Interview: How pssoft7 uses tuneUPGRADE

An inside look at out how pssoft7 from Singapore uses tuneUPGRADE to upgrade piano practice!

by Tarun

Creator, tuneUPGRADE

To start, tell me a little about yourself and what you play?

I’m Poh (pssoft7) from Singapore, I started playing/learning piano (solo/acoustic) seriously around August 2020. I have been practicing since then by self taught so far.

I started to show interest in piano since a couple of years after my first son was born. Although at that time I didn’t spend much to actually learn it. So, it was kind of on and off in touching the piano without real intention or motivation for myself.

What are your musical goals - are you a hobbyist and just playing music for fun, are you looking to be a professional?

When my kids started learning piano (I enrolled him to a class) a few years before today, I wanted to be with them to learn piano together to sort of motivate them. We got our first Yamaha Arius YDP-S34 (digital) piano sometime around mid/end 2019. My interest grew beyond just motivating the kids now. I want to be able to play some beautiful music pieces fluently.

Since last year (Aug 2020), I have been looking up the web pages, books, YouTube, Twitch, and sheet music sites for pieces I love (and may love). I picked up some of them to really learn and practice. The rest are in my wish list for my roadmaps (if I manage to push on). Most of them are music themes/tracks from TV, anime, and games. Of course there are a few from classic (who doesn’t love them) that I want to play too.

Although my kids are following their teacher’s curriculum, I have been self taught so far. I’m content with what I’ve been walking thus far and have not yet engaged a teacher. Probably not in the near future yet, but I understand I eventually will if I want to up my level. For now, I’m good with my plan.

What are some of your favorite tunes to play?

I love Ghibli anime. They have finally come to Netflix in 2020! Ehm* What I’m saying is, I love the stories and the music! I love them so much that I want to be able to play them and hopefully one day when I master some of them I could show them off live on my channel (e.g. Twitch or YouTube).

Since last year (Nov 2020), I picked up Always With Me (from Spirited Away) from MusicNotes. This arrangement from Sangeo of Music seems like a good big meaty jump for me from simplistic Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Lullaby that I had been practicing since Aug 2020. Also, I starting learning Reprise (also from Spirited Away).

So far, my repertoire are mostly simplified version of musics which I think is very fitting my learning style (self taught). A few to share here: Beautiful Partner (from From Beijing With Love), Always With Me (from Spirited Away), Silent Night, Swan Lake (P.I.Tchaikovsky), and Oogway Ascends (from Kungfu Panda). I’m still yet to master them but I could play them from memory.

Before you used tuneUPGRADE, were you tracking your practice? What was your practice like?

I usually lost track of time. If I wanted to, most of time I would use my phone’s Timer/Stopwatch. Keeping track of time helps me plan when I should take a break. A non-stop of 30-minute practice is good enough for me. I want to avoid practicing anything longer than that in one seating.

Interruptions, of course from the kids, are always expected. Having timer helps me keep track of this in between interruptions.

What is your routine like within tuneUPGRADE?

I use tuneUPGRADE to track my weekly goal of 7 hours (initially 5). I want to have at least 20 hours of practice monthly. Recently I raised it to 30! This way I know how much I have been sitting in front of my black-and-white keys this whole time. And, comparing it with my progress is something I can use to judge myself.

I play my sheets (thought mostly from memory now) in order. Always in the same order. Except when I want to learn new pieces. I can arrange them in a routine in tuneUPGRADE so that it can help me keep my time in a nice flowing manner. In the beginning I used to playing them in categories (e.g. All Exercise, All Repertoire, All Learning). Now I’m specifying the details per tunes (e.g. Always with Me, Reprise, etc.). tuneUPGRADE is pretty flexible with that.

On weekends, things are more chaotic because I think I have time. I tend to play one piece at a time and make tuneUPGRADE track only one Tune.

Oh yeah, there is notes section in tuneUPGRADE that can help me take notes. Although I haven’t really use that section yet, I think it may be great for me to note for myself on variety of practice routines. I wanted to practice with: slow vs fast, loud vs soft dynamics, melancholy vs following the book, etc. For some pieces.

What are your favorite features of tuneUPGRADE?

Tracking how much time I spend is the most important part for me. I usually start with tuneUPGRADE on my phone’s browser beside my sheet musics. Play it. I mean play both of them (piano and tuneUPGRADE). And, at the end of each day, review how much I have practice and contemplate! (Did I play better or worse despite the time I spent)

I love the leaderboard and levelling up mechanism in tuneUPGRADE. “Competing” with fellow musicians is interestingly fun. I love to see myself at the top at the beginning of the week (because of my timezone advantage) and then seeing someone (most of them) take over my place by double of my time pushing me down the ladder. “Good for you!” I yelled for fun sometimes. I am at level 14 now (an Opener).

The best of all, is that tuneUPGRADE runs on my phone’s browser!

The practice time chart shows a great trend of time spent over the week. This is good for me to compare myself against myself from yesterday. “Did I work out enough today? Let me put in more time there.”

Any general practice tips you can give others that you've found helpful for yourself?

I think as beginner musicians (I don’t call myself musician yet btw), I’d suggest them track their practice time. If possible, track by track, tune by tune. At the end of each week, review them. Look at what we have put into practice and record the rehearsal. This has greatly help me. Be it motivational only or in real instrument skills, this helps me predict how much time is balanced enough giving that some of us have full time job (like me) or school.

Anything else you'd like to share?

For the past (over) forty years I have not really known how to play any musical instrument. (I did try guitar before when I was in high school.) But I’d say I feel very happy being able to play a piece of music from start to end for the first time in my four decades life. No kidding. My message to the world is that if you haven’t known any musical instrument, please pick up one and play. Playing music is hard but it is VERY rewarding when you finally did it. One note at a time. One note at a time!

Would you like to participate in a user interview yourself? Simply send a note to [email protected] and I'll send you over some questions!

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