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Hindrances to learning in anglo tutors


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2 hours ago, MJGray said:

[1] Indeed. I'm the kind of weirdo who thinks it's fun to try to replicate what was going on with the instrument when it was invented, so that's useful to me.

 

[2] I guess the end goal for all of us is to be able to turn music on a page into music in your ears, so the system that is the shortest path to that is what we should use. Is the best way to do that the same for everyone? Clearly not, based on this thread. Honestly, "translating" tab from one system to another is not a bad exercise, and has helped me figure out tunes now and then.

[1] I'm the kind of weirdo, who, even though he doesn't 'like' a particular (button-numbering/tabbing) system,

and never plans to actually use it, will investigate it because it's 'interesting'. That's how I acquired 8 printed

tutors and PDFs of several (3/4) 'old' systems from the start of the 20th century. Harking back to what

MikeFule said in an earlier post, I only ever really 'used' 4 tutors, and as Nos 2, 3, and 4 were effectively

the same, I really only ever used two tutors - so I avoided the confusion he warns against, though it is

surely a potential danger...

 

[2] Thinking about what's been said in this thread, I've realised that (probably) the most important tutor

one uses is the one that you eventually 'write for yourself'. That's the one which contains the tunes you want

to learn coupled with the numbering/tabbing system which you have settled on. It might contain elements

from more than one system, so yes, it makes sense to be at least partially 'bi-lingual' in at least two systems...

 

How you go about creating that tutor is a personal thing? You can buy tune-books (as opposed to tutors)

which contain tunes for the genres you are interested in, and pencil the tabs in below each tune[*] (starting

with the ones you can already hear in your head), or you can raid the internet and download ABC tune-books,

print off only the tunes you want and pencil the tabs in below each tune[*], and so on, and on...

 

Bob's yer uncle! Job done...

________________________

[*] As  the process of writing tabs in by hand is slow, tedious and error prone, if you're a real weirdo, you will write a program to do the job for

you - it has the merit of keeping you off the streets and out of the public-houses, and fills in quite a bit of time during a global epidemic...

Edited by lachenal74693
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Mikefule: "my problem" is not having too many tutors. The issues I enumerated apply to evey single one of them except the Bramich books, and even here, several of the issues apply. Nor is any of this "my problem". These are the problems encountered by every beginner who tries to learn with tutors whose poor choice of language, use of questionable metaphors without identifying them as such, and invention of completedly nonintuitive tablature, make learning much more difficult than it needs to be. 

 

I did not start out with so many tutors. They were acquired, one by one, as my initial experience with each proved they were difficult to learn from. The issues I have identified here whould all be equally valid if I had only a single tutor. The core issue here is NOT that they are all different; it is that they make no sense. Diverting attention to the number of tutors rather than their poor design is a straw man.

 

Why use arbitrary designations for buttons which must be memorized because they have no intrinsic relationship to the button, when instead you could use positional coordinates (Side-Row-Ordinal Position) which tell you exactly where the button is located, and are intuitive and meaningful so that nothing needs to be memorized?

 

Tablatures which are not tied to a button's location do not have beginners in mind (so one might ask why do they exist at all as advanced players need no tablature). At a minimum, the top button in every row should have an equivalent designation reflecting that position.

 

Several of the replies to this post corroborate that other highly experienced players had the very same concerns from day one when trying to learn concertina from these tutors.

 

If my concerns are seen as not valid, address the issues specifically rather than dismissing them because of their number, or because you question my learning style. If there is a problem with the specific issues, let's have a discussion. Ad hominem attacks are uncalled for.

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Friend, no one is attacking you. We just disagree with you. We don't think the system you describe would be any more "intuitive" than what we already use, for us. I 100% don't want to be thinking about coordinate systems while I try to play a tune. My brain simply doesn't work that way. Sorry.

 

If anything is clear from the discussion above, it's that what's "counter-intuitive" is different for everyone. Current tab systems are absolutely imperfect, but writing down music is fundamentally an impossible problem*. People have been coming up with ways to try for literally thousands of years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_notation), but even the best are no more than imperfect mnemonics.

