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Question regarding lessons & practice
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Frost
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September 1, 2013 - 1:47 am
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So, I've been taking fiddle lessons since March. Each week for the most part i get an exercise or technique to work on in addition to a new tune to learn.

I usually spend some time on exercises, then try to work on either cleaning up a tune i know or learning a new one. As these are mostly simple old timey and irish/scottish type tunes, i usually pick them up pretty quick for the most part.

Usually though, i end up tired of working on the same thing after a while and at the end of practice spending time working on a tune or technique that i want to learn but maybe havent got to yet or been \"assigned\" in the lessons. For example double stops and ornamentation are things i started trying to add before we touched on them in lessons.

My question is whether this sort of \"extra credit\" might actually not be a good idea and could lead to bad habits. That doesnt seem to be the case yet but rather it seems to give a head start for when those techniques or tunes did come up in the lesson, but then that may not always be the case. 

I wondered if anyone here might have thoughts and/or experiences on these sort of \"extra curricular\" practice activities and whether they are a good or bad idea?

 

Thanks in advance for any replies.

-Frost

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RosinedUp
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September 1, 2013 - 4:18 am
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As they say, "Practice makes permanent."  So as a general principle, there is the possibility of getting into bad habits when you don't use guides to best practice. 

But I think it is probably a good idea to get your feet wet so to speak, to try to identify some of the issues in unfamiliar techniques.  But then if you feel some success with an unschooled approach to a new technique and want to go ahead developing it, it would seem to be prudent to pretty soon take a look around and ask around regarding the basics of the technique.

Do I always follow the above advice?  Most of the time, probably, but not always ...

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Frost
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September 1, 2013 - 9:41 am
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Thanks, that would seem to me to be sound advice. I appreciate it. Makes sense to ask around before getting too deep in unfamiliar territory :)

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Kevin M.
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September 1, 2013 - 11:16 am
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I suggest talking about this with your teacher. Maybe his or she is going too slow with you are your teacher nay not want you to go farther than the lesson because it might bring you to some place other than you you believe it might.

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Picklefish
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September 1, 2013 - 11:58 am
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bad habits are somewhat of a misnomer and refer typically to technique. So if your technique is good, play as much as you can as often as you can. That would be a good habit to have. IMO.

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

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pky
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September 1, 2013 - 6:01 pm
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It is tough to get habits undone. My daughter somehow built up wrong bowing for an old song and we picked that up when she has that piece as a review piece. It has taken her three weeks now to relearn that piece or to undo her mistakes/habits. It's been much better but still not quite there.

Both my daughter and I have the same teacher. I could read music and sight read well. I would let my daughter go ahead of what her teacher has assigned her and so do I. However, if I am not sure of a part (e.g., ornaments or fingerings), I would not do so. I rather get instructions from the instructor. Our teacher has no problem with us moving ahead of her instructions but I don't push too much.

Suggestion for you:

1. Go with the pieces that has no new techniques but at your level or a little beyond your level, so you won't be bored on practicing the same piece over and over again. I don't see why you can't practice double stop.

2. Tell your teacher what you are experiencing and have him/her add some supplements for you.

 

 

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1stimestar
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September 1, 2013 - 6:55 pm
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I add my own pieces if I get bored but I mostly just ask my instructor for more things to work on.  I've been working on double stops for the last couple of weeks.  One thing is I really want to start learning vibrato but she has made me promise to not start on it myself.  So while I have watched all sorts of videos on it, I'm holding back.  She better start teaching me soon though hahhaa.  

 

Opportunity is often missed because it wears suspenders and looks like hard work.

 

Alaska, the Madness; Bloggity Stories of the North Country

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Frost
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September 1, 2013 - 9:08 pm
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Thanks for the replies all, some helpfull perspectives provided. I'll definitely bring this up with my teacher as well, but i like hearing from multiple points of view.

After near a full day spent playing and/or practicing with the house to myself, i'm thinking i may just need to make a clearer boundary between play time & practice time. Dedicate some specific "play" time to give myself the freedom to experiment and branch out a bit, but keep it as a more distinctly separate thing from actual "practice", so as to maintain a bit of focus and avoid paying too much attention to the tangential stuff.

 

 

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Fiddlerman
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September 1, 2013 - 10:09 pm
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I agree that you should talk to your teacher but if he or she doesn't give you more stuff to work on I would be surprised. Personally I don't see the harm. When I was a student I just went crazy on the repertoire. Didn't give it a second thought.

