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Learning Scales


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#37 m3838

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 06:55 PM

As Dana noted, Noel Hill starts people out playing scales.


Let's test it's thoroughness, I really am missing something here. I think if you learn to walk, you can't learn to move just one leg, and next month add anoter.
Which scales Noel start people on and which scales he continues people on. Which scales he complains he should practice more?
Are they diatonic in D, G, A etc.? Or does he add three minors (as he should, to claim even to the existence of the fact of "practicing scales") to each major? And then there are these interesting modal scales, that I have faint idea about, but Americans seem to have good grip at?
There is nothing traumatic about learning Bb/F/C/G/D/A/E/B scales. Is it the same "trick" as playing sequence of E-B-F on English? Or is it the same when people call learning to read a "theory"?
It is easy to prove that learning scales in exotic keys futile and harmful and whoever engrosses in it will likely to not learn anything useful and filally be overwhelmed and drop out either from playing or from those exotic scales. Life is ran by realism and practicality. There is this wonderful song I found on the Internet, from Russian (well, you have to excuse me) Court composer of Soviet Era, Pahmutova, "White Tower Woods"
And I found the music for it - darn! Four flats!
Either I'm going ot transcribe it into some more sane key, or lean the scale of Ab major and...what? F# minor? How can F#minor have four flats? Or is it Gb minor?
Anyways, here is an example of necessity to learn and practice that "difficult" key.

#38 Angie Burn

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Posted 17 May 2008 - 07:39 AM

Oh dear! An uninteresting mush? I'd better get cracking with this staccato and legatto business now!

Cheers M38 and thanks for the advice
Angie


Hmm.
maryhadalittlelamblittlelamblittlelamb - thats just reading the dots or picking buttons.
Then we go into:
mary had a little lamb little lamb little lamb
Then:
Mary had a little lamb
little lamb
little lamb
Then:
Mary had a little Lamb
little Lamb
Little Lamb
Then:
mary
had a little lamb
little lamb
little lamb

After you are done with this, you'll be sweating, but not profusely.
But after on top of this you'll work in stacatto and legato, you'll be sweating profusely, I guarantee. Personal experience.
Some people are naturally born with the feel - talent.
Not me.

Wow! Forget Mary and the Lamb, I'm feeling better already!

I try to play like this anyway, it adds to the fun :lol: Thanks for the demo M8

Cheers Angie

#39 Angie Burn

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Posted 17 May 2008 - 07:44 AM

Aw Heck, I didn't mean to call you M8! I must have been thinking about traffic jams :rolleyes: Sorry M3838!

#40 JimLucas

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Posted 17 May 2008 - 10:40 AM

Aw Heck, I didn't mean to call you M8! I must have been thinking about traffic jams :rolleyes: Sorry M3838!

I thot U were abbreviating "mate". :D



#41 njurkowski

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 12:55 PM

As Dana noted, Noel Hill starts people out playing scales.


Let's test it's thoroughness, I really am missing something here. I think if you learn to walk, you can't learn to move just one leg, and next month add anoter.
Which scales Noel start people on and which scales he continues people on. Which scales he complains he should practice more?
Are they diatonic in D, G, A etc.? Or does he add three minors (as he should, to claim even to the existence of the fact of "practicing scales") to each major? And then there are these interesting modal scales, that I have faint idea about, but Americans seem to have good grip at?
There is nothing traumatic about learning Bb/F/C/G/D/A/E/B scales. Is it the same "trick" as playing sequence of E-B-F on English? Or is it the same when people call learning to read a "theory"?
It is easy to prove that learning scales in exotic keys futile and harmful and whoever engrosses in it will likely to not learn anything useful and filally be overwhelmed and drop out either from playing or from those exotic scales. Life is ran by realism and practicality. There is this wonderful song I found on the Internet, from Russian (well, you have to excuse me) Court composer of Soviet Era, Pahmutova, "White Tower Woods"
And I found the music for it - darn! Four flats!
Either I'm going ot transcribe it into some more sane key, or lean the scale of Ab major and...what? F# minor? How can F#minor have four flats? Or is it Gb minor?
Anyways, here is an example of necessity to learn and practice that "difficult" key.


