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Rllink
09-01-2015, 06:03 AM
I want to use an analogy that I thought of when I read a comment by JustinJ in another thread. We got into a discussion, and I would like to continue it, just not there.

The real issue with most people is they are not willing to put the work in to get better. There is also a proper way to practice. You have to work on those things that give you trouble. You can google proper practice to get more of an idea. I can tell you that with efficient practice you improve much quicker.
When I read that, I thought about a trip, as I often times refer to my ukulele experience as a journey of discovery. So my analogy is this, two people are leaving on a trip. One person goes to google maps, types in the destination, and gets directions that are the fastest, most direct, and one might say, the most efficient route to the destination. Another person, is taking a trip as well, and has not mapped out the route, but decides to wander off on the side roads, taking their time, stopping often, and enjoying the scenery along the way and arriving at their destination, when they get there. So which is the better traveler, but more importantly in this case, who learned the most? Well, if getting to the destination is of utmost important, then getting there fast is the ticket. But much is lost along the way when one takes the interstate. I contend that the latter has learned more from the trip. That they discovered things that make the experience richer, and that richness is reflected in what they do. And I feel the same way about the ukulele.

In the ukulele journey, technical proficiency, and the pursuit of technical proficiency is important of course, but it is only one aspect of the experience. This clinical focus to "practice" is likely to produce a shallow ukulele player, especially if they do not recognize the value of anything else. To me, saying that “playing”, is not “practicing”, which appears to mean specifically working on the technical skills, is failing to recognize another important aspect of learning to play the ukulele. The aspect of exploration and discovery. This so called “playing" is what gives the ukulele soul. It teaches the ukulele player to give their music emotion, to give it life. I find many instrumentalists lack that richness, and I attribute that to their narrow focus in their journey. The regiment becomes their guide, rather than the music. Their music, while technically dazzling, sounds dead.

I think that we do a disservice when we fail to recognize the importance of taking the back roads, and experiencing what can be found off the beaten path in route to our destination. I think that it is every bit as important, and every bit as beneficial to the final product, as learning the technical skills. I believe this enough to take exception when is minimized.

sopher
09-01-2015, 06:44 AM
Well, I hear what you are saying and I have a couple of thoughts. First of all, people are different and what works for one may not work for another. So some people have a goal of playing like Jake, and some people just want to know most of the chords at their local uke strumming group. There is room for all of us in life and in ukedom.

The other thought is that it is possible too swing too far in either direction. I don't want regimented scale practice, featuring a jack-booted instructor with a cattle prod for when I slow down or miss a note, but I also know that if all I ever do is play stuff that I already know, then I will not progress very much. On the other hand, sometimes I'm burned out, either by life or by uke, and just playing stuff I know is exactly what I need for that period of time.

So, try to remember, the only absolute is that everything is relative.

If you really want to become technically proficient, your practice will necessarily be different from someone who just wants to strum a few songs. Neither of them is right, neither of them is wrong. Everyone sees the world through their own eyes (their own viewpoint and beliefs), but if we try to be aware that other people are different, we can all get along.

Captain Obvious, signing off







I want to use an analogy that I thought of when I read a comment by JustinJ in another thread. We got into a discussion, and I would like to continue it, just not there.

When I read that, I thought about a trip, as I often times refer to my ukulele experience as a journey of discovery. So my analogy is this, two people are leaving on a trip. One person goes to google maps, types in the destination, and gets directions that are the fastest, most direct, and one might say, the most efficient route to the destination. Another person, is taking a trip as well, and has not mapped out the route, but decides to wander off on the side roads, taking their time, stopping often, and enjoying the scenery along the way and arriving at their destination, when they get there. So which is the better traveler, but more importantly in this case, who learned the most? Well, if getting to the destination is of utmost important, then getting there fast is the ticket. But much is lost along the way when one takes the interstate. I contend that the latter has learned more from the trip. That they discovered things that make the experience richer, and that richness is reflected in what they do. And I feel the same way about the ukulele.

