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SusanW

Getting Worse Instead Of Better...

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Have any of you experienced this????: I seem to go through periods of playing/practicing where I think I am making progress, and then I can go for weeks where I think I sound worse than I did 6 months ago. Tunes that I have played for a while, and I just sound awful.

Part of it might be that I am trying to improve my fingering, so I am trying to re-learn phrases to make them more efficient overall. It sometimes gets very discouraging. Anyone have words of wisdom or advice? Thanks

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The first five years are the worst. This applies to any new instrument that one takes up. Improving your fingering has to be a positive move and if it means going back to walking speed and slapping yourself when it all goes wrong.... so be it!

 

Practice, practice and more practice. I was talking recently with one of the well known female concertina players in Ireland and she told me that her son is practicing the Pipes 5 hours everyday.Ok well he is probably a music student who wants to become a professional musician but it suggests just how much time some people devote to the task.

 

Don't be disheartened by the plateaux that come periodically... I find they are more common than the sudden leaps forward.. it shows that you are getting somewhere because at the very beginning progress can be rapid but then one hits a wall and forward motion needs lots of effort.

I am currently learning another new keyboard.. my fifth, so I feel your frustration... keep going it will get better!

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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Thank you Geoff.

I am at the 2 1/2 year mark. I try to do at least 1 hour per day. Some days I can do up to 2 depending on my schedule. And I play with other folks at least once a week.

Susan

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I guess we all go through this. Don't be disheartened. It's all part of being an imperfect human being not a robot. Some days I whizz through my pieces and everything's great and others I find I keep hitting wrong notes. Loads of practice is of course very important but sometimes you just have to trust your instincts and go with the flow and let your muscle memory take over. Ok, so you hit a few wrong notes - so what?!! You should hear the rubbish that gets cut out of my videos!!!

 

It's that constant striving to be better that makes us what we are. Keep going. Try recording yourself. It's one of the reasons I do my videos. It's a great way of keeping track of any progress I make.

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Maybe you're not getting worse but your expectations are increasing faster than your ability. Where you could feel good about getting to the end of the tune, you now feel bad about a slight clumsiness in the fingering, or a fluffed note you may have overlooked a few months ago. The thing is that a genuine musician is never as good as they would like to be. Acker Bilk once said that if he ever played a tune perfectly, he would never play that tune again.

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Your standards are getting higher. You are ready to surpass what satisfied you six months ago.

 

It is the long haul that you want to concentrate on by practicing and playing day after day week by week. Not a bad idea to occasionally smile and remember how far you've come before summoning the effort to push toward the future. Keep up the good work! :)

 

Greg

 

How do you become a piper? (Substitute expert plumber, teacher, fiddler, concertina player etc.)

 

Ten years learning.

Ten years practicing.

Ten years piping.

 

(Doesn't mean you don't have fun and occasional flashes of brilliance along the way :D Enjoy the journey!)

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Thanks all.....I have no intentions of giving up :) I just want to sound like Dympna O'Sullivan, or Mary MacNamara, or Edel Fox, or Claire Keville, or Kate McNamara.......etc.

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Geoff's reference to plateaux struck a chord with me (pardon the pun).

I remember when I started out I made a lot of progress from an absolute zero base, then seemed to get stuck.

Some time later I realised I had made some more progress.

 

I think there are a series of plateaux and each one you reach is a significant step. The early steps are steep but short. Later there seems a smaller shift from one step to the next and the plateau you have then reached may last longer before you reach the next one.

 

I'm not sure if I am making sense to anyone else but I know what I mean :-)

 

- John Wild

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I'm about seven years in, and appreciate this discussion.

 

Aside from the encouragement, the whole discussion is worth it, to this American speller, to encounter "plateaux."

 

Mike

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G'day Susan,

 

I feel you're probably getting better overall, especially if you're putting in towards an hour a day, or most days. As individuals some of us have the music in us more than others. Some people just have it, it's in their bones. Others have to work at it a bit more. I've always regarded myself as a plodder. I've played concer for forty years and never really progressed very far until a few years back when a life changing event spured me to action. I decided then that I'd aim to play concer as well as I possibly could with whatever time I have available in this lifetime. A purpose so to speak. Now I play a couple of hours a day most days (I'm a stupid fanatic actually). And you know what, that sort of practice really does lead to improvement. Sometimes, on bad days, it's disappointing. What the hell, have a glass of wine or two and start again the next day(probably without the wine is a good idea).