I would be very interested in hearing you prove (easily, as you say) that learning scales in exotic keys is harmful and futile. Unless I'm misunderstanding you, that's exactly your position. Practicing "exotic scales" (as you call them) can help build your awareness of the instrument, so that the instrument doesn't stand between you and making music. The more comfortable you are playing in all key areas of your instrument, the more comfortable you are will all aspects of playing the instrument, because you understand the mechanics better. Chromatic passages fall more easily under your fingers, and you can make quick transitions to other keys. Obviously there is a lot more that goes into being a good musician than just practicing scales, but the sentiment that learning scales in remote keys is harmful is just so wildly unfounded...I don't want to rehash the discussion we had at the beginning of this thread, but I can't let that sentiment go unchallenged.

Also, four flats is Ab maj or F minor.

#42 m3838

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 03:09 PM

I would be very interested in hearing you prove (easily, as you say) that learning scales in exotic keys is harmful and futile.

Easy-peasy!
Consider an amateur with 1 hour a day practice time.
Consider he picked up and instrument at the age of 45.
Till the end of his playing due to old age (arthritis, what not?) at, say 75yo he has 30 years. So he roughly has 300 hours a year to practice and 9000 at all. It's far less then discussed earlier 20 000 hours of practice before the age of 20.
Of all 9000 hours he can dedicate reasonably 3-6 years to just learning, after which he must feel proficient enough to just play and must accumulate reasonable repertory or non-stop playing of, say, 15-60 minutes worth of learned tunes and pieces.
Let's take 5 years of pure schooling - it's only 1500 hours of practice.
Let's consider a "typical" practice session:
5 minutes warming up
Scales in one key - up/down, on 2s, on 3s, on 4s. Legato-stacatto. Major/parallel minor - 10-15 minutes.
Dynamic exercise - loud-quiet, on counts. - about 10 minutes.
Arpeggios and chords in that key - about 5-10 minutes.
A few etudes to build proficiency in the key and dexterity. - 10-20 minutes.
A new piece of music by parts, if written, or just from memory if heard, and working on arrangement, if it's not provided - from 10-20 minutes (if disciplined and not doing it for all 60 minutes, then some more).
A piece from repertory, that is learned well enough and needs some working on
A few pieces from earlier repertory, just to refresh them and have some fun.
Now just where do you fit those scales, that have no application to your immediate needs, to the pieces you learn? You'll likely to spend hours of practicing them, believing it's benefitial, only to find that your playing is not getting any better, you didn't build repertory you hoped, and after 5 years of studying you only play 5-10 minutes of easy tunes, but you know where all the notes are.
It's like learning to drive, having no need for a car. Do it, if you like, by all means, but it will not help you to ride in buses.

Also, four flats is Ab maj or F minor.


Thanks.

#43 njurkowski

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 03:56 PM

I would be very interested in hearing you prove (easily, as you say) that learning scales in exotic keys is harmful and futile.

Easy-peasy!
Consider an amateur with 1 hour a day practice time.
Consider he picked up and instrument at the age of 45.
Till the end of his playing due to old age (arthritis, what not?) at, say 75yo he has 30 years. So he roughly has 300 hours a year to practice and 9000 at all. It's far less then discussed earlier 20 000 hours of practice before the age of 20.
Of all 9000 hours he can dedicate reasonably 3-6 years to just learning, after which he must feel proficient enough to just play and must accumulate reasonable repertory or non-stop playing of, say, 15-60 minutes worth of learned tunes and pieces.
Let's take 5 years of pure schooling - it's only 1500 hours of practice.
Let's consider a "typical" practice session:
5 minutes warming up
Scales in one key - up/down, on 2s, on 3s, on 4s. Legato-stacatto. Major/parallel minor - 10-15 minutes.
Dynamic exercise - loud-quiet, on counts. - about 10 minutes.
Arpeggios and chords in that key - about 5-10 minutes.
A few etudes to build proficiency in the key and dexterity. - 10-20 minutes.
A new piece of music by parts, if written, or just from memory if heard, and working on arrangement, if it's not provided - from 10-20 minutes (if disciplined and not doing it for all 60 minutes, then some more).
A piece from repertory, that is learned well enough and needs some working on
A few pieces from earlier repertory, just to refresh them and have some fun.
Now just where do you fit those scales, that have no application to your immediate needs, to the pieces you learn? You'll likely to spend hours of practicing them, believing it's benefitial, only to find that your playing is not getting any better, you didn't build repertory you hoped, and after 5 years of studying you only play 5-10 minutes of easy tunes, but you know where all the notes are.
It's like learning to drive, having no need for a car. Do it, if you like, by all means, but it will not help you to ride in buses.

Also, four flats is Ab maj or F minor.


Thanks.


