Learning New Stuff

I have been pushing myself to learn new stuff recently - mainly more lead work. In the process I have noticed that I seem to go through phases of learning, I wondered if anyone goes through similar stages.

1) Start of basically trying to remember and play the early parts of a phrase
2) Get it really awkwardly, but committed enough to memory to learn the next phrase.
3) Go through the same, gradually tying sections together. Improving both (weirdly the earliest bits I learn never seem to improve faster than later ones, despite more practice time)
4) Reach a point where all sections are learned, but lack fluidity. Sometimes I forget the next note or phrase, other times I can choke completely.

5) Suddenly I can do it. This is the best bit.

I think stage 4 is probably - practice until you get it right and stage 5 is practice until you can't get it wrong.

The last song I had this with was Sylvia - it's not technically demanding, but a lot seems to happen. I think it was about 2 weeks to get to stage 5. I think this is when I realised I am not a quick learner!

Comments

  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 805Member
    I like your last but one paragraph. Fairly recently I heard the expression "Amatures practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can't get it wrong".

    I was also told that once you learned a piece transpose it to a different key 'on the fly', this can reinforce the intervals and help with building knowledge of the fretboard. It also makes you more inventive if it relies on open strings, when I say inventive I might mean swear a lot but thats when having a capo will serve you well. Being able to do these things may seem pointless until you say yes to playing a dep gig where the singer can't reach the original key or the other guitarist only plays cowboy chords when he sings.
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 805Member
    BTW i remember learning Silvia and hocus pocus when they came out and yes I went through the stages. Steely Dan tracks were the same although reeling in the years took about 10 years to reach stage 5, not that I ever played it live, it was just for fun.
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 2,779Member
    There is a stage 6.

    Had to work so hard learning to play it got sick of hearing it. (Applies to family members too.)
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,513Member, Moderator
    edited September 13
    I am going through the learning curve in slow motion as I am learning a Prelude by J. S. Bach on the piano. I say slow motion as I have now been at it for 4 months even though the book I bought said that anyone could learn this Prelude in 6 weeks. Because I am not really a piano player I have noticed my steps and I would suggest that there are a few steps between 4 and 5 in the OP:
    4) Reach a point where all sections are learned, but lack fluidity. Sometimes I forget the next note or phrase, other times I can choke completely.
    4a) Reach a point where you can remember each bar without forgetting any of the notes. I think this is similar to when we learned chords and had to think about and check that each finger was correctly positioned. On the piano I am finding that some stretches are becoming automatic, like playing a chord, and so I no longer need to think about each note individually.
    4b) Reach a point where you can remember the whole piece without hesitation. Playing along to a metronome shows which parts I have learned thoroughly but also where I hesitate as I look at or think about the start of the next bar.
    4c) Reach a point where I can play it all with a metronome. I can then practise with the metronome to further instill good timing in me, and without to allow me to start to feel the piece - in my case I can feel the bars with, for example, diminished chords, as the feeling of walking uphill and nearing the summit, and then a major 7th chord feels like the release of the uphill stretch and the joy of the view and the sunshine. I am starting to live the song rather than play it. Another 100 times through* and I should be arriving at stage 5.
    5) Suddenly I can do it. This is the best bit.

    * I have learned about myself that if I rehearse a song 30 times I can usually play it well enough to get by but if I rehearse it 300 times (and that is no exaggeration, I have counted!) then I have usually learned and understand the song and stand a far better chance of playing it with feeling and confidence.
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 2,779Member
    edited September 12
    With learning any task there are four stages:

    - unconscious incompetence (unaware of what you don't know - picking up the music book)
    - conscious incompetence (aware of what you don't know - working through the music book)
    - conscious competence(aware of what you do know - sight reading the music book)
    - unconscious competence (unaware of what you do know - playing without the music book)

    The latter two are the difference between amateur and professional. A professional will make the task look easy and probably tell you that it is easy too. They've forgotten what it took to get there.

    (This from modern instructor's courses in the workplace.)

    I learn in layers and a certain amount of fake it to make it. Where I can't get it right I deliberately get a wrong (but acceptable) version down first and then correct the duff parts and work on missing techniques - sometimes over a very long time.

    Foggy Mountain Breakdown (a' la Banjo Ben) is still incomplete after four years... but I still aspire to do it.

  • Ninja_RebornNinja_Reborn Posts: 117Member
    Lots of really interest points - I think the conscious competence stage is probably the most frustrating one - when you mess up, you know it!

    There is of course that magical moment where you practice something, can't get it right, so pack up. Come back a bit later and totally nail it. I have a friend who tells me the brain continues to practice even after you stop, it works on muscle memory and analysing the smallest of sensations you conscious mind misses. I would love to able to comment on this, but it happens so infrequently!
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 805Member
    Back when I was spotty and had colour in my hair i reasoned that my learning was cyclic in maner. By that I mean you tackle a piece and struggle then get all the way through and feel you are making no progress when in fact you are consolidating what you have learned. Suddenly you realise you are doing it and the whole process starts again. I also think that at certain times I'm more receptive to learning than at others and If I start a new piece in one of those receptive periods the learning cycle is much faster.

    I may of course be talking Horlicks!

  • LesterLester Posts: 1,513Member, Moderator
    I suspect that is all part and parcel of the artistic temperament, that when the flame burns inside we can learn or be creative much easier than during times of distraction or concern when our thoughts are anywhere but on the music.
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,214Member
    You're right Lester - being focussed on the task in hand is such a boost to working through those various stages of learning quicker.

    Linked into focus is, I feel, visualisation. The more that virtue kicks in the better.

    Interesting one that with Sylvia, Ninja. I sometimes feel that a technically demanding piece can sound impressive if you just get the technique right. But a simpler piece needs tone and phrasing and feeling just right for it to sound right. It probably doesn't help when you're learning a piece and comparing yourself to a player as damn good as Jan Akkerman either.

    It is very true that setting a problem to one side and coming back to it later can be beneficial. Better than sitting for hours making the same mistake over and over again and finding that the mistake is then firmly embedded in muscle memory!
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 2,779Member
    edited September 15
    The problem with music learning in particular is that the mind conditions itself to switch off with guitar in hand.

    A meditative state might be best for performance but it's darn useless for learning.

    Hence it takes so long to learn stuff. I hate guitar when it's a maths lesson.
  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,635Member
    There's a stage 7 for me - it comes about three weeks after Kevin's stage 6

    Stage 7: realise you've forgotten it already
  • Ninja_RebornNinja_Reborn Posts: 117Member
    Stage 7 - Playing all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order.
  • Ninja_RebornNinja_Reborn Posts: 117Member
    Mark - I think are right on the money with a piece like sylvia - the phrases are so melodic they need to be played note for note, beat for beat to sound right. A lot of impressive fretboard theatrics can be bluffed or misplayed and no one (save for a few) will notice - Didn't clapton say it's not about the notes you put in, it's the ones you leave out?
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,214Member

    Mark - I think are right on the money with a piece like sylvia - the phrases are so melodic they need to be played note for note, beat for beat to sound right. A lot of impressive fretboard theatrics can be bluffed or misplayed and no one (save for a few) will notice - Didn't clapton say it's not about the notes you put in, it's the ones you leave out?

    Yep - playing the silence .... a tricky one to get right!
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 2,779Member
    Ooh. I could get the silence right, I'm sure.
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,214Member
    edited September 20
    I wish I could ... in my hands usually too much or too little silence!

    Some would say total silence would make my playing better! :smiley:
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