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Progress plateaus
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HP
Trondheim, Norway
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May 25, 2019 - 5:53 am
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At some point in learning a new instrument, the progress seem to slow down quickly. And no matter how much time, effort or effective practice you put in, the progress stays like that for a long period of time. This can be soul crushing, not to mention demotivating in the long haul. Have you experienced these plateaus? And if so, how did you recover from them and continued to grow as a musician?

'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.

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Gordon Shumway
London, England
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May 25, 2019 - 7:20 am
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Plateaux are a subject you can get general advice on from someone who has studied the theory of education.

But sometimes you get fake plateaux that are inflicted by individuals upon themselves.

But to some extent the answer depends on the asker.

Variety is important.

On guitar forums I often see people who think the way you learn is to find a piece you want to play and play until it's "perfect". They hear these stupid anecdotes about guitarists who play a piece 10 times in succession "perfectly" and if they play one wrong note they start all over again.

That is nonsense and it is soul-destroying. There is no such thing as perfect, and if you tried to play a piece for too long, it would kill your interest, and diminishing returns would kick in.

Just in case there are people here who feel the same way as those guitarists, my advice is to play a piece as well as you can for a month or 6 weeks or whatever, then play a harder piece, then play a harder piece, and so on. Then if you take a backwards step and revisit a piece you really liked a few months ago, then you'll find it easier, and you'll find that the idea of a plateau never really existed.

Vary your technical exercises, vary scales and arpeggios. The variety will obscure any plateaux, real or self-inflicted.

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 25, 2019 - 10:55 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 14423

All too often and too well.
I think it's one of the most common denominators of learning players.

Partly one may think that they are doing better than they really are in the early stages and would notice the improvements if they were to record themselves often.

At those low esteem slow improvement periods, I recommend learning as much new repertoire as possible. That in itself is improvement. 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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wtw
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May 26, 2019 - 3:43 pm
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I hit a plateau after like the 9 first months, when I was learning basically by myself. At some point one grows tired of playing children songs (even if the children like it) 🙂 . Stopped playing for 2-3 years, and since I started again I haven't yet met a real plateau, even though progress is indeed a bit harder to notice now (and of course, is never fast enough !). I record myself a lot (and share), it helps.

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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May 27, 2019 - 3:23 am
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I've hit a number of plateaux over 19 years of playing. Sometimes I was actually stuck -- I was stuck at lower-intermediate level for several years before some of the finer points of shifting and playing in positions above 5th finally clicked. And there were also times when it was an illusion of a plateau: I didn't feel like I was making progress for years, and then at some point I realized that I was sight-reading something with little difficulty that had previously seemed impossible, or went back to something I'd played before and found I could play it much better than before. That kind of illusion is common because it's easy to overestimate your ability earlier on and then underestimate your ability later.

I think the key is just to keep playing and learning new repertoire. Even when it doesn't feel like you're making progress, continuing to throw new combinations of notes at your brain and hand will create new connections and bring you closer to a breakthrough.

For me, playing in ensembles was the most useful thing. Ensembles constantly give you new material to learn, and sometimes other people in the group offer good pointers. They may see something that no one else has seen before, or they may explain something differently from what you've heard before.

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HP
Trondheim, Norway
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May 27, 2019 - 11:20 am
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Thanks for sharing your experiences on this subject. I've noticed some bad habits that I make that makes it harder for me to progress, like playing usually the same type of scales and that sort of thing. I'm also in need of reconstructing my practice rutine. Trying out some new technical exercises and so on so forth. I've a recital coming up in 5 days, so I don't really want to tackle a lot of new stuff now. However I'm going to write out a new program and ideas that I can work on during the summer, mixing it up now and then to keep it challenging. Again thanks, I appreciate it. 

'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 29, 2019 - 1:25 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 14423

I feel that my technique has decreased tremendously since I stopped playing full time professionally but that the emotions I put into playing when performing are as strong or stronger with age.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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starise
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May 31, 2019 - 2:30 pm
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HP said
At some point in learning a new instrument, the progress seem to slow down quickly. And no matter how much time, effort or effective practice you put in, the progress stays like that for a long period of time. This can be soul crushing, not to mention demotivating in the long haul. Have you experienced these plateaus? And if so, how did you recover from them and continued to grow as a musician?

  

Ok I'll add my .00000000002 worth here.smile

I go through it all the time. I'm probably more down about my playing than I am up.

I think I'm doing ok and then my teacher listens to me play for less than 30 seconds and says, "I'm going to stop you right there, you need to do this and that and this and this"surprisedviolin-studentsurprisedviolin-studentsurprised. Kinda leaves you feeling less than adequate. One of these days I'm going to make it all the way through a song and get an ok from a teacher. I'm paying her to tell me what's wrong. She's darned good at it. lol.

She reminds me that she's been playing for much longer than I have. 

I try to relish what I can do which sometimes doesn't seem like very much. My wife says she can tell I've come a long way. Comments like that help. Deep down I know I'm slowly improving. I guess this is what keeps me going.Changing to other techniques on violin sometimes helps. You are still learning, just learning something else for awhile. The grey matter has some time to think on all of it. This will eventually come out in your playing. Don't give up! You will get better!

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intrepidgirl
Bragg Creek, Alberta
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May 31, 2019 - 4:31 pm
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As an adult beginner, I really appreciate the comments from you all who have many years of experience. It sounds like we can all feel at some point like we are "stuck", and it may be because of a certain piece, or just a technique we are trying to learn. I like the idea of continuing to move forward on other harder pieces, and then returning to the ones we felt were really challenging. Even at my beginner level, I have found this to be a great motivator, as it demonstrates for myself that I have, in fact, made progress.

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