 

In the end, tab is just a tool to allow you to figure out how to get a piece of music to come through your fingers and the funny little squeezebox in your hands into the air and people's ears. If the tools that exist aren't working for you, that's fine, don't use them. If you don't like flat-head screwdrivers, use Phillip's head, or a hex wrench, or Robertson, but in the end, the goal is the same and the tool doesn't really matter all that much. And if you're the kind of person who enjoys making new tools, that's great! We look forward to seeing what you come up with, but we don't promise to sell all of the screwdrivers we've been happily muddling along with for all these years.

 

What are your goals? Would you have an easier time learning from an in-person teacher or someone whose hands you can watch as they play? There are excellent video lessons available, and probably people who teach remotely, if there's no one in your area.

 

* In the same way that writing down spoken language accurately is also impossible, but that's a different discussion for a different message board. 🙂

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I am not trying to convince anyone to alter the current practices. I am simply pointing out, as appeared in the  title of the original post, that there exist hindrances to learning that are widespread in most available tutors, that make it harder rather than easier for beginners to master their instrument. I am not asking for advice or help with this; I have already managed to navigate around this in my own practices. I make these observations in the hope that future efforts to teach the concertina take into account what is important to the learning of beginners. If you are not trying to help a beginner to identify the location of the notes on the keyboard, you are not being helpful.

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At the end of the day, it's fairly straightforward: The goal is to become a better musician, and all that counts is whether that goal is being accomplished. In other words, if all the reflections and/or novel approaches to notation, layout or whatever help you become a better musician, by all means, make 'em and take 'em.

 

Yet, as far as I can tell, noone has ever improved as a musician without practicing. Sometimes I have a feeling that  the time spent in musing about other notation systems might be better spent giving your fingers and ears the drill.

 

I'd be very interested in a status report of yours (the thread opener) in, say, a two year time frame, evaluating how you improved as a musician and how your different approach to notation has steered that progress.

 

I myself (like, I believe, many others) have sort of developed my idiosyncratic notation, but I look at it as a crutch to aid the way my brain works and to make it easier to memorize and practice my tunes. That's all there is to it, really. Small percentage. Everything else I must do like everybody else: Drill, listening and patience. 

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There have been many replies but except for those early responders that resonated with my observations, nobody has actually addressed the issues I have raised here. Instead, the lion’s share of responses have focused on what I should be doing differently. Instead of talking about me, why don’t we address the core topic here: impediments to maximal learning FOR BEGINNERS. 

 

Nobody has yet explained the compelling good sense of assigning names to buttons for beginners to memorize that have nothing to do with their location.

 

Nobody has yet explained the compelling good sense of starting beginners off with tunes they have never heard before.

 

Nobody has yet explained the compelling good sense of leaving out from the musical staff the notes that make up chords to be played, and not even mentioning these notes by name underneath the staff. 

 

I am puzzled by people ignoring the substance of my observations, instead responding in ways that suggest they feel attacked. None of this is about me or about you. Its not about anybody being at fault. It is about trying to be helpful to others. As a beginner, I can speak with some authority about the perspective of a beginner. Those posters who referred to their own early learning resonated to the concerns I identified. Let’s focus on removing any barriers to learning that may exist.

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6 hours ago, tunelover said:

...As a beginner, I can speak with some authority about the perspective of a beginner...

I won't respond in any detail to the five posts which have been made since my last 'contribution'[*],

but I do wonder if the 'best' person to write a tutor aimed at new players wouldn't be someone

who is themselves a new player? Tunelover pretty comprehensively 'nailed' the problems with existing

tutors in his first post. I wonder if some of those problems arise because the authors are no longer

novices and have lost the ability to 'keep it simple'. That's not a criticism of the authors incidentally,

but an observation. I wonder if we don't all lose the capacity to appreciate the problems of 'new

entrants' in many fields of endeavour, particularly as we become more 'expert' - whatever the subject

may be...

