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using improve to learn
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rockinglr33
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January 12, 2014 - 11:36 am
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hey ya'll,

So i use the Essential Elements 2000 book to learn most of the basics, and obviously learn how to read the sheet music which comes in handy. But lately i've noticed that while focusing on the pages and trying to play the song i have a bad tendency to tense...and in a sense try to hard to hit the right notes and tempo and i end up messing it up. You can probably notice it from my last critique video.

What i have noticed is that when i improve, and just play around on the violin i relax and while kinda eyeing my tuner notice that i'm hitting my notes way more often and with much greater ease then when im using the books.

Does anyone have the same issue?

Does anyone know a way to relax while site reading music? 

Does regular improve help anyone else learn?

I'm not really good enough to play by my ear and im really new to the site reading. guess im kinda stuck in the middle. lol. any help would be fantabulous. Thanks guys and gals alike!!

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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FiddleDetroit
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January 12, 2014 - 7:22 pm
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Learning to relax while site reading takes a good period of time honestly, at least from my experience playing other instruments over the years.  One of the things that I find myself doing is reading ahead on the page, in a way memorizing what I have already played or am currently playing.  It helps me keep on track with where I am and where the music is going.  This in itself is a task that takes a while to master.  With Flute I can read the music and follow along with no issues at all, but I've been playing a very long time.  On Violin, I do also have a similar issue.  My bowing is very stiff and I find myself being a bit tense as I am trying to hit every note while keeping in tempo etc.  I boil it down to not only learning the notes on the fingerboard, bowing but also learning a new method of site reading really.    Different markings on Violin music then Flute and others (Up bow, Down Bow..  What finger to use if it's on the same string etc.).  It'll come in time, just keep at it :)

Improv is a great way to just learn the notes and find out what you can truly do while playing before actually hitting that point.  I'm still extremely new to violin but from my experience with Flute, Improv was essential to learning different forms of music beyond the classics.  It's actually what got me in to a Jazz band at one point years ago, just by honestly messing around and playing whatever I felt like made me open up to the true potential that I was capable of.  It's funny, we were just discussing this a bit in the chat last night.  Obviously you want to try to get in some actual structured practice but definitely take some time to improvise and do your own thing.  Even in the middle of practice it's a great way to free up any tension and stresses that may have been caused by a certain exercise.  I tend to fly off the sheet music and into my own world frequently with improv, probably a bit too much but it's what's keeping the drive going during my practices.  

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RosinedUp
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January 12, 2014 - 7:28 pm
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rockinglr33 said
I'm not really good enough to play by my ear and im really new to the site reading. guess im kinda stuck in the middle. lol. any help would be fantabulous. Thanks guys and gals alike!!

It sounds like you'll be able to learn both ways, sight reading and ear playing, and you should learn both.  It does sound like you have a disposition toward ear playing ... so nurture it!

The way to be good at ear playing is to do it a lot.

You can start by "memorizing" some pieces that you have already learned by reading.  I put quotation marks on that because what you really should be doing is replacing the sheet with your memory of the sound of the tune.  Then you practice converting that mental image of the sound into actual sound.  That is the easiest first step to ear playing, because you know the piece is already in a playable form, so there are no issues of converting from some other instrument or key.  Doing that, you shouldn't mainly be memorizing sequences of fingerings, but instead learning how to convert a sound memory into actual sounds.

After some of these "memorizations", you can start playing one easy tune after another by ear.  Take the tunes from your memory of easy popular tunes or tunes that you learned in school.

Would you believe that you could get an ability to play an easy tune without error the first time, without using any sheet---just from the memory of the sound of the tune?  I wasn't expecting that I would get that skill, but I did, after three to six months.

 

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rockinglr33
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January 12, 2014 - 9:31 pm
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@FiddleDetroit  Thanks. i'm glad i'm not the only one who goes off and starts to just play. lol. i enjoy so many different types of music that sometimes its just just to see what pops out. sometimes it takes me by surprise! and now that i can consistently hit the right notes, or at least realize when i don't hit it, its so much more fun.

 

@RosinedUp  I didn't realize there was actually a method for training an ear for playing by ear. I thought it was just a natural gift some people had and some people didn't. Thats great! I definally enjoy trying to play somethings by ear, and i think thats half of the improve im doing is to just see if i can make something sound like something i heard so your post is so much help! I will definally practice playing by ear as well! what an awesome skill that would be to have.

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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RosinedUp
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January 13, 2014 - 3:14 am
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rockinglr33 said
@RosinedUp  I didn't realize there was actually a method for training an ear for playing by ear. I thought it was just a natural gift some people had and some people didn't. Thats great! I definally enjoy trying to play somethings by ear, and i think thats half of the improve im doing is to just see if i can make something sound like something i heard so your post is so much help! I will definally practice playing by ear as well! what an awesome skill that would be to have.

Well, I think it's like any kind of ability: people have it to greater or lesser extent.  It's more easily developed in some than in others.  But also like most things that you learn, it's largely a matter of what you give time and attention and effort to. And I definitely oppose the idea that people can't both read and play by ear.

Ideally, it's a lot like speaking or singing, but you use your hands and the violin instead of your speech organs.

