Piano Forum



New Book: ďHow to Practise MusicĒ by Andrew Eales
This concise pocketbook tries to answer studentsí basic questions about how to practice, but also discusses in detail how to plan your practice time, whether youíre practicing 15 minutes or several hours per day. Andrew Eales is a long experienced piano teacher who also runs the popular blog pianodao.com. Patrick Jovell has talked to him about the new book. Read more >>

Topic: autodidacts and bad habits  (Read 352 times)

Offline pcaraganis

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 33
autodidacts and bad habits
on: August 31, 2023, 03:32:13 AM
I have spent some time teaching myself piano as an adult, but neglected fundamentals. I love Schumann's music, and rather than work my way up playing true beginner pieces with a focus on building up a well-rounded skillset and understanding of theory, I went directly to some of his pieces and painstakingly learned them by slowly deciphering the sheet music and then memorizing the pieces. Because reading was so slow for me, I never practiced sight reading and I essentially cannot pay attention to the sheet music while playing.

I recently decided to take some lessons with a teacher. I started by playing through a few measures of one of the pieces I've learned, and he was very impressed. Once he got below the surface, he was disappointed - I couldn't analyze any of what I was playing, I couldn't break it down, and I was basically playing entirely by muscle memory. If he stopped me in the middle of a passage, I would have to start again from the beginning.

Now I know I have to start from the bottom and work my way up, to unlearn my bad habits. I am willing to do this and I know it's necessary, but I am not looking forward to playing very simple pieces when I'm used to playing the music I feel passionate about (even if in a limited sense).

Any tips, or comments, are appreciated. Is the time I've spent wasted? Or will I be able to fill in the gaps quickly? Did anyone else start this way?
Robert Schumann:
- Top pieces & piano scores to download
- Biography & quotes
- Related forum topics & articles

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 7354
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #1 on: August 31, 2023, 07:08:00 AM
As a piano teacher I am not convinced that "bad habits" is a problem or even a negative. I'd rather teach someone who has tried something and it being not totally correct than someone who has zero experience. When you are shown a better method you can compare that to what you did before and make a clearer judgement as it how good it actually is.

A good teacher will take into consideration the skills you have already learned and make adjustments that you will realise is highly beneficial.

There is nothing wrong learning a piece that might be too difficult so long it doesn't constitute the majority of your practice regimen, your focus should be on material that you can make consistent and measurable progress with. It is no good thinking all works you try on the piano must be brute force practiced for unknown amounts of time before it is solved in a mediocre fashion. Start learning material that you can do quick and successfully and then slowly build up, before you know it the pieces that once challenged you become quite manageable. This requires that you however humble yourself at the beginning which can be a big challenge in itself.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline ego0720

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 96
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #2 on: August 31, 2023, 01:02:05 PM

Now I know I have to start from the bottom and work my way up, to unlearn my bad habits Ö I am not looking forward to playing very simple pieces when I'm used to playing the music I feel passionate about (even if in a limited sense).

Any tips, or comments, are appreciated. Is the time I've spent wasted? Or will I be able to fill in the gaps quickly? Did anyone else start this way?

Deciphering in itself is not bad habit. Itís similar to the Suzuki method because 1) motivates people 2) uses tools that are natural to a player. However you can develop bad habits thatís associated with self learning which is evident all over YouTube videos. Those do have to be unlearned and then fixed up. And it takes 4-5 times the effort than in doing it right the first time because 1) unlearn the bad habit 2) learn right habit. It takes a conscious effort at first then one has to stop thinking and make the new habit subconscious. Itís not something to dwell on. The problem is pervasive bc the cost to hire a teacher is generally expensive (they have to make a modest living) and the student never knows if they get something out.  The value of a good teacher becomes obvious but only after realizing problems when they manifest. Good teachers usually rely on their reputation locally and find it adequate to find students on this alone with verbal recommendations.

I donít know of anyone who didnít screw up somehow. Music, due to his complex nature,  can be stratified to many elements. Itís not wrong to start with one skill and proceed from there. And each chooses their starting point. But, of all skills, sight reading is the end game and it has its challenges. Itís probably the least interesting of all skill set to develop because 1) it takes concentration 2) itís slow to build 3) itís unmusical in the beginning (ďboringĒ to most). It wouldnít motivate a person necessarily at the beginning and probably would ward off many potential students. It should be something to start at some point of the journey and I donít know of any that begins with sight reading.

Incorporating sight reading skill is a chore we all must eventually do. Deciphering limits a player to only play songs that are memorized via the innate abilities (ear usually, even that may be missing making music a disinclined hobby for that portion of the population which are mostly western with monotone language). One can probably naturally build that sight skill through repertoire but has to be a mindful effort. Personally, it is the input of looking at the sheet and developing the mind-created memory of sight, hearing, and or touch (fingering) which then translate to the physical execution of the song. Integration of the multiple skills is why itís a forever hobby with no end.

The problem many face by design is that the playing level mismatches with impromptu reading, leading to an ego check because itís humbling to recognize the reading ability as fetal while the playing can very advance. Such is the case for students of Suzuki. 

