Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

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Alan Green
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Alan Green » March 22nd, 2012, 12:34 pm

fleaaaaaa wrote: if you were pushed which of the skills (visual, sound or doing it) would you feel you'd goto first (or rely on most). Of course many of us use bits of all of them but we tend to have one that we'd use if all else fails (and for those who are reliant on seeing they often miss out because not all songs are written out in music/tab).
Most of us I guess will use bits of more than one skill. I started a lesson with a student tonight with the music to Don't Stop Believin' on the stand. We needed the guitar solo written out and it's not in the sheet music we had, so it was down to using the ears in conjunction with the sheet music and figuring out that we needed Major Scale skills rather than Pentatonics.

Writing it out is one thing, getting the timing right uses the most basic and most underrated of all musical skills - the ability to count to four.

So, ears, sheet music reading skills and some basic number skills were important tonight. Tomorrow it'll be different.
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Cat » March 22nd, 2012, 1:28 pm

Great, articulate posts, fellas...

Learning this instrument shows heaps of metaphors for learning how to live yer life! :) I mean, yeah...we're all walkin' around breathin'...but every little nuance needs some sort of baton to get it right. Certainly, our own individuality translates across the fretboard as style. Yeah...I guess you can read a sheet of music but it'll never give up the finesse one brain wants another to hear!

That's the challenge...

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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Crow » March 22nd, 2012, 2:18 pm

In an odd way, that's still on topic, because metaphors can be an incredibly valuable way to learn musical stuff. At conservatory I was learning golf at the same time I was studying violin, & my professor straightened out my bow stroke by breaking it down like a golf stroke... ya had to be there, but it worked when nothing else had done. So that's a whole different learning style, eh?
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Chris C » March 22nd, 2012, 6:16 pm

Hi Fleeaa, great topic. :)

I struggled to get a handle on how to learn music for quite a while. I come from a background in engineering - a field which needs a disciplined approach and requires the ability to work with both overall structure and small detail. It seemed like that would be applicable to music too. I've also been successful at things such as writing computer programs and maintaining a fairly complex accounting system, as well as doing some more creative design work. So I assumed that tackling music by working through the regular texts shouldn't be too hard. But I was wrong.

I bought lots of teach-yourself books and had a few lessons from different teachers. Curiously, despite the fact that I love books and we have several thousand in the house, the music books were largely a waste of money. The teachers were a mixed bag. Good people and good players, but I still found the process of being a student fairly painful. Oddly, it didn't seem to deliver the goods either.


The first big discovery was finding out that I could do it myself and that I didn't need to be pushed, led or cajoled down a pre-planned path. But it was still a very random process. If you've ever watched an ant exploring or a dog ‘reading' a park it looks random and shapeless. The dog may rush excitedly from A to B, via M and Q and then from Z to Y via S and so on. But as the mental map takes shape there are long pauses and deep explorations of certain points of interest. Despite the scattergun look, it's a rich and intense process. By comparison, dividing the park into neat little blocks and working across in relentlessly efficient lines may look good on paper but the lack of ‘big picture' reference and the restriction of freedom can easily turn a joyful exploration into a dull grind. So I learn music like a dog in a park, running all over the place. It works for the dog and it works for me.

The second penny drop moment was to consider music as a language. Now that's nothing new, it's often described that way. But how did you begin to learn the language you speak every day, and how do you use it? Not from a book. The books are valuable but they come later. We all started by listening, copying and experimenting. Lots of experimenting. I always smile when students of an instrument tell me they can't improvise. They often really seem to believe that improvising skill is something that they just missed out on, like blue eyes or above average height. I point out that they have been improvising our conversation without much difficulty; that they took known words, structures and ideas and built new and original sentences literally as they were speaking them. Unless you're an unusually rigid thinker you don't know exactly how you'll finish a sentence until it's part way through. You don't rehearse and pre-polish every single thing you say in advance. Musical improvising is exactly the same.

