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Ratio of practice time to progress


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#37 David Levine

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 10:51 AM

I don't not look forward to practicing itself (even if it is a means to an end)... My point is that practicing is not "a means to an end." It is the end. It is in itself a rewarding musical experience and you have to make it that for yourself. It's all music, not drudgery.

its just the aching muscles and the doorslamming/complaints I can't stand. Your muscles shouldn't ache so that it is unpleasant for you. After a good workout my muscles ache but it's a good ache. If your muscles ache when you're playing then you're doing something wrong. There is tension somewhere in your body that is hurting your playing. That's why you should take some lessons from a really good player who can analyze what you're doing wrong and what right.

When all I get is negativity I just get really disheartened. I don't think I've had one compliment since I started. :angry: Yes, that's a tough one. Negativity can be very destructive. But if you're playing for other peoples' compliments then you're not really playing for yourself, are you? Why are you playing? Everybody wants support and encouragement. But with music you have to be inner-directed and take pleasure in the moment. How can you find people who will encourage and support you?

And its more like..I've got 30mins-1hr max to squeeze in as much practice as possible before everyone gets home and I get told to be quiet. How old are you? I think you should get a job and find another place to live. Are you still living at home? Sounds as if you should get your own place where nobody tells you to be quiet.

I think that's why I'm prefering melodeon...I can play quietly and don't get the backache.
What's the backache about? You're too young to have back problems. Most back muscle problems result from tight hamstrings and weak stomach muscles. Stop whining, get some exercize, sit up straight when you play instead of hunched over your instrument, stretch a lot and find your own damn place to live.

#38 Fergus_fiddler

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 12:58 PM

Wise advices...


I couldn't agree more. Indeed, 'till I went out of my parents home, I didn't really improved on any instrument.

Is funny what a bad management of ego can do... when I was young, I was always fishing for compliments about my playing - and it was horrible! :lol: -. Nowadays, I don't give a sh*t about a lot of people opinion... I simply play because I need it like eating, or breathing...

LDT, don't be so impatient. Instant master of any discipline simply doesn't exist. I began to play fiddle when I was 24 and the more I learn, the more realize that still have a lot to learn...

Cheers,

Fer

#39 Mikefule

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 01:42 PM

If you don't cherish every opportunity to practise, how much do you really want to play?

I started playing concertina at 44 years old, after years of "playing at" music, rather than playing it. I play harmonica pretty well, and was a reasonable Morris melodeonist, as well as having tried cornet/trumpet, piano, glockens... gloch... glock... a cheap set of vibes, fife (briefly!), percussion, guitar and various other things.

Now I practise my Anglo as near to every day as life allows. It goes with me in the car so I can stop half way there to practise. I doodle chord changes when I'm reading my email. As a result, every new breakthrough is a joy. I feel like a musician, and I regret the 25 years or so of adulthood in which I never made the commitment to play.

It isn't meant to be easy, and parts of it will be a slog, but if you can't play for the sheer joy of playing music on a beautiful instrument then, well, I'm sorry.

#40 Azalin

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 09:54 PM

LDT, don't be so impatient. Instant master of any discipline simply doesn't exist. I began to play fiddle when I was 24 and the more I learn, the more realize that still have a lot to learn...


Scary isnt it? You move forward two steps, and find out you need 4 extra steps... you walk these 4 steps, and find out you need 8 more in the process... the more you go, the longer the road seems to be. Anyway, it is for me. I see dozens of things in peoples' playing I used not to notice because it was way beyond me. I need to be able to master these things to be satisfied. It will never happen, of course :-)

#41 Simon H

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:52 AM

There is an interesting distinction coming out here that hasn't been made explicit and may skew peoples perceptions around this. The distinction, between playing and practising. For accomplished session players and people who take their instruments out to play with others or to perform in public this distinction can be very clear, and practice is exactly that, it is practicing for the end purpose of being able to accomplish certain playing goals in a different setting to that in which the practice is done.