Well, forgive me if I'm not convinced by one flawed hypothetical anecdotal example.

For one thing, I have to ask what he's doing to "warm up" for those five minutes at the beginning if he isn't playing scales, technique exercises, etc.

For another, you seem hell-bent on denying the possibility that you can practice scales for less than 20 minutes at a time. I believe even 5 minutes of scales, practiced mindfully, will do a player good.

You have completely ignored my my reasons for why scales are beneficial. They do far more for you than apply directly to pieces in the same key as a scale.

For example, In classical music from Bach to now, composers frequently will modulate to a new key for short amounts of time, or suddenly slip into a different key and slip back. Say you are playing a piece in D (a common enough key). The dominant of D is of course A, and composers will frequently treat this dominant as a mini-tonic. This means there will often be passages in the key of E. If you play more romantic and modern literature, you get more and more remote key areas, so it pays to know your scales. If your hypothetical protagonist is really trying to learn all this repertoire, he would notice patterns like these, and the scales practiced will help learn more repertoire faster.

On a larger scale, they help you understand the patterns on your instrument better, so you will learn chromatic passages more easily. It helps in creating a more global muscle memory for the notes on your instrument, which makes learning new repertoire much easier.

As I said before, you have to practice scales mindfully of why you are doing it to have any benefit. Most people forced to play scales for lessons probably don't - they go into autopilot trying to get done so they can play real music. I have no doubt that they aren't getting benefit from this practice. However - this is not the only way to play scales, and it is ridiculous to condemn scales entirely based on this type of experience. Your example is not only one tiny way of practicing and learning, it completely ignores all my previous points.

I realize scales aren't fun - that's why I do so little of it. However, it's no good trying to fool yourself into thinking that eschewing technique-building exercises (like scales) are making you a better player. Just because your limited experience has led to to believe that scales are useless doesn't mean that practicing scales is universally wasted time.

#44 m3838

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 05:36 PM

Well, forgive me if I'm not convinced by one flawed hypothetical anecdotal example.

For one thing, I have to ask what he's doing to "warm up" for those five minutes at the beginning if he isn't playing scales, technique exercises, etc.



That's a good one. You can win 5 minutes on this. The way I generally have done them is different from practicing scales. I will not discuss this here, because different people may have different ideas about it, but my warm-up exercises involved ve-ery slo-ow scale up/down with some dynamic applied. Appeared to be better for "warming-up" specifically, than to practicing a scale, but it used the scale indeed.

For another, you seem hell-bent on denying the possibility that you can practice scales for less than 20 minutes at a time. I believe even 5 minutes of scales, practiced mindfully, will do a player good.

I'm not "bent" I've given you specific exercises, and from my experience they took as much time as I mentioned. I can't see how you take less time, when you practice the way I described, and if taken less time, I fail to see the usefulness of such "practice".
Just give me your scheme with timing. May be I'll adopt it.

You have completely ignored my my reasons for why scales are beneficial. They do far more for you than apply directly to pieces in the same key as a scale.



No, but you try to ignore the 1 hour limit.

For example, In classical music from Bach to now, composers frequently will modulate to a new key for short amounts of time, or suddenly slip into a different key and slip back. Say you are playing a piece in D (a common enough key). The dominant of D is of course A, and composers will frequently treat this dominant as a mini-tonic. This means there will often be passages in the key of E. If you play more romantic and modern literature, you get more and more remote key areas, so it pays to know your scales. If your hypothetical protagonist is really trying to learn all this repertoire, he would notice patterns like these, and the scales practiced will help learn more repertoire faster.



Good point. If you have enough time to actually do that properly. But if you don't, the wiser approach is to learn simpler music, folk and pop pieces. It will not make you gastrolling musician, but will sweeten you life and make parties merrier.

Most people forced to play scales for lessons probably don't - they go into autopilot trying to get done so they can play real music


That's the most important point. Just where are those clever talented teachers, specifically for concertina, who will provide such wonderful thoughtful guidance? Been left without them, we have to invent our own ways, and have very strong chance of falling in the above mentioned category of "most people".
A Ferrary is probably better car than Saturn Cupe, but for "most" people Ferrary is only a glossy cover of Motor Trend Magazine.

it is ridiculous to condemn scales entirely based on this type of experience.



I disagree with you assessment of my opinion. I don't condemn scales neither entirely nor partially.
I just am tired of biting more than I can chew.

