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To keep it brief, I have some background in piano. To illustrate what level I used to have, here are some of the works I used to play

  • Some fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier (I did especially well on the F major fugue)
  • French suite by Bach
  • Some etudes by Chopin (acceptable, but not satisfactory except for Op.10 No.1 and Op.10 No.4)
  • Appasionata 1st movement by Beethoven

Around six years ago I stopped practicing the piano for hours everyday. Instead I chose to focus on my schoolwork as well as my own band. I still played the piano everyday though, until three years ago I went to another country. But recently I've been thinking about picking up my piano again, partly due to the fact that couple of my friends quit their jobs and made into music schools. But then I have some confusions on what I should do now.

How should I go about taking back my skills? I am pretty sure I cannot start with Chopin's Etudes. But what level of exercise should I start with? Gradus ad Parnassum? Czerny?

I understand that probably the best way to do this is to find a good teacher, but still any thought/suggestion is really appreciated. Thank you.

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    I had a similar experience but I was never as good as you. Czerny is still my go to warmup and definitely got my fingers going again, so I'd say you'll be fine with that and/or your favorite exercises. Personally my rate of improvement without a teacher is glacially slow, but I love playing and don't really feel the need to become much greater than I am. Go play a bunch of digital pianos and get the one that you like best. You won't regret it. – Todd Wilcox Aug 20 '15 at 9:28
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I used to sneak into the music school and get kicked out too! Eventually got a digital piano with a hammer action because I wanted to practice without restriction, never quite the same as playing the real thing but can be a good practice tool if you have neighbours. Make sure you play it first before buying, and they can plummet in value after buying so may be worth looking at second hand.

As for taking back your skills, they are never really lost but they become rusty. If you learnt any pieces of by heart try closing your eyes and play without thinking about what your fingers are doing and just listen to yourself. There will still be gaps at first but you will be back to your standard in no time.

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Scales and arpeggios are a pretty good place to start practising on day one.

You probably need to "back off" and retrace your steps following the same path that you took first time round, though the second time should be much quicker.

You can see the pieces in the current UK graded examinations here: http://us.abrsm.org/fileadmin/user_upload/syllabuses/pianoSyllabusComplete15.pdf. You don't necessarily have to start from "grade 1", of course.

You can probably find most of the out-of-copyright music in those lists at http://imslp.org. The ABRSM publishes books each year containing the pieces for each grade exam. You can find them at amazon.com, etc.

The pieces listed in your OP are mostly "a bit harder than ABRSM grade 8". For the next steps beyond grade 8, look at http://www.abrsm.org/fileadmin/user_upload/diplomas/performance/performanceDiplomaFull.pdf

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