something known because you have experience with the arpeggio, scale patterns, the cantabile style and all sorts of coordinations to control those in a simpler framework which you can control with mastery.

Practice method is of course important, it's no good simply brute force repeating things and hoping it will solve itself. That method does work but it is uncontrolled and it costs excessive time and you may never really get to that effortless type mastery playing. There are many tools to practice mindfully but this can differ in usefulness depending on the individual and how they currently think at the piano.

I think no amount of practice really helps solve something to mastery if you have very little idea about the technique you are trying to achieve in the first place. Simply practicing something doesn't always reveal the technique required to play it with mastery, some people are more clever than others in this department, some require a lot of direction and need to interlectualize the process so they can have a more solid idea as to what they are trying to approach. Any serious amount of practice will always produce improvement but sometimes there will be a limit to that improvement because there is not enough experience built up beforehand to know what you are really aiming for. Yes things are getting better with more practice but there still is that error and lack of control, this is a common situation when one studies works too difficult for themselves. There can be a level of estimated type solution to a difficult problem and thus improvement only rests on this erroneous solution, instead one wants to know what effortless excecution of the difficult passage exactly is and be able to resolve towards that. It is very difficult to avoid many years of experience playing many works with mastery before turning ones attention to the more virtuosic repertoire and understanding the exact targets you need to hit.
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Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #22 on: August 10, 2021, 07:43:25 AM »
Just for reference, this is the piece i am struggling with.Probably the hardest i have attempted.Paticularly the last 30 seconds, very difficult even at 75% tempo.Although this is Synthesia in the video, i also have the sheets for it.
 


   It takes patrick around 2 to 4 weeks to compose and perform a piece to this level.At least 10 times longer than that for me.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #23 on: August 10, 2021, 09:05:30 AM »
Just for reference, this is the piece i am struggling with.Probably the hardest i have attempted.Paticularly the last 30 seconds, very difficult even at 75% tempo.Although this is Synthesia in the video, i also have the sheets for it.
 


   It takes patrick around 2 to 4 weeks to compose and perform a piece to this level.At least 10 times longer than that for me.
Thanks for posting the video for reference! I feel an odd sense of kinship whenever someone learns a piece from a synthesia tutorial like this one, as it is how I used to learn in the past, and what I still use for pop songs. Partly by ear and partly using synthesia, I can approximate arrangements like these very fast, and it's fun.

I have some respect for what you're doing here. It is not easy, and you have high standards for yourself which is making you frustrated. I can play this at tempo. I can also make similar arrangements and play them in about a week or two. That's because the piece uses standard arranging techniques.

This gives me an opportunity to pontificate on the importance of breaking down difficult material. What is the one thing you need to solve this piece? Arpeggios. Once you figure out how to do pretty fast and fluent right hand arpeggios, the rest is a piece of cake. So, if you're spending six months on this piece, what do you do? You should play arpeggios, over and over again, every day for at least 3-4 months until you get that feeling in your hand. Everything else is superfluous -- I'm sure you'll be able to add the left hand octaves and other standard accompaniment stuff within a month.

On your friends being able to do this -- most kids are thoroughly trained to play fluent scales and arpeggios. Anyone who has once learned them never forgets them, although they can grow slightly rusty, it's just like picking up an old bicycle -- you'll get back to riding it within an hour, if not immediately.

For someone who can play their arpeggios at that tempo off the bat, the arrangement is very easy to play. Do you see that? The whole piece reduces to one technical problem. Solve that, and voila! The piece will fall into your hands.

Now, how do you develop right hand dexterity with arpeggios? I would highly recommend Josh Wright, Graham Fitch etc on YouTube, which is how I learned. It may or may not work for you. If you get a teacher, tell them that you want to work on arpeggios, not on this piece. Any good teacher should be able to demonstrate a number of different ways to improve your arpeggios. Obsess over them until you figure it out.

Also, I'm pretty sure you can do it, and it's not a lack of talent holding you back. A lot of people get stuck with arpeggios like these because you need to learn to play a bit differently. You need to let your arm glide over they keyboard in a line, and your fingers need to get accustomed to the distance of an octave. It should be one fell swoop, not a series of disjointed movements. Try to watch some pianists play arpeggios and imitate what they are doing. I've sometimes found it useful to watch pianists' hand movements on YouTube at 0.25 or 0.5x speed. Don't take this too literally, but it's something which everyone does sometimes to check whether they're on the right track.

I have also found that this is the kind of thing which many teachers are unable to teach, because they have acquired the necessary coordination so young that they have completely forgot what went into it.

