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100 cards - trying something new
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DanielB
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August 27, 2012 - 7:18 am
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Having been playing for a few months now, I've been feeling the need to feel like I am tightening up my practices a bit.  Not that I feel I have been practising badly or anything, but I'm just having a need for a little more methodology now that I have played long enough that it seems I may stick with violin a while.

When you teach yourself, you have to remember to try and do the things a teacher would do, and one of those things is to try some tricks now and then to keep up the inertia and to break in new material.  A few simple easy goals can be good, even if the goals themselves are pretty much just arbitrary.

Some might remember back when I tried cramming a lot of practices of "Annie Laurie" into a few days until I had played it 100 times, to see if that was a quick route to getting a song down.  While I don't think it was a perfect idea, I have noticed over the weeks since then that "Annie Laurie" has ended up a piece I rely on more now for trying different bits of technique or when I am trying one of my violins after making an adjustment to see if the adjustment made a change for the better.  It also is a piece that I am less self-conscious about playing in front of friends and family than some others. 

So my hypothesis is that having played a song 100 times does make some positive difference.  While not a fast track to getting it "perfect", I think that knowing for a fact that I did it 100 times has an effect on how I view the piece and how I rank it in my repertoire.  There are other songs where I know I have played them more times than that now, but "in the head" they don't seem as "official" so far as having been well practised.  Or at least that is what I think is going on. 

So I got a deck of notecards, put the titles of songs I've been working on on them and drew a simple grid with 100 squares.  Every time I play one of those songs, I can mark off another square and it will be that much closer to the 100 times.  Simple.  Cheap.  Easy to keep up.

In my own mind, I am resetting my "official repertoire" to zero for all the songs, and will avoid thinking of them as being in that official repertoire until i have documented 100 plays.  Partial plays to try a technique or just to do a quick run through the melody for the joy of it won't count.  Only playing the piece from beginning to end as if it were a performance will count.

Anyway, probably a loony idea, but it is something I'm trying adding to my practice.  After a few weeks I'll have a better idea of if it helps or not.  If it doesn't, I'm out less than a buck for a pack of 3X5 lined notecards.  LOL

It is just an experiment, so thoughts and ideas on the tactic are of course welcome.

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"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Oliver
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I know that few details escape your scrutiny but perhaps this may be of interest regarding learning schemes, etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I.....chology%29

surprised

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DanielB
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Yeah, I have seen incubation at work sometimes over the past few months.  Sometimes a piece or passage that was difficult suddenly becomes easy after "neglecting" the song it is in for a week or so. 

With the "100 card" tactic, I'm not looking to grind two or three pieces into the dirt over a week or so.  I felt that was counterproductive after a certain point with a Annie Laurie experiment.  This is intended to be more about just "keeping score" on the pieces I normally play.  I am pretty sure I play some of them far more often than others, and the "trick" of having an arbitrary eventual goal of 100 plays may help to make sure I am not sort of unconsciously favoring pieces that I find easier to play.  Also I would like to see if the mental idea of the 100 plays has a worthwhile effect on how well I play the pieces or how quick I am to rely on them when I end up playing in front of family or friends.  

I'm trying a bit of a change in tactics with the hope of feeling like I haven't been just wasting time when my 6 month date rolls around.  LOL  Honestly, I think I'm probably doing ok for a self-taught noob, but it never seems quite as good as I feel it should be.  I also have some concerns for my 6 month mark, since I expect to be losing a part of my routine that I feel has been helpful with some things.  It will likely be getting too cold to go out into the backyard a few times a week to play a few songs for one or two appreciative neighbors at sunset with my acoustic violin.  So I am trying to think of some little things to add to my routine to make up for any inertia I lose with that.

But I agree that more "push" isn't always the answer and a bit of incubation is part of the learning process.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Oliver
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I've been "watching" my incubation reactions for many years now and I recently ran some tests.

It would seem that my first level of "communication" with a new piece takes about 4 days and it  doesn't matter how much I practice it during the 4 days.   Simply takes 4 days. 

Weird !   

I suspect that incubation will put some braking on your program however you certainly should be OK with memorized selections.   I think that memorization is important.

