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Visualization


Patrick Scannell
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In a recent thread, Tradewinds Ted linked to an interesting blog about the brain and learning.

I'm particularly curious about "Episode 7. Visualization" http://clawhammerbanjo.net/laws-of-brainjo-visualization/

 

I don't do this, don't really get it, and wonder what I'm missing.

 

If you practice using this technique, could you explain what you do and how it helps?

Do you move your fingers, like air concertina, or is it all mental? Does this practice help you play when you can't hear yourself?

 

Thanks.

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I actually do keep sheet music on my nightstand for tunes I am trying to learn. I'll sometimes hum through a tune softly to myself, but usually just think about the tune as I read the music, rather than humming audibly. And yes, I do a kind of "air concertina" sometimes as well. I play Anglo, so draw notes are simulated by a slight lift or backing away of the hand as a finger moves in. Somehow I manage to hold the printed paper up with my left thumb while the rest of my fingers are busy "playing" the air concertina as I lie in bed. I was doing that while working out a preferred fingering for a waltz just last night! It really works best if I have the tune in my head firmly enough that I don't have any doubt about how it "should" sound, and I can just use the sheet music as a reminder of just exactly which notes I'm trying to work on to get the fingering steady.

 

But I'd never thought about it as a special technique, just a natural way to keep working on the tune quietly, when actual play isn't possible. I've done the same for other instruments over the years, most notably piano, because pianos just aren't all that portable, and aren't always close at hand. As an unexpected result even now when first reading through a new tune, such as when scanning through a tune book for interesting tunes to learn, if I don't have an instrument in hand I've discovered my right hand sort of playing the melody on the "air piano" as I try to sound out the tune in my head. Usually a rather inaccurate simulation of how I might play it, but at least the rhythm and general directon of the melody will be represented. I'd still consider myself a relative beginning player on concertina, but I'm pretty good at sight reading. I think that "air practice" has helped with that, although that hasn't been my deliberate goal.

Edited by Tradewinds Ted
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Sportsmen visualise before an event. In the case of a quick technical sport like the 100 metres (10 seconds) they would literally know how many steps they would take from start to finish, and how many steps they would take at what stride length and speed. A motorcyclist might visualise every bend and gear change of the course. If you watched the rugby world cup you will have seen the people who kick conversions looking along the trajectory of the ball time after time before kicking it.

 

It is a powerful technique, but like all techniques it has to be learned, refined and practised - just like the primary skill that you are trying to learn (e.g. concertina).

 

The visualisation is non-physical. That is not to say that there may not be some unconscious twitching. What I sometimes do with a tricky tune is take the odd few minutes here and there to run through the tune in my head - not just the sounds, but which buttons and which bellows direction. I may do this in a spare few minutes when playing the box is not an option. I believe it makes some difference. It helps me to understand the patterns so that later I can play along with the tunes in my head.

 

Conversely, I imagine that playing "air concertina" would be bad for yu as you would be learning false muscle memories without the weight or resistance of the instrument.

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I have wondered about the possible negative effect of playing "air concertina" and yet I do find it useful for sorting out and reinforcing preferred finger patterns, so I feel that for me the net effect is helpful. It certainly doesn't replace practice time with the instrument though, only supplements it.

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If you practice using this technique, could you explain what you do and how it helps?

I actually do keep sheet music on my nightstand for tunes I am trying to learn.

 

I played (cello) in an orchestra many years ago and at the final rehearsal the day before a particular concert, the conductor was so exasperated with the 2nd violins that he told the whole section to sleep with the music under their pillows that night.

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It's a bit odd, visualizing the button field of a concertina that can't be seen when actually playing, but I'll give it a try.

 

I suspect you're already doing that, every time you play. Or at least you have some internal image-concept of where the notes/buttons are, even though you can't see them. Yes?

 

And I suggest you don't take "visualization" too literally. "Imagining" might be a better term. Much more important than imagining a visual image of the keyboard, you should imagine what it feels like to be playing... the concertina, a particular piece, a particular fingering pattern, etc. At the same time you can also be imagining what it sounds like.

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I have wondered about the possible negative effect of playing "air concertina" and yet I do find it useful for sorting out and reinforcing preferred finger patterns, so I feel that for me the net effect is helpful. It certainly doesn't replace practice time with the instrument though, only supplements it.

 

I would think that an important aspect of playing "air concertina" would be to make sure that your hand and finger positions are accurate. I.e., you shouldn't just flap the fingers in the appropriate sequence, but practice shaping and positioning the hands as they would be if the concertina were actually there and "press" and "lift" the fingers the same amount as you would when actually playing.

 

And that in itself is something that requires practice... but at least it can be practiced silently. ;)

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you have some internal image-concept of where the notes/buttons are, even though you can't see them. Yes?

 

I know where the notes are, but I play Hayden by ear, so most of the time while playing, I don't know where my fingers are.

I can slow down, pay attention, figure that out and then imagine it. It does take some effort.

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you have some internal image-concept of where the notes/buttons are, even though you can't see them. Yes?

 

I know where the notes are, but I play Hayden by ear, so most of the time while playing, I don't know where my fingers are.

 

You may not know which named notes your fingers are on at the moment, but I'll bet you know the pattern of intervals under your fingers. Whether that subset of the buttons is for the key of C, D, or G, you can feel where to go for the next button. No?

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You may not know which named notes your fingers are on at the moment, but I'll bet you know the pattern of intervals under your fingers. Whether that subset of the buttons is for the key of C, D, or G, you can feel where to go for the next button. No?

 

 

Yes, exactly.

 

So, is it better to control every detail of the imagined experience (pick a key and know exactly which buttons are pressed on a specific instrument), or is it ok to imagine an idealized Hayden layout, and just play the patterns?

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