Offline j_tour

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #24 on: August 10, 2021, 03:54:39 PM »
OP, take ranjit's advice for sure.  I have nothing to add except that's a neat visual effect on the video and it helps me understand the context here.

Yeah, I see the problem in the last number of seconds:  not just arpeggios but you have to move your hand positions frequently.

I don't think I'd ever be able to memorize this:  I'd have to write out all the chord symbols as a "cheat" sheet and tape it to the music stand.

Ranjit makes an excellent point:  if this is one's first exposure to changing arm position rapidly and just letting the arpeggiated chords "fall into place," then of course it would take longer than someone who'd already encountered these fairly typical patterns.

But time spent would pay back in substantial dividends for any future pieces or improvisations.
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Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #25 on: August 11, 2021, 12:31:32 AM »
  Yeah so learning the notes is not such a problem, as i actually do learn more complex arrangements faster than i used to.It still takes a while, perhaps 3 or 4 weeks to be able to play identical, note for note at say 50% tempo.Then it takes quite a while to build up the tempo.I can do the final arpeggios accurately at 75%, almost,which im happy to remain at that tempo for now, the piece still kind of works at that tempo, as its actually a little faster than the original composition anyway. For some reason i cant quite pull off one arpeggio, after is descends, then reverses and ascends.Something about that one seems to confuse the muscle memory.Its only that one scale that confuses my fingers coming up the last 3 or 4 notes.Theres an awkward hand shift to finish it off.
   But anyway, i get the point that its the arpeggios in general that need to be worked on.

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #26 on: August 11, 2021, 01:20:21 AM »
  I still see that there is some level of resriction, so to speak, with the learning process.For example, if i work those arpeggios each day for 1 month, i will become just slightly more proficient.Some people will show that gain in a single day.Even after correcting for posture, wrist angle, looseness etc. Etc. It will still take a long time to increase the speed, as the brain has less and less time to make any kind of judgement or correction regarding trajectory of fingers.I still think there is a big difference in how people progress, which cannot be accounted for by methodology or approach.But i suppose no point in dwelling on that, only can look for the next step in the process.Never know, i might surprise myself one day.

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #27 on: August 11, 2021, 05:17:10 PM »
Thanks for posting the video for reference! I feel an odd sense of kinship whenever someone learns a piece from a synthesia tutorial like this one, as it is how I used to learn in the past, and what I still use for pop songs. Partly by ear and partly using synthesia, I can approximate arrangements like these very fast, and it's fun.

I have some respect for what you're doing here. It is not easy, and you have high standards for yourself which is making you frustrated. I can play this at tempo. I can also make similar arrangements and play them in about a week or two. That's because the piece uses standard arranging techniques.

This gives me an opportunity to pontificate on the importance of breaking down difficult material. What is the one thing you need to solve this piece? Arpeggios. Once you figure out how to do pretty fast and fluent right hand arpeggios, the rest is a piece of cake. So, if you're spending six months on this piece, what do you do? You should play arpeggios, over and over again, every day for at least 3-4 months until you get that feeling in your hand. Everything else is superfluous -- I'm sure you'll be able to add the left hand octaves and other standard accompaniment stuff within a month.

On your friends being able to do this -- most kids are thoroughly trained to play fluent scales and arpeggios. Anyone who has once learned them never forgets them, although they can grow slightly rusty, it's just like picking up an old bicycle -- you'll get back to riding it within an hour, if not immediately.

For someone who can play their arpeggios at that tempo off the bat, the arrangement is very easy to play. Do you see that? The whole piece reduces to one technical problem. Solve that, and voila! The piece will fall into your hands.

Now, how do you develop right hand dexterity with arpeggios? I would highly recommend Josh Wright, Graham Fitch etc on YouTube, which is how I learned. It may or may not work for you. If you get a teacher, tell them that you want to work on arpeggios, not on this piece. Any good teacher should be able to demonstrate a number of different ways to improve your arpeggios. Obsess over them until you figure it out.

Also, I'm pretty sure you can do it, and it's not a lack of talent holding you back. A lot of people get stuck with arpeggios like these because you need to learn to play a bit differently. You need to let your arm glide over they keyboard in a line, and your fingers need to get accustomed to the distance of an octave. It should be one fell swoop, not a series of disjointed movements. Try to watch some pianists play arpeggios and imitate what they are doing. I've sometimes found it useful to watch pianists' hand movements on YouTube at 0.25 or 0.5x speed. Don't take this too literally, but it's something which everyone does sometimes to check whether they're on the right track.

