Introduction and seeking advice please

Discuss technical aspects of piano playing and recording.

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Introduction and seeking advice please

Postby IsabelC » Tue Dec 23, 2014 12:13 pm

Hi, I am a former piano player and I plan to return to regular playing after a very long break. I took lessons for 10 or 12 years starting at age 8, then I taught for a few years. Since that time (I'm now in my early 40s) I have only played very irregularly and only fairly undemanding music - mostly accompaniment for choirs and for my children's instrumental work. Every so often I will hear a piece on the radio that I used to be able to play, feel inspired and try to play it, only to get discouraged by my weak fingers, lack of fluency and inability to play anything up to speed.

So obviously after many years it's going to take a bit of regular practice before I can enjoy playing my favourite pieces again, but I'm not sure as to the best approach. I checked out a few "returning to piano" type books for adults, but I can already manage that music quite easily (since I have played a little and haven't forgotten everything) - I had a go at Chopin Waltzes today and could just about stagger through some of those, to give you a rough idea of where I'm currently at. Also I still have lots of music books, so I guess what I'm after is just some kind of structure to follow. I don't have hours and hours to practice, but I could set aside 30-60 minutes most days.

Should I focus on lots of scales/arpeggios? Etudes?
I have tried playing through Hanon but it made my fingers hurt.
Would it be better to just start working through a book such as Bach preludes and fugues?

I would really appreciate any advice as to how to proceed and what kind of practice will bring back my technique the most painlessly.

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Re: Introduction and seeking advice please

Postby pianolady » Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:57 pm

Hello and welcome to Piano Society!

I was in the same boat a while back. I don’t think you can expect to sit down and play through some of your old pieces and think that you should automatically be able to play them. It takes time to get your ‘fingers’ back. At least it did with me. The desire to come back to piano was so strong in me, that I began practicing hours every day, and thankfully my sight-reading improved significantly and I was able to learn a lot of new music. I still have to work very hard when I have something new to learn, but it’s a labor of love. You will get there too! You just have to play every day. I think scales and arpeggios are good. I tried Hanon, but didn’t feel it was worth my time. A few years ago I started taking piano lessons again from a very good teacher, and it was the best investment I ever made (besides buying myself a new piano….haha)!

Best wishes with your piano playing. I hope you let us know how you are progressing. And maybe you can make some recordings for us too! :)
"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." ~ Frederic Chopin

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Re: Introduction and seeking advice please

Postby techneut » Tue Dec 23, 2014 7:35 pm

I too came back, some 20 years ago, from a very long break. I had more or less resigned to not being able to continue my old habit of bashing away at anything long, loud, hard, and perferably way out. So I restarted with technically easier things like Bach Inventions and Mozart Sonatas. I have not regretted it as it gave me a new appreciation for the classic repertoire that I lacked before. And playing Bach has been the basis for a new and much more reliable technique.
I'm not sure starting with technical stuff like scales and arpeggios would be the way to go. But it depends on what your goals are, and what kind of repertoire you would eventually like to play. Although I still and again like to take on new daunting challenges, I have discovered that polishing known repertoire, to as close as perfection you can get, does much more for you than struggling with virtuoso pieces above your reach. I hope that makes some sense.
I'd forget Hanon and similar drills unless you want to be a concert pianist. Start with the Bach Inventions, and in parallel with Bartok's For Children and/or Mikrokosmos (no kid music, despite the name). The rewards will be great. They
were for me, anyway.
Good luck and see you around !
Nothing is always absolutely so -- Sturgeon's law
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Re: Introduction and seeking advice please

Postby Rachfan » Sun Oct 11, 2015 5:01 am

Hi IsabelC,

Welcome to Piano Society!

Yes, if you've been away from the piano for a considerable time, you'll find that trying to relearn pieces can be difficult. As to your question about attending only to rebuild your technique, I would say it's not necessary. The fact is that in playing pieces that are more challenging, pianists find that we can rebuild technique by overcoming difficulties in the piano literature itself -- not finger exercises of Hanon or the others.

Knowing scales is valuable from the standpoint of knowing the standard fingerings. This knowledge can often be transferred to scalar figurations in a score.
A suggestion: When you sit down to practice a particular piece, look at the key signature and then carefully play that scale, arms parallel, and up four octaves and back down. That is a bare necessity. Notice I didn't say you need to take on as a project the scales in the Circle of 5ths. Relearn a scale when you're working on a piece with that particular key signature. Over time you'll then know the scales.

Beyond that, there will certainly be some challenges in the notation. The best way to fix that kind of technical problem is to bracket that measure with some lead-in notes, the difficulty itself, and some lead-out notes. The reason for the extra notes is to provide some context. This process, actually, is what rebuilds your technique. It's a good idea too to select repertoire that matches your current abilities. But also schedule one or two more difficult pieces that will "stretch" your capabilities to some degree in order to advance in your practicing and playing.

I hope this helps.

"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April

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