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Staying Motivated In Isolation


Morgana
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Well, since I only really have to meet my own demands, and not a teacher's, I guess it's hard to say exactly how 'motivated' I am, really! But, I find it like taking a little vacation from stressful things, to be able to stop doing things and pick up my concertina and play, maybe sing, too.

 

I am kind of a loner anyway, and I don't know a lot of tunes that would be played at a session or with a band. I have been working on a few of them, though....it's taking me forever, but, I'm trying!

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I find it goes in phases. Sometimes I play a lot, and sometimes other things take up my time. Today I heard a snippet of a tune I'd like to sing/play on the radio in the car as I came home from work but then the signal got lost (it's like that here!) but it has reminded me of a song I want to work on.

Samantha

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When I had a teacher, I had to practice every day for an hour. I was coming home at 10 or 11 pm and going directly downstairs, to my "in-law" appartment to practice. It was stressful, but consistent.

Now I have no time at all. My 2 row Hohner is rarely picked up. my 2/5 row Club is at repair shop, but my Lachenal is always with me. 15 minutes before work and 15-20 minutes after work is all I can spend.

It's not the question of how to stay motivated, it's the question of how to find time for "little vacation" from stress. Not good enough to become a musician, but I still hope that I'll figure it out.

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Well, since I only really have to meet my own demands, and not a teacher's, I guess it's hard to say exactly how 'motivated' I am, really! But, I find it like taking a little vacation from stressful things, to be able to stop doing things and pick up my concertina and play, maybe sing, too.

 

I find it goes in phases. Sometimes I play a lot, and sometimes other things take up my time. Today I heard a snippet of a tune I'd like to sing/play on the radio in the car as I came home from work but then the signal got lost (it's like that here!) but it has reminded me of a song I want to work on.

I agree with Samantha and Wendy. I do concertina when I can, and don't worry about it. Perhaps that's not the attitude that would make me a good player, but I enjoy it when I can, and make some progress when I am able. When I get started with something new, it takes awhile for me to really get into it. I accept that, and know that eventually I may become more dedicated to regular practice. It doesn't frustrate me that I'm not really good at it right away. I may never be really good at it, but I'm enjoying it for what I can do for the moment. Some people need regular lessons, but I function better through self-learning with just about everything. I find it's motivating enough to read the posts on C.net and chat with others and learn more about it that way.

Edited by greenferry
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Motivation is an interesting one.

 

Do we do things because we want to, or have to? I train on my bike because I know that when my racing season starts, I want to produce my best possible performances, and I can't do this without training (practice). However, it is easy to over-train, not produce the expected performances, and lose interest.

 

To an extent, it's the same when you play an instrument. You need a certain amount of practice to maintain a level of "performance". Whether you perform on the concert platform, in the pub, or for your own pleasure at home, the same rules apply; if you don't practice enough, any slightly technical piece becomes a major challenge. However, if all of your repertoire is easily within your playing ability, and you only practice these pieces, practice becomes boring and you lose interest.

 

So, back to the bike! It's really not about the quantity of training, but the quality. More of the same, and you don't really improve. On an instrument, perhaps trying a well-known tune in a different key will make practice more interesting (certainly more of a challenge). On the Anglo, I used to try Morris tunes in two or three different keys, even though I knew that "playing out" I was only ever likely to use one key. That said, one season I used to play the "Upton-Upon-Severn Stick Dance" going from C to D to G, just to prove that I could do it. You may never do it "for real", but you learn a bit more about the instrument this way.

 

Another idea, if you play more than one instrument, is to see whether a tune which you play on one instrument can be played on another one. It might have to be played in a different key (which might be no use in a session), but again it's a useful exercise.

 

Over the years, I've tried out many tunes using the ideas above. Most I've dropped, but they have been a good exercise; some a real challenge. I like to think that I've learnt something more about the instrument, or my ability, as a result.

 

Regards,

Peter.