I have also found that this is the kind of thing which many teachers are unable to teach, because they have acquired the necessary coordination so young that they have completely forgot what went into it.
  It does greatly surprise me that anybody can learn music like that in a week or two. There is a problem with using standardised, universal techniques, and inserting them into a  composition like building blocks.For example, with arpeggios, they  can reverse direction  at one of several different notes.In this case, muscle memory developed through practising arpeggios as a general skill wont suffice, unless you practice reversing in both directions at all of the notes in the scale.So there are at multitude of ways an arpeggio of any particular scale could be played.I can see it being extremely difficult to be able to fluently play all variations, without a considerable brush up  each time you insert a particular "version" of an arpeggio into a piece. As far as the speed goes, even with extremely smooth, fluent motion, you soon hit a wall at which the capacity to land fingers in the correct spot falls apart, and this is not a technical problem, it is a neurological one. At high speed, the eyes can no longer analyse the trajectory of the fingers, and the mind does not have time to apply adjustments or compensations to garauntee the trajectory of the fingers.You need to be able to play very fast arpeggios, without looking at the keyboard at all, and be almost certain not to miss any notes.To do this requires that the brain receives accurate feedback, not from the eyes, but from the musculoskeletal system. The problem with this, is that we are now dealing with a concept which is not understood by humans, and therefore cannot be mastered, as nobody really knows how this works.It is impossible for one person to explain to another, how they can move a body part through space without using visual cues, and follow up with an accurate prediction of where the body part will finish up.How do your ensure, with absolute certainty, your finger ends up striking the middle of the D note, using only information fed to your brain by your muscles? How does a muscle tell you that it contracted 11mm, or 11.5mm or 13mm? How do you know where your finger ends up, given that all spacial awareness in the absence of vision, boils down to the very vaugue and unquatifiable concept of "feel".Feel is not good enough, because it is not accurate.Above a moderately high tempo, the eyes become of limited value also.Hence you hit a wall at which you can find no way to accurately hit notes once the tempo rises above a threshhold. The mechanics of moving the fingers around the keyboard are not the limiting factor.The brain has no time to analyse where the fingers are, or where they are going, and i strongly believe inherited congnitive traits set absolute limits to the speed one might attain.If you analyse the difficulty versus tempo curve, difficulty rises exponentially with increasing tempo, and changes from horizontal to a vertical line within a short range of tempo.Very small increases in tempo become extraordinarily difficult to achieve.And ever smaller increases in tempo produce ever larger increases in difficulty. I dont see that there is any way to circumvent that inevitable upward rise in difficulty.An increase in cognitive ability soon becomes the only factor which can increase speed beyond a rather strict limit. I am quite certain that practice methods cannot override innate characteristics of individual human minds, all of which function in totally unique fashion. There is no way to train a human mind to do what another human mind does.There is no way to train one person to do what another person can do.All people have entirely unique capacities and capabilities.They cannot be made uniform by any type of training.

Offline brogers70

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #28 on: August 11, 2021, 06:38:14 PM »
I think that you are way overthinking this. It's not hard to try out a bunch of different approaches. When something works, you'll feel the difference quickly, and it won't be incremental. It may take a few weeks to solidify the habit of doing it the new way, but you should feel a difference right away. You need patience, but not so much patience that you keep doing something unhelpful in the hope that if you work away at it for month things will get better. Lots of things can slow down arpeggios. I think one of the most common is developing a nice, legato arpeggio at a moderately slow tempo and thinking that you can work at speeding it up. When you try to do that, your fingers hang on the the keys too long, and you slow yourself down. You have to practice finding ways to get your fingers off the keys immediately after you strike them. But that's just one thing among many that could be slowing you down.

You could have a look at this; even better would be to get a teacher to watch you and diagnose what's slowing you down.


Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #29 on: August 11, 2021, 07:27:44 PM »
As far as the speed goes, even with extremely smooth, fluent motion, you soon hit a wall at which the capacity to land fingers in the correct spot falls apart, and this is not a technical problem, it is a neurological one. At high speed, the eyes can no longer analyse the trajectory of the fingers, and the mind does not have time to apply adjustments or compensations to garauntee the trajectory of the fingers.You need to be able to play very fast arpeggios, without looking at the keyboard at all, and be almost certain not to miss any notes.To do this requires that the brain receives accurate feedback, not from the eyes, but from the musculoskeletal system. The problem with this, is that we are now dealing with a concept which is not understood by humans, and therefore cannot be mastered, as nobody really knows how this works.
It's called proprioception, and involves being able to visualize the keyboard and the movements without looking at them. It has been studied, and I believe it's called motor learning theory. It's the same as learning a sport, gradually you gain increased automaticity of movement. Try to play a C triad without looking and feel how it feels under the fingers. After a few days, you should be able to comfortably and reliably play it without looking, as long as you know the first note. What's going on is simply a more advanced version of this principle. It's not that mysterious, and it's pretty much literally what happens when you're learning any sport.