 

I wonder do you have some sort of record keeping regime? Tick off those tunes. Note the bits that need attention. Deal with problem bits straight away. Then the next day too. And remember getting it right won't happen with twenty minutes of practice. Five minutes practice a day over two weeks is far more beneficial.

 

Cheers Steve.

 

P.S. By the way, there's more music out there than just Irish music. Take a look.

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To paraphrase George w.Bush - do the French have a word for plateaux? :-)

 

edited to add - I'm not seeing the smiley I expected!

Edited by John Wild

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Thanks all.....I have no intentions of giving up :) I just want to sound like Dympna O'Sullivan, or Mary MacNamara, or Edel Fox, or Claire Keville, or Kate McNamara.......etc.

yes well don't we all just !

 

To add a note of reality here, should not be disheartening I hope, but the ladies you mention all started when they were children. Nice to aim high but don't beat yourself up too much. My four year old neighbour speaks far better French than I do!

 

I'm starting a new instrument at the age of 65, and in relative terms I am happy with my progress... bringing to the new toy all those years of experience of playing other toys... but I know I'll never be where I want to be... I'm just looking forward to all those new plateaux... he he.

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I've been reading a series on how the brain works with respect to practice and learning to play music that may be interesting. The author specifically targets playing the banjo, and markets lessons for that, but the blog really has very little to do with the banjo, and is all about how the mind works and how we learn music.

 

httP://clawhammerbanjo.net/the-immutable-laws-of-brainjo-the-art-and-science-of-effective-practice/

Edited by Tradewinds Ted

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Susan, I have been playing now for about three years and nine months. I still play some of the tunes I learned early on, but now I play them with very different fingerings. In some cases, I deconstructed the fingerings and put the tunes back together, played they that way for a few months, and then based on some new revelation, I tore them apart again and put them back together. I think (I hope) that this process ends at some point. The point of this is that with a new fingering, even if you are just altering a single phrase, it can feel like the tune is a shambles. It can take a while to get back into the feel of the thing. J

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Hi again all, and thank you for all of your support and encouraging words.

 

I'm doing sort of what Jim is describing above. Playing tunes I used to be (I think) pretty good at, but with new/different fingering to see what makes the best sense for me and increases my fluidity.

 

Today In addition to just working on 3 tunes, I did some scales. I tend to avoid doing them, but I know they are "Good for me".

 

Tradewinds Ted- thank you for the link.

 

Some days I will play through a lot of tunes, other days I might spent an hour on just one or 2 and really try to see some improvement.

Some days I play using dots and other days just play tunes that I have either learned by ear or memorized.

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Firstly, you should recognise that plateauing is inevitable. It is impossible to sustain a constant rate of progress at anything. There will also be times when you progress faster than you expected, the difference being that you don't worry about these.

 

I play other instruments besides the concertina. Whenever I reach a plateau on one I usually find myself inspired on one of the others. This in turn can sometimes spark new ideas when I come back to the concertina. Alternatively just try something completely different - a different style of music, or playing familiar tunes differently. The point is to get out of a rut and refresh the mind.

 

Everyone learns differently and I can only speak for myself, but I don't think it does any great harm to lay the instrument aside for a few days and do something else instead, even perhaps something non-musical. I see no point in practice if it is unproductive. I then come back to it refreshed and newly enthused.

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Howdy Susan:

 

I haven't been playing concertina long enough to offer much advice there but I can give you examples of the same thing happening in other fields. For example, my main time sink for many years has been primitive technology, especially flintknapping. I've been doing this so long that I usually make quite nice tools, prettier and better-executed than most of what we find in the archaeological record. But some days I shatter every rock I pick up, sometimes I struggle to make even functional but ugly things. Sometimes I cut or smash my fingers. Sometimes this really is the fault of some tragic flaw hidden in the rock but mostly it's me making some mistake.

 

It's the same in every other field of endeavor, even the most trivial. Like this very morning, in between getting out of bed and arriving at work, I spilled my coffee, tripped over the dog, burned my finger on the toaster, attempted to put my left boot on my right foot, and got halfway to work before realizing I'd left my phone and pager behind and had to go back. I'm surprised I didn't have a wreck the way things were going.

 

So don't get discouraged if you have similar streaky experiences with the concertina. It's just life, and if you let it get you down, that just encourages those little bastard gods in charge of petty annoyances to throw even more your way ;).

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