In the ukulele journey, technical proficiency, and the pursuit of technical proficiency is important of course, but it is only one aspect of the experience. This clinical focus to "practice" is likely to produce a shallow ukulele player, especially if they do not recognize the value of anything else. To me, saying that “playing”, is not “practicing”, which appears to mean specifically working on the technical skills, is failing to recognize another important aspect of learning to play the ukulele. The aspect of exploration and discovery. This so called “playing" is what gives the ukulele soul. It teaches the ukulele player to give their music emotion, to give it life. I find many instrumentalists lack that, and I attribute that to their narrow focus. Their music, while technically dazzling, sounds dead. I think that we do a disservice when we fail to recognize the importance of taking the back roads, and experiencing what can be found off the beaten path in route to our destination. I believe this enough to take exception when is minimized.

Jon Moody
09-01-2015, 06:52 AM
Just as a background; I've been playing music in orchestras since 4th grade, so my concept of practice is what would be considered "traditional." I've also been called one of the most lyrical electric bassists many have heard.

That said, there is still a HUGE difference between practicing and playing. Practicing is, as mentioned, working on all of those different techniques, skills, learning chords, etc.. on your own. You're ingraining them into the muscle memory and your own memory as well (esp. when you try to start learning a large number of tunes). Playing is NOT that. Playing is putting all of that stuff into the context of a performance, whether it's a grand event and you're on a stage, sitting in a circle at your ukulele group or just in the comfort of your living room chair, saying "Hey, check this out!" to your spouse (or attentive animal friend).

Music is a journey; there is no doubt about that. And there needs to be a balance of practicing and playing to get the full experience. However, I find more often than not, that where most people fall short in that journey is more in their approach to that practicing aspect, opting to play something a couple of times and then say "Yeah, I got it" when in fact they don't. They spend far too much time taking the back roads (as per your analogy) that they forget where they were supposed to go in the first place.

kohanmike
09-01-2015, 07:03 AM
This is very well put. When I first started playing ukulele about 2 years ago, even though I had been playing guitar for almost 50 years, I couldn't get the Iz strum for "Rainbow" for the life of me. In the frustration, I put that effort aside and just kept playing what I could play, having fun. Then a couple months later I tried again and just like that, I had it (or close to it).

Rllink
09-01-2015, 07:13 AM
Well, I am not saying that technical skills, and working on them is not important. They are. What I am saying, and perhaps it is simply a matter of semantics, but I really feel like when we call one practice, and the other playing around, we sort of raise one above the other. I agree that little will be accomplished if we get stuck in the back roads, so to speak, but I believe that getting stuck on the freeway is just as bad. It isn't that I think one is more important. But I feel like the exploration aspect that comes when we take the "less efficient" route should not be treated like recess. There is a lot to be learned there, and I feel like sometimes ukulele players are made to feel that going there is a waste of time, that could be better spent working on technique. I don't believe that, and that is the point that I'm trying to make. One is not more virtuous than the other. It isn't being lazy to go off the road.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
09-01-2015, 07:19 AM
Generally, the Main Thing is to have fun playing your uke.

Learning is involved, because if we don't know what to do, that can be very frustrating... not fun! :)

I agree with the general tenor of the thread = Balance. We probably need both, and some will
gravitate to one end of the spectrum and others to the other end :) Such is life... and human being-ness :)

Thank you all for the reminder to be balanced and to have fun along the way :)

keep uke'in,

jollyboy
09-01-2015, 07:25 AM
As a noob, who has never learned to play any musical instrument before, I have to say that I get the most enjoyment out of playing songs (which, at the level I'm at, basically means strumming simple three chord progressions). I was inspired to pick up the ukulele in the first place because I love music and I felt that it would give me a lot of pleasure to be able to actually make music myself. And I was right :)

I read some of the other posts by people who seem intent on developing their skills through structured practice and I am truly impressed by their level of focus and self-discipline. But, at the same time, another part of me is like "jeez...", because I know it's an approach that absolutely would not suit me in the slightest. It would turn me off fast and I would feel as though something that was intended as play was becoming work.