On relative note, I think it's a mis-statement to say that music is based on scales.
It's not. It's based on some melodic chunks, and in each style the chunks are pretty much the same.
Like in a language, and I call these "Bricks". You can build your phrase out of these bricks and even sets of bricks. A scale is more elementary thing. What's better, playing scale for learning the notes, then a tune, or a tune and learn the notes, as you go? Gradually you'll start recognizing some patterns, and that's the time to go to scales and see what exactly these patterns are.
Otherwise - learning to walk first, anatomy later.

#45 njurkowski

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 06:25 PM

I'm not "bent" I've given you specific exercises, and from my experience they took as much time as I mentioned. I can't see how you take less time, when you practice the way I described, and if taken less time, I fail to see the usefulness of such "practice".
Just give me your scheme with timing. May be I'll adopt it.

This seems to be the crux of our disagreement. I'm not sure why you think that your described way of practicing scales is the only viable model. Consider a ten minute warm-up: Pick a scale, play it major and minor the length of the instrument. Play it in broken thirds and then as arpeggios. Really concentrate on developing muscle memory while you are playing. I just did exactly what I described in the key of Eb in 8 minutes. Switch to a different scale scale every day, and in 12 days you'll have come back around. Over time, this will get you thinking in keys that are not normally played, and you will get more comfortable how the instrument handles. You won't be as bound by music that is similar to what you've already played. Seeing as you've never tried to practice in the way I've described, it seems unfair for you to dismiss it as useless because you "don't understand" how it would help.

Good point. If you have enough time to actually do that properly. But if you don't, the wiser approach is to learn simpler music, folk and pop pieces. It will not make you gastrolling musician, but will sweeten you life and make parties merrier.

There's nothing wrong with learning pieces that are easy, be they classical, pop, jazz, trad, whatever (after all, if you make fast progress on something it's encouraging, and helps to motivate), but it seems like a lot less fun to limit yourself to them and aspire to mediocrity.

That's the most important point. Just where are those clever talented teachers, specifically for concertina, who will provide such wonderful thoughtful guidance? Been left without them, we have to invent our own ways, and have very strong chance of falling in the above mentioned category of "most people".

I think someone without a teacher can get a lot out of playing scales (and of course, other technical exercises). They just need to adopt the right mindset. Rather than assuming failure, why not try to aspire to success?
Again, what I'm talking about is practicing in a way that familiarizes yourself with the instrument instead of only playing tunes in D, G, C, F, and Bb. As someone said earlier, it's the difference between learning tunes and learning your instrument. I'd rather learn the instrument.

I disagree with you assessment of my opinion. I don't condemn scales neither entirely nor partially.

I guess I'm reacting to this quote:

It is easy to prove that learning scales in exotic keys futile and harmful and whoever engrosses in it will likely to not learn anything useful and filally be overwhelmed and drop out either from playing or from those exotic scales.

That sounded to me like a rather wholesale condemnation.

On relative note, I think it's a mis-statement to say that music is based on scales.
It's not. It's based on some melodic chunks, and in each style the chunks are pretty much the same.
Like in a language, and I call these "Bricks". You can build your phrase out of these bricks and even sets of bricks. A scale is more elementary thing. What's better, playing scale for learning the notes, then a tune, or a tune and learn the notes, as you go? Gradually you'll start recognizing some patterns, and that's the time to go to scales and see what exactly these patterns are.
Otherwise - learning to walk first, anatomy later.

However you want to think of music conceptually, you can't escape the fact that tonal music has a large number of ascending and descending passages drawn from the same material as scales. Practicing scales is a means to an end. The exact sequence of notes is almost beside the point, because having the muscle memory in as many key configurations as possible will make you a better player. To be successful, you have to change your mentality from "I'm just playing a scale" to "I'm expanding my knowledge of how the instrument functions."

I realize that my arguments are mainly for those looking to play classical-type music on the English, but it seems like other traditional-players have similar feelings. And certainly, if I were an anglo player and Noel Hill told me to play my scales, it'd be a pretty strong argument for me to practice my scales.

#46 Bruce McCaskey

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 09:35 PM

The water here seems far deeper than I expected, guess I didn't appreciate the intensity of the topic when I stepped in to respond to the initial question. I'm going to offer some clarification on my prior post and then slip out of this thread.

For clarity I'll say that Noel Hill doesn't advocate devotion to scales, rather just that spending a few minutes a day working on them is beneficial in developing familiarity and agility with the instrument. He suggests that one should strive to play scales with a light and even musical flow rather than as simple exercises in button sequences. He starts people on the simplest forms of the key and doesn’t discuss variations, but I suppose it'd be of some value if one wanted to explore the variants once they have the basics down.

