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Tips for learning faster
Three helpful 'techniques' for/from an adult beginner. Or anyone really.
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Bonbonmon
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June 19, 2016 - 4:08 pm
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Hi everyone, I wanted to share some interesting information I came across about learning a new instrument that has helped me advance very quickly in proportion to my usual reserve of natural talent (medium-low) for acquiring new abilities. If you're an adult beginner like me, this may be especially useful as the neurons ain't quite as plastic as they used to be (and apologies if these have already been covered, I haven't looked through every thread).

Tip number one is timing. I read an article that led to several other articles that state that while all information from the day is incorporated at night (or discarded), the brain most strongly internalizes whatever it does right before sleeping. So if your situation allows, I'd recommend practicing right before bed. If you can't do nights, it also works with power naps during the day, so an afternoon session followed immediately by a 20-minute futon session will work just as well ūüôā I went one week where I didn't do this and - possibly due to an unconscious placebo effect - struggled more to perform what I had practiced the previous afternoon.

The second tip is exercise. I know. But the studies on this one are numerous. Exercise improves neuroplasticity significantly, and learning anything is essentially rearranging your neurons. I again removed the variable (no sit-ups) for a little over a week and it slowed me up a lot, even to the point of regression. This one is definitely real, so go for a jog every other day, swig some protein to open up those blood vessels and you'll play a lot better! Studies show the rate of improved recall for this is hovering around 25%, and 20% for the late night practices. Not sure if you can stack those but a 45% increase in advancement rate is nice for a late bloomer.

The third doesn't come with a percent, but it's one I feel everyone should do to avoid the tedium of book learning. It's a technique called "overlearning". In studying for tests, just cramming the dry information as a bulleted list often isn't good enough to really sink it into the brain; it has to be contextualized and compartmentalized. So when learning a piece from a book, I often learn it and then ad-lib notes or play with the dynamics of it: volume, timing, an octave up or down, backwards (this one will hurt your eyes but is super fun), spiccato if not, not if spiccato, transposed, etc... to incorporate and reinforce more techniques in a single practice and understand more than just the pitches to play. Not sure if this does anything for uptake speed, but I know I've learned more about American history from the Hamilton soundtrack than I ever did from public school.

So, the results: I've been playing now just about two months and am already learning Bach's Sonata no.1 and hitting intonation and bowing pretty well on the nose. Definitely stumbling on the trickier parts but it's still pretty surprising when my fingers and bow just go to the right places. You don't know me but if you did you'd be startled by this adeptness, as I'm pretty much a schlemiel with music [most things] and have flopped miserably on less demanding instruments.

Anyway, I can't imagine what this would do for someone with gobs of natural talent. I'd love to hear feedback from others who have tried these or other techniques with success.

Happy learning!

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BowMeAway
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July 10, 2016 - 12:58 am
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This is really interesting. Thank you. I'm not sure I fully understand the idea behind Tip No. 3. Can you explain it further? What's the goal of it and how does it work to accomplish that goal? It's just not "clicking" with me. 

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Schaick
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July 13, 2016 - 8:14 am
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@BowMeAway  Here is my example for point 3.  I have had difficulty memorizing tunes/melodies. To really get the feel for the tune I play the tune on one string then move up or down a string and using the same fingering play the tune again.  

Something else I have discovered that seems so odd to me is that bowing a tune and then plucking a tune as you would if playing a mandolin, really gets my brain cells a work out.  Why does moving the fiddle out from under my chin to play cause the need for so much concentration!?

Something that has been happening to me lately.  I will play a tune and not be able to picture the notes/sheet music at all.  This was how I was getting through the music. Now it has been strictly by melody.  Very scary, unnerving as though I am not leading the music it is leading me.

Violinist start date -  May 2013  

Fiddler start date - May 2014

FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius.  BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.

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BowMeAway
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July 13, 2016 - 12:51 pm
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Schaick said
@BowMeAway  Here is my example for point 3.  I have had difficulty memorizing tunes/melodies. To really get the feel for the tune I play the tune on one string then move up or down a string and using the same fingering play the tune again.  

Something else I have discovered that seems so odd to me is that bowing a tune and then plucking a tune as you would if playing a mandolin, really gets my brain cells a work out.  Why does moving the fiddle out from under my chin to play cause the need for so much concentration!?

Something that has been happening to me lately.  I will play a tune and not be able to picture the notes/sheet music at all.  This was how I was getting through the music. Now it has been strictly by melody.  Very scary, unnerving as though I am not leading the music it is leading me.  

You know, that plucking comment is interesting as plucking is how my son learns best. I'm not big on plucking but he will pluck out a couple quick tunes or a scale and after that his practice is fantastic. I never really put that together until I read your comments above but it seems to work out that way.

Thank you for the clarifications. 

I don't know why the position of the instrument is making a difference, technically, but I would think it's about how your brain has wired all of it together...including the plane of your arms and head. Does that make sense? ūüôā I don't know whether I could play the violin mandolin-style...I think that would take some serious practice...kudos!

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