 

Tunelover has certainly sparked a discussion dealing with matters which have been niggling me

almost since Day 1...

________________________

[*] Though there are some compelling points in there. The history of musical theory and staff notation look like a real can of worms

to me. I blame mediaeval monks who thought that zero was 'the Devil's' number, and who couldn't count properly in the first place.

Here's the can of worms to prove it...canofworms.jpeg.0b71d068a684617195a5e2876e329c94.jpeg

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On 8/5/2021 at 11:00 PM, JackJ said:

I have played many musical instruments over my 6 decades on the planet, and while I can read treble clef music ok, I usually opt for tablature, as it's been easier for guitar

 

Interesting that you should mention the guitar...

 

Remember Kicking Mule Records, Stefan Grossman's acoustic guitar only label? He had every artist he produced tab out their music to include as tab booklets.

 

Had there been an internet back then, the disussion would have been EXACTLY the same. No two artists had even remotely compatible tab systems. Some used six lines and wrote the fret numbers on the lines, some seven to write the fret numbers in between two lines, some would use vertical bar lines, some phrase lines, some would add traditional time indicators such as flags, some would use downward stemlines for the thumb and upwards for the fingers etc. In compilations of multiple artists, the tab books would look fairly, uhm, challenging just for the cifferent appearances of every piece (unless Stefan would bother to rewrite every arrangement to his notation, which would suit some pieces, but not all of them). Aside from that, every book out there on the market would also include two or three pages in the introduction explaining the notation used in that book.

 

The only common idea behind all of them would be that they rejected traditional music notation, also ignoring the fact that even in the "classical" music world, there are very emotional debates about reforming "the" standard notation system and many people again devising their own systems.

 

 What does that tell us?

 

1. Always remember: Music is for the ear, not the eyes. ANY attempt to render music visually is a crutch. Some of the best artists on any instrument never learned to "read" music in any form but attacked the challenge with their ears right from the start.

 

2. The fact that there are so many different crutches simply reflects the fact that we are all individuals and take our individuality to the music learning path. What works well for one person may not work at all for the other. As far as guitar tabs are concerned, I remember a few colleagues who spent a siginificant amount of time rewriting every tab they could find to "their" sytem. Every minute of that time spent practicing their instrument instead would have brought them much much further.

 

Thus, I don't see where these discussions are suppoased to lead us. Individual differences are  facts of life, and all we can and should do is acknowledge this. @tunelover: If the issue bothers you, the only advice I can give you is to go through all of the notation systems, find one that suits your individual way of thinking best, and then start walking on these crutches. After a while, you'll discard them anyways. Just don't focus on them too much, because after all, walking (= playing music) is your goal.

 

Edited by RAc
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It seems that all the notation systems that have been developed so far are confusing for tunelover. They may indeed be similarly confusing for some others, so there might be some merit in yet another system addressing tunelover's concerns. But that doesn't mean that the existing systems are wrong or bad; only that they don't suit everyone. (I have never tried any of them: I learn tunes by ear, from the dots, or from both in combination.)

 

As I said upthread, what's simple and intuitive for one person can be confusing for another. One obvious instance is the utterly different kinds of logic by which Anglos and English concertinas are laid out. They both make sense, but completely different kinds of sense, and very few people play both.

 

I have a friend who expresses amazement that my brain can cope with an instrument that plays different notes on pull and push. But her instrument (sadly lapsed nowadays) was the clarinet, on which she even used to give lessons. My brain would have severe difficulty in coping with an instrument that requires a combination of keys to play a single note.

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It might be on useful to think about the relative importance of musical notation for a beginner.

 

Playing a musical instrument involves a wide range of capabilities. Reading music (in whatever form) is just one of them, and an optional one for many people. When we are just getting started, it can be frustrating trying to decide what aspect of music to work on first. I have long and extensive experience as a musical performer. I can read many different forms of musical notation. But when I started to learn to play a new instrument—a free reed instrument, musical notation was the last thing on my mind.

