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Thread: Different ways of learning

  1. #1
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    Default Different ways of learning

    I’m becoming increasingly impressed by how differently different people learn. There’s no one right way. I used to learn a lot from tab and books. Lately I’ve been learning exclusively by ear. To me, it’s both more fun and forces a level of attention to the music that carries over into attention to tone, dynamics, and groove that printed material can’t capture. On the other hand, I really struggle trying to work with scales, arpeggios, etc as a basis for improvisation. My own ideas emerge from listening to a bunch of stuff other people play rather than from trying to apply theory. I wish I could do the latter too but it just doesn’t seem to stick.

    What works for you? Again, I don’t think there are any right answers and hope this won’t turn into a thread about how bad tab is or how robotic it is to learn other players’ solos. I’m just curious to hear what works for different people. Might learn something from that too!

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    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    To keep things interesting, I take several approaches to learning.

    Of course I learn specific songs to be able to play with others or just to enjoy playing and/or recording on my own. Learning songs will force you to learn specific techniques, chords, scales, etc.

    I also use books to learn specific techniques or styles, theory, etc. I then apply what I have learned in the book by using it in a song.

    I learn a lot just by playing with other people.

    I have learned much from listening carefully to music I want to learn and by watching performers play the styles I want to learn.

    I mix these things up constantly.

    Learning to read music and tab have been helpful as I find there is a use for both.
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  5. #3

    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    I've never ever wanted to duplicate note for note much of anything. The way I learn is watching YouTube videos. Since I write and sing, I pay a lot of attention to singers who play guitar well, and steal everything I can use, but never to duplicate what they are doing.
    Same thing with mandolin. See a lick thrown in at the end of a phrase and try to figure it out, usually coming up with a dumbed down facsimile. File it away for further use. Now fiddle tunes I learn note for note then figure out some variations, always pushing up the fretboard to expand my limited knowledge.
    Lesson videos can be helpful too, but for me just to develop a new understanding to use later, not so much to recreate what is being taught.

    I have friends who just want to play exactly what is on a record. They want to play the intro to Fire and Rain just like James Taylor. That has never appealed to me. I want what I play to be me. That mostly sucks, but it sucks uniquely.
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  7. #4

    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    Be careful with “no one right way to practice”. While it is true that there are many ways to practice effectively, there are also many ways to practice inefficiently or even counterproductively.
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    I agree that my learning is a mix of many approaches. I've become much better at learning by ear, but that's taken me a long time. If I hadn't had the option to learn some basic tunes from sheet music and tab, but could only learn by ear, I likely wouldn't be playing now. When I first taught myself to play guitar more than 50 years ago, all that was available were a few instruction books about how to chord and pick. I had no parents/siblings/grandparents to teach me, so that's how I learned. But mostly I just sang and accompanied myself. Much more recently, since retiring, I've been learning to play "melody" instruments like fiddle and mandolin (not that guitar isn't a melody instrument, but it wasn't the way I played it for a half-century!). I've become aware of how much there is to "understand" about music, almost all of which I was unaware for decades. And if I can't make the fingers go at lightning speed any more, I can at least understand what I'm trying to do!

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  11. #6
    formerly Philphool Phil Goodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    When I'm learning a new 'lick' or 'run', or whatever, I always picture the major scale on the fingerboard, and after listening to the lick multiple times, try to approximate it with my index finger starting on the root. (obviously, won't play that note if it's not in the lick)

    What I'm doing is looking at the big picture of the lick, and using the closed scale and playing it in a generic way.
    This gives me a generalization that is then modified in multiple ways as needed.

    For example: in my mind I might be thinking something like, " starts on 5, then uses 1,2, & 3 notes." "and sounds something like this".

    That's just my general approach. May vary as needed day to day. YMMV

    Then I work on how to plug it into a song.
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    My learning is generally a combination of ear training, music reading and playing with others. The playing with others gets me hearing pulse and tunes I wouldn't come across playing simply from sheet music; ear training is supplemented with sheet music because sometimes I just need to see where the notes are (I'm way more a visual learner than an aural one. I can pick up a tune by ear, but I have a way better chance of remembering it if I can see the notes at least once). And of course, when I play classical, it's just way more fun in a group.
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    I need to read about the style I am trying to learn because my brain likes to learn logically. I have tried for YEARS to learn to play by ear, it (so far) has never worked for me. I read music and TAB, and because of years of playing piano, I can phrase music well, and I used to accompany soloists and choirs on piano, so I follow well when playing with others. But even so, my fingers frequently don't do what my brain tells them to do! LOL!! From playing guitar, in jams even if I don't know the tune I can follow what the chord progression is by watching the guitarists. I guess I am mostly a visual learner, but my muscle memory is pretty long once I learn something.

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  17. #9
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    While I follow many of the techniques and use the same sources enumerated above, there is a phenomenon that I sometimes experience and I wonder if any of y'all do as well. I sometimes listen to a song over and over throughout a day and then I will ruminate upon the tune, playing it over and over in my head sometimes for as much as a few weeks. Then one day I will pickup the mandolin or whatever and fumble through it very rapidly, eventually playing it correctly within a few attempts.