It's a matter of making connections between sounds and finger movements.  In your mind, you hear the sound you are going to make, and your fingers automatically go to make the sound.  You hear it a little ahead of time, as in the way your eye looks ahead at what you are about to play from the sheet or the way that in your mind you hear words you are about to speak or sing.

I think extreme attention to intonation forms the connections mentioned.  When you hear the pitch and then adjust it using your fingers, you are forming associations between pitches and finger positions.  That also involves a natural path to vibrato.

That's how it seems to work for me anyway.

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rockinglr33
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January 13, 2014 - 9:24 am
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It's a matter of making connections between sounds and finger movements.  In your mind, you hear the sound you are going to make, and your fingers automatically go to make the sound.  You hear it a little ahead of time, as in the way your eye looks ahead at what you are about to play from the sheet or the way that in your mind you hear words you are about to speak or sing.

I think extreme attention to intonation forms the connections mentioned.  When you hear the pitch and then adjust it using your fingers, you are forming associations between pitches and finger positions.  That also involves a natural path to vibrato.

That's how it seems to work for me anyway.

Thats exactly how i feel! the more i learn the intonation of a note the easier it is for me to start to play around and start to put things together that i remember from either songs or old rhymes as a kid. its so much fun. Thank you for your insight.  It seems the better i get at knowing my notes the more fun it is to play around. Though i do enjoy the challenge of sight reading, purely because of the challenge. the violin is such a fun expirance. never thought i'd have this much fun learning to play an instrument!

I completly agree with you about learning both by sight and by ear.i think everyone should be able to both play both.  I see no reason someone should shun one because its not "proper" some days its fun just to jam out a bit! I've noticed even just practicing with my husband, the few times we've been able to play together, that its so fun just to match what the other is playing(even a simple scale) and see what happens. there only so much you can do with a structured type of system. nothing should ever be so serious someone can't play around and enjoy themselves! 

 

violin_girlbanana

 

 

 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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HDuaneaz
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January 13, 2014 - 1:49 pm
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I find it easier to be expressive when I am not reading sheet music.

Duane

 

"Violin is one of the joys of my life."

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DanielB
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January 14, 2014 - 5:20 am
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I've been playing assorted instruments since the mid 1970s (though violin for less than 2 yrs now, so I still consider myself a noob on it), and in my experience anything that gets you to pick up the instrument and dust it off and play is good.  It all helps, at least a little bit.  Same goes for any study of music theory, history, etc, even a little bit here and there is likely to be helpful eventually.

Practising improvising will *mostly* help you get better at improvising.. But some of what you develop on intonation and bowing, some of the transitions between notes you come up with while doing improvisation, will definitely also help other forms of playing.

Practising sight reading will *mostly* help you get better at playing from score, but you will get new ideas from those scores to use when you are improvising and get comfortable with some transitions between notes that you might not have thought of on your own.  And of course, your intonation and bowing can also improve from it.

Practising playing by ear will *mostly* help with being able to listen to a melody or musical phrase and just play it on your instrument.  But obviously some of what is learned while working on that will help with the other areas too.

All good stuff, and well worth the effort, in my opinion.  They are useful skills for making music, and the more you use them, the better your playing gets.

I personally prefer to play from memory.  I don't feel I have a piece down unless I can play it right off the top of my head, without any sheet or listening the piece through right before playing it.  I may learn the piece from a written score or from hearing it, but until I can play it through without errors with no "helps", I don't think of it as a piece I "know". 

I don't really work on elements like expression and dynamics until I have it to that point.  Then I take the song apart into sections or phrases, and listen to other people's versions and think about what I want it to sound like when I play it, and I practice it in sections, focussing on getting the sound and feel to be what I want.  Music is communication, it says something.  Getting to where I can play it without goofing up is just the start for me.  Then I work on getting each sound to have some meaning I want to convey.

When it comes to learning, we are all different.  Experimenting and trying different strategies to find out what actually works best for *you* is part of the process of effective learning.  We kind of have to "learn how to learn".

From what you are saying, rockinglr33, it sounds like you are finding improvisation to be an effective learning tool for you at this time.  So yeah, go with that, and use it to get yourself to play more, and get better.  Somewhere down the road, you may find other things that become more helpful to you and so you shift your focus to them or include them in your practice.  As you continue to learn, what helps may change a bit over time.  That is natural.

Now for getting better at something specific like sight reading, what I would probably do is this.. Take some piece that is simple enough that you can read it fairly easy.  It doesn't have to be "Mary had a little lamb" or "Twinkle twinkle".   It can be just a section of some classical or pop or whatever piece that you really like and want to be able to play eventually.  Most pieces, even advanced ones, have at least some sections that are pretty simple.  As little as a dozen notes can be enough to recognize and enjoy playing, at least a bit, so that would do nicely.  Play that through a few times every day while just following along on the score with your eyes.   Low pressure, easy bit, and you can spare a bit of attention to remember to relax and actually enjoy that bit you are working on.  Do that for a week or two, giving your brain some time to build the connections between the dots and the sounds and where the fingers have to go.

Then you try reading some other simple bit and see if it is easier than you feel it would have been before practising the first simple bit. If it definitely seemed to help, then you have a technique/method that you can use to improve the particular skill of sight reading.  If it doesn't seem to help, then you think of some other trick to try.

What works "best" tends to vary considerably, from one person to the next.  Find what works best for you at this time and then work the heck out of it. 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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