On the other hand, I do wish to develop my playing, because I want to be able to make more better music. I already have chord sheets for a bunch of songs that I would like to be able to play through. And certain songs provide certain challenges - one might require fast chord changes, or contain several barre chords, or maybe there's a little melody line to learn. Different songs allow me to work on different aspects of my playing and develop my skills without it ever feeling like I'm attending boot camp. To me, I'm just playing my ukulele.

And yeah, what he said about the journey not the destination :p

JustinJ
09-01-2015, 08:23 AM
First off, I would like to state that this discussion should be focused on those who want to continue learning and improving on the uke. Many people are satisfied with their playing. There is nothing wrong with this.


You need the technical proficiency to bring to a musical performance. Many times I will pick up the uke and start playing some notes. This morning I was working on various chords during my practice. I was listening to see how they fit.

So after my practice, I start just playing around on the uke and I hear the beginning of Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall when I play a chord. I then think, hmm, what chord would come next. I was able to deduce because of my chord practice. If I did not understand chords or have experience with them then it would have been more difficult to know what chord may be next.

I think another overlooked aspect of playing an instrument is listening. How do I sound? What does this chord sound like? I experiment all the time, maybe I slide my finger to a flat or sharp note. What's the difference in sound.

There is a surrendering to an instrument. The practice allows you freedom while playing. You're not struggling with finger placements, rhythm, etc… You can just play and be in the moment.

It does not have to be all practice or all play. To use your analogy, I can use practice to see the map and then explore those areas as I travel.

I think it is a good thing to experiment and play on an instrument. But you need both practice and playing, if you want to improve.

If someone has problems with 8th notes and just continues playing songs, the problem will continue. In fact, the mistakes become more ingrained and then it's a habit to play them wrong. Now, if this same person gets out the metronome and starts slowly and works on getting the 8th note right, they will learn 8th notes.

CactusWren
09-01-2015, 08:53 AM
This site is interesting in the mix of "types" of players. I have spent most of my online time in classical guitar and flamenco guitar forums. Most of the posters on these forums are technically ambitious. By their very nature, these disciplines are about "picking", lots of work in the higher positions, contrapuntal music (music with multiple parts being played on the same instrument), and specialized and regimented strums. By contrast, the majority of folks on this site are focused on very simple music.

I think this is a good thing. Music is not just for pros and wannabe pros. It should be for everyone.

It's also a mistake to think that the only good music is complicated, high on the neck, or very fast. Simple music can also be good music. And sometimes it's not as simple as it appears to the "shredder".

A lot of times the people who are chasing the Jakes and Jimis and Yngvies have a hollow skillset. They may be able to sweep pick or play fast tremolos but not be able to play Happy Birthday. They might know lots of licks but not a single whole song. Worse, they might be missing the whole point and, in their obsession, don't really play music at all or are not really enjoying what they are playing due to physical and mental struggle. Trust me, I have been there.

The "type-A personality" approach can be damaging on so many levels. I feel it comes from a misguided attempt to emulate extremely developed professional virtuosos and what those virtuosos choose to present on recordings and at concerts. Take things slow. Make sure you can play the simple stuff really well, building the foundation before you fumble after advanced techniques. There is even a chance you might find the simple stuff ultimately more satisfying and effective to play. You may be able to play the advanced things and not even want to anymore. Half that stuff is just geeky tips of the hat to fellow music geeks anyway.

None of this is to say that an ambitious person should not practice with diligence, attention, precision, and serious intent. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a mountain climber and wanting to play like James Hill. Just don't forget that, at heart, it's about music. You don't learn fifty advanced techniques sloppily and heartlessly and, at the end of it, add emotion. You start by seeking out beauty in a single chord and build from there.