    Now, most of the time I just learn in a "normal" way, but sometimes not. I call it "digesting" a song and I wonder if anyone else experiences something like this?


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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    Wow, I can't say I've ever done that, but it definitely makes a difference to the speed and quality of my learning if I listen, listen, listen.

  20. #11

    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    Quote Originally Posted by RustyMadd View Post
    While I follow many of the techniques and use the same sources enumerated above, there is a phenomenon that I sometimes experience and I wonder if any of y'all do as well. I sometimes listen to a song over and over throughout a day and then I will ruminate upon the tune, playing it over and over in my head sometimes for as much as a few weeks. Then one day I will pickup the mandolin or whatever and fumble through it very rapidly, eventually playing it correctly within a few attempts.

    Now, most of the time I just learn in a "normal" way, but sometimes not. I call it "digesting" a song and I wonder if anyone else experiences something like this?


    Blessings
    I do this too! I find that it really helps for me be familiar enough with the tune to be humming it. Then I can pick it out on the mando very quickly.
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  22. #12
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    The way to progress is at the beginner stages, work on manual dexterity and being able to reproduce a decent number of licks, solos, backup and other pieces of tunes as transcribed by different authors. Then intermediate and above, really work tunes and play by ear. People have told me what this means to them but I can't find any blogs where somebody has written this down, this is close: https://www.jazzadvice.com/how-to-qu...les-or-chords/

    It means working a few tunes, playing all the parts, and then working out your own variations in melody, harmony and rhythm, playing what you can sing and not agonizing over theory.
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  24. #13
    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    I also record myself regularly and listening back to that lets me know how my progress is coming.
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  26. #14

    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    Gtani7,
    Great article in Jazz advice.
    Ever since I have reduced the number of tunes to a smaller repertoire I have had more time to concentrate on them. I feel I play them with more refinement and greater personality. I’m beginning to understand that Less is More! Since I have reduced the number of commitments to different ensembles I have more time to devote and discover what is available in fewer tunes harmonically, theoretically and improvisationally. I am reading abbook by Victor Wooten “The Music Lesson” which I highly recommend.
    He has a really wholesome approach to thinking about music.
    Cheers!

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    Registered User Tim N's Avatar
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    Personally, I only learn by playing tunes because that's the only thing that interest me. I'm talking Irish fiddle tunes, so there's quite a lot of interesting fingering and moving up and down scales. I only learn to play from memory, using notes only as a reference at the start. It involves a lot of repetition, but once it's in it's pretty well in, as I have realised to my surprise. I guess its like learning a language by using it in a natural way, rather than focusing too much on rules of grammar.

    It's obviously a limited approach, lacking, I guess on the technique front, but it's what gives me pleasure, and lets me focus on what I really want to do. I certainly put in the hours of practice, but also play at any odd moments - in the kitchen, waiting for a boiled egg to cook, for example. Sometimes I try to play a tune purely by ear, maybe from memory, from Youtube , or from a CD, and I find I have developed the skills to do that too. I guess it all depends on what you want to achieve.
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  29. #16

    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    I learned to play old-time music by ear. And through learning old-time music by ear I learned to learn by ear, which has been an incredible experience. I wish I could do the same thing for Irish music but they never play the tune enough times and there are so many notes.

  30. #17

    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    I've had this problem of compulsively learning everything I hear since 9 years old - my dad had an electric Hawaiian guitar in a red, plush case...the first thing I remember really standing out was the Looney Tunes intro. I still dig all the slide guitar on sponge Bob. Ya, so that has led to a lot of different stuff!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim N View Post
    ...also play at any odd moments - in the kitchen, waiting for a boiled egg to cook...
    I used to keep a mndln hung in the kitchen. My wife did most of the cooking, but she liked being entertained..

  31. #18
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    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    I think we have to distinguish between, learning how I want, and learning what I want. There are many ways of learning the same thing, and if you want to learn it, you need to figure out a way that you individually can learn it.

    Not the same as deciding you don't want to learn something, and justifying it by saying you don't learn that way.


    I am not preaching any specific point of view, just a radical honesty with ones self. We all only have 24 hours in a day and a small lifetime so it is fine to prioritize what you want to know, and where you want to get to musically. No problem. Do what you want to do. Life is short.

    I can see pretty much how every aspect of music fits in with being a musician, and how everything that i don't learn I don't know. But you have to prioritize.

    Truth is I have never found learning easy, or found anything easy to learn. For me the key is to discern the difference between necessary and unnecessary discomfort. What I want, and how do I get there.

    There are places i will never get, and I know it, and I know why, and its ok.
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  32. #19

    Default Re: Different ways of learning

    Sometimes we over complicate things. We all improve at a thing by deliberately practicing that thing.

    If you want to read music, read music.
    If you want to reproduce what you hear, reproduce what you hear.
    If you want to sound like Bill Monroe, play a lot of Bill Monroe.
    If you want to invent your own unique licks, invent your own unique licks.
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