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Effective practice times

04 Nov 05 - 01:33 PM (#1597425)
Subject: Effective practice times
From: Les in Chorlton

Is their a strategy that works best for learning tunes, (jigs, hornpipes, polkas)?

I can get some tunes from the dots but getting to the point of playing at the club from memory can be a bit of a jouney.

What do people find?
1. Just keep playing it, 20 times 50 times 100 times.........
2. 5 times 10 mins off, 5 times, 10 mins off .........
3. 10 times today, 10 times tomorrow .............

I would be interested to know.

04 Nov 05 - 01:42 PM (#1597430)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Cluin

Learn the tunes one part or phrase at a time, start slowly and cleanly and begin to pick up speed, practice that until it's in there good and your fingers know it without your thinking about it, then move onto the next part.

Find the bits in it that give you the most trouble and run over those alone over and over till they're smooth. Then play them in context i.e. the whole tune or part.

But don't overpractice it. Take a break from it for a few days and you'll be surprised at how the unconscious mind will have progressed on things while you aren't actually playing the tune. Visualization of you playing the tune and keeping the melody in your head is also a big help.

Another big help will be to learn the same tune on another instrument... what I call musical cross-training. Works for me to learn it on guitar, mandolin and whistle, if I can.

Important to play it slowly and get it right before increasing the tempo. "First comes right; then comes fast." Forget where I heard that. Some movie.

04 Nov 05 - 03:33 PM (#1597532)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Les in Chorlton

Thanks Cluin that sounds like good advice.

I think their is something in that - leave it for a bit and come back to it later - I think their is evidence from other aspects of learning that support that concept.

I wonder if anybody has any thoughts about the size of the time gap. I sometimes find with simple tunes that by the time I have leaned them I am bored with them. If I could laern them faster that would be better. Just a thought.

04 Nov 05 - 08:28 PM (#1597706)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Maryrrf

I've been making a concerted effort to practice regularly and improve my guitar playing, which had gotten really stuck in a rut over many years. I've concentrated on picking out melodies. I'm amazed at the technique mentioned of leaving it for a few days and then when you try the piece again you find it has improved. Many times I've gotten frustrated and tired of a piece, left it and then been surprised that next time I picked up the guitar I could play it. It's as if it somehow "sinks in" during the down time.

04 Nov 05 - 10:59 PM (#1597802)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Stewart

Get rid of the dots as soon as possible, even if you have to stumble through the tune a few times. The longer you keep using the dots, the longer it will take you to play it from memory. You might write down the first few notes in order to get started, but that's all.

Think about the tune at times you're not playing - hum or whistle it, or just let it play in your head. If you have a recording, listen to the tune over and over. It would even help to get the tune in your head by listening and humming or whistling it before you even start to play it.

Don't overpractice, stop when you get tired or it doesn't seem to be progressing. The last time you play it in practice, try and do it without any mistakes. Then it will be in your unconscious mind and the next day you will be amazed how much better it is.

Some tunes are easy, while others seem incredibly hard, so keep at it and don't get discouraged, eventually it will come.

Maintain a strict tempo at which you can easily play the tune without mistakes. After you can do that you can gradually bring it up to speed. It helps to tap your foot or use a metronome in order to keep a steady tempo. But first you have to get the tune down cold, and then play to your tapping foot, rather than tapping to keep up with your erratic speed.

Cheers, S. in Seattle

04 Nov 05 - 11:04 PM (#1597804)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Gypsy

eh, i don't understand why people want to leave the tadpoles behind. I mean, classical musicians ALWAYS use them and no one laughs at them, right? T'enny rate, i find that learning in phrases works best for me. Then, if i can't remember the beginning of the piece, i can always start with the b part. Or the middle of the a part, and call it an intro. Remember,in the folk tradition, if you screw it up twice, it is a new arrangement. Changing your screwups each time? We call it counter melody.

04 Nov 05 - 11:08 PM (#1597805)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Peace

I have been working at my guitar playing after over 20 years not having touched the machine at all. Prior to that I played for about 20 years. Basically, I had to give it two hours a day, seven days a week. I'm upto about three now. I'll keep it there for a few more months and then increase it to four. Admittedly, there are stops and starts frequently, because I hate leaving riffs that don't cut it behind me, and much of the playing is used in the songwriting process. That said, if I intend to be 'pro' in both accomplishment and ability, that's what I have to do.

I have a continuing relationship with an instrument called a harmony chord, and because I have never been keyboard-trained (nor can I read music), I find that I have to make time for it also. The instrument sounds beautiful--and having done a few things on it that please my ear, I have a 'standard' to reach for. Again, I am of the opinion that any instrument requires the player's undivided attention for a minimum of an hour a day. More if you have the time. Any less than that and yer spinnin' yer wheels. IMO.

04 Nov 05 - 11:14 PM (#1597810)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Cluin

Yeah, when I said, take a break from it for a few days, I mean the tune you were trying to learn. Not the instrument. Keep up your practice with the machine on other tunes and let the new one simmer a bit.