My son just completed a season with the Tanglewood Chorus where the singers had to learn all the lyrics and music by heart.  Classical music, in addition!  (Russian!) The Director says that a singer cannot sing and follow printed music at the same time !

dazed

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Fiddlestix
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Daniel... what's the purpose of the 3x5 cards, can't you do the same thing with a sheet of printer paper ?   dunno

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DanielB
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That does seem weird when you first mention it, but giving it some thought, yeah.  I think you are about dead on about it taking around 4 days to get a piece or song actually coming along.

The songs and pieces for my card experiment are all pieces that are already memorized to the point where they don't result in fumbling often.  Only a very few of them are to the point where I might say I have them 'by heart" though.

I have 15 songs that I have practised to the point where I can play them extempore other than having done warm-up at some point earlier in the day.  Which is some progress towards my current 6 month goal of having about a full hour of reasonably solid material down.  I have backing accompaniment recorded for at least a few of those songs.  The idea is to try and have basically a "one hour show" in my back pocket.  I'm an old warhorse of many gigs from back in my band days, and an hour's worth of material that can be done at the drop of a hat is something solid to work with if you want to perform.   They don't have to have a full "100 card" for that, it is just a gimmick I am trying so I don't lose steam as the 6 month point approaches.

I don't think that's an unreasonable goal though, considering how long I have been doing music in general.  But it has definitely been enough challenge to give me something to work at.  But that just helps with keeping motivation up.  LOL

The list is currently:

 

Red is the Rose

Wayfaring Stranger

Black is the Color

Stay Awhile

Blow the Candles Out

Mary Hamilton

Si Bheag Si Mohr

World of Our Own

I Know I'll Never Find Another You

Ghost Riders in the Sky

Whisky You're The Devil

The First Noel   (have to start working on holiday music early to have some nice pieces for the holidays)

and two different lullabyes that I wrote and the Ghostbuster's theme for the project.  I probably wouldn't usually include the Ghostbusters, but I wasn't happy with my performance for Bile Dem Cabbages, so this time I am definitely putting the group project on my regular work list. 

I may have missed a song or two that I will remember and make a card for over the next few days, and I expect I'll probably add at least a couple song over the next 2 months, but I will be trying to keep it to no more than 5 new ones until the 6 month goal has been met.  I also have a few songs that may make the list if they're coming along well enough to be contenders for including in songs for the goal.  But that's where it stands at the moment.

So that's what I'm actually working towards, the cards are just a trick I'm trying to see if they can help me get there.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Picklefish
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I feel ya, I know how hard it is and how much work it takes to get the songlist down. I have about 5 min of material that I could perform! ha ha!

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Oliver
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Just in case I'm missing something ........ is "sight read" a dirty word ?

If it were not for that, I would have no repertoire at all violin-student

 

(Even though I think the best presentation is performed with memorized music.)

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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DanielB
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No, it isn't a dirty word, Oliver.  To date, written score is probably the most efficient stand-alone means that mankind has developed for storing and communicating musical ideas/songs/pieces.  It doesn't take any equipment other than a musician to read it, and writing it doesn't require more than a surface to write on and something to make a mark with.  No batteries required.  

I do use it sometimes for studying a piece or analyzing what a composer used to get a particular mood, or when audio is not available.  I also use it if all I have handy is a bit of paper and a pencil when I have an idea I want to develop later.

I prefer not to use it when performing, though.  To date, I have never played in front of an audience with a written score in front of me.  Most bands I was ever in, even something like a lead sheet was considered something for the rehearsal space only.

Some bands and groups I have played with, it would have been considered a dirty word, though.  A few times, I was the only person in the band who could read music (by any notation) at all.  Some folks who play strictly by ear have as poor an opinion of those who use sheet music as some sight readers have of people who can't read music.  LOL

As a side note, sight reading onstage was discouraged at least in some places in years gone by.  At some point in time, the RIAA charged venue owners a higher royalty fee if any "fake books" were visible when a group played there.  According to one of my music profs I asked, that rule came and went before my time.  But in my early years of playing in clubs, it was still believed by many band leaders and most likely used by venue owners to haggle their way out of paying the full fee they had promised the band when the booking was made.  So it simply wasn't done.  Back then, I couldn't sight-read. so I never thought much about it.