For beginners, people who do not wish to play music with others, and those who have no outlet for their playing, the process of practice and playing are essentially the same and are carried out in the same environment, which may not be supportive. This is all there is. This tends to be less goal-centred (getting the new tunes off for a session) and requires an internal rewards process. For experienced players used to playing in sessions bands and performing, practice is simply practice and can be very focused.For those that play alone in an unsupportive environment, there is nothing else but you and the instrument and the small praise you can give yourself. For a beginner struggling with a difficult instrument the drivers to improve can be quite daunting.

I have found the challenge presented by learning concertina orders of magnitude greater than I expected at the outset. Thankfully I've stuck at it, something I could easily have not done. I'm only 18 months in and know there are years ahead before I can conssider myself particularly proficient. I do have places I can go to play with other people so practice can have a purpose. All that said, I love to play for myself as well when I have a tune right.

#42 David Levine

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:57 AM

LDT, don't be so impatient. Instant master of any discipline simply doesn't exist. I began to play fiddle when I was 24 and the more I learn, the more realize that still have a lot to learn...


Scary isnt it? You move forward two steps, and find out you need 4 extra steps... you walk these 4 steps, and find out you need 8 more in the process... the more you go, the longer the road seems to be. Anyway, it is for me. I see dozens of things in peoples' playing I used not to notice because it was way beyond me. I need to be able to master these things to be satisfied. It will never happen, of course :-)


It will never happen, of course

Az, it may happen in time. But that really doesn't matter. The whole point is whether you play to "get good" or to free your soul. Getting good is a by product of the urge to free your soul. Freeing your soul is what happens when you practice alone or make music with your pals. If in the meantime you get good and people like it and praise you or pay you, that's just a by-product of the process. But it isn't the reason for the process - and we both know that.

It's like the old adage, To play fast you must learn to play slowly. And after you've learned to play slowly the beauty of the music emerges because you aren't rushing the beat or making mistakes and you can concentrate on phrasing and rhythm. And then it isn't so important anymore to play fast.

#43 Larryo

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 05:08 AM

I dunno.I certainly don't like practicing. Yes, I am grateful that I can. I am grateful that I have a concertina just like I am grateful that I am alive, have a home etc etc but it is hard to stay in that state of grace, that place of constant gratitude.I don't like practicing and by practicing I mean for example the end less practicing of the dreaded D,E and F# and the trying to get tunes which use those notes to sound somewhat decent and other aspects.I wish that I could wake up some day and be able to play to a acceptable level.Yes, I know that this level will keep changing and I am not foolish enough not to be able to recognise that I am making progress, but to say I find practicing enjoyable would not be true.I was speaking some time ago to a very good musician and he discussed how sometimes just to get a certain passage right, he might play it over and over again for a long period of time just to get it right and there was never any indication that this was an enjoyable process.If by practicing, we mean just sitting there playing tunes, oh sure that is fine.But what happens if you are not happy with how you playing a tune? Of course if you have the drive, you will want to perfect it and will keep playing it until you get it right.Is this enjoyable? I dunno??? Maybe the thought that the end will justify the means might be enjoyable but to sit there hours on end trying to master something?
But is sitting there playing tunes, practicing or playing? Maybe it is that something inside that pushes us on to master an instrument , the thought that we will be able to play in a session, the happy thoughts of how we did just that last night, makes it all seem like enjoyable? I am reminded of an interview with a county footballer who representing his county, had played an All Ireland Final.He was asked was playing in Croke Park an enjoyable experience and he suggested the interviewer might be mad.He acknowledged that it was supposed to be the best day of your football career but how could it be he asked.Playing an amateur sport, in front of thousands of people live and millions watching on television, where every mistake would be scrutinised.He said that yes, of course , if you win, it then all of a sudden became very enjoyable but the days before suffering from nerves, the match itself? Nah he said, it was terrible.So yes, when I pick up the instrument and it all goes well, it is very enjoyable.But when I pick it up and can't play my way out of a paper bag and it seems like I am going backwards- enjoyable? I don't think so- not for me anyway.