 

To learn to play well, I would have to master the techniques that produce the sounds that attracted me to the instrument. I would need to play long even notes, and long notes that gradually got louder or softer. I would need to be able to play legato (making a smooth, connected transition from one note to the other), and staccato (short, unconnected notes). I would need to learn to manage the flow of air, and so on. To do those things, I needed to teach my fingers and hands (and brain) new, unfamiliar movements. Some fingers were better at it than others. What could I do to make them as equal/capable as possible? What the names of the notes were or how to write or read the melody of a song were and would be irrelevant until and unless I could make the necessary sounds. Notation was a concern (and there are a couple of concerns) for a later time.

 

It is commonly said that you need to spend 10,000 hours to master something as complex as playing a musical instrument. Let's say that you don't want to master the concertina, but just play at the level of the lowest 10 percent of players. You will have about 1,000 hours of practice ahead of you. How should you use that time? It is very common for beginners to attempt to play simple songs. I didn't do that. It was months before I worked on any actual music. Even now, seven years later, very little of my practicing involves playing thought entire pieces. I practice the hard parts of things I am working. I also practice the ongoing skills I need as I get better.

 

Performers at the highest level emphasize the importance of learning to play without any tension. They emphasize the importance of practicing slowly (since playing fast is nothing more than playing slowly fast). They emphasize the importance of listening carefully to the sounds you are making. The emphasize the importance of isolating and practicing the things you find difficult slowly and relaxed enough that your muscles can learn how to do whatever it is. Too often, people play/practice too fast, making the same mistakes over and over, essentially practicing and getting very good at making the mistake.

 

We all have big hopes for making wonderful music. Fortunately, even on day number one you can begin to practice some little aspects of that. Figure out a couple of the notes. Play them slowly and relaxed. Listen carefully to make sure you like the way it sounds. If you can't make it sound the way you want it too, figure out what you need to solve that. That is what practicing is. You don't need any musical notation to do that.

 

I hope some part of is helpful.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Jim2010
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18 hours ago, Richard Mellish said:

It seems that all the notation systems that have been developed so far are confusing for tunelover. They may indeed be similarly confusing for some others, so there might be some merit in yet another system addressing tunelover's concerns. But that doesn't mean that the existing systems are wrong or bad; only that they don't suit everyone. (I have never tried any of them: I learn tunes by ear, from the dots, or from both in combination.)

...

It's not clear to me that the OP was saying that any particular system is confusing. I interpreted what was

said as meaning that it is the multiplicity of choices which is confusing. Once a system has been chosen,

it may well be perfectly clear (or understandable), and it may also be internally consistent (I suppose

it would have to be), although it may also appear to be 'illogical', according to one's own perception.

 

This interpretation may well be due to the fact that my experience seems to mirror (at least in part) that

of the OP - I waded through a couple of systems, found one I liked, adapted/massaged/extended it till it

fit the bill, and finally looked at a couple more just out of curiosity.

 

The systems I didn't choose seemed to me to be 'illogical', but only one was 'confusing'...

 

Edit: Now I think about it, I can call to mind two other systems which are 'confusing'. I don't believe they

featured in any of the discussions here, so I didn't remember them at first. Both are very 'low-profile'

so I won't identify them further.

Edited by lachenal74693
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5 hours ago, lachenal74693 said:

It's not clear to me that the OP was saying that any particular system is confusing. I interpreted what was

said as meaning that it is the multiplicity of choices which is confusing. Once a system has been chosen,

it may well be perfectly clear (or understandable), and it may also be internally consistent (I suppose

it would have to be), although it may also appear to be 'illogical', according to one's own perception.

 

I thought they were saying that every tutor they have looked at has a different tab system and all but one of them is bad and confusing to the beginner because they find certain conventions (e.g. where is the top of the keyboard and in which direction are the rows numbered) to be illogical. The one system they single out as being "self evident" numbers the rows in an unusual way that makes more sense to them. That's fine - if that tab system works for you then stick with it. Write good reviews of books that use that system; maybe even write your own tutor in that system. What I find a little strange is trashing all the other tutors because they use systems that don't suit you.

