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Music sabbatical: what shall I do?

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Marion 04 Apr 01 - 11:55 AM
GUEST,#1 04 Apr 01 - 12:01 PM
Les from Hull 04 Apr 01 - 12:16 PM
mousethief 04 Apr 01 - 12:16 PM
wysiwyg 04 Apr 01 - 12:39 PM
Mark Clark 04 Apr 01 - 12:56 PM
John Hardly 04 Apr 01 - 01:33 PM
GUEST,#1 04 Apr 01 - 01:44 PM
Les B 04 Apr 01 - 03:20 PM
sophocleese 04 Apr 01 - 03:26 PM
Bardford 04 Apr 01 - 04:34 PM
John Hardly 04 Apr 01 - 07:31 PM
Mark Clark 04 Apr 01 - 10:51 PM
uncle bill 05 Apr 01 - 12:09 AM
sophocleese 05 Apr 01 - 11:49 PM
RichM 06 Apr 01 - 01:15 AM
Marion 09 Apr 01 - 10:53 PM
Les from Hull 10 Apr 01 - 06:58 AM
John Hardly 10 Apr 01 - 09:37 AM
Grab 10 Apr 01 - 12:09 PM
Mark Clark 10 Apr 01 - 01:55 PM
John Hardly 10 Apr 01 - 02:31 PM
Mark Clark 10 Apr 01 - 02:35 PM
John Hardly 10 Apr 01 - 03:49 PM
Marion 22 Apr 01 - 10:36 PM
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Subject: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Marion
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 11:55 AM

OK, I'm sick of being a dime-a-dozen guitarist and the worst fiddler I know. I have so ordered my life that I will soon be taking about four and a half months to study music pretty much full-time, on my own initiative.

I'm trying to plan what I should include in my studies and how I should arrange my days, so that I can learn as much and as efficiently as possible in this time. So I am taking suggestions as to what I should do.

My assets:

A Seagull folk guitar; a Czech student violin outfit; metronome, electronic tuner, picks, fingerpicks, slide, fiddle mute; 3 instructional books (Progressive fingerpicking book, Wheeler's "Warmups for Violinists", and a theory book); big piles of sheet, chord, and tablature; lots of recordings of songs and tunes I want to know; access to internet; access to piano; mediocre tape recorder; time and dedication! I will be in a small town an hour outside of a city (Ottawa) so there will be reasonable opportunities to jam/perform/busk. I don't have the money to take regular lessons or get a better fiddle or tape recorder, but I could get a few key books or recordings.

What I can do now:

On the guitar I accompany singing (mostly my own) with the common chords, either strumming or with a few fingerpicking patterns. On a handful of songs I do more interesting stuff (intro or break or deviation from cowboy chords) but these are learned from tablature and with a lot of time. On the fiddle I can play a few dozen Gaelic tunes not too terribly, but not up to speed, with almost no ornamentation, and with mistakes not infrequent. I have a solid knowledge of standard notation, and an intellectual knowledge of theory (scales and modes, intervals, chord formation). I can eventually play things by ear on either instrument, but it's a painstaking process of trial and error.

What I want:

I want to be able to tune both instruments by ear quickly and accurately. I want to understand better how theory relates to playing. I want to be able to spontaneously play melodies I know by ear on either instrument. On the guitar, I want to make my accompaniment of songs more interesting, with different strumming and picking patterns, with more challenging chords and deviations from chords, with arranged solos, and with "tricks" like slides and pull-offs and so forth. On the fiddle, I want to have a decent repertoire of traditional tunes that I can play quickly and confidently and with class, and to be able to improvise fiddle accompaniments to songs.

I don't expect to be a master in a summer, but I do want to be much better.

Any tips?

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: GUEST,#1
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 12:01 PM

Compose a tune on meditation, and practice it.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Les from Hull
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 12:16 PM

Improvising song accompaniments - what worked for me watching TV, keeping instuments handy and trying to join in with anything musical that came on, especially the adverts. You don't get long to find the key and style.

You can load up tunes on an ABC player on your computer and slow them down to join in with, or try to play them by ear without looking at the dots.

If there's someone else nearby with a similar drive to improve, join up for combined sessions. You'll get another opinion of what you are doing well and what you aren't doing so well and help each other this way.

Incidentally, the Hull I'm from isn't the one in Canada!