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Ah, Morgana, I could have written the identical post! Maybe it's the time of year here in the frozen north, with Spring on the calendar but cold and snow still in reality. Maybe I'm going through a dormant phase and am getting ready to burst forth with new inspiration. But I'm finding it hard to get that box out as often as I think I should, and as much as I love playing it when I finally do, it's really hard to get motivated. I feel as though I'm playing in a vacuum, and find myself longing for people to play with.

 

There are sessions within 50 miles of where I live, but they're at awkward times, and the only ones I know of are Irish sessions, where I can't keep up so end up just listening or playing root notes when I can find them.

 

So, I try to play on my own, but let me tell you how much I'm looking forward to the Northeast Concertina Workshop in a few weeks!

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For me it is not so much the motivation to play as the distinct lack of progress that comes from playing in isolation. I can get in lots of playing time but find myself playing the same old tunes over and over, mostly because i dont bother with much "research"- seeking out and aquiring new tunes. I could do with an infusion of new sources from other people, I suppose, but like others above, the nearest sessions are awkwardly timed or just too far and snakey to really get me out there.

I've been at it for about 5 years now, and feel like I could have been much more accomplished player but that is my own fault for not being more aggressive in the pursuit of knowledge, etc.

Are others satisfied with their progress measured by how long they have been playing the instrument?

Happy Equinox

Rob

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I'm not exactly in isolation here, but I have struggled with this for many years. I've owned my concertina since 1998, but I have only made substantial progress in the last 2, because - yes - I wasn't motivated. I had a change in perspective, really. I realized I messed around with too many different instruments and styles without taking any of them seriously, and I realized I wanted to be decent at something musical. What really helped me dig in and get to work was setting up a web site where I list the tunes I learn. It promises one per week, and sometimes I actually deliver. I stubbornly insist on learning 98% of them by ear from recordings of good Irish traditional musicians. It seems that some side effects of this have been large improvements in my listening skills, fingering technique, rhythm, and sense of style. Unfortunately I am not good yet, but I have high hopes for 15 years down the road. : ) So I'll jump on the "new stuff regularly" boat here, because that is what has worked for me.

 

Thus I spend a lot of time learning the concertina by myself. On the other hand, I have gotten to play with other musicians at least once or twice a month for the last few years, and I must say that more than half the time I go home from a session with a fresh dose of enthusiasm for the music. So I am sure that has helped as well. I don't know how I would feel if I didn't have that opportunity as often.

 

In answer to Rob's question, I'm pretty unimpressed by what I did with the instrument in the first five years. I have been quite happy with my progress in the last two. And to pick up on Peter's comments about different keys, I find Eb a particularly pleasant mind-bender on my C/G. All the notes are there; they are even in sensible places... but!

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Are others satisfied with their progress measured by how long they have been playing the instrument?

 

Hi Robert,

 

The main thing about progress, as I'm sure that you've already discovered, is that it is not linear, but a series of platforms.

 

I think that to get from one level, to the next level up, varies from person to person. To a great extent, it depends on how you are able to learn, your starting point, and your motivation. A virtuoso on one instrument will pick up a concertina and, a couple of years later, will probably be a virtuoso on that as well. Another person, picking up the concertina, with little or no musical background, will struggle for the first couple of years (maybe longer).

 

The important thing is how you practice, and how exposure to all forms of music influences your ability to learn. Also, if you have to achieve an objective (like playing for a dance team), this will focus your practice, and assist in your motivation. Perhaps, also, the desire to play popular songs.

 

From my own experience, I spent 18 months making some progress, but when I finally agreed to go and help my local Morris team (who were desparate for a musician), in just three weeks I made more progress than the previous 18 months put together. We had a shared objective; I wanted to play the tunes, the previous musician had left, the Foreman could not play and teach at the same time, and the team needed the new musician to be in place within four months.

 

If you are isolated from live music, progress and motivation can be difficult. Maybe friends who play an instrument "a bit" can be persuaded to practice with you, or send you recordings.

 

Hope that this is of some assistance. Remember that while we all want to be better players, there will be many people who wish that they were at our level. :D

 

Regards,

Peter.