But sight reading is a valuable skill.  That's why I spent a semester in college playing easy beginner songs on piano to get it.  I could have passed theory easy enough without the ability.  I knew enough to be able to figure out what note was which and etc, but just had never worked to get the ability to play it without identifying the notes one at a time and figuring out where they would be on the instrument.  Like touch-typing, it is more a matter of discipline and practice than of just knowledge. 

Mostly, I just don't feel I need it for performance of the sort of material that is typically on my playlist, and I would worry that audiences might not react as well to it.  Most of an audience usually aren't musicians themselves, and they don't usually see a music stand and sheet music onstage with most popular performers.  For all they know, there might be one just out of the camera's view, of course.  But people don't usually think of things like that when they are all set to be entertained.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Oliver
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I'm doomed.  I can not remember what I had for breakfast much less a bunch of notes.

Incidentally, I consider the ability to remember music to be more rare than musical ability itself. Do people who can remember music also remember anything?

I was once at a show honoring Berstein and one of the performers said he would now like to play the entire score of XXXXXXXX (i.e. some broadway play, I forget which) and he sat down and did just that !!!  No music. 

Arghhhhhh !

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Fiddlestix
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When I was playing guitar in band's (some 40 years ago) in bar's and private club's, I never used music either, but, that was in country bar's and such. It didn't matter too much because country musician's don't play the same song the same way twice. We played song's that we picked up from hearing someone else play it, song's that were popular, tune's that were on the chart's. Most people in the audience were usually drunk anyway and didn't / couldn't hear the difference.

As far as band's and orchestra's go with regard to using music in front of them, Lawrence Welk Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey orchestra, JImmy Dorsey orchestra and Paul Whiteman orchestra, alllllll used music while performing as did Kay Kieser band and Less Brown band.

How about a video sample for us ?        thumbs-up

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Oliver
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Do you think that there was more emphasis with the big bands to use sheet music to cut down the number of rehearsals ?

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Barry
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Oliver said
I'm doomed.  I can not remember what I had for breakfast much less a bunch of notes.

Incidentally, I consider the ability to remember music to be more rare than musical ability itself. Do people who can remember music also remember anything?

I was once at a show honoring Berstein and one of the performers said he would now like to play the entire score of XXXXXXXX (i.e. some broadway play, I forget which) and he sat down and did just that !!!  No music. 

Arghhhhhh !

Ive always been pretty good at memorizing music, I can still recall things I learned 40 years ago. On things like fiddle tunes, I learn them and memorize them usually in one day then work on improving them over time. Classical has been more of a challenge as the melody tends to vary as the piece progresses. Lyrics have also always been easy for me to retain (spent years as a bar band singer).

Now to answer the second part...wait, what was the question>>  LOL, but seriously, it dosent seem to spill over into remembering other things

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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Fiddlerman
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I hear you Oliver.

The truth is that I have a GREAT memory!!!!!!

Trouble is that it is very short. :-(

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Oliver
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Well, I often think of the pros with web sites who offer wedding music AND they list their repertoire. (20 titles maybe, or more?)  Memorized, I would assume.  Often string quartets. 

A major accomplishment and I always come away shaking my head. 

My excuse is old age.

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DanielB
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@Fiddlestix: Yeah, I could put them all on a sheet of paper rather than using 3X5 cards or there probably is some software out there so that I could do it "paperless".  I just have an association in my head between 3X5 index cards and studying,  probably from high school term papers and such.  Personal quirk.  Like how for learning lyrics to songs, I write the song into a notebook, even though I could just download it and put it in my little pocket media player.  I use the pocket media player more as a metronome and for backing tracks and video tutorials, so I don't have to be at the computer for those. 

Video samples?  (winces)  Maybe some of them as I go along.  I also wasn't happy with my attempts to do video so far, so I suppose it might be good to work on it rather than avoid it.