Also on the topic of clarity, I've heard Noel promote scales most actively in his beginning-player classes where people are new to the instrument, the music and the keys tunes are played in. Even then, he only spends a few minutes on the topic in class, demonstrating his recommendations for how to play them and then leaving it to the individual to pursue on their own. They are not a theme of his instruction, rather just a subtext under the heading of “suggested things to do for improvement.” I spent some time with John Williams several years ago and he also suggested that playing scales would be beneficial but didn't dwell on the subject. I've also spent time with Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin on multiple occasions but haven't as yet heard him comment on the topic so don't know where he stands on the matter.

As to my current approach to scales and practice, some time back I found myself thinking that I did little to challenge and stretch my abilities by playing familiar material month after month. So I made a point to devote more time to learning new tunes, but eventually concluded that once one gets the common button combinations down and becomes fairly good at picking up new tunes, you can memorize and play a lot of material without necessarily improving as a player. I suppose one could debate what "improving as a player" means, but I felt I was succeeding mechanically without necessarily improving my ability to make music.

As a consequence I started looking for ways to stretch myself on other levels. I began learning an expanded range of scales beyond the D, G and A I'd been working with previously. I started playing tunes in keys other then the ones they are typically written and played in. In a visit with Bertram Levy he pointed out the value of refining one's bellows control to increase dynamic range and so I started making a point to play at different volumes while still maintaining an even flow and sound. I try to make the music more interesting in ways other than just ornamentation.

I don't suggest that others should follow my approach or seek validation of what I'm doing, rather I'm just reporting what I'm doing.

#47 m3838

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 02:30 AM

I don't suggest that others should follow my approach or seek validation of what I'm doing, rather I'm just reporting what I'm doing.

Seems to me like valid approach.
I don't think that not aspiring to play pieces of top complexity necessarily means aspiring to mediocrity, disagree that playing in many keys makes you a better player, and would argue that knowing what one is doing theoretically is beneficial to the expressiveness. I also don't thing that simply playing the same piece, but in different key is of any significance. It will teach you some knowledge of the instrument, but if you are not going to play in that key, or if your playing in multiple keys lacks expressiveness - it's a make-belief challenge.
I disagree that there is a difference between "learning an instrument" and "learning a tune". One can't learn an instrument without learning a tune and by learning a tune one necessarily learns bit of an instrument.

#48 w.campbell

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 05:00 AM

I'm sure I will be corrected, but I actually believe that 95% or more of the readers of this forum. are amateurs who intend to remain that way.

This being the case, most players are in it for the fun of making music. Playing scales can become very tedious and cause some to forgo practicing because of the guilt that can come from not following the recommendations of some self appointed sages.

Those thusly put off will be happy to know that some of the best musicians in the world do not play scales, as such! What they do, is to practice interesting scale like passages from pieces they are learning, or from their repertoire.

Don't worry about being able to play in every key. If you find a piece in a new key, you can learn it then. But be aware that most instruments play comfortably in a limited number of keys and so pieces are often transcribed and available in many different keys. This is especially common in classical style pieces and vocal music. In early times composers expected their music to be arranged in various ways and keys for all sorts of instruments. This is absolutely, 100 percent acceptable, especially in the light of the fact that you are making personal music for your own enjoyment and hopefully, but not necessarily, to be shared with others.

The idea is to play "these scale like" passages slowly and carefully a couple of times as a warm up. Then when you get to the piece in your practice routine, that passage will be a little easier.

As a matter of fact slow practice is a lot like slow food. It is more enjoyable and actually is the trick to playing rapidly. Just relax and listen to the music you are making.

Don't worry too much about expression, it will come through all by itself as you play. All the tricks in the world can't hide a boring person"s playing! But don't confuse boring with shy. The shyest people are sometimes the most exciting players, and some of the blowhards can bore everyone to death with their overbearing playing and non-stop patter.

enjoy,
w.campbell

Edited by w.campbell, 19 May 2008 - 05:08 AM.


#49 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 04:57 AM

I'm sure I will be corrected, but I actually believe that 95% or more of the readers of this forum. are amateurs who intend to remain that way.
...
Those thusly put off will be happy to know that some of the best musicians in the world do not play scales, as such! What they do, is to practice interesting scale like passages from pieces they are learning, or from their repertoire.

...