What I do is imagine a certain kind of movement of my hands in my head, and then immediately play it.

It looks like you're overanalyzing it and convincing yourself that it's not possible with specious arguments. 

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #30 on: August 11, 2021, 10:52:30 PM »
 Yes it is called proprioception, and motor learning theory is just that.Theory. It is a hell of a long way from a well understood concept.Proprioception provides limited feedback to the brain and mostly comes into play at the extremes of muscle extension.It does not produce accurate, quantifiable feedback in regards to muscle or appendage position, as does a machine in which component positions are tracked by precise signals which are accurate, consistent and quantifiable, unlike proprioception.

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #31 on: August 11, 2021, 11:10:20 PM »
Yes it is called proprioception, and motor learning theory is just that.Theory. It is a hell of a long way from a well understood concept.Proprioception provides limited feedback to the brain and mostly comes into play at the extremes of muscle extension.It does not produce accurate, quantifiable feedback in regards to muscle or appendage position, as does a machine in which component positions are tracked by precise signals which are accurate, consistent and quantifiable, unlike proprioception.
  A  triad is relatively easy, as it can be played virtually with the 3 notes in contact with 3 respective fingers at the same time.Being able to play without looking within a few days is an assumtion.It could be a few days, 10 days or a few months.No two people will learn to do it within a similar time frame.The problem becomes, once you speed up, these perceptions relating to lateral position become increasingly innaccurate and unreliable.It is no good imagining playing something, because a picture in your head contains no measurements, and the muscles in any case do not read or follow information relating to position.Only extremes of muscles extension provide limited feedback to the brain.It is a black art trying to manipulate this system, and there is no garauntee of ever succeeding

Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #32 on: August 12, 2021, 01:04:22 AM »
I think that you are way overthinking this. It's not hard to try out a bunch of different approaches. When something works, you'll feel the difference quickly, and it won't be incremental. It may take a few weeks to solidify the habit of doing it the new way, but you should feel a difference right away. You need patience, but not so much patience that you keep doing something unhelpful in the hope that if you work away at it for month things will get better. Lots of things can slow down arpeggios. I think one of the most common is developing a nice, legato arpeggio at a moderately slow tempo and thinking that you can work at speeding it up. When you try to do that, your fingers hang on the the keys too long, and you slow yourself down. You have to practice finding ways to get your fingers off the keys immediately after you strike them. But that's just one thing among many that could be slowing you down.

You could have a look at this; even better would be to get a teacher to watch you and diagnose what's slowing you down.


  There is more than one way to skin a cat, but there are not that many ways.As with scales, arpeggios or any other kind of passage, there are a limited number of exercises which can be used to improve the performance.You may well find none of them produce any satisfactory gain.I have used many strategies which were recommended by accomplished experts, who stated, almost as if fact, that a particular type of exercise was very effective to achieve improvement in some particular aspect of playing, for example to increase the speed and accuracy of scales.However, quite often, there results no improvement at all.This scenario is all too common.Almost always, a mentor will make assumptions about how a person implementing thier technique will improve, as though it is a GIVEN that the student will improve if they follow X,Y or Z.In my experience, once the difficulty level advances beyond a moderate level, ALL ways of addressing performance produce, in a best case very small improvements, if any at all.There are no adjustments, or exercises or techniques that produce pleasing gains once you get close to the limit of your ability.The law of diminishing returns most certainly comes into play here.You really have to flog the horse half to death,just trying to get even 1% more out of it.There is no form of training you give the horse, and wow within a month it is 5% better.It just doesn't happen. With the speed aspect, even with perfectly smooth, fluid technique, you still find there is simply no way whatsoever to land fingers correctly once you reach a certain speed.It doesn't matter what exercises you do, it is excruciatingly difficult to achieve any measureable increase at all.Even increasing an arpeggio from say 120 to 121 bpm becomes tens of thousands of hours of research, listening to experts trying this that, that and the other.If you have natural aptitude, you will go from 120 to 130 in a single day.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #33 on: August 12, 2021, 02:02:09 AM »
I think if studying 3 hours for 10 years and this argpeggio in the Planet Earth piece is the most difficult idea you face and take a long time, there is a problem I reckon there is certainly something that could be improved with your practice method and technique.

