Random Number Memory Generator

McDoc wants to take piano lessons.

He asked me the other night what I thought the general prognosis was for adult piano students – how well do they generally do?

In my experience, the challenge for adult students is to tolerate the discomfort of not immediately being able to play as well as they want to. Typically, they know what the music is supposed to sound like, and they have particular pieces they love and really want to be able to play, but there’s a gap between what they hear in their mind’s ear and what they can do – at least at the beginning. Of course, the same is true of kids to some extent, but I think kids are more accustomed to, and comfortable with, being in learning mode. Adults have a strong expectation of competence from themselves, and can get frustrated easily when it’s lacking.

Having said that, though, I think the prognosis for adult students is very good, IF they’re willing to work at it. You know the saying, “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well?” Well, that’s fine when you’re already at the top of the mountain, but I don’t think it’s very encouraging when you’re staring up from the base. I actually prefer to say, “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing badly,” meaning that it’s okay to be imperfect – the only way to improve, the only way to work out the kinks, is to see where they are.

I also said that how well an adult student does depends on what their goals are starting out. McDoc said, “Yeah, I know you can’t expect to play all 106 Beethoven sonatas right away.” Indeed! 😀

“I think you’re thinking of Haydn,” I said — Haydn having written 106 symphonies.

Beethoven wrote only 32 piano sonatas – though it might as well be 106, considering how difficult they are.

That thought activated my brain’s random memory generator – what, you think that’s weird? C’mon, everybody has one!

At a summer “piano camp” I attended when I was 18, the students were required to memorize the statistics of all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas: opus number, key, and title, if any. Maybe the number of movements, too – I don’t remember exactly (if not, I think that would’ve been a good idea). It was a good mental exercise, I think, though I must confess I haven’t retained more than a vague sense of it in the intervening years. At the time, there were as many anguished cries of “why do we need to know this?” as you might have expected to hear in a math class. 🙂

I was at the top of the eligible age range for this particular program, so I was surrounded by hordes of little prodigies, dang them. I had a couple of advantages, though: for one, I had just finished my first year of college (I was something of an overgrown prodigy myself), and had taken the full load of music major courses, so I was excused from the music theory class when the instructor discovered on the first day that I could have taught it myself. (In fact, if he had been smart, he would have paid me a cut rate to take his place while he went out for long lunches!) Also, since I was legally an adult, I was allowed to wander off unchaperoned from the college campus where the camp was held. I didn’t have a car, but I had a map and motivation beyond all logic, so I put a water bottle in my backpack and trekked through the streets of Orange County, California in the summer heat in search of a drug store. An 18-year-old woman who’s determined to buy makeup is a force to be reckoned with. 😉



2 Responses

  1. Well, not to quibble, but Haydn wrote 104 symphonies…unless you go by the Hoboken count, which is 108.

    I learned violin and viola as an adult. I’ll never be great, but I play in two orchestras. Adults aren’t as dumb as we look!

  2. I don’t wanna be all “THAT blogger” and just post a link to my site, but I think this post & the article I link to is relevant to yours. 🙂


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