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learning mechanically vs. learning by feel  

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(@patrick)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 138
10/08/2013 5:39 am  

Even though I've been learning for 11 years, I'm a slow learner so I'm still closer to beginner level than intermediate. I like mainly rock, and when learning a song, I try my best to consciously know what I'm doing...for example I'll try to think to myself "okay this is the I chord, next is the IV chord, then the V chord" ...or "this double stop is made up of the root and flatted seven from the V7 chord, so I can think of it as a partial V7 chord..."

But when learning a song, my mind is so consumed with memorizing and programming my hands to remember what to physically do (muscle memory), I never fully grasp and understand what I am doing on a theory level ...I miss out on the big picture. When I practice and play, it's mainly just re-playing the hand motions that I've programmed from hours and hours of poring over the tab and repetition until I can do it without thinking. It's largely a mechanical programming & recall thing rather than a 'music flowing from the heart' thing. Once I learn a song, I can play it decently well, but it's like I'm a painter who is doing a paint-by-numbers painting rather than painting something using purely my creative juices.

So my question is: when learning and playing a song, is it still largely a repetitive, mechanical / muscle memory thing even for experienced players?


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(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 1284
10/08/2013 6:02 am  

I would say so.

It's pretty hard to feel creative when learning somebody else's song.

Like you I always need to know what's going on theory wise, I need to feel I understand it. Sometimes I will throw my own solos or fills in if I'm playing with the band, which does help me feel a bit more creative, but generally learning somebody else's song takes a lot of memorizing for me anyway.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 8311
11/08/2013 12:43 pm  

it sort of evolves from one to the other after a while.


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(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 1500
12/08/2013 2:42 pm  

Learning a song involves what we call muscle memory - it's necessary.

You have to be able to play something without thinking about the mechanics to be able to let your 'right brain' take control and add the necessary expression to what you are playing.

Memorizing your the fundamentals like chords and scales make learning new songs easier because the muscle memory you learn with the fundamentals make up most of what you will learn in songs (melodies are laregly comprised of scale and arpeggio fragments)

When your hands know how to do something, then your brain can get involved in creativity, expression and other things.

Music theory teaches you the why and how about music, and also helps you learn things better. If you recognize a piece of the new song as a melodic minor scale or a ii V7 I chord progression, your hands will respond without having to figure out each note - as long as you have them under your fingers by your practice of the fundamentals.

So the theory and practice go hand in hand. It's not instant gratification, but because you will always have something new to learn, you won't one day get bored and say, "OK, I know it all now, there is nothing left to discover."

Insights and incites by Notes

Bob "Notes" NortonOwner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmithThe Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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(@fleaaaaaa)
Honorable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 680
17/08/2013 7:35 pm  

Along the same lines as notes - where you get to when you use the muscle memory - feel thing is that your hands will naturally start doing the work (sounds mad I know). To me at those times it is impossible to break down what you are doing while you are doing it - you are reacting to the music and it's all happening with little brain input from you - I always prefer that to be the way I am - I can tell you too if you want me to break down what notes or chords I played but for me playing by feel is the way to go. If you have to think the next chord is ... or the next note is........ you often lose out - practice is about training to the point where you don't have to think about it.

together we stand, divided we fall..........


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 4931
17/08/2013 9:10 pm  

I've heard the process of learning (learning anything) can be described in four stages:

1. You are unconsciously incompetent - you don't know, and you don't know what you need to know. You're past that stage :)

2. You are consciously incompetent - you know what you need to know, but you can't do it yet. You're probably in the latter part of that stage.

3. You are consciously competent - you can do it, but you really have to think about it. In terms of what you're doing, this is the "mechanical" part of playing

4. You are unconsciously competent - you know it so well it's effortless. This would be the "feel" part.

Only savants go from stage 1 right to stage 4. So I wouldn't worry too much about it... if you keep applying yourself, you'll get to where you want to be.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5358
17/08/2013 9:22 pm  

It's pretty hard to feel creative when learning somebody else's song.

Dunno. I think there's always scope for interpretation, which is being creative with somebody else's song. I think it also takes a while to get there, and you have to go through the mechanical bit on the way.

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 1500
18/08/2013 4:34 pm  

I've heard the process of learning (learning anything) can be described in four stages:

1. You are unconsciously incompetent - you don't know, and you don't know what you need to know. You're past that stage :)

2. You are consciously incompetent - you know what you need to know, but you can't do it yet. You're probably in the latter part of that stage.

3. You are consciously competent - you can do it, but you really have to think about it. In terms of what you're doing, this is the "mechanical" part of playing

4. You are unconsciously competent - you know it so well it's effortless. This would be the "feel" part.

Only savants go from stage 1 right to stage 4. So I wouldn't worry too much about it... if you keep applying yourself, you'll get to where you want to be.
I like that.

I call stage 4 "Being one with the instrument" (no offence to Buddhists). To me it is always a pleasure to see someone who is one with the instrument.

On the same lines, I don't name my instruments. I name my car, it's a tool. I named by boat - it was a toy. But I don't name my instruments because hopefully they are not things, but are simply an extension of "me".

Leilani thinks I'm one with the saxophone, flute and wind synthesizer, and I hope someday to be one with the guitar.

Notes

Bob "Notes" NortonOwner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmithThe Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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(@gotdablues)
Estimable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 129
23/08/2013 4:00 pm  

So I'm playing Bass for almost 3 years now after playing guitar for about 15. I guess I can solo pretty good over a 12 Bar chord progression, I enjoyed the time I spent doing it, occasionally pick it up and re-visit some bluesey riffs every now and then :) But now I got the Bass and playing with folks, I'm spending more time with learning songs, more structured than before, repetition, repetition, til it's right, slow up the learning curve on some stuff but keeping in mind, "that the closer to perfect the better".


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(@fleaaaaaa)
Honorable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 680
31/08/2013 10:34 am  

Re.... Creative when learning someone else's song -

Do you mean if you cover a song that is not creative? Tell that to Martin Taylor...

together we stand, divided we fall..........


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