In a post here, Cat once described playing music with a phrase that was something like “chasing sounds round the fretboard” and that exactly how it works for me. I don't always catch them, but the chase is a real joy. I'm the dog belting round the park, with tail wagging and ears flapping. I do read music and I can follow scores; I read and enjoy theory books too, but my inbuilt love of creating and improvising means that I always experiment with different ways of interpreting what's written on the page, up to and including re-arranging it or going off on a long looping digression that has little or nothing to do with where I started. This may sound fancy or ‘advanced' but it's not. It begins with adding a single different note to the simplest of beginner melodies.

If I were to ever teach music I'd probably try and treat lessons like conversations - with guitars in hands. Simple chats using only two or three notes to start, and building gently upwards. The grammar lessons and the books and the reading and writing would come much later - just like it does for a child learning any other language.

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by NoteBoat » March 22nd, 2012, 6:25 pm

Chris C wrote:If I were to ever teach music I'd probably try and treat lessons like conversations - with guitars in hands. Simple chats using only two or three notes to start, and building gently upwards. The grammar lessons and the books and the reading and writing would come much later - just like it does for a child learning any other language.
That's exactly how I teach improvisation to 90% of my students. I show them a pentatonic scale so they have a framework, then have them pick just three notes in sequence, and we start there. (The rest of them are about 8-9% who have already been improvising and are looking to improve, and the 1 or 2% who simply "get it" and start improvising as soon as they're shown a scale fingering. I don't think they're usually more 'talented' than those who take longer - they're just more uninhibited)
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Cat » March 22nd, 2012, 11:21 pm

Don't forget the element that's tough to keep on top of: plain old hard work! My one and only Stratocaster got smashed (by me) into the corner of a cinderblock wall when, as a kid, I tried to copy EC's rendition of Crossroads. Geez...was THAT a long time ago. Maybe it's time for a new Strat??? :lol:

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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by fleaaaaaa » March 23rd, 2012, 8:57 am

Ok so this may divert away form my original topic but I was wondering - how is the best way to memorise something you are learning so when you come back to your guitar a few days later you can do that idea again? I am just asking because I have been trying to memorise short examples from a book and I quite often to have to look at the book again to recall them.

So what is the best way to memorise and bring it back without a cue?
together we stand, divided we fall..........

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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Alan Green » March 23rd, 2012, 10:14 am

Repetition.

The more you work with something, the more you build up a mental map of how it goes. I think that's why when you're working on something new you don't just add one note at a time to what you can already play but you add a whole couple of bars as your understanding of the harmonic structure grows.

Once you've learned the notes, then you learn how to play it. And then, after all that's done, you learn how to perform it. You may always need to come back to the original music to remind yourself of how it goes, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Alan Green » March 23rd, 2012, 10:21 am

Cat wrote:Great, articulate posts, fellas...
I reckon there's not far short of 200 years of experience among the contributors to this thread.
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by NoteBoat » March 23rd, 2012, 10:44 am

As far as memorizing a piece goes, I found that if I try to memorize 'how' to play something it took forever... if I try to memorize 'what' to play, it goes a lot quicker. So for me, a big part of memorizing a tune is simply being able to hear it in my head.
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by notes_norton » March 23rd, 2012, 10:56 am

If I keep the music in front of me, It'll take decades or more to memorize a piece of music - perhaps I'll never memorize it. If I play it until I am extremely comfortable with it, and then take the music away, I'll stumble for a while, perhaps even have to refer back to the music from time to time when I get stuck, but I will memorize it by re-discovering it.

Also, the endless repetition of scales, chords, and arpeggios help here. Most music is made of familiar scales and chords/arpeggios and when your body already knows how to play these, the little fragments of melody will already be under your fingers.

At least that is how it works for me - we are all different so I don't know if it will work for you.

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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Chris C » March 24th, 2012, 1:26 am

As others have said, I think that experience help a lot with memorising music. The longer you've played for, the better you get at knowing what's likely to come next in any piece of music, based on your internal library of familiar bits and pieces, progressions etc. Even when you can't remember the exact notes you may be able to substitute something that 'fits' until you get back on track. That inbuilt feel for the underlying backbone of music seems to make it easier to remember the individual details of a particular song.


I once read an interesting article interviewing a number of successful professional concert pianists, asking them how they memorised some of the very long pieces they need to learn by heart. One guy said that he refused to analyse how he did it in case the magic disappeared! Most talked about the sheer amount of work they put in, section by section, until they knew it all note by note. Much like actors learning their lines for a whole play.

But one interesting technique that was mentioned was to break it into short sections and then start learning from the end instead of the beginning. The theory was that each time you learned a new section you would then play through to the end of the piece, giving extra practice and familiarity with the bits you had already worked on.

By the time you'd finished working on the piece and it was was time to perform it all the way through, you could relax, knowing that the further you got into the piece the more familiar, and therefore the easier, it would become. I've never tried it, but it's an interesting idea as I've certainly had plenty of experience of the reverse - starting to play with confidence and then getting more wobbly and uncertain as I progressed towards an end that I hadn't worked on quite as much as I should have.... :oops:

Anybody here work from end sections back to the start?

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Alan Green » March 24th, 2012, 2:10 am

Chris C wrote: But one interesting technique that was mentioned was to break it into short sections and then start learning from the end instead of the beginning. The theory was that each time you learned a new section you would then play through to the end of the piece, giving extra practice and familiarity with the bits you had already worked on.

By the time you'd finished working on the piece and it was was time to perform it all the way through, you could relax, knowing that the further you got into the piece the more familiar, and therefore the easier, it would become. I've never tried it, but it's an interesting idea as I've certainly had plenty of experience of the reverse - starting to play with confidence and then getting more wobbly and uncertain as I progressed towards an end that I hadn't worked on quite as much as I should have.... :oops:

Anybody here work from end sections back to the start?
No, never tried it, but the first time I ever heard of learning a piece that way was in a guitar context. I have some stuff to work on for a show in May and prefer to perform from memory; maybe I'll try learning the final piece back-end first.
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by s1120 » March 24th, 2012, 3:10 am

Chris C wrote:
I once read an interesting article interviewing a number of successful professional concert pianists, asking them how they memorised some of the very long pieces they need to learn by heart. One guy said that he refused to analyse how he did it in case the magic disappeared! Most talked about the sheer amount of work they put in, section by section, until they knew it all note by note. Much like actors learning their lines for a whole play.

But one interesting technique that was mentioned was to break it into short sections and then start learning from the end instead of the beginning. The theory was that each time you learned a new section you would then play through to the end of the piece, giving extra practice and familiarity with the bits you had already worked on.

By the time you'd finished working on the piece and it was was time to perform it all the way through, you could relax, knowing that the further you got into the piece the more familiar, and therefore the easier, it would become. I've never tried it, but it's an interesting idea as I've certainly had plenty of experience of the reverse - starting to play with confidence and then getting more wobbly and uncertain as I progressed towards an end that I hadn't worked on quite as much as I should have.... :oops:

Anybody here work from end sections back to the start?

Cheers,

Chris
I have heard that before. Maybe youve posted it up before. And you know it makes a lot of sence!! Im still pretty low on the learning curve, and I need to take most of my time working on the transisions from parts to parts, but I will remember that in the future.

As for the subject of the post.... well being a newbee, its realy hard to tell where I will fall... Right now I would have to say ear.. I cant realy pick notes, or chords out yet, but when it comes to timing, and rythems of a song, I find it hard to do just by reading..[only tab for me... I only know grade school level reading notes...] But when I know the song, I can keep it in my head and work out the beats, and patterns OK. Agean... Im still green... but thats where it looks like its going.
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Re: Different types of musicians (and how they learn)

Post by Cat » March 24th, 2012, 5:25 pm

Chris C wrote: I once read an interesting article interviewing a number of successful professional concert pianists, asking them how they memorised some of the very long pieces they need to learn by heart. One guy said that he refused to analyse how he did it in case the magic disappeared! Chris
Right at this point in time I am putting together lead vocals by a kick-butt lady singer over the practice rhythm tracks we've got as reference. The other fellas (drum/bass/lead) are session musos I've worked with since the mid-70's. The bassist asked me yesterday "How's she doin'? Send me an MP3."

My reply: "No! Wait for the real sessions. I don't want to take the edge off of the blade!"

I think this goes a long way in supporting in what Chris remarked about...

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