 

@Oliver:  Nobody has ever remarked on my having an unusually good memory.  In fact, I'm probably more known for being a bit absent-minded in most day to day things.  So I wouldn't say it applies to everything.  Breakfast?  I'd have to think a bit to remember if I even had breakfast.  LOL  But I usually have some bit of music playing in my head.  It's the main thing I use my head for, a cheap substitute for a walkman or 8-track player.. drooling

I think that with some kinds of music like orchestral and big band, sheet music and music stands are more expected.  But my background in performance is more limited to bar band gigs, coffee houses and small jazz combos.  Well, and biker keg parties back in the day, but those were usually just for fun, not paid gigs. 

I'm sure you'll note that most of the stuff on my current playlist isn't exactly Milstein or Perlman level material.  I see someone like Milstein doing Bach's "Partita #3" and can't personally even imagine at this point having it memorized well enough to play it without written score.  But then, it is way outside my current playing abilities anyway.  LOL 

 

@Picklefish: Yeah, I spent a good bit of years in bands of one sort or another, so any time I learn any bit of music I'm already thinking of where it would fit in a gig songlist.  Kind of ridiculous when one is just in the early stages of working out the melody, but it's an old habit.  LOL

At present I don't have any actual plans for gigging/performing, due to family/household needs.  But somewhere in my head there's a bit of wiring that only allows work on music to feel like I am being "serious" about it if I look at it from the perspective of being prepared for shows somewhere in the future.  Otherwise I'd just be "messing around", and practice would move way down my personal priority list into "optional luxuries" instead of thinking of it as a necessity.  

But in the long run.. Being ready to do shows and having them worked out can lead to actual performances if/when the opportunity does eventually come open.  It beats several kinds of crap out of having to pass on such opportunities because I was just sitting on my heels instead of getting ready.  Then I'd be kicking myself. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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Ok, so I counted up how many songs/times I played in what was about a typical day.  24.  So that's about an hour or so spent on playing songs in the course of the day, which is about what I would have estimated I do.  With a half hour of scales and exercises in the morning, and about 20 minutes spent on working on improv against backing tracks from assorted genres, I'd call it reasonable. 

I spent probably another hour playing on the other instruments combined, which felt a little light, but ok.

We'll see how it goes.

Of course, the household had to remind me of songs I'd "missed".  Some of those I left out intentionally because they were too new, or I didn't feel they were something I need for the 6 month goal. 

But Annie Laurie?  How could I have forgotten that one?  It has had enough work put into it and is coming along well enough to definitely be a good piece for the "set list".  So I have added it.

The other main contender brought up was a piece I have worked on a bit more for sentimental reasons and here I hadn't included it because I am just getting to the point where I have some idea what I want to do with it.  "The Old Lamplighter".  In the end I had to agree that it would make a good addition.  I've only worked on it now and then so far, but it probably is to the point where including it into steady practice would polish it enough to have a good place in the 6 month playlist.

What makes it "sentimental reasons" is my mother and father.  It was "their song".  I started playing it more as a remembrance of them than with the idea of it becoming a performance piece.  But it is a pretty melody that would fit well with some of the other songs in a musical sense.  Still have some mixed feelings on it as a playlist item, but I'll practise it and see how it goes.

I have to watch against adding too much more at this point, though, since I am more focusing on what I feel are a reasonable number of pieces to have down fairly well at 6 months.  As opposed to having more songs only "sorta" well practised at that point.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlestix
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Anyone know if Evelyn Wood course's are still available ?    dazed

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Oliver
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Maybe the crucial question is, after learning a song, how long will it remain in useful memory?  I once memorized a few lines of a song only to find that I forgot everything the next day.

violin-student

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Fiddlestix
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Oliver said
Maybe the crucial question is, after learning a song, how long will it remain in useful memory?  I once memorized a few lines of a song only to find that I forgot everything the next day.

violin-student

I have the same problem.... I play two or three song's, go to the kitchen, come back and start to play again and for the life of me can't remember all three song's. I get two but the third one escape's me and I can't remember the name of it. I've done that while playing a medley of say four song's, one slip's away.

 

                  dazed

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