Picking pieces for piano

Picking pieces is a difficult task. I abandoned my piano studies as I moved toward Grade 8. I have lost my previous skills. I really like this article “How to Get Better at Piano” In particular I like that it says well, to play for others, I only need 3 days of practice for about 30-60 mins. I can target 7 days of half an hour of practice time, where I do some real practice and some days to goof off sight-reading with children songbooks. However, I notice that even before looking at piano scores, I’ve been putting forward unrealistic goals such as 23 pieces to complete for the year. Plus, all those initial pieces I’ve selected are above my current ability. Second, I want to enjoy my practice and to strip away my critical inner voice. I really love this advice here.

I made no progress in 25 years, until last year when I really decided to to something about it and analyze what was wrong.

1. I loved to play the piano but I hated practicing and found it terribly boring
2. I seemed not to be able to learn anything new. Which is strange as I am a good learner in many other aspects of life, and I UNDERSTAND music well, I have a good ear. But I just got angry and frustrated with myself and many times I quit practicing in anger and decided that listening to a CD is far less painful …

I learned how to resolve this from my dog. Yes, MY DOG. Because he is also a very good learner, but there are som strict rules to follow here, and if you break them you will not get any results.

First, the dog needs encouragement ALL THE TIME. If you start something new, praise him. Praise him for everything he does. Give him treats. Praise him even more. Your goal is not that the dog should do a full routine perfectly here. Your goal is to make him like the situation and feel confident.
Second, your ambitions AT THE MOMENT must be very, very low. You have your final goal, yes. But you must take this in small, small steps, so small that the dog almost certainly will succeed. You want him to sit? Give him a treat for looking at you. Give him a treat for every little movement he makes. He will try harder and harder to get his next treat, and he will see that action pays off. So he will eagerly try whatever he can come up with. Every movement in the right direction is a correct movement. First sign of an intention in the right direction is correct. Reward him. He will learn how to sit in a few minutes and he will have fun all the way. Next time it’s time for training, he will be there, wagging his tail, and being extremely concentrated.

Now, it’s easier to train yourself than it is to train a dog. All you have to do is giving yourself some mental credit every time you do something right, every time you make some kind of progress. Never mind how small, progress is progress. Don’t set up goals for your practicing sessions, just focus on your progress. IGNORE YOUR MISTAKES. They are just progress-to-come-later. And when you leave the piano, always make a short mental summary on what you just learned. Maybe your learned a new chord. Maybe you memorized yet half a bar. Everything counts. You will always find something. Maybe it did not sound as good as yesterday – well, forget about yesterday, did you make something better when you ended your session, compared to when you started?

I believe many people think you will make no progress if you lower your ambitions this much. I can tell you, from own experience, that this is not true. By changing my mindset and lower my ambitions I started to make progress like never before. I’m learning pieces that were far beyond my horizon just a year ago, and I LOVE TO PRACTICE. I leave the piano with positive feelings and so I long for going back. That is the whole key to it.

I’m going to try for 10 pieces of easy and medium difficulty. This means that the Gershwin song book will have to wait. I’m guessing (from  google images) that the Cole Porter song book is much easier.  

So far on my to learn list:

Gymnopédies 1 – 3 (easy)
Hiromi Place to be (easy-med)
Hiromi Sicilian Blue (easy-med)
Hiromi Somewhere (easy-med)
Mozart 11 variations (easy-med)
Forest Gump Theme (med)
Various songs from Cole Porter song book
– In The Still Of the Night
– You’d Be so nice to come home to
– Let’s Do It
– Night and Day
– I’ve got you under my skin

I really would like to learn jazz piano from Doug McKenzie’s youtube channel but I’m not sure that I can do it. To learn a piece by watching someone tap keys feels hard. I feel insecure without the transcriptions.

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