JustinJ
09-01-2015, 09:34 AM
Cactuswren,

I agree about many of your points, especially playing many notes. I enjoy listening to Ben Webster more than John Coltrane. He's so soulful in his playing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JS9WYeUGAo . I like some of John Coltrane early work but have more of Ben Webster's albums.

Technique for technique's sake is not playing. I do not enjoy some of the super technical players but to each his own. You need the chops to sound good.

Also, this topic is not about people only making music with their three chords. People make beautiful music with few chords.

This post is about the "The Virtue of Practice" . So let's get back to the topic.

If I understand rlink correctly, he does not like the idea of practice and would rather just play. I may be misunderstanding him. He seems to think that a person who just plays is going to be a better musician or more musical. This is simply not true.

If you look at famous sculptors and painters, they practiced their techniques. There are no shortcuts in life and learning an instrument well takes work and discipline.

CactusWren
09-01-2015, 10:04 AM
Er, yes perhaps in my pontification, I missed the point :) I agree that practice is good. I have practiced about 2 hours a day seriously (guitar) for the last 15 years.

Right now, I am gigging a lot (for the summer--our offseason). Three steadies a week plus weddings, corporate events, etc. Two 3-hours and one 4-hour gigs. It is good to put in the time, to play your songs straight through, to jam out, to put on a show.

In no way does it take the place of practice. Only at home can I learn new songs, experiment with arrangements, improve my technique, clean up the fuzzy parts that crop up in your old songs when you just gig them, learn new licks. Things--especially complicated things--get sloppy if you only play them through. I tell my (six-year old daughter) it's like weeding. It sprouts up in the garden and just grows. If you don't attend to it, it becomes a big mess. I would go crazy if all I did was gig and never got to work on things in the practice studio.

Rllink
09-01-2015, 11:09 AM
This post is about the "The Virtue of Practice" . So let's get back to the topic.

If I understand rlink correctly, he does not like the idea of practice and would rather just play. I may be misunderstanding him. He seems to think that a person who just plays is going to be a better musician or more musical.No, you do not understand rllink correctly, but at this point, I don't think that you ever will. I'm not sure you want to. So if you are satisfied with what you are doing, that's OK.

acmespaceship
09-01-2015, 12:12 PM
I think that we do a disservice when we fail to recognize the importance of taking the back roads, and experiencing what can be found off the beaten path in route to our destination. I think that it is every bit as important, and every bit as beneficial to the final product, as learning the technical skills. I believe this enough to take exception when is minimized.

I agree wholeheartedly. The trick is that people make the opposite mistake, too. They get stuck walking in a circle. Then they complain they can't get anywhere!

I've rarely encountered uke players who are over-focused on technique. This is probably because, being a duffer myself, I mostly play with other duffers. Instead, I hear people bemoan their "lack of talent"... when it has nothing to do with talent. A bit of focused practice, like a glance at a roadmap, can work wonders if you're not satisfied with where you are right now.

Like we've all been saying, balance! As long as you're happy on the journey, that's the important thing. If you're not happy, that's when you need to correct your balance. I've had to correct many times, in both directions. How about you all ... do you tend to lean too far toward obsessive practice, or too far into a rut?

k0k0peli
09-01-2015, 12:22 PM
(Not addressed to anyone in particular.) What do you want from your 'uke playing? Virtuosity? Commercial success? Amusing / annoying the grandkids and pets? Relaxing (or ranting) at home? Weekend jams? Occasional busking? An album of photos showing yourself with an 'uke in many exotic locales? Mental-emotional therapy? How and when you practice depends on what you want.

CeeJay
09-01-2015, 12:51 PM
No, you do not understand rllink correctly, but at this point, I don't think that you ever will. I'm not sure you want to. So if you are satisfied with what you are doing, that's OK.

I would have been much ruder ....but nicely put ....:biglaugh::stop:

johnson430
09-01-2015, 01:35 PM
I don't want to 'out' a member (I haven't talked to him about posting this so I will keep his name out of it) but I will use him as a example.