Wish you well, Les


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: mousethief
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 12:16 PM

Well, this is like a "how do I lose weight?" question, to which the answer is always "eat right and exercise."

How do you get better on your instruments? Get a really good instructor for each instrument. Practice as much as you can (several hours per day, ideally).

But you don't have money to take lessons. Hmmm. That makes it much harder.

Can you read music? Start there. Learn to read music. Then get a book of tunes such as O'Neill's Music of Ireland and start learning them, one at a time, until you're confident playing each at various tempos. (Start iwth the ones with fewer 8th notes of course).

For the guitar, what really helped me was a book called Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar -- it assumes you know the basic chords, and gets you into picking patterns, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and all that.

I'm sure others will have great ideas as well; here's my thoughts anyway.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 12:39 PM

See thread on Dulcimore. We talked a lot about how to improve playing. Search on that spelling, on a 30-day filter, and you will find it. See me for alternative ways of learning to read music.

You lucky girl, BTW!

~S~


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 12:56 PM

Marion, Quite a lot of the information you're looking for has been contributed here on Mudcat. Pick up Joe's new perma-thread called "Instruments" and read the thread's we've linked there. Various members have talked about ways to practice and sources of wisdom. You'll have to wade through the threads and separate the wheat from the chaff but it's worth it.

The best violin book I know about is the practice book by Galamian (sp?). It is the exercise book for the serious violinist/fiddler. Being able to play any piece that you can hum or whistle—I think that's basicly what you're asking—is a very high expectation. Read the discussion we had on being obsessive in one of Rick's technique threads. That skill comes from many many hours of playing music—mostly with other people.

My advice is to spend your sabbatical time on a single instrument and perhaps even a single style and genre. If you try to do everything you'll be disappointed in your progress and feel more discouraged at the end of it than you do now.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: John Hardly
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 01:33 PM

spend some time each day practicing scales and modes...eeeew, yuck.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: GUEST,#1
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 01:44 PM

Practice. Then practice some more. Then practice some more. If you give up before total exhaustion, then your heart isn't really in it, and you should give up trying to play music.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Les B
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 03:20 PM

Marion - you have a great opportunity, but also a great responsibility -- don't blow it !

I speak from experience. Last year I was on unemployment for six months. I was pretty sure I was going to be hired back, which I was. So, I told myself, "Now you can learn all those tunes, practice the fiddle, etc." Did I do it ?? Naah, life got in the way !!

If you're going to do it, sit down and draw up a realistic daily schedule and stick to it. First, I'd decide what it is you really want to be able to do at the end of your sabatical and then work toward that goal.

There are lots of good suggestions in the above posts. Myself, I'd lay out a schedule that included daily scale exercises, learning or working out new licks, learning one new tune or song per week, and consistently going back over old tunes/songs to keep them fresh in your mind while at the same time experimenting with improving them. Don't forget to set aside time for serious listening to the type of music you're trying to learn.

Good luck. It's gonna take will power !!!


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: sophocleese
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 03:26 PM

First be sure to get some decent sleep. You learn better and retain what you've learned better if you get a good night's sleep.

Next, you could try making a tape of yourself at the beginning of the sabbatical and then another at the end or halfway through. Anytime you feel you're not making progress it can be quite a boost to listen to what you used to sound like and realize that you have actually improved.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Bardford
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 04:34 PM

There is a sign in a music shop:

"It's not the hours you put in, it's what you put in the hours."

I'm reading a little book by Herbert Whone called "The Simpicity of Playing Violin", which has some ideas regarding practice. Kind of a 'zen and the art of' approach. I'll try to paraphrase them later, when the book is nearby.
Bardford

And only you know when your heart is or isn't in it.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: John Hardly
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 07:31 PM

I like sophocleese' idea of marking your progress by taping in intervals.

Go to as many live performances as you can possibly afford.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 10:51 PM

Marion, I realized I don't actually know very much about the process of learning per se. Oh sure, we practice and try to expose ourselves to new ideas but I got to thinking that someone must have studied the actual process of learning music. I hopped onto my trusty WebFerret and sure enough:

Music Cognition Lab at Ohio University.

Perspectives on Music, the Mind and Education

These were pretty easy to find, I'll bet there are more.

