View Full Version : Speed, flow etc.

Jan-28-2004, 10:48am
I've played the mandolin for 7 years, with some interruptions. I play bluegrass and Irish music mostly. I haven't had the time to practice as much as I need to, but play a lot in periods and I'm getting over the beginner stage, I think. The thing is, I know a good deal of tunes, I am learning to drop the sheet music and play by ear, and I'm quite comfortable on the fretboard (even if I'm not good at the 2nd and 3rd positions, I have plenty to learn there) even if I still have lots to learn. The thing is, I never get enough flow and control. If I play the tune several times I always interrupt somewhere. I just wanted to ask, is it only a question of practice, or is there anything more I can do to practice flow and improve control (I mean to be able to just play on without interruptions)? I don't mind practice and hard work, I just need to plan my life better, but I wonder if there is anything more I would need to do.

Bob DeVellis
Jan-28-2004, 11:22am
Good question. I often have the same problem, that is, I seem never able to play a set of 3 tunes without making some mistakes. The're not the same mistakes, usually, so it's not that I don't know how to play a certain part. I've given some thought to the problem and I think I know some of the reasons. First, of late, I haven't been playing with other people because I just haven't had the time. As a result, there's nothing to keep me on track and no reason not to stop if I make an errror. Second, As I get a tune to about 90% mastery (mastery is probably too strong a word here), I start to get bored and want to play it fancier, faster, or move onto a different tune. I actually think that this is the major problem and, by virtue of playing mostly alone these days, there's really no necessity to get past about 90% mastery. At least the mistakes are more subtle most of the time, and might not be caught be a casual listener (although that's certainly not always true). But I think I just lack the motivation to get a tune to the point where it's perfect every time. Also, in Irish music, that's not necessarily a goal. Your situation may be different but I hope these thoughs are fo some help to you in figuring out waht's going on.

Jan-28-2004, 11:34am
I have the same problem, and as bad as I sometimes hate to use them, get with the metrenome and keep playing, mistakes and all. After you finish the tune, then go back and try to correct the mistakes.

Jan-28-2004, 12:03pm
I agree with BobD. Playing alone will often cause mistakes with timing variances and you will unconsciously create your own comfort zone that will come back to haunt you when you get around other muscians. I have found that using help aids such as Steve Kaufmans 4 hour bluegrass workout has helped as far as speed and timing. I've learned many new fiddle tunes and the slow-fast recordings give you a chance to push yourself in accuracy and timing. But the tendancy is not to listen to yourself, but rather play notes in rapid sucession... Slow down and listen to the music, rather than just playing the notes. Sometimes I record myself, then listen to what I just played locating problem areas but more importantly to listen to the music itself.. Is it pleasing? or just a lot of notes rapidly flying everywhere?. A metronome is a good teacher to find out your consistancy in timing. But playing with other muscians is very important.
I've played for 35 years and still find myself getting lazy with a piticular song and sliding into the bad habit of not listening to what I am playing. One slow perfect note is worth 100 rapid imperfect notes in my opinion.

Jan-28-2004, 12:41pm
Oh, Bobd, that really sounds like me!! I, too, tend to just drop a song and go to the next, and yes, it's true that it is because I don't play with others. There is nothing to do about that, though.
I play with the metronome sometimes, usually when I want to try back-up and breaks to a bluegrass song. I agree it's a very good way to learn and improve on timing. In Irish tunes, I don't find much help in the metronome though, if I get lost, I don't find "where" in the song/tune I am, if I have only the metronome and no back-up chords. I usually don't notice problems with Irish tunes either, and if I do they always have to do with triplets and stuff like that.
I play with CDs a lot, which is great for bluegrass music (for Irish it is too fast), it keeps me concentrate more and I guess that's the way to go as long as I don't have anyone to jam with. The metronome is great for learning, and the CD is great for practicing and trying new things (breaks and things like that).

Jan-28-2004, 12:43pm
What is Steve Kaufmanns 4 hour bluegrass workout? Where can I get it?

Jan-28-2004, 12:55pm
Metronomes are a useful study aid. Without one, it is easy to gloss over imperfections in your playing and "progress" to another tune without gaining all there is to learn from the first one.

I'm ready for the Kaufmann 4-hour workout too, (except the 4-hour part).

Jan-28-2004, 12:55pm
http://elderly.com/ #is where I found my Steve Kaufman 4 hour workout. The workout cd is arranged by slow track and fast track sessions. #Kaufman plays the melody on the beginning of each song, accompanied by a back up band, so you can hear the melody and play along. #After the first time through, you play the melody along with the back up band. #Actually quite a bit of fun for anyone, beginners and those well seasoned.#Kaufman has several different series to fit your needs. #I recommend it if you want to add some fiddle tunes to your music repertoire and increase your speed. #Chris Thile's dvd is also excellent for picking up proper techniques and learning scales.
Take it easy on the 4 hour workout....1 or 2 songs will give you plenty of workout. #I would venture to guess that your fingers would fall off after 4 hours of playing all 49 tunes.