Initially, sight reading is interpreted as notereading with garbles. Then one finds those garbles actually mean something as the knowledge builds. The beauty is in how music showcases everything about you.. and thatís literally and figuratively. One can learn a lot about oneself in the approach. That can improve or transcend skills in other areas of life.

I wouldnít see this as starting over again or at the bottom of the totem pole.. or even a backward step (ego talking). Itís part of the journey to move forward into a wonderful challenge. You still use deciphering skills (or decoding) but you will add other skills to it to make it more efficient and better. Lots of ppl did what u did and u r not alone (again, by design). You did not waste your time. And you will be able to fill the gap (but not quickly). Sight reading requires starting with easier pieces as it is an independent skill from playing. When you harmonize these two skills as one.. thatís the balance we all hope to achieve. Itís gonna be a long journey but rather than see it as a binary outcome.. think of it as part of your curriculum. U can set aside 5-15 minutes to do that. If u r hardcore maybe 30 minutes. Itís not something anyone enjoys doing but itís the ultimate endpoint when somebody hands u a sheet and after a few minutes u just play it.

Offline brogers70

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1527
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #3 on: August 31, 2023, 01:38:15 PM
I have spent some time teaching myself piano as an adult, but neglected fundamentals. I love Schumann's music, and rather than work my way up playing true beginner pieces with a focus on building up a well-rounded skillset and understanding of theory, I went directly to some of his pieces and painstakingly learned them by slowly deciphering the sheet music and then memorizing the pieces. Because reading was so slow for me, I never practiced sight reading and I essentially cannot pay attention to the sheet music while playing.

I recently decided to take some lessons with a teacher. I started by playing through a few measures of one of the pieces I've learned, and he was very impressed. Once he got below the surface, he was disappointed - I couldn't analyze any of what I was playing, I couldn't break it down, and I was basically playing entirely by muscle memory. If he stopped me in the middle of a passage, I would have to start again from the beginning.

Now I know I have to start from the bottom and work my way up, to unlearn my bad habits. I am willing to do this and I know it's necessary, but I am not looking forward to playing very simple pieces when I'm used to playing the music I feel passionate about (even if in a limited sense).

Any tips, or comments, are appreciated. Is the time I've spent wasted? Or will I be able to fill in the gaps quickly? Did anyone else start this way?

I was in a similar situation and had to start back at the beginning. I think the mentality you need to enjoy simple pieces is just to try to make them as musical as possible. Lots of the folk tunes that kept people happy and dancing for centuries are very simple, and as far as I can tell, musicians enjoyed playing them. Pretend to be a different instrument, depending on the character of a piece, try to shape lines as though you were singing them. Imagine an orchestra accompanying you. There are lots of ways to make the experience of playing "easy" music interesting and enjoyable. It will help correct aspects of poor technique and it will also help you feel much more at ease at the piano than you will feel if you spend most of your time struggling with pieces that are way beyond your ability. Sure, it can be good to push yourself a bit, but don't underestimate how much benefit and pleasure you can get from simple music.

Offline geopianoincanada

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 69
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #4 on: August 31, 2023, 03:32:48 PM
You sound like you'll have quite the hill to climb in order to integrate new music learning with all you have picked up in the past. I'm certain it can be done, it's just not the most efficient way to go about it. I speak from personal experience on this.

Offline themeandvariation

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 820
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #5 on: August 31, 2023, 04:18:33 PM
There is an excellent new book called "Going Solo - Piano lessons for the Autodidact"  which starts off at square one - and takes one well beyond intermediate repertoire. (Shameless plug, but specifically inspired by those self-learners here, asking for help on their journey).
4'33"

Offline ego0720

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 96
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #6 on: August 31, 2023, 07:13:51 PM
There is an excellent new book called "Going Solo - Piano lessons for the Autodidact"  which starts off at square one - and takes one well beyond intermediate repertoire. (Shameless plug, but specifically inspired by those self-learners here, asking for help on their journey).

I'm always looking for new material. Not much info on this.  Nor are there reviews.  Have you read it?  Does it contain good song material?  How is it organized? What are the topics covered?  If I could even read prologue or Table of Contents.

Offline themeandvariation

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 820
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #7 on: August 31, 2023, 08:23:18 PM
If you go to Amazon, you can see inside the book, forward (a general overview), T of C etc.  It was just published. 200 pages.  Covers multiple styles, with numerous annotations, and sound files, basic chord theory.
4'33"

Offline ego0720

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 96
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #8 on: August 31, 2023, 09:49:30 PM
If you go to Amazon, you can see inside the book, forward (a general overview), T of C etc.  It was just published. 200 pages.  Covers multiple styles, with numerous annotations, and sound files, basic chord theory.

Maybe itís me but there is no search inside this book option.

Offline themeandvariation

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 820
4'33"

Offline pcaraganis

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 33
Re: autodidacts and bad habits
Reply #10 on: September 15, 2023, 04:21:47 PM
Thank you all for the thoughtful answers. It is encouraging, I am going to stick with it.
 

Logo light pianostreet.com - the website for classical pianists, piano teachers, students and piano music enthusiasts.

Subscribe for unlimited access

Sign up

Follow us

Piano Street Digicert