The idea is to play "these scale like" passages slowly and carefully a couple of times as a warm up. Then when you get to the piece in your practice routine, that passage will be a little easier.

As a matter of fact slow practice is a lot like slow food. It is more enjoyable and actually is the trick to playing rapidly. Just relax and listen to the music you are making.

Don't worry too much about expression, it will come through all by itself as you play. All the tricks in the world can't hide a boring person"s playing!
enjoy,
w.campbell


A lot of good points in this posting, in my opinion!

I share your assessment that most of us here are amateurs. However, amateurs and professionals have one thing in common: they want to play as well as they can, given the time, talent and resources at their disposal. Professionals play for money and recognition, amateurs play for personal satisfaction. These are equally strong motivators, to my mind.

Yes, we must realise that "practising scales" is not just playing "doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, doh'" and back down again. When I was learning to sing, my teacher had me sing broken scales like "doh, mi, re, fa, mi, so, fa, la, so, ti, la, re', doh'". Or "doh, re, doh, mi, doh, fa, doh, so, doh, la, doh, ti, doh, doh', doh" (try that one along the rows of your anglo - you may discover some interesting alternative fingerings!)
These are the "scale-like passages" you wrote about, and they can be used to practise phrasing, too (e.g. "DOH-mi, RE-fa, MI-so ..."). you can give the notes different time values; you can do the whole exercise in 3/4 time or 4/4 time; you can build up the volume and take it down again, etc.
If you then put a chord under each note (or phrase) of the exercise (probably easiest on an anglo), you've got a pretty little etude, which does not have to be boring, but still gets your ear and fingers accustomed to finding all the right notes and the appropriate chords.
Make up words to it, if you like. Even if you only sing them mentally, they will help to shape the music.

I've heard top-class musicians recommend slow practice, too. If you always play fast passages up to speed, your brain tends to delegate them to the fingers, and if the fingers get knotted, the brain no longer knows what to do, and you crash out. Playing slowly, concentrating on each note, keeps you in charge of affairs.

And yes, expression is not a matter of skill or tricks or neat fingerings. Skill has to do with producing the right notes in the right sequence. This is instrument-specific. Expression has to do with the music itself - with finding the coherent phrases and making them audible by accentuating the appropriate notes and glossing over others (using your instrument-specific skills, of course). This is something that a musician can transfer from his first instrument to a subsequently learned instrument. And remember, the first instrument that most of us learn is The Voice! A pretty good guideline to expressive phrasing is to sing the passage through, and then try to play it like that.

Whether you do all this for four hours a day, like a pro, or for ten minutes each evening, like an amateur, is to my mind only a matter of degree.

A famous French Impressionist painter once said that the secret of being a good painter was never to let a day pass without putting pencil to paper at least once. By analogy, even the amateur concertinist with a demanding day job can usually find the time (say, 5 minutes, including unpacking and repacking the concertina) to run through one of those "scale-like passages", just to remind his fingers of where the notes are. I've done this with difficult passages in tunes I've been learning - notably that descending scale passage in "The Sailor's Hornpipe" - and it works wonders!

Cheers,
John

#50 hjcjones

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 06:26 PM

Wow! I'm really impressed with the amount of serious, structured practicing so many people seem to do.

I've taught myself to play a number of instruments besides anglo concertina. I'm very well aware that he who teaches himself has a fool for a a master, but back then it was impossible to get lessons on these instruments, so it was the only way. In most cases it wasn't even possible to get hold of a decent printed tutor book.

As I've never had formal lessons on any instrument (apart from recorder at school) I have no idea how to structure a practice session. Like m3838, I don't "practice" in that sense, I pick up the instrument and run through tunes I need to consolidate, or simply enjoy playing. I try to think about what I'm doing and to try out different approaches, but that's it really. Some weeks the only time I find to play is when I sit down in my weekly session, or play a gig.

In theory, I would have loved to have had the benefit of formal tuition when I was younger. I suppose I could try to follow the regimes suggested above, but for me the point of playing an instrument is to make music, not to do exercises. It's the same attitude that makes me prefer to do something which requires me to be active, rather than go to a gym. Exercises for their own sake may be good for you, but they're not what it's about.

I'm not saying there's no benefit from doing them, and I admire those with the patience to work on their technique. I prefer to develop the techniques I need as I go along in order to to be able to play the tunes I like. I'm not necessarily saying that's the best approach, or even a desirable one, simply that it works for me - and I suspect a lot of other ear-playing angloists



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