This UU member started playing the uke a little over a year ago for his own enjoyment.
Then he got more serious about disciplined practice and started buying books and watching videos.
His practice regiment varies from day to day and he puts in the time that he can when he can. But I know it is a daily ritual for him.

I have heard this member progress as a player and he does it for himself and no other reason.

Honestly, he blows me away with his playing sometimes. And I enjoy just sitting back and listening to him jam. He also helps me overcome some obstacles in my own playing. That is an added bonus of being a knowledgeable player, you can help others.

What made him a better player?
Practice. Pure and simple. (and also, he does his best to stay off the UU forum)

Just recently I heard him 'work out' the song "Sunshine of Your Love" by Cream while I was chatting with him.
I was amazed by his ability to hit the first chord and then move to the next and then he played through the intro like it was nothing.
I asked him, "When did you learn that?" He said, "I didn't learn it, I just worked it out just now by thinking about the sounds of the chords I knew."
So, on the virtue of practice:
If you do it, you will get better.

Much like my wife's venture into drawing. I bought her a sketch pad, drawing supplies and a book on beginner drawing.
The book clearly states in the first chapter: Buy a calendar and commit to practicing daily for 30 days and you will become at drawing.


I am a teacher and want to be a learner for life.
I never want to stop improving in my teaching skills, my photography skills, my boat-building skills, my parenting skills or my uke skills.
How do I become better at these things. Practicing, trying new things, pushing myself to be better.

Thanks for reading, if you got this far in my post.

JustinJ
09-01-2015, 02:04 PM
No, you do not understand rllink correctly, but at this point, I don't think that you ever will. I'm not sure you want to. So if you are satisfied with what you are doing, that's OK.

I think you took me the wrong way. From you analogy, you implied that the person who goes without the map will often times have a deeper understanding. I've taken time out my schedule to understand your point. I've even missed some of my practice writing to you. So I do want to understand your point.

Perhaps, we just misunderstood each other. I say that there is a balance. I enjoy practicing. It's a form of meditation for me. At the same time, I practice so that I can play. I look at them as one thing. It's the yin and yang. I play the uke because I love the uke and music, not for any other reason.

I would like to hear what your problems are with practice.

Rllink
09-01-2015, 02:30 PM
I think you took me the wrong way. From you analogy, you implied that the person who goes without the map will often times have a deeper understanding. I've taken time out my schedule to understand your point. I've even missed some of my practice writing to you. So I do want to understand your point.

Perhaps, we just misunderstood each other. I say that there is a balance. I enjoy practicing. It's a form of meditation for me. At the same time, I practice so that I can play. I look at them as one thing. It's the yin and yang. I play the uke because I love the uke and music, not for any other reason.

I would like to hear what your problems are with practice.I'm sorry you missed practice time. I think that you need to go practice, then when you have the time, re-read my posts, because I can not explain it any better. Either that, or just forget it. I can't keep this up, and I'm beginning to regret even starting the thread.

Hippie Dribble
09-01-2015, 02:37 PM
For me, both roads lead to Rome. Focus on technique and theory are important. Focus on experimentation and playing with different rhythms, chord voices, melody runs etc outside of that formal practice is a learning experience too. The former informs the latter and gives greater richness and capacity for one's creativity and individual expression to be more fully realised.

And always remember, whatever your level: If it sounds good it is good.

Jon Moody
09-01-2015, 02:46 PM
I'm sorry you missed practice time. I think that you need to go practice, then when you have the time, re-read my posts, because I can not explain it any better. Either that, or just forget it. I can't keep this up, and I'm beginning to regret even starting the thread.

For some reason, my computer was kicking up malware from trying to get into the first page of this, so apologies in advance for missing some comments.