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

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pky
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September 2, 2013 - 12:49 am
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The other thing I do when I get bored I try to memorize the piece (or another piece) I practice on. I think memorizing music helps with one's memories, prevent memory disease,  play and response faster, etc. For me, when I play at work for people I work with, I can't play with music in front of me, so memorizing music eases and helps "my performances." 

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DanielB
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September 2, 2013 - 3:21 am
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@Frost: It is not an uncommon problem.  Practice isn't always great fun or terribly interesting.  A certain amount of it is repetition to build up the fingers' "muscle memory" and to develop the ability to make some of the moves necessary for playing come easily and automatically.  Depending on your teacher's lesson plan, they may also be assigning the exercises and repertoire to acquaint you with some points of music theory or develop your ear.

So the first step I would recommend is to discuss this matter with your teacher.  They may be able to give you some alternate exercises that would cover the same ground but give you more variety in what you are doing.  At the very least, they should be able to explain clearly why whatever they want you doing is necessary.  Sometimes, knowing what you are working towards makes it easier to stick with it.

One things I do *not* recommend, though, is keeping it from the teacher.  If you are finding it hard to stick to their lesson plan for practice, that is a problem, and they need to know about it to try and fix it.   You are paying them to help you acquire a certain set of skills.  If you don't talk with your teacher when you have problems, then you are making a choice that results in you not getting your money's worth.  That's just not smart.  LOL

I got "caught" a few times over the years when I've had teachers for other instruments, doing fun and nifty stuff I'd been figuring out.  Eventually, I learned not to hide things like that.  So long as you are actually doing the practice exercises and pieces they want, other stuff you do on your own is more ideas and skills to build on.  In some cases, it can result in them re-evaluating your ability and speeding up the pace that new techniques or material is introduced.  Other times, they'll have you show them and then say something like "Now, I can see what you're trying to do right there.. And the more you work on this one exercise I have you doing, the easier that will be and the better you'll be able to do it."

Sure, sometimes they will tell you something you don't want to hear.  Like "Let's get your intonation just a bit better before we tackle doublestops.  Doublestops are much more useful when you can actually play them in tune.."  But that sort of advice is part of what you are paying for.

I'm self-teaching on violin, but my approach to the sort of issues you're talking about is one that most good teachers I've known over the years wouldn't have a problem with.  I practice for about 45 min a day.  That is exercises, drills, and the few songs I am focusing on at a given time.  It is pretty much strictly basics.  But after I have put in that 45 min, I consider myself on "free time" and play anything I want and mess around with any new techniques I feel like.  So I might play for another hour or two throughout the day.  But I don't let myself do that until after I have done my "chores" by putting in the full time I plan for practice.

For me, "practice" and "playing" are different activities.  Practice is what I do to improve my playing by drilling more or less basic skills.  Playing is the reward for that, the pay-off.  That's just my way of thinking about it and doing it, that I developed years ago when playing guitar in bands, which is always at least somewhat a competitive activity.  You at least always want to be able to show up your "opposite number" in other bands.  Practising scales, chord changes, rhythm patterns, and other such basic stuff for about an hour a day before I'd start working on songs/pieces was the best way I found to be able to do that consistently.

 

 PS- On the topic of developing "bad habits".. People worry a lot about that.  And to be honest, any time you do something on your own and just sort of figure it out as you go along it is probably unavoidable that you will develop at least a few "bad habits".  But you'll also likely develop some good ones as well.  It will just be a mixed bag.  To a certain degree, you end up "re-inventing the wheel" sometimes, which is what you are paying a teacher to help you avoid wasting time and effort on. 

Furthermore, when you eventually outgrow your current teacher, your next teacher will also likely consider some of what your current teacher taught you as bad habits that they will require you to learn to do a different way.  Teachers do not all agree as to what the "proper" way of doing things are.

So bad habits can't be entirely avoided.  Try to develop the good habit of playing a lot, though. LOL

"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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Frost
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September 2, 2013 - 10:38 am
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Thanks DanielB. im not hiding anything from my teacher really, just had not considered it much up to now.

 

I pretty much learned what i know on the guitar by just playing around. Had just enough lessons to get a few chords & simple songs, then was in a crappy high school basement band and just played around with the dang thing for years trying to make the sounds i wanted.

That said though, ill be the first to admit there are plenty of skills which i lack on guitar and the more i play my violin, the more i realize it's a different animal and I'm not sure that the same sort of approach will get me where i want to be with the violin, if that makes sense. Im not worried about competing with anyone or anything, but i suspect that at this point i'll need a bit more disciplined approach to satisfy my own ear and  e able to play the things and the ways i want to on the violin.

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