Also when one mentions tempo say 120 BPM this doesn't really make clear how fast we are talking about. How many notes per beat? One note per beat is pretty slow.

If you are struggling increasing speed even in the most microscopic amount then there really is a problem, if something is controlled appropriately increasing tempo should not be something you need to do in microsteps. The problem with playing slowly is that you can do movements which do not relate to faster playing so you never really practice correct fast movements thus improvement in speed hits lots of walls since you either struggle to generate speed with the poor movements or your operation on improving those slow movements has you searching in the wrong direction merely attempting to improve an inferior solution.

Perhaps post some videos of your attempts at passages you are trying to increase speed with, you might get some ideas from others which are more specific.
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Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #34 on: August 12, 2021, 03:08:52 AM »
  As far as the tempo, I refer to playing 16th notes.For example, I could play scales at 100 or so beats playing 16th notes, which is about 30% or more slower than a lot of professionals could play.
  As you say, practising slow does not exercise the correct motions required for fast playing, but it is still required in the practice regime.With an arpeggio for example, i could repeat 7 times, increase the metronome by 2 or 4 beats, and then correctly play at the new tempo.But eventually, no matter how much experience you have at any given tempo, increasing the tempo, even slightly, always produces mistakes.And as you would know, one must avoid playing repeatedly at a level that produces mistakes.Therefore you slow back down and the cycle repeats.Then you focus only on small groups of notes, so you can play segments of notes at the higher tempo.But then, stringing them together STILL produces mistakes.So you might try forcing an elevated tempo for short bursts in the hope that the stress of a higher tempo will help make a slightly slower tempo seem more manageable.But it doesnt.I seem to get stuck where it is just impossible to traverse the keys any faster, even in microsteps.Any attempt to speed up produces only sporadic success, with errors of accuracy i.e hitting wrong notes, or errors of timing invariably occurring with any attempt to advance the tempo.
  At some point i can upload some attempts and you can have a look.I will probably take up one on one tutoring anyway, but i guess i am just venting the frustration, as i have been using several exercises and mental techniques to boost my speed, but i am still against a brick wall so to speak.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #35 on: August 12, 2021, 04:53:58 AM »
  As far as the tempo, I refer to playing 16th notes.For example, I could play scales at 100 or so beats playing 16th notes, which is about 30% or more slower than a lot of professionals could play.
When one mentions BPM they need to say what is the value of the beat and how many notes you are playing per beat. So if you are considering it a quarter note beat then you are playing 4 (1/16ths) per beat. It's easier just to say things like 120 BPM x notes per beat.

As you say, practising slow does not exercise the correct motions required for fast playing, but it is still required in the practice regime.
One can play at slower tempo while preserving the fast motions, or drill sections quickly with controlled pausing throughout.

With an arpeggio for example, i could repeat 7 times, increase the metronome by 2 or 4 beats, and then correctly play at the new tempo.But eventually, no matter how much experience you have at any given tempo, increasing the tempo, even slightly, always produces mistakes.
If one is playing with inefficient technique they can still produce fast movements but it is uncomfortable and uncontrolled. Once you have a strong understanding of what it means to control something then as the tempo increases it is the idea of control and that feeling you want to preserve rather than it being something that starts out rough and needs to learn how to do it fast even in that poor state. It is almost like an athelete learning to run really fast just on their heels, sure they can learn to do it and get faster, it's not so good, there are better ways. 

And as you would know, one must avoid playing repeatedly at a level that produces mistakes.Therefore you slow back down and the cycle repeats.Then you focus only on small groups of notes, so you can play segments of notes at the higher tempo.But then, stringing them together STILL produces mistakes.
We could scrutinze your practice method and how you are repeating passages and how you break up difficult parts and how you connect parts together. Often peoples problem with the technique is the fingering and connection of it all into one another as the hand moves. Inefficient fingering is usually the largest issue and then how one efficiently moves from one position to the other comes next. If you take an example and discuss how you broke it up and what is still not working I am sure people here will give you good advice as to how to approach it.