But c'mon now. You started this thread to state your thoughts on the "Virtues of Practicing" and then are getting upset when people disagree with you? You used a pretty broad brush to state that most instrumentalists (of which I am one) that practice are shallow players, so naturally there will be some residual kickback from that.

As someone that gets paid to perform, practicing for me is not only required maintenance and upkeep but has a meditative quality as well. I enjoy learning new techniques (and in the day and age of the internet, talking directly with the people that created said techniques), as well as implementing them when playing with others. But again, it's a balance of practice and playing with others.

Remember, a map is no good if you lack the skills to use it. Some of the best stories I have with friends are when we took the road less traveled, but also had the knowledge to pull the map out, get our bearings and get back on course.

johnson430
09-01-2015, 02:54 PM
Remember, a map is no good if you lack the skills to use it. Some of the best stories I have with friends are when we took the road less traveled, but also had the knowledge to pull the map out, get our bearings and get back on course.


Well said.
Kudos, one bad monkey.
(golf clap)

johnson430
09-01-2015, 03:05 PM
No, you do not understand rllink correctly, but at this point, I don't think that you ever will. I'm not sure you want to. So if you are satisfied with what you are doing, that's OK.

Explain yourself better. As a teacher, I know I have to reteach or explain things differently to each student so they understand.
When you "give up" it makes you and your assertions seem weak.
If you have a point, stand up for it and make others see it clearly.
If your argument is too weak then accept defeat.
That is what the bigger man will do.

CeeJay
09-01-2015, 04:31 PM
How do you practice if you don't play ?....I get what Rlink is saying ......over thought technique over-practiced can kill the soul of a tune ......but yoou do need to pit stop and put some practice in ...even if it's just learning a new riff....;

I also applaud those that go off piste and experiment with their instruments rather than sit like baby birds in a nest to have regurgitated worms rammed down their throats.

A good chord book ,(or better still ,if you can an understanding of chord structure but without then a good chord book is fine)a songbook , an enquiring mind and a love for music is the basic for playing music.....techniques and skills develop with time and patient endurance..........and talking and playing and jamming with those willing to listen and encourage ...

Rllink
09-01-2015, 05:11 PM
For some reason, my computer was kicking up malware from trying to get into the first page of this, so apologies in advance for missing some comments.

But c'mon now. You started this thread to state your thoughts on the "Virtues of Practicing" and then are getting upset when people disagree with you? You used a pretty broad brush to state that most instrumentalists (of which I am one) that practice are shallow players, so naturally there will be some residual kickback from that.

As someone that gets paid to perform, practicing for me is not only required maintenance and upkeep but has a meditative quality as well. I enjoy learning new techniques (and in the day and age of the internet, talking directly with the people that created said techniques), as well as implementing them when playing with others. But again, it's a balance of practice and playing with others.

Remember, a map is no good if you lack the skills to use it. Some of the best stories I have with friends are when we took the road less traveled, but also had the knowledge to pull the map out, get our bearings and get back on course.I am not really upset with people who disagree with me, I'm just going around and around in circles trying to make my point. I do not understand where people conclude that I think that structured practice is not good. It is good. I repeat, structured practice is good. I am saying that to become a good ukulele player, structured practice is just one part of the equation.

OK, this is my point. I'm doing my best here. My point is that unstructured playing is practice as well, and is as important as structured practice in producing a good player. It is not just playing around, lazily strumming some chords, it is practice too. When you put structured practice and unstructured practice together you get a better ukulele player. I believe that if one concentrates only on structured practice, at the expense of unstructured practice, they they will become a shallow player. I believe that if one only does unstructured practice, and never works on technique and skills, they will become a shallow player as well. My argument it that there is much more to being a good ukulele player, than just being technically proficient. Note please, I am not saying that a good ukulele does not need to be technically proficient, I am saying that a good ukulele player needs to be more than technically proficient, and that the MORE does not come from practicing technical skills. It comes from other experiences, and I consider them "practice" as well. When people try to minimize that part of it, I want to say something. I do not agree that there is practice, and there is just playing, I consider them both practice. In fact, I consider everything practice. Jamming is practice, noodling is practice, gigging is practice, it is all important, and the more that a person does, the better they become. Heck, I think learning to sing and play at the same time is good practice. I do not think that more structure and regimentation is always the answer. That right there is the best that I can do.

johnson430
09-01-2015, 05:39 PM
My argument it that there is much more to being a good ukulele player, than just being technically proficient. (sic) I consider them both practice. In fact, I consider everything practice. Jamming is practice, noodling is practice, gigging is practice, it is all important, and the more that a person does, the better they become. I do not think that more structure and regimentation is always the answer. That right there is the best that I can do.

OK, I get it.

Do I get better by just noodling around? NO
Do I get better by structured practice: YES

Do I get a more aesthetic experience from noodling? YES
Do I get more aesthetic experience from practice? NO

Do I get better at playing the uke by practicing and therefore get more of an aesthetic experience from playing after practicing? YES

Ergo, I agree with you statement.
This is the age old argument of the Art and the Science of a thing: Cooking, Writing. Painting, Pottery, Photography, Playing an instrument.

You can know the Art and not the Science and be good at something.
You can know the Science and not the Art and be good at something.
Knowing the Art and the Science will perhaps get you closer to the true understanding of the actual Form of the thing.

And yes, I love Philosophy.

Many years ago, during my time in university, I had the opportunity to jam with a local musician who was a technical genius and a guitar teacher.
I truly envied his technical ability.
One evening while we were having a late night jam session, I gave it all to my guitar and just let the music happen. After I finished playing, he stated in all honesty, "I wish I could play like you, you have such soul to your playing."
I looked at him dumbfounded and said, "I wish I could play with your skill, I have soul but no technical abilities."

Therein lies the lick of it all:
The Art and The Science. A marriage of the two.

Mivo
09-01-2015, 06:41 PM
Do I get better by just noodling around? NO

I would disagree with that. You get better at noodling around. It also improves your finger strength, it may very well have a beneficial effect on your motivation to even engage in structured practice, the intimacy of the relationship with the instrument increases, your musical hearing improves, and so forth.

I'm not really in the dogmatic "no gain without pain" camp that some subscribe to. To me, it's more about the experience than the result, and there are colors in that, not just black and white, and not just stark opposites. Results are obtainable in different ways anyway, some more scenic than others.

CeeJay
09-01-2015, 10:07 PM
I would disagree with that. You get better at noodling around. It also improves your finger strength, it may very well have a beneficial effect on your motivation to even engage in structured practice, the intimacy of the relationship with the instrument increases, your musical hearing improves, and so forth.

I'm not really in the dogmatic "no gain without pain" camp that some subscribe to. To me, it's more about the experience than the result, and there are colors in that, not just black and white, and not just stark opposites. Results are obtainable in different ways anyway, some more scenic than others.

I agree with you ...there is sometimes too much emphasis on this Technical Knowledge versus Playing ....and I don't always ...sometimes never ...want "Beautiful"
I want down and dirty ....there are so many ways of playing and there are so many views and hang ups and much nose in the air attitudes towards others on this forum that I sometimes despair of human nature.


And if I read the phrase "just strum and sing 3 chord songs" in the patronising manner that is often used once more I'm going to really vent.:uhoh::biglaugh::stop:

jollyboy
09-02-2015, 12:12 AM
OK, I get it.

Do I get better by just noodling around? NO


And there it is again. This idea that improvement is only possible through structured practice. The perpetuation of this false dichotomy that one must be either a: VERY SERIOUS ABOUT WHAT ONE IS DOING INDEED or b: RESIGNED TO THE FACT THAT ONE IS JUST SOME SAP PADDLING AROUND IN THE SHALLOW END.

This is not an 'either or' scenario. There is a whole spectrum of possibility in between. To return to the 'journey' analogy I do not seek the road less travelled but rather the via media.

