Hitting a Plateau

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Mike Steede
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Hitting a Plateau

Post by Mike Steede » Fri Sep 22, 2017 3:37 am

Hi folks,

Has anyone been banging their head against their music stand, only to find they've hit a plateau in playing, and in fact seem to be back sliding or at least feeling that way? What tricks has anyone used to get past this?

Best / Mike S.
2017 Steven Ganz '37 Hauser
2017 Yamaha NCX900FM
"Talking about music is like dancing about architecture" - Frank Zappa

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Hany Hayek
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Hany Hayek » Fri Sep 22, 2017 8:16 am

You need to change the book / exercises or type of music you are playing, even if at least for a little while.
You'll also need to play with someone. I have been doing this for 6 years with the mandolin. A couple of years back when I reached a plateau i couldn't overcome, I took lessons for a few months. Good teachers help a lot in these cases.

PeteJ
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by PeteJ » Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:19 am

Just keep trudging across the plateau. Eventually the ground starts rising.

Chris
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Chris » Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:22 am

Oh yes - last time was some 20 years ago and I quit playing.

What is specifically holding you back right now? Is it a particular piece, motivation, expectations from others or yourself, a specific technique, what?

Sometimes we need to give ourselves a break to step back and re-frame, re-learn or remember what we love about playing. It's a natural part of the learning process.

Chris
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Chris » Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:33 am

BTW Here's a guy who thought he was going be Mozart but ended up feeling like Salieri and wrote a book about it. His name is Glenn Kurtz and I thought his story was relevant:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... d=12843867

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lagartija
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by lagartija » Fri Sep 22, 2017 11:23 am

I second the thought of visiting a good teacher to give you the ladder you need to climb off your plateau. Everyone goes through this many times and a good teacher has many ways to help those who are spinning their wheels.

I read Glenn's book and he is a very articulate writer. I felt that as a young man he had unrealistic expectations as to what a career in music would be like. He became embittered because the reality did not meet his unrealistic expectations. I felt sorry for him that it destroyed the joy of music for him for many years. :-|
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Jussi
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Jussi » Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:24 pm

Chris wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:33 am
BTW Here's a guy who thought he was going be Mozart but ended up feeling like Salieri and wrote a book about it. His name is Glenn Kurtz and I thought his story was relevant:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... d=12843867
Really enjoyed that excerpt, I'll have to find the book. The following is a fun thought as you bang your head on the music stand:

"For most of their lives Segovia, Casals, Bach, and Stravinsky were also just men sitting alone in a room with these same raw materials, looking out the window at people on the street."

Imagine how many people right now are in their own little worlds, much like my own, all banging away at once!

As to the topic, I find that those periods of frustration are often broken with some new piece that really grabs me, then I can't stop playing and things pick up fairly quickly. I also find it easy to focus too much on technicalities (analysis paralysis!) and lose some momentum, in which case an evening or two not practicing, just playing some tunes with which I'm comfortable and not overthinking anything usually snaps me out of it.

Jussi

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:30 pm

The trick is to ignore it. It's normal. A kid does his hour or two of practice every day as ordered and doesn't worry.
Any form of headbanging (literal or figurative) will defeat you.
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

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Rick Beauregard
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Rick Beauregard » Fri Sep 22, 2017 4:49 pm

Every person and every plateau is different. So the answers and what works for you may vary. But this always works for me: let go of the results and expectations and just play. Think long term. Daily incremental improvement is impossible to detect, so just keep working. I like to go back and look at videos I've made theee years ago to see how far I've really traveled. That usually brakes me out of a slump. Here are some other ideas that work for me:

1 Yes! get a teacher-The most often repeated answer on this forum of many teachers to any question.
2. Go back to your process or system. Slow repetition, 5x (repeat a phrase until you can do it 5 times without error; begin with the last measure and go backwards; interleaved your practice- 5 min on a tough spot, then move to another phrase or piece for 5, then another, then repeat...
3. Take a break: a day, a week, but not too long or you may find yourself quitting.
4. Regress. Practice something easier for a while. Get it right then go back to where you were.
5. Move to something fun for a while. Want to learn Flamenco? Bossa Nova? Jazz? Ukulele?
6. Turn your roadblock into an exercise. Invent ways to practice the skill. Break it down.
7. Ask the forum or read a book to find inspiration and renewed zeal.