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Hi,

Peter, your point about goals is well taken and reminds me that I have pushed for what is probably far too broad a goal, namely, being able to play a number of different styles at a whim. One of the joys of the isolation is self-indulgence.

Conversely, I have perpetuated a number of horrible habits that came from the early days of trying to figure out the then unknown instrument. I didn't stumble onto c.net until some time after buying the 1st concertina. I rely almost entirely on the left hand because those were the notes that I knew from harmonicas; I ignored the little finger 'cos it just wasn't convenient, ect. As we all know, intellectually at least, bad habits are the dickens to reshape after the fact.

So now, staying motivated means dedicating myself to the "proper" fingering and moving over to the right hand, as "Professor" Alan Day hath taught me via his tutorial.

I still can't keep my hands off the box,now it's just a question of which hands!

Rob

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For me I find that having something to aim for helps a lot. Over the last year I've booked to go two concertina weekends and I've found that the closer the event gets, the more motivated I get. The motivation from this lasts about 4 weeks after as well and then seems to slowly drain away :(

 

Outside of that I have an agreement with myself that as a bare minimum I will pick the box up and play for 10 minutes a day (one session of 10 mins or 5 sessions of 2 mins - it doesn't matter) - hopefully so that I don't go backwards and my fingers don't rust up - but let any more playing come when I feel like it. That way I always feel I've done something (I mean - 10 minutes a day - not too hard to find the time, though sometimes I do have to force myself to do even this) but when I do sit down and play for a period of time it's because I want to, not because I'm beating myself up because I ought to be practising more.

 

As it happens, because I'm making sure I pick up the box every day, a lot of the time I find I just slide into playing for 15, 20 or even more minutes, just because the box is in my hands.

 

I'm also hoping that taking part in a community like C.Net should help - as long as I don't spend all my time in the forums instead of playing.

 

 

At the end of the day for me it's about relaxation and enjoyment, and if I put too much pressure on myself to practise it'll become a chore - and as a stay-at-home Dad I've got enough of them already!

 

W

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Thanks for all your imput, muchly appreciated. I do play along with CDs and use a slow-down program on my PC for a lot of my practice. I also listen to a lot music, so I guess I'm just on one of those long plateaus and just have to keep plodding along. :)

 

Kind regards

Morgana

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Then there's the Do-It-Yourself approach... years ago we had a local folk session at a coffee house, which went belly-up and scattered us. About five years ago I arranged the use of a church choir room, and called everybody I knew from "the old days" to come play.

 

Word of mouth happened. We've settled at about 10 people on a typical Wednesday -- no other concertina players, but a fearsomely accomplished accordionist sometimes shows up. Lots of fiddles and whistles and guitars. We welcome all skill levels and boy, do we get them. It took a year or so to arrive at a common repertoire, seeded from The Fiddlers Fake Book, and Portland Collection, and assorted Swedish, English and TV themesongs. Some weeks we sound great, and some weeks we just have a great time.

 

As a result of this community I stay motivated to play (and sometimes to practice), and it gives me opportunities to study different kinds of playing -- if mostly guitars show up I'm the melody instrument, if mostly whistles I'm the rhythm section, if mostly banjo players then I'm the musician :-), and if John the Bagpiper comes I try to find a harmony and squeeze hard. It's not "classical squeezebox", but it's good.

 

My experience is that there are musicians all over the place -- and they all wish they had somebody to play with. Get a room! Have fun!

 

Good luck, Paul E

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  • 2 weeks later...

Something that keeps me going is playing along with a recording or a midi file.

 

If there's a tune I fancy learning, I try to find a midi file for it on-line then play along.

 

Thing I find about the concertina, is it sort of fits in with solitude quite nicely....I find it a thoughtful process trying to find the best fingering for any tune.

 

I know that this isn't scientifically proven.....but I've a feeling that concertina playing just might help fight senility?

 

Phil Edwards

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I know that this isn't scientifically proven.....but I've a feeling that concertina playing just might help fight senility?

 

I'm sure that you're right, Phil. All we now need is for the Government to "prove the link", and pass a law. Just imagine, concertina on the school curriculum! Physical education for the body, concertina for the mind.

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