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Thread: Process of learning a classical tune

  1. #26
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Upstate New York
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    Default Re: Process of learning a classical tune

    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. Bryant View Post
    I love reading your thoughts and comments. But let's say, you are relateively new and someone hands you a piece of music or you turn to it in a book. How do you look at it? How do you judge it relative to your experience and abilities? How do you review it and set the stage for your attack on learnng? How do you determine how it is built (without chords, etc)? If it is tab how do lyou luse tabd with notation? Thank you all, I appreciate your knowledge.
    I think the answer to most of the questions quoted here is to get an coach (tutor, teacher, instructor) to help. We are living in a golden age of access to great teaching, from anywhere in the world, at all levels, through the internet. It would almost be criminal not to take advantage of what musicians 50 years ago would have given a left leg to have.

    I have mentioned in the past I have a classical "coach" who has been invaluable in moving me along. The most valuable thing for me is the prescription of exercises and etudes, that are designed with almost medical precision to strengthen specific skills needed for the piece. I can read, but I would be hitting constant and impenetrable walls if not for my coach.

    So yea I always wanted to play a piece that is maybe the equivalent of the uneven parallel bars. My coach has given me the free weights, the exercises and a diet plan, all specifically tailored to the gap between what I want to do and what I can do.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff

  2. #27

    Default Re: Process of learning a classical tune

    This discussion interests me as an amateur mandolinist who plays mostly Bach, and mostly from Daniel Sellman's two transcription books of Bach for mandolin. Although I think all the responders to the OP's initial question have provided well-meaning suggestions, I wonder if they're giving more information and depth than what was requested. Sorry if this ruffles a few feathers.

    Here's my take on the question: First off, if you plan on learning and playing classical music on the mandolin for your own enjoyment (which is my pursuit), then it may not matter if you play the piece like a dirge or a jig. YouTube is littered with various interpretations of classical pieces played in a wide range of tempos. Glenn Gould would race through Bach keyboard pieces, possibly at the suggested tempo of the composer, but other players don't. I think classical music continues because it gets interpreted from artist to artist. Is there a "right" or a "wrong" way to play a classical piece? I think it's all subjective.

    As far as learning a piece, my first consideration is: does the piece speak to me; do I want to invest time and effort learning a particular piece if I'm not interested in it? This is why I'm skipping from piece to piece in the Sellman books and rarely work out an entire suite. Some of them don't interest me.

    When I'm initially learning a piece, I find it helpful to listen to some versions of it on YouTube. My visualization of getting into a new piece is like trying to find a fingerhold in a smooth granite wall. At first the surface is hard and impenetrable, but with time it starts to become a little more yielding, allowing me to dig into the surface. Over time the piece become pliable and soft and it turns into a familiar trail through the woods where I anticipate every twist and turn.

    There's a well-known technique of "chunking" where a player works on a separate phrase, or measure, or several notes, until it is mastered. There are some great YouTube videos on "how to practice", particularly from the Piano and Violin Tutor, that I find very insightful. When I'm learning to play a new piece, I break it down into a bunch of connecting chunks, so my practice sessions are almost always working on the various chunks. I don't have a strict practice regimen. I'm doing this for my own enjoyment, which is really what this whole thing is all about.

    In my experience, after I get a piece under my fingers, the process of polishing the piece seems to make me memorize it automatically. My sister, who plays piano, claims she can't play a piece without the music in front of her. Some concert pianists play with the music, others without (I don't recall seeing any videos of Yuja Wang playing in concert with written music in front of her).

    Having fun, finding fulfillment, emotional therapy, enjoyment, is what it's all about. I don't need to be perfect and I don't need to satisfy anyone except myself.

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  4. #28

    Default Re: Process of learning a classical tune

    Quote Originally Posted by billykatzz View Post
    I wonder if they're giving more information . . . than what was requested. Sorry if this ruffles a few feathers.
    No worries: I am unruffleable, and more information than could ever possibly be useful is my specialty. Carry on in good health. Cheers!

  5. #29
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Nov 2002
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri

    Default Re: Process of learning a classical tune

    Every thought, every comment, is important and part of the total response. I like it all. But i also realize that, in my case, I sometimes know more than I unmderstand. Blessings, to all.

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