July 31, 2013

Take smaller bites

When you’re learning new music do you often have that sinking feeling that you are never going to get the tune?  Does it seem like every tune you learn that is longer than eight bars is just going to be too hard to get into your head?  Does it seem like everyone around you learns tunes really quickly while you struggle?

One way to make this whole process a little more palatable is to take smaller bites!  There are so many ways to get the music into your head.  And you can be sure that the “all at once” approach is one of the most frustrating. 

So next time you’re learning a new piece of music try taking smaller bites and arrange your practice in courses:
  • The Soup Course – Study the music.  Whether you are learning from printed music or learning by ear, you can study the music.  You can review it to begin to find its form and structure.  Skip this course at your peril as it can save you a great deal of time when learning the piece.
  • The Salad Course – Find the patterns.  After you have studied the music you will be more easily able to find the patterns.  You already know that music is all patterns, so it stands to reason that if you find those patterns you will have a very good idea what is happening when you attempt to learn those patterns.  When you specifically look for the patterns you will be that much further ahead.
  • The Meat Course – Break it up, break it up.  While music is patterns, often it consists of large patterns.  These may be difficult to discern (or to remember), so if necessary, break the patterns into smaller pieces.  And just like the real meat course, you need to be sure not to eat one thing at a time on your plate before going on to the next - DO NOT spend all this time playing from the first measure to the last - break it up and work on the parts that need work.  Start at the end and work backward, or pick a measure in the middle and start there.  This is, the course, where the bulk of what feels like work will occur.  Do not be fooled...the other courses are also work - value that time!
  • The Desert Course – How sweet it is.  If you have taken the time to do the work of the previous courses, you will find that the music has become easier to learn and that you learn it more quickly – what could be sweeter than being able to play the music you like so well!
Of course, like a full course meal, you want to take your time, savor the delicacies, and really enjoy the process.  And better still, when you’re practicing you don’t have to worry about which fork to use!

No comments: