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1,300 Hours Later


frogspawn
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This year I've averaged about 4.5 hours concertina practice per week and have clocked up a total of over 1,300 hours over 7 years since I first started recording time spent.


I'm certainty not a competent player, either with tunes or song accompaniment. Either that amount of practice is pathetically small or I'm just not cut out for this sort of instrument.


In contrast, I've recently started dabbling with guitar and mandolin and can already accompany a few songs. OK, it's not Martin Carthy or Nic Jones - it's just strumming the three-chord trick, but it's perfectly adequate and indeed appropriate for a folkclub floor singer in a noisy pub.


As much as I love the sound of squeezeboxes, I'm seriously wondering about the effort to achievement ratio.


Richard

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What sort of concertina do you play? Looks like a duet system of some sort from your profile picture. Could be that you'd have more success with an English or Anglo concertina. There are a fair amount of easily affordable entry level models of each of these systems. Might be worth exploring. Good luck.

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I just wonder reading your posting that you may be falling into the trap of playing the same tunes without pushing yourself to play what is much more difficult. If for example you played three blind mice for days at the end of it the tune would be nice to listen to ,but what have you learnt?

To analyse yourself against time recorded is not a good idea,I spend hours practising tunes that I cannot play ,or finger patterns for chords and runs and I still have much to learn.

A beginner playing just for a few days would sound better to a player just starting so there is immediate improvement.There are few that can just pick up an instrument and start playing it well,it takes time ,effort and concentration,there is no quick fix.Your time has not been wasted it is only your impatience with yourself that needs sorting.Throw away your practice hours check list and carry on.Eventually you suddenly realise that people are actually enjoying what you can do.

My recommendation is to practice for approx twenty minutes have a break and than another twenty minutes ,a three or four hour bash is not productive as your brain (or my brain) cannot cope with all the extra information you are forcing into it.

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When you compare it with the guitar, you are not comparing like with like. It doesn't take long to learn a few chords on guitar, but it takes a lot longer to become proficient on it. I'm sure you could also vamp three-chord tricks on the concertina. The problem is that you want to play stuff which is more complex.

 

You haven't explained where the difficulty lies. Is that you struggle to remember fingering patterns, or do you have difficulty remembering the tunes themselves?

 

Time spent practicing is not in itself a good measure unless you are practicing productively. Are you teaching yourself? It might be worth trying to find someone to give you a few lessons.

 

You are still a long way short of the 10,000 hours supposedly needed to become expert in something, so don't give up.

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“All great achievements require time.” ― Maya Angelou

 

From Wikipedia:

Outliers: The Story of Success is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell and published by Little, Brown and Company on November 18, 2008. In Outliers, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. [...] Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

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Or it may be, that you have chosen a wrong keyboard layout for your "brain wiring"- I could not make any sense out of music when I tried traditional staff and piano keyboard approach or an Anglo "memorize everything" approach. But after trying Hayden layout suddenly all became clear and there is a steady improvement of my skills ever since.

 

And if you want to be able to do a chordal song accompaniment there is really no better layout than Hayden - check the thread here: http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=15974&hl= for some details.

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Perhaps you're looking at it at bit too negatively. You haven't spent 1300 hours practicing concertina, you've spent 1300 hours making music, which is a skill in its own right, and one that will transfer to any other instrument.

 

I suspect that at least some of the reason guitar and mandolin is coming easily to you is because of what you've learned on the concertina, and in another 1300 hours you'll probably post that the knowledge you've gained from the guitar has really helped your concertina playing.

 

It really doesn't matter what instrument you're playing as long as you're enjoying the music.

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What sort of concertina do you play? Looks like a duet system of some sort from your profile picture. Could be that you'd have more success with an English or Anglo concertina. There are a fair amount of easily affordable entry level models of each of these systems. Might be worth exploring. Good luck.

 

Thanks to everyone for their replies, both public and private. Concertina players are thin on the ground so one problem many of us probably have is lack of direct feedback. I will reply to the comments individually and then post again if there's anything I want to add.

 

My concertina is a Crane Duet. I started with an Anglo but I felt that having to find alternate fingerings to match chord direction was just too steep a learning curve. I have at times wondered if an English would have been better, but it's too late to change now.

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I just wonder reading your posting that you may be falling into the trap of playing the same tunes without pushing yourself to play what is much more difficult. If for example you played three blind mice for days at the end of it the tune would be nice to listen to ,but what have you learnt?

To analyse yourself against time recorded is not a good idea,

My recommendation is to practice for approx twenty minutes have a break and than another twenty minutes ,a three or four hour bash is not productive as your brain (or my brain) cannot cope with all the extra information you are forcing into it.

 

I do need to spend more time on developing different techniques, but in terms of numbers of songs and tunes I have probably over-extended myself in the past. I'm sure you're right about 20 minute sessions but I do have to fit in my playing when I can. Measuring progress by time is not ideal, but it has helped my self-discipline and ring-fenced my time from other pressures.

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You haven't explained where the difficulty lies. Is that you struggle to remember fingering patterns, or do you have difficulty remembering the tunes themselves?

 

It might be worth trying to find someone to give you a few lessons.

 

I can remember tunes, I just forget which buttons to press or hit the wrong ones!

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Quote

Outliers: The Story of Success is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell and published by Little, Brown and Company on November 18, 2008. In Outliers, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. [...] Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

At my present rate of progress I will reach 10,000 hours in 2067 when I will be 114 years old. I will update the thread when I get there!

Edited by frogspawn
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I suspect that at least some of the reason guitar and mandolin is coming easily to you is because of what you've learned on the concertina, and in another 1300 hours you'll probably post that the knowledge you've gained from the guitar has really helped your concertina playing.

 

I agree entirely.

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Perhaps I should say that I don't consider myself to be entirely incompetent. I can do a few songs adequately (in my own opinion), and that gives me encouragement. It's just that the number is very small considering the number of years I've invested.

 

I probably would benefit from changing my approach to practising, but before doing so I'd like to get a better idea of how much time other people spend playing and, if they accompany folk songs or something analogous, how big a repertoire they try to maintain? I know there are no right answers to these questions, but some benchmarks would be helpful. It may be that I have simply been attempting to maintain/learn too many songs for the time I actually have available to practice.

Edited by frogspawn
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What sort of concertina do you play? Looks like a duet system of some sort from your profile picture. Could be that you'd have more success with an English or Anglo concertina. There are a fair amount of easily affordable entry level models of each of these systems. Might be worth exploring. Good luck.

 

Thanks to everyone for their replies, both public and private. Concertina players are thin on the ground so one problem many of us probably have is lack of direct feedback. I will reply to the comments individually and then post again if there's anything I want to add.

 

My concertina is a Crane Duet. I started with an Anglo but I felt that having to find alternate fingerings to match chord direction was just too steep a learning curve. I have at times wondered if an English would have been better, but it's too late to change now.

 

Perhaps another variety of duet system might suit you better? The Haydn duet system seems pretty popular.

 

Edited to add that I suppose if you feel it's too late to change, then switching to another type of duet system probably won't present itself as any more of a solution than switching to an English or Anglo system. Personally, I feel it's never too late to change but that's just me. Anyway, best of luck to you.

Edited by Anglo Enthusiast
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This year I've averaged about 4.5 hours concertina practice per week and have clocked up a total of over 1,300 hours over 7 years since I first started recording time spent.

 

I'm certainty not a competent player, either with tunes or song accompaniment. Either that amount of practice is pathetically small or I'm just not cut out for this sort of instrument.

 

In contrast, I've recently started dabbling with guitar and mandolin and can already accompany a few songs. ...it's just strumming the three-chord trick, but it's perfectly adequate....

What do you feel is necessary to be "a competent player" on your concertina? Are you saying that you've tried to learn "the three-chord trick" on your Crane duet, but haven't been successful? If so, then

  • maybe you really are more suited to guitar than to concertina,
  • or you might get on better with a different kind of concertina,
  • or you could benefit from some personal guidance/lessons in what and how to practice.

Maybe you have learned to play the 3 chords (even in more than one key), but you're not happy with the way they sound with your singing? "Strumming" on the concertina just doesn't cut it? Then I think alternative 3. above might help, since there are many different ways to play/use chords. There are also forms of accompaniment that aren't primarily chordal.

 

On the other hand, if your acceptable standard for the concertina is more complex than for the guitar, then comparing your competence on the two may be unbalanced. (I do acknowledge, though, that you say you've so far spent much less time with the guitar than with the concertina.)

 

But assuming for the moment that alternative 3. applies (which doesn't necessarily exclude the other two), here are a few further questions that might help us help you:

  • What resources have you used to guide your practicing? I.e., do you have one or more written tutorials or other written material? Do you have recordings to listen to?
  • Have you gotten together with other concertina players (especially players of duets, whether Crane or other sorts) to compare notes (pun acknowledged) regarding techniques and style?
  • Have you tried to copy either the arrangements or more general style of others, whether from recordings or from personal contact? If not, how have you constructed the accompaniments you've been practicing?
  • Could you provide us with some sound files, along with comments describing in what ways you find them inadequate?

Here's hoping we can provide more than just generalizations as help.

 

Added before posting: While I've been composing this, several posts have been added, especially by you, frogspawn. So there are already partial answers to some of my questions, but rather than try to incorporate them all in a rewrite, I'll post this as is.

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“All great achievements require time.” ― Maya Angelou

 

Platitudes... ugh! Like the classic "practice makes perfect", this can be interpreted in more ways than one. One might argue that perfection cannot be achieved without practice, but practice cannot guarantee perfection.

 

Besides, frogspawn doesn't seem to be asking for "great achievements", merely what he considers to be reasonable competence.

 

From Wikipedia:

Outliers: The Story of Success is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell and published by Little, Brown and Company on November 18, 2008. In Outliers, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. [...] Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

 

Here also, I don't see the relevance... not only to the specific circumstance, but to life in general. Just how does Mr. Gladwell define "success"? (That's rhetorical. I don't really care, because my experience tells me that it has little or nothing to do with my own concept of "success".) It certainly didn't take me 10 thousand hours to compose some of my favorite tunes or arrangements, much less to learn my first few tunes on my concertina, not even if I include all the time I spent just learning music before those accomplishments.

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This year I've averaged about 4.5 hours concertina practice per week and have clocked up a total of over 1,300 hours over 7 years since I first started recording time spent.
I'm certainty not a competent player, either with tunes or song accompaniment. Either that amount of practice is pathetically small or I'm just not cut out for this sort of instrument.
In contrast, I've recently started dabbling with guitar and mandolin and can already accompany a few songs. OK, it's not Martin Carthy or Nic Jones - it's just strumming the three-chord trick, but it's perfectly adequate and indeed appropriate for a folkclub floor singer in a noisy pub.
As much as I love the sound of squeezeboxes, I'm seriously wondering about the effort to achievement ratio.
Richard

 

 

For what it's worth, I have always made the most progress when I've regularly played with others - preferably people who are more accomplished musicians than I am. People who push me out of my musical comfort zone.

 

I don't claim any universal truth here, but my OWN experience is that my musical progress has languished when I have spent all my time in my own house practicing, but taken quantum leaps forward when I've played regularly with more skilled musicians - even though that can be stressful and difficult.

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