#44 LDT

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 05:21 AM

I dunno.I certainly don't like practicing. Yes, I am grateful that I can. I am grateful that I have a concertina just like I am grateful that I am alive, have a home etc etc but it is hard to stay in that state of grace, that place of constant gratitude.I don't like practicing and by practicing I mean for example the end less practicing of the dreaded D,E and F# and the trying to get tunes which use those notes to sound somewhat decent and other aspects.I wish that I could wake up some day and be able to play to a acceptable level.Yes, I know that this level will keep changing and I am not foolish enough not to be able to recognise that I am making progress, but to say I find practicing enjoyable would not be true.I was speaking some time ago to a very good musician and he discussed how sometimes just to get a certain passage right, he might play it over and over again for a long period of time just to get it right and there was never any indication that this was an enjoyable process.If by practicing, we mean just sitting there playing tunes, oh sure that is fine.But what happens if you are not happy with how you playing a tune? Of course if you have the drive, you will want to perfect it and will keep playing it until you get it right.Is this enjoyable? I dunno??? Maybe the thought that the end will justify the means might be enjoyable but to sit there hours on end trying to master something?
But is sitting there playing tunes, practicing or playing? Maybe it is that something inside that pushes us on to master an instrument , the thought that we will be able to play in a session, the happy thoughts of how we did just that last night, makes it all seem like enjoyable? I am reminded of an interview with a county footballer who representing his county, had played an All Ireland Final.He was asked was playing in Croke Park an enjoyable experience and he suggested the interviewer might be mad.He acknowledged that it was supposed to be the best day of your football career but how could it be he asked.Playing an amateur sport, in front of thousands of people live and millions watching on television, where every mistake would be scrutinised.He said that yes, of course , if you win, it then all of a sudden became very enjoyable but the days before suffering from nerves, the match itself? Nah he said, it was terrible.So yes, when I pick up the instrument and it all goes well, it is very enjoyable.But when I pick it up and can't play my way out of a paper bag and it seems like I am going backwards- enjoyable? I don't think so- not for me anyway.

Thank you....exactly what I was trying to say...but more elequantly put :)

#45 David Levine

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 09:34 AM

I was speaking some time ago to a very good musician and he discussed how sometimes just to get a certain passage right, he might play it over and over again for a long period of time just to get it right and there was never any indication that this was an enjoyable process.


Why wouldn't it be enjoyable? Just to take delight in the sound that you're making. It is mistakes that make practice no fun. Mistakes make the music sound bad. I know that if I make a mistake I am playing too fast. If I slow way down I don't make any mistakes. I am just playing slowly. And then the music starts to sound good and I enjoy playing music. It's just slow music - but there's nothing wrong with that. I have faith that in time I will be able to play the tune faster. But for now it's slow down, way down, and enjoy the music. Even tricky parts become easy to play when you slow down - and it all becomes enjoyable. Because you aren't practicing at that point. You're making music.

Do you guys, Larry O and LDT, find that hard to believe? Or impossible to put into practice? Are you driven to play fast? You have to learn to love to play. Otherwise you'll be stuck in resentment and find practice drudgery. And it really doesn't have to be that way.

#46 LDT

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 10:06 AM

I don't want to play fast I want to play competantly without looking at the music...which has always been my goal whatever instrument.