At some point i can upload some attempts and you can have a look.I will probably take up one on one tutoring anyway, but i guess i am just venting the frustration, as i have been using several exercises and mental techniques to boost my speed, but i am still against a brick wall so to speak.
It would make things more clear for everyone, speaking in generalizations only can get you so far you really need a specific situation to look at.
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Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #36 on: August 12, 2021, 05:30:45 AM »
 The problem with this, is that correct fingering cannot, and will not enable accurate placement of fingers at elevated tempo.You need to understand the problem from a physics point of view.There are probably 30 muscles involved in transfering a finger from one position to the next in a scale or passage.Every one of those muscles must follow an exact profile on tension versus time, with the phasing of each muscle in respect to all the others also needing to fall within an extremely narrow range.So in fact, the subconscious mind must make incredibly complex calculations in order to simply move a finger from point A to B.The problem is, that there is less and less time to perform any calculation, or to make any correction during the process as the tempo is increased.Absolutely perfect fingering does NOT help with the fact that the brain cannot control the process, because there is no time to even contemplate the task the brain is about to undertake.You cannot ensure your fingers end up at the right position, when the brain has no time to even begin to grasp what you are about to ask of it.You MUST apply an exponentially greater processing speed in response to a linear increse in speed.This reality is observed in mechtronics, just as it is with human movement.You cannot guide a body part from any position, to any other position, without a complex system of observation/feedback  which is continuously evolving throughout the entire movement, from start to finish. You need to explain, how to ENSURE that a component is very rapidly moved from 1 position, to another very specific position, without spending any time AT ALL  calculating adjustments or contemplating the trajectory.There is no time to incorporate any consideration of trajectory, yet you must STILL ABSOLUTELY ENSURE, that only a very narrowly defined and specific trajectory is followed.From a physics, mathematical and biological point of view, this is impossible.Mental processing ability MUST increase exponentially in reponse to increases of tempo.That fact cannot be alleviated by fingering.
     Maybe you CAN play slowly with a fast technique.Nonetheless, it is of limited benefit to gain any increase of tempo.The fact is, playing slow, fast, medium, or any other speed in between, does not assist with accuracy at high tempo. Correct fingering does not assist with accuracy at high tempo.It doesn't matter how smooth, flowing or relaxed your technique is, when you cannot CONTROL the motion, because there is no time available to realise what the hand is or is not doing, or where the finger is or is not about to end up.You cant control or correct an event, when the event is over before a nerve impulse can travel from one side of the brain to the other...
   

Offline brogers70

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #37 on: August 12, 2021, 09:11:44 AM »
Damn, man, I might not hire you as a piano player, but if I ever need a complex, technical justification as to why I'll never be able to do something, I'll give you a call.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #38 on: August 12, 2021, 12:00:01 PM »
The problem with this, is that correct fingering cannot, and will not enable accurate placement of fingers at elevated tempo.
In fact correct fingering is the most important aspect of it all, if you start with wrong fingers you are already at a disadvantage and with the piano often having multiple solutions for a given situation you can easily go wrong and choose suboptimal solutions. Understanding the fingering also needs to be applied, not merely playing the correct combinations but understanding the patterns it goes through. To say fingering "cannot" and "will not" enable accurate placement of fingers at elevated tempo is just not true, but of course this depend on ones understanding of what the correct fingering entails.

You need to understand the problem from a physics point of view.
You don't need to do that at all, in fact in the 37 odd years I've been playing I have never had to do such things and never have taught any of my students how to play the piano via a physics perspective.

There are probably 30 muscles involved in transfering a finger from one position to the next in a scale or passage.Every one of those muscles must follow an exact profile on tension versus time, with the phasing of each muscle in respect to all the others also needing to fall within an extremely narrow range. So in fact, the subconscious mind must make incredibly complex calculations in order to simply move a finger from point A to B.
There surely are other things in life that you do other that piano that requires some kind of muscular movements that you can do without thought. If everything in piano required that you notice 30 muscles moving then no one would be able to play the piano, it's just over complicated and exhausting. Rather than subsconsious we push it into different states of memory notably, conscious, muscular and sound memory, each which have rather detailed  descriptions and what they can totally involve.


The problem is, that there is less and less time to perform any calculation, or to make any correction during the process as the tempo is increased.
Through our practice routines we can reduce the amount of thought until we control what do with minimal thought. Of course if you are watching everything and your brain needs to calculate for you to control what you play constantly it's going to be difficult. Reducing the amount of thinking really is a key part of why we repeat during practice routines, but how does one exactly reduce their thoughts and execute large amounts with very little info?

Absolutely perfect fingering does NOT help with the fact that the brain cannot control the process, because there is no time to even contemplate the task the brain is about to undertake.
This is not a problem with the fingering, which is the most essential part of technique (as Liszt would agree with) but rather an inefficiency of thought and/or lack of technical experience to know what you have to do thus everything requires extra thought processes to manage. Perhaps reveal all your fingering for a given passage you find is tough and we can discuss it to see if you really have all your fingers correct. Piano is a tricky instrument because there can be multiple solutions to a passage but it is a trap to think you should always do what is comfortable for yourself (that isn't a trap if you have a large library of fingering solutions you have trained and learned to make many difficult fingerings feel natural to you). I can't tell you how many times solutions to peoples technical problem has began with correcting their fingering inefficiencies.