Good luck,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: uncle bill
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 12:09 AM

Go to Kerrville, hang with the Kerrverts, spend all 18 days and get a right mental attitude. Then start writing, take lessons, glean what you can from the people you meet, dedicate your life to music and whatever mark you can leave in the world....and starve to death.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: sophocleese
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 11:49 PM

Marion, I've been thinking about this one for the day. The parrt that interested me was wanting to know how theory relates to playing. The way I would try to connect those two would be to take three very different songs and their accompianments(sp?), sit down with pencil and paper and figure out the relationships between every note in the accompianment and the melody etc. Then I'd start trying to compose or create my own accompianments based on what I'd figured out.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: RichM
Date: 06 Apr 01 - 01:15 AM

Marion, how about taking one lesson a month-or even less frequently, in one of your instruments? Maybe this would be affordable. And it certainly would help steer your training program.

I suggest fiddle, since bowing techniques are better learned directly from another human. There is an excellent teacher in Ottawa-Nathan Curry- I know it's one hour away, but if you could visit once in a while, the direct assessment would help. A fiddler friend who lives in Prescott (60 miles from Ottawa) visits Nathan irregularly for just this purpose.

And find good players to jam with, ask them questions, pester them to show you how they do their interesting licks... If you are ever in Ottawa, I would be pleased to listen to your guitar techniques, and offer advice. PM me if you want to follow up.

Rich McCarthy


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Marion
Date: 09 Apr 01 - 10:53 PM

Thanks to all who have responded so far.

Certainly "practice, practice, practice" is my agenda for the summer... but just as there are smarter and less smart ways to exercise, I figure there must be smarter and less smart ways to practice. I don't really have any specific questions here, just wanted to throw the door open for ideas I might have missed.

Thanks for the ideas on recording my progress and on analysing accompaniments, Sophocleese.

John, why do you say to go to live performances particularly? Concerts are fun but it seems to me that recordings are more educational.

BTW, I do read fluently (too fluently, maybe, as I'm quite dependent on my pieces of paper) - maybe I didn't phrase that clearly enough in my opening post.

Maybe I should get a part time job to pay for some lessons? It would mean diminished practice time but maybe it would be worth it - perhaps the Law of Diminishing Returns means that practicing eight hours a day doesn't teach you much more than four hours a day anyway.

Mark, I searched on Amazon for Galamian and found an out-of-print book called something like "Principles of Teaching and Playing Violin" - is that what you mean by his practice book? Are you familiar with a book I've heard of called "Aerobics for Fiddlers"? If so, is it good?

And Mark, regarding my goal of being able to spontaneously play by ear: there was a statement made on Mudcat about the difference between playing tunes on an instrument and playing an instrument that keeps coming back to my head, so I looked back to find it and discovered that it was a quote from you! Here it is:

"If a person can play "Cripple Creek," for example, but not "Old Joe Clark" then they haven't learned to play their instruments, they've only learned to play certain tunes on them. "Players" can jump into a session and immediately play along and contribute on tunes they've never heard. They can "sing" using their instruments just as a vocalist can with his or her voice. This ability is, I think, independent of issues like originality, taste, soul and technical virtuosity."

That's what I want - to be able to play my instruments, not just my repertoire. I strongly suspect that the road there is through scales and exercises, not just learning new songs and tunes, which has been my approach to practice in the last couple of years.

Thanks for responding, Rich, and I would very much like to meet up with you. I hope to be busking in Ottawa when the weather warms up, and going to the weekly Celtic slow jams in the Glebe if they're still happening, so I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunity to link up with you (and with other musicians). I'm still living in Cape Breton, so I will contact you when I get to Ontario. I think I've heard of Nathan Curry - is he by any chance the guy who gives lessons at the Irish Society, in St. Patrick's church (I used to take dance lessons there and I know the resident fiddle teacher was highly regarded)?


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Les from Hull
Date: 10 Apr 01 - 06:58 AM

Playing scales is dead boring, but you do have to know which notes are in which key. There should be several keys you are comfortable in both on fiddle and guitar - G, D, A, Em, Bm are the most used. As long as the music's in any of these keys, you should aim at being confident of 'singing along with' your fiddle to improvise accompaniment.

If you are accompanying a song, hold back more while the singer is singing and use your instrument to join up the lines of the verse. Just playing the tune isn't, in my opinion, really accompanying. Somebody once described harmony as 'finding another tune that fits'. So is accompaniment.