#47 Larryo

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 10:32 AM

Well we will have to agree to disagree David. I don't have any great need to be stuck in a place where I find practicing to be drudgery nor am I filled with resentment for having to do it.There seems to be a bit of a "play" if you will excuse the pun on the words "practicing", "playing" and "making music".If for example, I sit playing the one note on any instrument, I am of course making music and Kato Havas the Hungarian violinist certainly teaches that getting to know each note intimately is essential and rids the body and maind of stress in trying to make a note.But how long will I enjoy that for? And yes, playing a piece of music very slowly is of course making music and could be construed as practicing.But it will not get you into the orchestra not into a session.Learning to play faster whilst maintaining the level of quality will.But how is that done?By pushing one self out of a comfort zone and there is a natural degree of discomfort in doing so albeit initially and for a period of time.
I can play the Mountain Road very slowly.It sounds slow.In time it might be bouncy, it might have lift and it is and will be music.But it is not the music I want to make.To make the music I want to make I have to push myself.This is not an enjoyable process.The end product will be.The glimpses of progress will be.But the act of pushing myself is not.Now of course at a Zen level it can be argued that it should be but I'm not Zen.You take a long distance runner.He/she is in pain after twenty odd miles but will try to push on.Is that enjoyable? The act of completion say at 26 odd miles will be.But the pain now?No. If when you start to play the concertina, and find that your fingers will not do as you wish, then yes you can say to yourself that you will get the hang of it, your fingers will improve.But when you are forcing them to exercise so that some day they will do as you wish, then unless you are in a Zen place, then it is not enjoyable.Not for the pain of physical exercise but from the racket you make when the fingers don't hit the button as you wish.It will be but not now.Because if you were happy with what you had you would never push on.Just like nobody wakes up some morning, has a stretch and decides that they will go to a counsellor today.Pain is what forces you to change.Discomfort with what you have, although it might be appreciated, is what forces you to push.Lack of satisfaction with one's playing is what forces one to practice. And for me that lack of satisfaction is painful.Not life threatening but uncomfortable. Yes, sure not the end of the world but enough to force me on. Do I like it ?No chance.
If I can take out my instrument and be happy playing a few tunes, then of course it is not drudgery.And if I am still playing the tunes I learnt say twenty years ago and only those and in the same way, I will enjoy my playing.But if I want to learn to improve them, play them in different keys or should I want to learn to play something more challenging, then it becomes practice and then the discomfort kicks in. I love to play but the need in me to play better is stone in my shoe.

#48 Hereward

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 11:16 AM

I find that after I am a little competent with a tune, playing it slower is actually more difficult, for reasons I find hard to put into words.

Ian

#49 David Levine

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 12:06 PM

Larry O said:

…playing a piece of music very slowly is of course making music and could be construed as practicing.But it will not get you into the orchestra nor into a session. But how is that done?By pushing one self out of a comfort zone


OK Larry, so we'll disagree. We're not really arguing here. I wish you could see that your attitude is holding you back. What you say above just isn't true. Playing slowly will get you into sessions. I play in some fast, hot-dog sessions, though often the music is too fast to be lovely. I got there by learning to play. Just to play. I learned to love to play, on my own, slowly. Even the repetition of one phrase I thought was lovely.

There are books about this. If you play well at any speed the natural tendency is to speed up as you start to feel more comfortable. Seamus Creagh taught me that there is no such thing as playing too slowly on your own. Catherine McEvoy taught me the same thing. Dympna O'Sullivan, Claire Keville, Larry Kinsella are all wonderful slow players. They didn't get wonderful by trying to play fast or even by hoping someday to play fast.

If you stay in your comfort zone you will enjoy the music you make, you will want to play more, and you will naturally get faster. "How can I get faster?" is the wrong question, but it does have an answer: by playing well, slowly. Good music has nothing to do with speed, per se.

There is too much bad music made by people pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. They fumble around because they're playing too fast, they miss notes and the rhythm is ruined. It's no fun for them and they're no fun to play with. That is not the way to get fast. You need to come here to Clare and visit and play with some really slow wonderful players. Get out of the Dublin buzz and come relax.

#50 Larryo

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 01:50 PM

Ah yes I know we are not arguing David but I fear that I have failed to make my self clear and must leave this discussion!!! But I will say that recently I had to undergo a minor medical procedure for which I had to fast from the night before.Whilst I waited in the hospital to be seen I was aware that I was starvin' Now I knew that I would eat again, I knew that fasting made sense and that it was all for a good cause but that didn't stop the discomfort from the hunger. Similarly with practice

#51 Boney

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 03:59 PM

I don't think it's "Zen" to pretend that something which is uncomfortable is comfortable.

At the same time, sometimes it's possible to enjoy different aspects of things. To savor the process of your mind being stretched, or to enjoy the sensation of your fingers moving, to be amused by the strange things your body does that lead to mistakes, to be edified by watching how your emotions run around, to listen to the sounds you're making in a deeper way, all of which can lead to a certain satisfaction in the moment.

