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13 December 2011 @ 11:34 am
Theorems of hobbies and music, random musings  
Not particularly scrabbly content continues...

1.  A hobby is an activity that brings your imperfections to light so that you may loathe them, and by extension, yourself.

2.  Learning a musical instrument is the kinesthetic process of turning songs you love into songs you hate.

I started writing this post last Wednesday after I had my lesson on Tuesday night.  It's Tuesday again now, so I've had another week to gain perspective :)

I had played 16-odd bars of Ode to Joy perhaps 200 times in the 10 days leading up to last Tuesday, in addition to a lot of other songs.  I used to quite like the melody, but I've heard myself play it (badly) so many times that I was about ready to snap.  There's a lot to take in, and I found it pretty frustrating to know what I want to do but have some failing in:

-- fingering
-- picking
-- sight reading
-- thumb positioning
-- in general, tone.

I played all of my songs a bunch and then when I got to my lesson last week, I performed really poorly.  He played along with me a couple of times, and the aural feedback in my ear was something I wasn't used to, and I literally couldn't play a lick.  Everything was confused, and I made a ton of mistakes--performance anxiety in front of someone sort of seems what it was like, but I wasn't really nervous or anything.  I completely understand that I am paying this guy to hear my mistakes and have him suggest things to make it better.  I did get flustered, and skronked my way through 30 minutes.  He was really nice about it and of course I was disappointed that I wasn't able to show off the best version of what I could do, but c'est la vie.

Adding to this was that I didn't have a pick that was the same thickness as I'd been practicing with--all I had was some really flimsy thing that I honestly might as well throw out, so everything just was all goofy.  It's a mental note to get everything together so that I'm ready to go for the lesson.  Also, I find that it takes almost half an hour to warm up and really feel like I've got it together enough to play as well as I can.  After 75-90 minutes my left hand just starts to get too tired, so it's the classic inverted U shape for performance.  Tonight we've got an Xmas concert for the kids, so I won't get to warm up before my lesson, so I guess I'm sort of prepared for another skronkfest.

Just like anything, there are also good days of practice, where things feel more effortless, and bad days, where I can't do anything quite the way I want to.  My wife said "it's the practices that feel bad that you learn the most from."  I guess a lot of it is practicing the stuff and letting your brain rewire overnight to have your fingers do what they're supposed to.

Other things I've started to do:  

-- regularly have a metronome on when strumming and practicing my songs.  I hope this helps me develop my sense of rhythm rather than just becoming a crutch.  Time will tell, I suppose.
-- learn some scale patterns (just major and pentatonic) in closed positions
-- strum chords and practice transitions between them.  This is slow and painful.  My left hand gets pretty tired pretty quickly, but I figure even if I'm not achieving all that much musically, this has to be done over the period of weeks, it will help build up calluses, will make my hand muscles stronger in the exact range of movement that they need to be stronger, work on my rhythm, etc.  On goes the metronome and I go until my hand is too sore to do it anymore :)
-- work on some music theory worksheets in all my copious spare time
I miss being able to work on it over the lunch hour, like I used to be able to drill words for an hour.  That adds up to 200 hours of practice a year (ok, gotta eat lunch too, and could do that while hitting the space bar but not playing guitar) that is wasted.  Someone should invent something.

One goal is to get good enough by next December (that's a year) that I can reward myself by choosing a nice, expensive-ish acoustic guitar and choose it based on how well it plays for me, and what tones I like best.  
Zorakevwhore on December 13th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
I had played 16-odd bars of Ode to Joy perhaps 200 times in the 10 days leading up to last Tuesday, in addition to a lot of other songs. I used to quite like the melody, but I've heard myself play it (badly) so many times that I was about ready to snap.

Not even rectifiable by listening to the full version? I find it nigh-impossible to be in a bad mood after listening to the 4th movement of the 9th. (Also 4th movement of the 7th or 5th.)
synodalhajsynodalhaj on January 6th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
The other problem is the Dairy lobby in Canada coopted this song, inserting the words "Drink Milk love life Drink Milk love life" over the entire length.


It was like the above, but a bit worse.

I got better at playing it, so I no longer want to cut off my fingers :)
Sharsharya on December 14th, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
2. Learning a musical instrument is the kinesthetic process of turning songs you love into songs you hate.

Oh my. I so hear you on that. Took me right back to my piano practicing days... *shudder*

What I figured out eventually, was that to play a piece well (piano anyways, but probably guitar too), your had to have a physical memory to the point where you didn't have to think about where to put the fingers, the fingers just went there automatically, so then you could think about other things like, for how long to hold the notes, or how hard to play them, etc.

The process of learning that finger memory is what bored me to tears and drove me insane that I couldn't do it perfectly within a few tries.
synodalhajsynodalhaj on January 6th, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
The good news is I'm bloody-minded (I memorized a dictionary, right?) so I've stuck with it and some of the muscle memory is starting to kick in. It's getting to be the fast part on the learning curve which is always a complete blast :)
srockhopsrockhop on December 14th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
joe's friend found some success with this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocksmith
synodalhajsynodalhaj on December 14th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
I just heard about Rocksmith on Friday at our Xmas lunch at work. A coworker told me about it (and I don't own any consoles). I was pretty quick to say "gee, thanks, you just cost me $400 for a PS3 plus the game." :-)
chaithedogchaithedog on December 15th, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
Wow-- that sounds nothing at all like my experience of learning the piano. I found nothing aggravating about playing a piece wrong a jillion times in the process of getting it right. I found piano lessons boring as a child and preferred instead to sit at the piano and jam.

With my students, if we've been belaboring the same passage too many times, I won't press it. I move on to another passage and then, time permitting, we return to the trouble passage.

It is very different singing or playing alone than playing with someone else. Specifically, you can't afford to stop or do things over. It's no cause for alarm; with practice it gets easier.

There's something to be said for playing stuff VERY slowly, and gradually playing faster. Seems to work on Sesame Street: http://youtu.be/xk9l6fyxcBE
synodalhajsynodalhaj on December 15th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)
I be belaboring most of these passages.

I definitely agree re: the playing with someone else, which of course I've never really done.

I probably should do the really really slow thing a little more often. I'm being excruciatingly slow on chord transitions now; my teacher suggested going as slow as possible and just trying to figure out how to transition from one finger shape to another all at once, rather than putting the fingers down one at a time and trying to get the chords coming out faster.

walterzueywalterzuey on December 15th, 2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
I used to have a hard time figuring out why I played worse at my lessons than I did in the previous week of practice. One of the biggest things turned out to be my shoes.
synodalhajsynodalhaj on December 15th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
Would you believe I figured out something similar? I ditched my shoes last lesson!