With the guitar, try to stick to the keys you are confident of playing in and use the capo for the others. Even the world-class players do this. This will help you sort out one or two tricks, like using an inversion (playing the chord in a different position) which can really change the sound of an accompaniment. When you are talking to another guitar player, try to get them to show you a useful trick in one of the keys you use.

Or perhaps guitar (and fiddle) players could post a 'useful trick' here. I'm excluded because my guitar playing never really progressed (I play bouzouki, melodeon, harmonica and bass guitar). But I love playing with others and making up accompaniments as I go along. As long as I have a reasonable idea of where we're all going!

Les


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: John Hardly
Date: 10 Apr 01 - 09:37 AM

Hi Marion,

"John, why do you say to go to live performances particularly? Concerts are fun but it seems to me that recordings are more educational."



I guess I say that because there is no amount of imagination that can give you the feel for how real musicians interact with, and communicate their music to an audience. It's about learning to turn the corner from playing notes to making music. It will also help to learn what audiences do and do not react to.

Our music is also a very social thing. It's often at concerts that you can make connections that will be of value in pursuing your music. I know that the concerts I attend are in very small venues and it allows me to meet the perfomers. They are almost invariably generous with tips. I've gotten advice from Pat Donohue, Ed Hall, Dave Moore--many others. Re-read Don Firth's BRILLIANT writing at the end of the Walt Robertson thread for a better explanation of what I mean.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Grab
Date: 10 Apr 01 - 12:09 PM

For guitar, buy a jam track tape/CD, and work on that. Start on basic blues pentatonic, and work upwards. It takes a while, but it's a case of knowing the guitar on a muscle-memory level, not on a purely theoretical basis. And play along to CDs, not necessarily copying the guitarist, but filling in with what you want to play.

And play with other ppl - if you're strumming to someone else's song, they won't stop to let you recover if you hit a bum note!

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 10 Apr 01 - 01:55 PM

Marion, Okay, I see where you want to go. (Boy, it's hard to disavow stuff around here. <g>) You're right in thinking that scales will be helpful but you need to practice scales in different intervals as well. Practice bacic two-octave diatonic scales in both major and minor keys and throw in some pentatonic scales for good measure. When those feel comfortable—long past being boring—begin to practice scales in different intervals (i.e., seconds, thirds, etc.). Work them up and down as you go (e.g., C D E D E F E F G F G A G A B A B C D C B C C B A B A G A G F G F E F E D E D C B C but played over two ocatves). The idea is to build an automatic muscular association with the intervals so you don't need to think about where the next note is going to be when you play from your head. When you start to feel comfortable, start playing along with records. Don't play a track over and over until you learn it, just let the player continue at it's own pace. Concentrate on learning enough about each track as it comes along so you can offer something in the right key and progression before the track ends. Don't worry too much about how you sound, just think about getting a few melody or harmony notes placed in the right places. Needless to say, you won't be reading from a chart.

I can't remember the name of the Ivan Galamian exercise book but I'll try to remember to look it up for you at home. I did a WebFerret search for Galamian and the first hit it returned was StringImprov, a site for string players who want to improvise jazz. I know that's not what you're after but it looks like a great site so I mention it here.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: John Hardly
Date: 10 Apr 01 - 02:31 PM

Marion<

Mark just gave the concise explanation of the "scales in thirds" concept that I failed so miserably in describing to you in the "Tips for Pickers" thread.--JH


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 10 Apr 01 - 02:35 PM

John, I didn't mean to tromp on your post. I should have looked back to see if anyone had already posted the technique somewhere.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: John Hardly
Date: 10 Apr 01 - 03:49 PM

no problem Mark,

You wouldn't have found it if you'd looked (it's pretty buried). Besides, I'm serious..the way you presented it was more clear than mine (I tried by numbering the intervals rather than just picking a key and giving and example as you did).

I do appreciate the consideration though! You can tromp my posts anytime :o)


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Subject: RE: Music sabbatical: what shall I do?
From: Marion
Date: 22 Apr 01 - 10:36 PM

Thanks again for the responses. I am in the process of sorting through the technique threads looking for tips/exercises to try.

Grab, what is a "jam track CD"?

Marion


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