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On 8/9/2021 at 8:25 AM, alex_holden said:

...Write good reviews of books that use that system; maybe even write your own tutor in that system. What I find a little strange is trashing all the other tutors because they use systems that don't suit you.

If folks stick their heads above the parapet and publish stuff for which they charge real money, they should

be prepared to receive 'bad' as well as 'good' reviews?

 

I do think that 'trashing' is a little strong. The OP was fairly critical of many aspects of existing systems, but

was discreet/diplomatic enough not to name names. If it's OK to write good reviews, it's OK to write bad

reviews if one sincerely believes that the book (or play, or film, or piece of music, or w.h.y) is bad. Authors

should expect to get 'some roughs with the smooths' - it's the way the world wags.

Edited by lachenal74693
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Roger, your argument misses the point that a tab system is nothing "objectively" "good" or "bad," but provides a window into the musical mind of the one who came up with the tab. Again, if the reader's individual approach to music matches the one of the tutor's author, the system will resonate, otherwise it won't. It's as simple as that.

 

A "good review" as suggested by Alex as well as "trashing" should take this into consideration. If a tutor, say, has real mistakes in the written music such as wrong fingerings, it's fair to "trash" the tutor on those grounds regardless of whether I can make sense of the notation or not. If the fingerings and everything else is correct but the system simply doesn't resonate with me, it wouldn't be fair. If the notation does resonate, that alone shouldn't be the sole reason for a raving review (there may still be deficiencies in the tutor such as notation errors, layout problems, didactic shortcomings and so on).

 

My impression of the OP's attitude was that he expects some kind of universal notation standard for tabs that matches his expectations and considers a deviation from those standards as ground to totally dismiss that tutor. There are several fundamental problems with that attitude that have all been pointed out here.

 

 

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I know there can be a tendency to overthink the issue, hoping to find some sort of perfect system. I know I certainly did at first. I tried them all, and struggled with the two-step coordinate-style numbering and tab systems that only made it more difficult for me.

 

So I went back to the historical tutors, in hopes they had already worked out a decent way to notate this bisonoric beast, and found that the "1-10" single-numbering system for each side was the best for me. Simple, straightforward, easy-to-remember, lots of music already notated like this in the old tutors, and very important for me - a very quick and easy way to mark up Anglo arrangements on existing printed music with a pencil.

 

But I found the historical bellows direction notation to be all over the place, so merely simplified it (for me) by drawing a single overhead line for draw/pull and nothing for press/push, with the result being it was a much clearer way to see the overall phrasing (and air use) at a glance as opposed to having to pick through all the violin bow symbols or Ps and Ds (which look waaaay too much alike).

 

It's a lot like learning to type (oops, it's called "keyboarding" now) - there are lots of different teaching methods all striving for the same goal of creating a crutch that gets you started, and that is hopefully also the quickest to throw away. And if adding Anglo notation to previously printed music is important, find what is simplest and easiest and makes sense for you.

 

Unfortunately these notation discussions often generate far more heat than light - better to spend that time playing music instead!


Gary

Edited by gcoover
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I guess we'll just have to agree to differ about the general tenor/tone of the OP, but I finally had time

to sit down and spend a little time reviewing the OP - with 4 printed tutors immediately to hand to

check the detail of the points made in the OP. I can't claim that the process was absolutely exhaustive

but a few extra points popped out of the woodwork:

 

1) Two of the tutors made a pretty fair stab at pointing out the fact that the tabs were 'advisory',
and that the duplication of notes in different locations on the concertina allowed for an alternative 
choice of buttons, allowing 'Better Bellows Control'. This is good...

 

2) One tutor gave a pretty comprehensible 'left-hand accompaniment' with some (not all) of the tunes.
This is good - if that's what floats your boat...

 

3) In one tutor, poor typography was a 'problem'. This is not so good...

Edited by lachenal74693
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