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I'm currently learning how to play the piano and realizing there are actually not so many pieces that I would like to play. Over the years my taste in music has narrowed a lot. Even though I've tried to get into classical a lot of times there are few pieces that I like, and when I do they tend to be extremely complicated. Another issue it that while I like Debussy, Bach or Chopin there's always some point in their pieces where my musical excitment goes down. In other words there's no piece that really gets me excited and that I feel I have to play. In jazz I love Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gershwin and Bill Evans. The first doesn't get played much piano solo, the second and third are incredibly hard.

So this brings me to the question of whether or not spending years on learning how to read music, interpret it and so on is really worth it in a case such as mine. What I'm afraid of, and what is already happening, is that my teacher will teach me how to play with pieces I don't enjoy. I'm not blaming her by the way, she always gives me a few options. It's just that I enjoy none of these pieces enough. When I look at musicians playing stuff that I really like on YouTube I always see that in their other videos they're playing some advanced classical literature. That makes sense to me. You love the repertoire, learning it is a pleasure and you slowly get the ability to play everything musically. When I look at my case, I have doubts. What would you say?

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Some more information would be of help. How old are you, for how long have you been learning the piano? It seems your goals are to play for your own enjoyment purely, or do you have other goals, like playing together with people? Unless it is how you make your living, there is no reason why playing shouldn't be fun all the time. If it isn't, it's worth to find the reasons why. Which only you can give. But there are ups and downs like for all interests, so the only option isn't to just give it up and never look back... –  Meaningful Username May 31 at 11:44
    
I'm 25, have been playing music for 10 years but decided to switch to piano only a few years ago. I did a long time without taking lessons and this led me to a dead end. So I finally started taking some last year. My goal is to play solo and to reach a pretty good level of musicality. I used to enjoy playing music without asking me all these questions but the piano is so hard especially for a late starter… That's why even though I agree that other interests might also have their downs I've been considering quitting. –  user10960 May 31 at 12:04
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25 is not a particular late starter. I bought my first keyboard last year, at 36. I'm sure even older people have started playing the piano and gained a lot of joy from it. It seems you are overthinking things. Just mess around at the keyboard for the fun of it. Maybe you are setting to high goals for yourself, which lead to frustration? –  Meaningful Username May 31 at 12:14
    
The music you like doesn't have to be traditionally played on piano in order for it to sound good on a piano: youtube.com/watch?v=zrR39V3b1yg - you can play anything, there's no such restriction as 'piano music'. (It's just easier to find arrangements for traditional piano music) –  Lee Kowalkowski Jun 2 at 12:52

6 Answers 6

You're paying the money, you should, within reason, be asking your teacher to provide pieces that you will enjoy. Give teacher a list of 10 tunes that you feel are within your capabilities, maybe get the dots for them, and present them to teacher, who should be able to find something you can be taught by them.Often, half of any lesson I may give will be 'pupil centred' as in they bring exactly what they want to play, and we dissect it together. Yes, some are too difficult, but can (and are !) simplified.Instead of learning everything through the dots, learn how to play just by listening to things. Some theory will be necessary, but again, this is where your teacher ought to be able to assist. Good luck!

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Simplifying pieces is a good idea I hadn't thought of, thanks! –  user10960 May 31 at 12:05

I was in a similar situation to you when I learned how to play the piano as a kid. My piano teacher was really into classical music and picked literature for me, but I preferred electronic music and contemporary orchestral and piano music. As soon as my lessons with her ended, I quit practicing, and now I can barely read beginner-level pieces.

School band was an entirely different story for me. My band instructors picked out a much more varied literature for the bands I was in, including many pieces published in the last couple of decades. I found the music vastly more interesting and continued band all the way through high school, including being accepted to a brief program for skilled high school performers.

The musical skill I've enjoyed the most, however, is writing music. I like electronic music more than any other style, and I started teaching myself to write using a computer around the time I started piano lessons and band. I still write electronic music, even though I didn't get any formal lessons in the skill until I took some classes in college.

All this to say: If you don't like the piano because you're not enjoying the literature you're playing, in my experience, you should either change to literature you do enjoy or switch completely to a different musical skill that's more accommodating of the music you like. I found that the closer I got to the music I enjoyed the most, the more motivated I was to learn it.