You cannot ensure your fingers end up at the right position, when the brain has no time to even begin to grasp what you are about to ask of it.You MUST apply an exponentially greater processing speed in response to a linear increse in speed.This reality is observed in mechtronics, just as it is with human movement.You cannot guide a body part from any position, to any other position, without a complex system of observation/feedback  which is continuously evolving throughout the entire movement, from start to finish. You need to explain, how to ENSURE that a component is very rapidly moved from 1 position, to another very specific position, without spending any time AT ALL  calculating adjustments or contemplating the trajectory.There is no time to incorporate any consideration of trajectory, yet you must STILL ABSOLUTELY ENSURE, that only a very narrowly defined and specific trajectory is followed.From a physics, mathematical and biological point of view, this is impossible.Mental processing ability MUST increase exponentially in reponse to increases of tempo.That fact cannot be alleviated by fingering.
I mean you have all these ideas as to how it is working in your head but have you managed to find a solution to the problems? I don't believe that there should be a problem at all with thinking/processing info as tempo increases IF you have applied apporpriate practice methods which aim to increase comfort and accuracy of playing AND reduce the amount of thinking required to produce it effortlessly.


Maybe you CAN play slowly with a fast technique.
It can be done optimally only if you understand what the fast technique requires, if you are trying to find the technique since you have never experienced it slow movements might be simply essential because trying it fast produces a riddle of errors and no control. This is a problem for developing pianists but for experienced pianists it is no problems at all. Slow practice is your friend if you already know the technique because all you want to do is reduce the amount of thought required to produce the passage and once it is known you can simply go ahead and play it. Of course if you are calculating too much even if you already have very strong tehcnique it will not work, you need to free the mind so you are not looking at the leaves of the tree to keep you on point.


The fact is, playing slow, fast, medium, or any other speed in between, does not assist with accuracy at high tempo.
I don't know how you can say that, you mean you believe slower practice has ZERO benefit at all for higher tempo? It doesn't make logical sense imho.


Correct fingering does not assist with accuracy at high tempo.
Well then think of it this way, incorrect fingering will put you at a great disadvantage, you should ensure your fingerings are pristine before wasting time learning less efficient movements.


It doesn't matter how smooth, flowing or relaxed your technique is, when you cannot CONTROL the motion, because there is no time available to realise what the hand is or is not doing, or where the finger is or is not about to end up.You cant control or correct an event, when the event is over before a nerve impulse can travel from one side of the brain to the other...
You mean like 100 notes a second or something? Complicated muscular movements can memorize large strings of notes with little thought at all. As your sight reading skills improve you can also play pieces you have never seen at tempo with mastery because you have learned to think efficiently and can see entire phrases of music rather than being caught up over microsteps.
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Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #39 on: August 12, 2021, 04:41:12 PM »


  Here is a clip of me practising the hardest line or so of music from the end of that piece.At least maybe it shows the fingering of RH.Obviously thats not all the things i would do during practising but you can see i can JUST pull it off at that tempo, but even after multiple days of being at that tempo, still  a small risk of errors ocurring, and unable to advance tempo much at all without committing errors.Clearly i am highly familiar with that specific scale/sequence of notes, yet total security of playing does not occur untill far too much repetition has occurred, over multiple practice sessions.I use the same fingering as the creator of that arrangement.Obviously my actual motions would not be identical, but my finger numbering is identical to the original artist, which is something i always seek to establish early on in the process.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #40 on: August 12, 2021, 05:06:38 PM »
Actually, not bad! You can try out sitting just a bit further behind, as it helps with freeing up the arm for passages with a wide span like that one. It looks like you're using a lot of wrist motion, it might be better to lose some more arm. You should also try out keeping a more rounded hand shape and minimizing motion by simply allowing a key to fall down using gravity. (This is a bit hard to express in words, but I think Taubman videos do a good job of demonstrating this.) You're at a point where having a good teacher demonstrate things would be really useful. There are lots of micro-adjustments you need to do in order to play like that fluently and at tempo. There are a few things I can see from here, but it's hard to say for sure since I'm not a professional.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #41 on: August 13, 2021, 03:28:13 AM »
Here is a clip of me practising the hardest line or so of music from the end of that piece.At least maybe it shows the fingering of RH.Obviously thats not all the things i would do during practising but you can see i can JUST pull it off at that tempo, but even after multiple days of being at that tempo, still  a small risk of errors ocurring, and unable to advance tempo much at all without committing errors.Clearly i am highly familiar with that specific scale/sequence of notes, yet total security of playing does not occur untill far too much repetition has occurred, over multiple practice sessions.I use the same fingering as the creator of that arrangement.Obviously my actual motions would not be identical, but my finger numbering is identical to the original artist, which is something i always seek to establish early on in the process.
It's usually a good to post the sheet music along with what you are playing because then it's much easier to discuss the situation. With your RH arpeggios you need to think about reducing the amount of crossing over and under your hand especially the thumb should try to release so you do not need to cross over it a great amount and thus contort the hand shape, there is no need for such exaggerated wrist rotation imho maybe that is fine if you are playing slowly. There is simply no need for finger legato since the pedal will free the hands thus you can greatly reduce the passing of fingers into new position. When crossing think about dropping from above rather than side on and find your next positions faster rather than have the fingers lagging behind it when you enter the first note of the new position.
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Offline pianodannn

