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Technical exercises for adult - any recommendations?


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#1 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 06:40

I'd like to get my wife something as a birthday present that would help her with her piano playing as she is a bit bogged down and feeling fed up with it at the moment.

 

Background: she is probably somewhere around Gr 5 level.  I think she was probably a bit better than that once when she was playing more consistently, but that would have been quite a while ago, say about 15 years.  Then the usual things like pressure of work got in the way - she didn't completely stop playing but it was all very unstructured and just stuff she knew.   About 6 years ago she decided that she  would get back to playing more seriously and started having lessons again.  That didn't work out very well: the teacher she found was very keen that she should work through the grades.  He decided that she should start with Gr 5 (hence my assumption) as that would be a sort of revision and then Gr 6 would be starting to move forward.  However, she just got fed up playing stuff she didn't actually like - the usual story of finding something she liked in one of the lists, something she was ok with in another, and only stuff she hated in the third.  In the end she dropped out of the lessons.  Then we moved and the piano didn't; she played an electric keyboard but didn't like that much and didn't practise a great deal.  About 18 months ago we finally got around to buying a piano and she is enjoying playing but floundering a bit in terms of selecting material and making progress.

 

She generally likes playing baroque and classical (her very favourite is Bach, obviously not noted for simplicity).  She has LOTS of sheet music, I don't think there could be anything useful that she hasn't got.  In my genuinely humble opinion, I think she needs one or two things that could be used to make measurable progress, so she feels she's getting somewhere.

 

I play recorder and have enjoyed working through the Schott Baroque and Renaissance Anthology series.  You don't have to like all the pieces, and don't have to reach perfection with every single one of them - with the ones you don't enjoy so much, do them and move on.  There is a Baroque Keyboard Anthology but only a Vol 1 as far as I can see, which it says is suitable for players with 2-3 years of experience, so I'm not sure if that would be too simple or might be fun to work through.  It's not particularly expensive so I might get it anyway.  There are 4 vols in the classical anthology series - can anyone suggest which would make the best starting point?  Probably vol 2 or 3.

 

Are there any good books of technical exercises that can be worked through?  The sort of thing where the exercises present a bit of a challenge but you can do them and move on to the next one and, again, make some sort of measurable progress?  For some instruments there are sort of "gold standard" books of exercises, I don't know if there's anything like that for piano.

 

Any suggestions gratefully received!  However, she doesn't want to take formal lessons (which are not really possible anyway) so it has to be something she can work through on her own.


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#2 agricola

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 07:41

I suggest that your wife should get hold of some old exam books at a variety of grades (for example secondhand on ebay) and just learn the pieces she likes out of them.  This is something I did years ago when self teaching violin.  As each syllabus came out I would buy the complete set of books and work my way through them from Grade 1 up to whichever grade I was on at the time.  I played other repertoire as well but the grade books provided a measurable structure.


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#3 fsharpminor

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 08:10

I think looking at some of the Bach 2-part inventions might test her mettle in a style she enjoys. Nos 4,7,8 and 11, and 13  have been set as Grade 5 in the past. Also no 1 of the three part Inventions.. Two part Inventions nos 6, 10, 14 and 15 have been Grade 6.  In a sense these are technical exercises.   Has she played any Scarlatti sonatas ?, At Grade 5 there is K74, K323 and K453  (all in key of A) and K95 in C. Lots of them are Grade 6  (Some are diploma level !!  I have been trying to master K141)


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#4 Clovis

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 08:18

The standard piano technical books tend to be very dry and very boring, and give no sense of progression. If Baroque is her thing, then could she manage the Bach 2-part inventions? Or the Little Preludes? These would certainly get the fingers moving.

 

They are less good at moving you round the keyboard though, so perhaps something more recent too? I really like Elissa Milne's Little Peppers series of books (definitely a progression here, up to Grade 5ish, but there are other books with harder pieces). They are primarily aimed at children, but are not childish in any way and present many technical challenges (rhythm, pedal, keyboard geography, articulation, dynamics and more) in a fun way. They are all jazz idiom, and I love playing them just for fun.

https://elissamilne.com/my-music/


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#5 dorfmouse

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 10:03


One of the problems I think with pure technical/exercise books, even progressive studies, is that without a teacher they don't teach  how to practise the technique in order to improve.
When I'm stuck on something in between lessons, my first port of call is Graham Fitch. He has many  videos on the Tube which focus on specific strategies and especially the movements required - rotation, relaxed wrist, movement of the thumb etc etc, all very clearly. demonstrated and explained.

I personally would love a present of a subscription to his Online Academy!

https://online-academy.informance.biz/
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#6 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 10:35

Thank you all for the suggestions.  I think she has the Bach Inventions so that's a good suggestion (and it's good to know where to start with them) and I'm sure she has some old grade books.  She is partial to a bit of jazz so I will look into the Little Peppers as they sound like fun.  The Online Academy is a great idea as that would make a nice present - I will investigate that further!  And I'm sure the technical exercises idea can best be left where some unknown poet left the old Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (in case you don't know the ditty in question: "As I read Decline And Fall, The boredom overcame my mind. I hurled the book against the wall, And left it fallen, and declined.").


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#7 fsharpminor

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 15:18

If she likes a bit of Jazz, try the five pieces in 'Jazzy Piano 2'  I'd say Grades 5-7, includes the now quite famous 'Willie Wagglesticks Walkabout', though that has been twice in Grade 7.............https://www.amazon.c...&srpt=ABIS_BOOK


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#8 Zixi

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 15:35

I asked my husband - who plays piano and is Baroque obsessed. He suggests:

 

Baroque Keyboard Pieces edited by Richard Jones (There are several volumes). He's showed me vol 3 and 4.

The Baroque Era Piano Album Schirmer's Library of Musical Classics

J.S. Bach et al A Little Keyboard Book edited by Richard Jones.


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#9 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 25 September 2021 - 08:03

FSM: thanks, I will take a look at that

 

Zixi: good morning - fancy meeting you here!  And thanks too for the book suggestions.

 

I need to order this weekend really so will look through everything again and order a few things that catch my eye, but I can pass on the other suggestions to her after the big day and she can explore further.  Thanks again everyone!


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#10 Zixi

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Posted 25 September 2021 - 09:12

 

 

Zixi: good morning - fancy meeting you here!  And thanks too for the book suggestions.

I was surprised to see you here! Anyway, I asked my husband what he would like as a present and he said those. We have given one of the Baroque Keyboard Pieces as a present after the person expressed appreciation of one of the volumes my husband had. As you can imagine, asking me about pianos and Baroque is a complete waste of time! :lol:


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