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I agree with this answer completely. I got discouraged with piano after several years as a teen because I was learning stuff I wasn't really that enthusiastic about (Brahms, Schubert). I would have been far more interested in practicing had I been learning Billy Joel, Springsteen, and Randy Newman. I switched to guitar, not so much because I liked the sound and feel of the instrument more, but because I was free to learn whatever I wanted to. That being said, I really do wish my piano skill was better and that I could play that stuff today. Therefore, play what you like on the piano! –  Mike Jun 1 at 3:52

If music of any kind touches you deeply, then definitely don't quit.

The best time to learn a musical instrument is when you're young. (25 is still young.) But you will appreciate what you've learnt when you're old too. When you're young, your taste could be narrower than when you're older. That's certainly how it worked for me. As a teenager I was definitely NOT into a lot of things I enjoy now. It was a lot about being cool back then, now I don't care.

I'd say stick with your teacher if you have a good relationship other than the repertoire. What you're learning now is the skills, not the pieces. You'll probably find a use for use all your musical skills, whatever genre they originate from. They can probably cross over into what you play or compose later in life.

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When I got to this point -- I started studying piano at 6yo, and this was when I had just turned 16 +/- a couple months -- I realized that the music I was most interested in wasn't really played on the piano. I had spent a decade studying classical music, and classical didn't do it for me. I spent about a month soul-searching and listening to recordings. And I realized that with my interests what I should be spending my effort on was getting serious about winds.

I dropped piano and I never looked back. It was the best thing I ever did for myself, musically.

What happens if you ask yourself, "What music do I most want to be playing?" without constraining it to "What piano music do I most want to be playing?" Maybe that's a specific piece or pieces you want to play. I met a guy once who was learning piano so that someday he'd be able to play Mozart's "Turkish Waltz". Hey, if it works for him. Maybe it's a style or genre. Maybe it's a social function, like being able to play in at the seissun at the pub, or lead sing-alongs at parties, or play duets with a friend.

If you can answer that question, or at least get oriented by it, I expect one of two things will happen. Either you will have a new insight how to approach piano music. You'll be able to go to your instructor and say, "Hey, this is what I want to be doing, do you have anything like that I could play? Can you help me realize this goal?" Or you'll realize, as I did, that piano is the wrong tool for the job, and you'll go find the right tool.

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That's exactly what happened to me with guitar and I think like you that it was a great decision. However with the piano the problem is slightly different in that I have no doubts about it being the instrument that suits me the best but I'm afraid of never reaching the level that I want. –  user10960 Jun 2 at 8:43

I studied piano as a youth, with the usual simple etudes and classical tunes, which didn't interest me much. I didn't ever expect to be good enough to play piano concertos, and leider and such didn't appeal at all.

Fortunately my piano teacher had a great deal of experience playing with touring big bands in the 1940s and 50s, with Harry James, Les Brown, Glen Grey and such. He also ran the house band in a famous New York City nightclub.He arranged charts of new songs for these bands for years. So he taught me chords and scales, and how to play piano with just a melody line with chords noted over the melody.

I wound up being able to play from guitar charts, to arrange songs for small combos, to improvise, to use popular books of current hit songs from Greatful Dead to Duke Ellington. I could work up classical tunes from the music, but don't see the point as I don't want to play that music. So I think you should ask your teacher to work on music theory, how chords are built and what notes work for improvising in a given key.

You can learn how to transpose from one key to another to suit a singer's range, how to work with a band that knows a song in a different key from the one you learned it in, and so forth.

I also found that the technical knowledge I have give me a great deal more enjoyment of every kind of live music performance I see, from folk to classical and everything in between.

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There seem to be three ways of going about playing music : 1) Read music (recital) 2) Play by ear (also recital) 3) Just play (literally) - whatever takes your fancy right there and then. Improvisation I guess, but also composition and jamming.

It sounds like you're pretty accomplished already in type 1) and are getting "burnt out" with climbing the same hill, even if you're having a different sandwich at the top.

Have you tried exploring the other avenues? There's possibly a whole bucket of joy to be had in going about music in other ways.

Regarding your piano teacher: One great way of removing the enjoyment of music and making it seem like a chore is to get people to learn & play things they don't like or aren't interested in. It then has a danger of feeling like a lesson in copy-typing on your keyboard, with no real satisfaction at the end.

As others have suggested here it would be well worth asking your teacher to heed your wished and have you learn what you like. They'll then ask "well, what do you like?"

And that's the nub of the answer, however you choose go about it: Gloves off, anything's possible, if another human with 8 fingers 2 thumbs can play this then so can you.

What would you like to play ?

Play that.

:-)

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