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #42 on: August 13, 2021, 06:22:10 AM »
Ok thanks for advice, i will consider all of that.

Online lelle

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #43 on: August 14, 2021, 01:39:00 AM »
It looks to me like there is tension in your hands/fingers and likely arms/wrists when you play. Particularly tense thumbs can make it difficult to play fast or accurately, but the same is true for the other fingers too. It can make even things that you think should be easy feel difficult and awkward and make you stumble a lot.

Tense hands is, in my experience, not something you improve by practicing slowly and then gradually increasing the speed. If your hands are habitually tense, you essentially practice playing with tension regardless of what speed you practice in, and the fundamental problem - the tension - does not get solved. You have to, again in my experience, become conscious of and practice letting go of the muscles you are used to holding on to.

It can be tricky if you don't know where to start but it doesn't look hopeless for you at all. I have seen tension like this in people (including myself) before and it's definitely possible to unlearn/improve with some good guidance. It's a bit difficult to help using just words written on a forum though (at least for me).

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #44 on: August 14, 2021, 01:44:15 AM »
I find a rather unconventional but effective way to reduce tension in your hands is what I call free jumping.

Online timothy42b

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #45 on: August 18, 2021, 12:13:43 PM »
I have two thoughts.

If you're practicing 3 hours per day for 10 years, what are your injuries?  It would be unusual not to have some, especially if you have tension or some fault in technique.

Secondly, If 3 hours a day doesn't advance you to the next level, why would you not cut your losses?  Play 1 hour a day and have 99% of your current benefit with less risk of injury, more time for the rest of life, less frustration and more enjoyment.  Plus, playing less hours forces you to be more efficient. 
Tim

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #46 on: August 18, 2021, 12:25:03 PM »
If you're practicing 3 hours per day for 10 years, what are your injuries?  It would be unusual not to have some, especially if you have tension or some fault in technique.

Not necessarily. What kind of injuries do you have in mind?

Online timothy42b

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #47 on: August 18, 2021, 12:31:19 PM »
Not necessarily. What kind of injuries do you have in mind?

The standard cumulative trauma disorders that all musicians experience from time to time, especially as we age. 

Correct technique greatly reduces but cannot eliminate this.  Humans are simply not constructed to sit in one position and perform repetitive motions for hours on end. 

And someone who has hit a wall may very well not have correct technique. 
Tim

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #48 on: August 18, 2021, 02:55:40 PM »
The standard cumulative trauma disorders that all musicians experience from time to time, especially as we age. 

A few come to mind but I'm not sure we are thinking about the same ones. Can you list off the main cumulative trauma disorders you have in mind?

Quote
Correct technique greatly reduces but cannot eliminate this.  Humans are simply not constructed to sit in one position and perform repetitive motions for hours on end. 

As far as I know there are examples of pianists who played magnificently into old age without being bothered by injuries. I'm also thinking about how, again as far as I know, old people benefit from movement and exercise over being sedentary for joint health etc. So that's why I am curious for more detailsabout your perspective on this topic.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is there a time you accept you cannot advance to a higher level
«Reply #49 on: August 18, 2021, 03:29:00 PM »
The standard cumulative trauma disorders that all musicians experience from time to time, especially as we age. 
Im 40, played piano some 37 years, still waiting for any sort of injury at all. I have cut my finger doing a glissando and had close shaves with slamming piano lids but that is about it!
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