Maybe I'm too harsh on myself but I started 3 weeks ago studying music theory and piano as my instrument, 5 hours/week at our royal conservatory (adult program after work).

The piano 'class' works through several booklets of songs that gradually introduce us to new techniques etc. While practicing before class (I have class every Friday at 15h30) I can comfortably and easily play what is written, but I don't feel like it's coherent. I try to keep up with my rhythm and try to play smoothly, but I still don't get a song out of it, just a collection of notes.

Am I crawling before I can sit, or running before I can crawl now? I know it's a marathon and a lifetime of study, while 3 weeks is not even a drop of water in the ocean I have ahead of me, but I kind of feel like even these very simple songs should be played coherently.

I'll ask my teacher the same question, but curious to hear from all of you.

Cheers,

Jani

  • Actually, you have already taken a very big step towards overcoming this - you have realized there is something to be concerned about, and that there's a difference between "playing all the right notes at the right time" and "playing music"! Child learners sometimes take years to discover the difference, but you got there in three weeks. A suggestion to add to the other answers - literally sing some of the exercises, and record your singing. It doesn't matter how bad your voice is - singing is likely to be more "instinctively musical" than fighting with a complicated machine like a piano. – user19146 Sep 23 '16 at 21:37

It really depends on the material. A lot of beginner piano studies are less about sounding good and more about training your hands. Without seeing the music I can't tell, but it may well be that the music itself is less a "song", and more a collection of notes.

My suggestion would be to work out some melodies by ear. I'm talking twinkle twinkle little star, away in a manger or whatever folk melodies/nursery rhymes you grew up around. It's absolutely the best way to train the ear, and more rewarding than playing studies (which ARE important in your development as a pianist, but can be well-complemented by also playing some things that you really enjoy hearing).

Also, playing songs which you already know the sound of well can be a great way to play around with musical expression i.e. how to best make that collection of notes that make a piano piece "sing" to you. This is as true for "Greensleeves" as it is for "clair de lune", even if one is a little more difficult than the other ;)

Practising exercises at your skill level is not going to deliver music but notes. The ultimate goal is to stop your fingers and technique from coming between you and the music.

I am currently quite sympathetic with your plight because I am doing the Bach "Air" from the orchestra suite 3 on the accordion and it is taking quite some effort to get to the stage where I can play it slow and measured and gracefully. At speed, keeping it coherent is comparatively easy. But done slowly, not just every note but every moment needs to be deliberate and focused, or the music falls apart. All the articulation has to be deliberate and coherent in each voice, all the dynamics deliberate and organically unfurled. It's quite jarring at slow pace when non-music stuff interferes.

So my suggestion is to practice until your fingers just work the stuff and you need not think about your fingers anymore. And once you are there, throttle your speed to unbearingly slow. And then work on making the stuff come together and convince at unbearingly slow speed (admittedly, with a basically percussive instrument like the piano, the amount of articulation detail you can perfect at slow speed is a bit limited). Record it. Is it consistent? Does it rest in itself? Are notes falling too early, or end too early? Are the voices (if polyphonic) and bass line consistent when focusing on them one at a time?

The slower you can play a piece without it falling apart into notes, the better it will keep together when looking closely at speed.

Getting your fingers out of the way is just the first step, and that's what you currently are mostly working on.

Just a thought. Playing and listening are two distinct skills. For beginners they're also discrete. You're still learning to play tunes on the instrument - trying to listen objectively simultaneously is virtually impossible. In fact it's a skill in itself that many budding musicians cannot achieve easily. Try playing later with some and you may appreciate what I mean!

Record yourself, and then relax and listen. You'll probably hear yourself in a different light. Also, the very act of making a recording is a skill in itself, and will mentally put pressure on you. Not a bad thing, as you'll be forced to know what you're playing, and forced to perform at your best. Not a bad thing!

However, as said previously, the gentle slopes you're now on won't necessarily afford you really coherent tunes that sound really good in execution. That's the way it is. Kids learning to speak are hardly eloquent, let's face it. Stick with it, and keep those recordings for posterity. Yours. Because at some point when you question what progress has been made, they'll be there to show you how much. Or how little...

I agree with the other answers. I just thought I'd add that it seems that you are in a great and advanced spot where are hearing what you are playing and it doesn't match what you want or expect to hear. Maybe try and be specific about what you hear in your playing that doesn't match to what you hear in your head or what you hear in someone else like your teacher playing the same thing. Piano is deceptively hard for reasons other than learning what key to press and when. For example not only should practice when to press a note but also practice when to release a note. And how hard should press that note. And then how do you make your pinky press the note with the same force as your index finger to get the same sound. And then how do you combine all of these techniques to get to a place where what you play sounds musical to you! Keep listening and keep practicing and keep learning! You are on the right track!

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