Good luck. Report back when you break out again and tell us how you did it.
All this time I thought I was making music; it was making me.
2015 Steve Ganz "Solidarity"
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robin loops
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by robin loops » Fri Sep 22, 2017 5:09 pm

It happens from time to time for everyone, including John Williams (for example). What I do for mild bouts is take a short break. By short I mean a couple of days, sometimes up to a week (rarely). For more serious bouts in the past, I completely abandoned my current repertoire started reading new material. During these times I would also choose studies that reenforced techniques I felt were lacking for the pieces that were the cause of feeling like I was up against a brick wall. Then after a long break slowly returned to my standard repertoire pieces, rereading them and approaching them as new pieces (which goes very quickly for pieces already worked. The key here though was to take a long enough break from any given piece that it actually required reading with the sheet music again. Doesn't need to be totally forgotten (just fuzzy around the edges).

I find that both of these help me approach my study with a new vigor and enthusiasm. The short breaks keep it from being monotonous in that after a couple of days, I am really excited to play again. And the breaks with a change of my approach to study (and repertoire) really help eliminate bad habits and identify trouble spots in pieces I already know well. The later also results in a lot of smaller pieces added to the mix.

Also, reviewing older simpler pieces that you have moved past (level/ability) in favor or more advanced works, can be great for confidence building. For example, when one feels like they are hitting a brick wall with pieces like Back's Chiconne, playing through Lagrima for the first time in years, can really demonstrate just how much improvement one has made...
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Mike Steede
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Mike Steede » Fri Sep 22, 2017 6:49 pm

Chris wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:33 am
BTW Here's a guy who thought he was going be Mozart but ended up feeling like Salieri and wrote a book about it. His name is Glenn Kurtz and I thought his story was relevant:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... d=12843867
Thanks very much! I feel a lot better after reading Kurtz's excerpt. And thanks to everyone for their thoughtful advice.
2017 Steven Ganz '37 Hauser
2017 Yamaha NCX900FM
"Talking about music is like dancing about architecture" - Frank Zappa

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Rick Beauregard
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Rick Beauregard » Fri Sep 22, 2017 9:03 pm

Chris wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:33 am
BTW Here's a guy who thought he was going be Mozart but ended up feeling like Salieri and wrote a book about it. His name is Glenn Kurtz and I thought his story was relevant:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... d=12843867
Thanks Chris. I'm sharing this on my post,
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=112357
All this time I thought I was making music; it was making me.
2015 Steve Ganz "Solidarity"
1980 Dauphin D30
1962 Fender pre-CBS P-Bass
National Triolian Uke ca.1930
Almost as many fly rods as guitars
_/) _/)
_/)

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:04 pm

robin loops wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 5:09 pm
reviewing older simpler pieces that you have moved past (level/ability) in favor or more advanced works, can be great for confidence building. For example, when one feels like they are hitting a brick wall with pieces like Back's Chiconne, playing through Lagrima for the first time in years, can really demonstrate just how much improvement one has made...
With respect, OK, that may work, but it also seems a little shallow. Something more important that comes from revisiting older simpler pieces is one can have valuable insights that one didn't have first time around, so one is still learning from this process.
1975 Calatayud y Gisbert, Yamaha CG131S.

Mike Steede
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by Mike Steede » Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:24 am

Chris wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:22 am
Oh yes - last time was some 20 years ago and I quit playing.

What is specifically holding you back right now? Is it a particular piece, motivation, expectations from others or yourself, a specific technique, what?

Sometimes we need to give ourselves a break to step back and re-frame, re-learn or remember what we love about playing. It's a natural part of the learning process.
That's good advice - thanks. I think I need to re-visit pieces that I'm more comfortable with and spend some more time with exercises (fun ones) and haul out the ol' metronome. I saw an interesting YouTube video on scales (can't remember where) that talks about playing them using destination points. Interesting stuff. Ah, found it! http://www.thisisclassicalguitar.com/sc ... on-points/
2017 Steven Ganz '37 Hauser
2017 Yamaha NCX900FM
"Talking about music is like dancing about architecture" - Frank Zappa

MessyTendon
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Re: Hitting a Plateau

Post by MessyTendon » Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:32 am

Try not caring :)

If you want to play at a competitive level I can understand the frustration. I think it's far more important to enjoy the music than be self critical or self defeating.

Resist taking a break. A rest but not a break. You know some people chop onions like slobs and others fine dice with precision, but at the end of the day most people can't tell the difference between fine diced and minced.

It's up to you to see through the doubt and go foward. There is music you might not be able to play, or maybe there is music you would not want to play. That's the kind of stuff worth trying. Because having to listen to that which you don't sonically appreciate, might in fact be something you can feel emotionally while playing it outright.

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