05 Nov 05 - 07:38 PM (#1598380)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Ebbie

Peace, in those other '20 years', how much did you practice? I think an eager youngster tends to play tirelessly for hours. The older person often can't understand why they don't learn it 'as fast' as they used to. My guess is that they do, when you factor in the hours the youngster put in. Ya think?

05 Nov 05 - 07:58 PM (#1598397)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Peace

I really hope so, Ebbie. What I am finding is that my dexterity has come back and my timing also. Fingers are just as 'fast' but not as accurate. I practise by writing songs and then working with them for hours on end. (It helps to be compulsive/obsessive at times.) What I have been finding is this: The first two months were hell. No kidding. I was in tears and crying bouts more times than I could count because I thought it had gone away for good and no amount of practise would bring it back. Then it began to show up, slowly at first. Stuff I could 'hear' in my head was only taking a few times to do on the guitar. Now, although not automatic, it's getting easier.

In the twenty years I played, I was using the guitar about eight hours per day. I can recall few days when I did less than six. Please don't misunderstand me. I was never all that good a guitar player, and I didn't consider myself to be. All I ever wanted to do was write songs, but in my old age I'm finding that a better facility with the machine allows me to write better songs. So, I will continue to slog on.

I spent a minimum sixty hours one week teaching myself to finger pick the song, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright". I though Dylan was using just thumb and forefinger. Was a real shock to me to arrive in New York and find all these really good finger pickers using thumb, forefinger and political finger.

I think just about everything in my life has been some sort of re-learning, because I screwed up everything the first time 'round. Some of us HAVE to learn the hard way. I was one of those kids, I guess.

I am sorry to be going on so. I'd really like Les to know that there is no right way. But having 'been there and done that', I would also like Les to know that hammering away at it, day after day, week after week if necessary will eventually work some wonders. For the first time in decades I have begun to haul my guitar around with me. Trust me, it feels pretty good. In a few years I'll be OK again. I think it's really about setting some goals and going after them. Hell, if I miss, so what? I can imagine some riffs I want to incorporate in songs, and God willing, I'll have the time to do just that.

05 Nov 05 - 09:03 PM (#1598432)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: goodbar

i play whenever i damn well feel like it.

05 Nov 05 - 09:05 PM (#1598434)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Peace

Good for you.

05 Nov 05 - 09:17 PM (#1598439)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

Wether music or poetry (stanzas)- I use CLUIN's method.

Study two measures, look for the pattern, memorize.
Study the next two measures, link and play four measures.

Study measures five&six memeorize
Study measures seven&eight memorize and play 5,6,7,8 together.

Now play ALL four measures....continue pattern ad-finum.

When you "study" examine the changes....WHERE does the "bridge" occur....the pattern is easy the "bridge" requires, sometimes, as much memorization-time as the entire tune....that 9th or 11th or flat-5th chord is frequently the "signiture" chord of the composer....something the audience expects to hear.


08 Nov 05 - 01:59 PM (#1600102)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Les in Chorlton

What's a measure then, is that a bar or a coherent fragment of the tune?

08 Nov 05 - 02:55 PM (#1600136)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

It could be both Les - it depends upon the piece and the difficulty....some are so complex it is bar by bar.

As a saxaphone friend notes:
Miss practice one day you know....
Miss practice two day's your teacher knows...
Miss practice three days and the whole world knows...

ANY non-musician will notice a mistake. A simple piece played flawlessly is better than a complex composition with occasional errors.


08 Nov 05 - 03:29 PM (#1600155)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: alanabit

"First comes right; then comes fast." Forget where I heard that. Some movie.
I think it was Robert Culp in "Hannie Caulder" (1971). He was an old gunfighter, who taught the rape victim, Hannie Caulder (Raquel Welch), how to use a gun.
The quote stuck around in my head too - and I made the same connection between that and playing music that you did Cluin. I often say it to someone if I am trying to pass on a little of the little that I know about the subject of guitar playing.

08 Nov 05 - 03:37 PM (#1600163)
Subject: RE: Effective practice times
From: Kaleea

After being a Music Educator for many years, I have found that each Musician is different & we all learn in varying ways--there is no magic formula. What I can tell you is that if you have not figured out what works for you yet, try a variety of ways.
If you are more "by ear" and can find a recording, you might try listening to it a few times first.
   If you have printed Music-notes or tab, you can start there and like Cluin offers, a measure or a phrase at a time.
   Either way, always play slowly with a STEADY beat, and always play a measure PLUS a note-or stop after the bar line to avoid training yourself to pause after phrases. That's right, cause we often train ourselves to play incorrectly by practicing the mistakes into the Music. Begin learning Music by practicing correctly! By the time you can get through a whole section or the whole piece, play slowly enough to be able to play the more difficult parts correctly--this avoids stops & starts & speeding up & slowing down in performance.
   "As ye practice, so also, shall ye perform!"
If you are more advanced, I prefer to teach more advanced students to first read through with their eyes and identify the more difficult passages. Learn them first! A measure plus a note, till you have it perfect. If you have it right, play it correctly 5 times in a row & you've got it.