Jan-28-2004, 1:24pm
Play with other people! The more time you spend playing music in a small quiet jam with people more advanced than you are, the better you will become- and it's much more fun to play with others than with yourself. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif [I]

Jan-29-2004, 10:56am
Oh gosh, if I had people to play with, this problem wouldn't exist!! Send some of them my way!

Jan-31-2004, 4:26am
Where do you live?

John Flynn
Jan-31-2004, 5:17am
I have the same problem, but I am overcoming it. My two cents may be somewhat redundant with what has been said, but here goes:

One thing I have to fight is a tendency to feel I really have the tune in my head, when I don't. I used to listen to a tune several times, until I could "sing" it and then move on to learning it. But I had flow problems, as you call it. Now I keep coming back and re-listening to a tune after I have learned it. I find that on the later listenings to the tune, it's like I have a new set of ears for it. I hear nuances in the timing and the "flow" I didn't hear before. Often I find I had two notes in the wrong order. That will will really mess up the flow. If the tune is actaully "playing" in my head when I am playing, rather than thinking about notes or even just going on muscle memory, my flow improves.

My instructor has a term, "over-practice." It means he recommends practicing a tune way past what seems like is required to learn it. Mike Compton had some great practice tips for "flow" in his workshop. I can't remember them all, but some were: 1) Practice fast 2) Practice slow 3) Practice for performance (in other words, practice just as if you were playing the whole tune for an audience.) and 4) Practice the easy parts as well as the hard parts.

I agree with the idea of playing with others, especially if it's just you doing the melody. Having to carry the melody alone is a great "flow builder." It's too easy to "skate" if you have some fiddles carrying the tune. If you don't have anyone to back you, try some of these CDs or software programs that can provide a "backup band."

Jan-31-2004, 8:41am
I've been trying to do some recording with a click track, and that's really testing my ability to play the way I'm accustomed to.

I'll admit to something that happens to me and absolutely ruins the flow, and that is becoming overly conscious or self-conscious about what you're playing instead of just letting it happen. When I'm playing out someplace or recording, I sometimes have a thought go through my mind about "How's this going to sound to people listening? What are those other guys thinking about this? What's the next phrase I ought to play?" All of a sudden the playing goes from being decent to useless. So I think of getting in the flow as being partially about ignoring everything around you and really taking a personal ride with the music. That's what it means to me anyway, and I always play better when I can do this.

Feb-01-2004, 11:40am
Jasona, I live in a nice little town in Sweden called VŠnersborg.
Mando Johnny and Crowder, thanks for very good advice. I've noticed too that everything just is worse when I think too much of what I am supposed to play.
What's that back-up band software you are talking about? I'm thinking about recording back-up on the computer with a metronome, my mandolin chops, and possibly adding a guitar if that is possible. Then I'll have both the metronome beats and the chords. If I can manage to find out how to work with my software, that is. I have some new stuff that may make it a bit easier. I find that recording myself helps a lot. It makes me hear what I do good or bad, in a way I don't hear when I'm behind the mandolin.

Feb-01-2004, 1:02pm
I'm thinking about recording back-up on the computer with a metronome, my mandolin chops, and possibly adding a guitar if that is possible. Then I'll have both the metronome beats and the chords. If I can manage to find out how to work with my software, that is.
Just download the TabEdit viewer and all of the archived TabEdit files on www.co-mando.com, because these are exactly what you're looking for. I can't recommend this enough.

The best way I've found to use it (when learning new tunes) is to slow the tempo WAY down during the learning process, then gradually speed it up. The tune seems to get imprinted on your brain the process. My only problem now is remembering the titles of some of the tunes I've learned. Sometimes I won't know that I know a tune until I hear a few bars....:)

John Flynn
Feb-01-2004, 1:16pm
What's that back-up band software you are talking about?
There is a bunch of stuff out there, all with different features. I am not really an expert on all of it. I have a lot of live playing opportunities, so I don't really use stuff like that a lot, but I would if I were in your situation. I do use Transrkiber and Van Basco's Kareoke Player to slow tunes down and play along, but I my recommendation was more in line with "Band in a Box" or some of the CDs that are out there, like Jam Trax and the CD that comes with Andy Statman's "Teach Yourself Bluegrass Mandolin." There are many, many other products out there and I am sure some other folks on the board can help with that.