I don't think the struggle is as simple as "slow" vs. "fast." Speed is not the only hurdle to overcome. Slowing down is useful sometimes, and not useful at other times. You do need to move out of your comfort zone to progress. Is it possible to "enjoy" being somewhat uncomfortable, at least when that uncomfortableness is related to learning and growing? Maybe, but learning to "enjoy" in this way takes time and practice too, which can be frustrating...

You hear some musicians reach a certain level of competence, then stay there for years, or decades. They may learn new songs or tunes, but never really stretch themselves. They're satisfied with where they are. Repeating what they do well already does not lead to any automatic growth. They may slowly sound more solid or effortless in their limited style, but they won't surprise you with something truly new. Of course, this is sometimes some of the most enjoyable music to listen to.

Maybe if I had infinite patience, I could practice in a way that any uncomfortableness was minimal. But like working out to gain strength, it's the push past your comfort zone that makes most of the difference, not the first few comfortable reps. It takes a very long time to make gains if you avoid uncomfortableness. I am not that patient. I prefer the uncomfortableness.

#52 Pete Dunk

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 05:17 PM

I find that after I am a little competent with a tune, playing it slower is actually more difficult, for reasons I find hard to put into words.

Ian


Actually that's quite an easy one to answer. To play a piece slowly, or indeed to play a slow piece well, requires a good level of skill and expression to prevent the music from sounding moribund. There is a great deal of difference between practising slowly in order to master the technique of playing a particular tune before playing it at full tempo and deciding to play a fast tune at a slower pace whilst still maintaining interest and eloquence.

The beauty of the tune is the first thing I consider. I then learn to play that tune with the expression it demands, however slowly I'm forced to play it in order to achieve that. Speed itself is never a consideration, the longer you've played the piece the easier it will be to simply 'step on the gas'. Do remember though that winning 'the fastest gun in the west' competition doesn't necessarily make you a good musician and may indeed hamper your ambitions.

Music is about breathing life into your playing and not about achieving speed or mechanical dexterity per se, those are attributes that will come naturally with time, as is the sense to realise when it's appropriate to use them or not as a performance device.

#53 Larryo

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 05:19 PM

Yes, I agree.The uncomfortableness is worth the end result- that I hopefully be able to do as much as I can on an instrument.Years ago when taking up the fiddle, I treated myself to lessons from an orchestra member who was very much into the more modern teaching methods.She had me stand in front of mirrors etc,scales for hours on end.Painful( in the light hearted sense), boring etc.I didn't enjoy it but her mantra was that she would give me the technique to enable me to play as I wanted to regardless of what music genre I decided to play- and she did.I could at least play in tune with an acceptable tone until a physical ailment put an end to fiddle playing
I'd sooner the discomfort now and accept it as being that and in the long run have a hopefully better command of an instrument.So many players I meet say that they wish that they had done things differently, wished that they hadn't learnt so many bad habits, it seems a shame not to do scales etc now to avoid saying the same things down the road

Edited by Larryo, 23 April 2009 - 05:33 PM.


#54 Hereward

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 05:48 PM

I find that after I am a little competent with a tune, playing it slower is actually more difficult, for reasons I find hard to put into words.

Ian


Actually that's quite an easy one to answer. To play a piece slowly, or indeed to play a slow piece well, requires a good level of skill and expression to prevent the music from sounding moribund. There is a great deal of difference between practising slowly in order to master the technique of playing a particular tune before playing it at full tempo and deciding to play a fast tune at a slower pace whilst still maintaining interest and eloquence.

The beauty of the tune is the first thing I consider. I then learn to play that tune with the expression it demands, however slowly I'm forced to play it in order to achieve that. Speed itself is never a consideration, the longer you've played the piece the easier it will be to simply 'step on the gas'. Do remember though that winning 'the fastest gun in the west' competition doesn't necessarily make you a good musician and may indeed hamper your ambitions.

Music is about breathing life into your playing and not about achieving speed or mechanical dexterity per se, those are attributes that will come naturally with time, as is the sense to realise when it's appropriate to use them or not as a performance device.


Thanks for that insight. Such things are always useful to me.

Ian



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