Jon Moody
09-02-2015, 01:40 AM
Careful, let's not take this quote out of context, because it brings up what many of us are saying, in that there has to be a BALANCE.


OK, I get it.

Do I get better by just noodling around? NO
Do I get better by structured practice: YES

Do I get a more aesthetic experience from noodling? YES
Do I get more aesthetic experience from practice? NO

Do I get better at playing the uke by practicing and therefore get more of an aesthetic experience from playing after practicing? YES


You need both.

Jon Moody
09-02-2015, 02:11 AM
In fact, I consider everything practice. Jamming is practice, noodling is practice, gigging is practice, it is all important, and the more that a person does, the better they become.

Thanks for the entire response. I think at this point I understand where you're coming from, and on some level we both are saying the same thing albeit from different angles.

I pulled the above out because while I do agree that every chance to play your instrument is important, when you're gigging you're not practicing. When you're on the stage performing, it's the practical application of all of your structured and/or unstructured playing time, up to that point. This is where that student that has only practiced in the confines of their home will show that they're missing that "musical" element to their playing, and also where the student that has only "noodled" around will show their technical limitations. And when the gig is done, you take mental notes of things to work on (in whatever manner of practicing you choose) and move forward.

But gigging is definitely not practice. That would be like the HS football team considering Friday night "Just another scrimmage," which we know is definitely not the case.

JustinJ
09-02-2015, 02:48 AM
rlink,

I understand your point now. We both agree on many things.

1. Structured practice is important
2. Playing is a form of practice
3. Noodling is a form of practice

I would like to point out something here.

There are different types of practices. Some are much more effective and other practices can be detrimental.

Structured practice with corrections being made during the process is the most effective. It helps to have a good teacher for this.

Noodling and Playing can be good but also can ingrain bad habits. If you are missing a note over and over, then all your doing is training you muscle memory to do it wrong. It's hard to undue this. If you go to a local golf course, you can see what improper practice looks like.


Where we disagree

1. Technical practice does not lead to coldness in playing, in fact learning how to control volume with your playing can bring emotion

2. It's misguided to think that playing will lead to improvement that can be seen , how many guitar players do you know that have been playing for twenty years with no improvement You could put any other hobby here, golf, tennis, chess, etc..

3. Our brains have a tendency to learn something and stay at a level. That is why you need a structured practice routine to break through to improvement.



*I do not think there is anything wrong with someone wanting to noodle and play on an instrument. The topic is about the virtue of practice. No one is making value judgement on anyone about how they choose to play their instrument.

jollyboy
09-02-2015, 02:48 AM
Careful, let's not take this quote out of context, because it brings up what many of us are saying, in that there has to be a BALANCE.

The difference is that one argument continues to perpetuate the myth that practice and play are mutually exclusive (in terms of attainable results) and therefore balance can only be achieved by doing 'a bit of one' and 'a bit of the other'.

It is a convenient conceit of the human mind to compartmentalize things in terms of [x]and [notx] (or the opposite of x) - "chalk and cheese", "apples and oranges", "Liberals and Democrats" and, in this instance, "practice and play". It is important to realize that this is just a convenience of perception and often represents a simplification of the underlying reality. To once again develop an analogy that has already been put on the table - Alfred Korzybski has famously pointed out to us that "The map is not the territory".

When the map one is using is in black-and-white, one must try to remember that the world itself is in glorious technicolour (or at least maybe 50 shades of grey).

(As a student of psychology, one thing I have found interesting in following this discussion is that JustinJ repeatedly frames his thoughts in terms of dichotomies - eg. "yin and yang", "art and science". Just an observation.)

A quote from an online essay (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200811/the-value-play-i-the-definition-play-gives-insights) from the Psychology Today website concerning the value of play:

"The second point, toward definition, is that play is not necessarily all-or-none. Play can blend with other motives and attitudes, in proportions ranging anywhere from 0% up to 100% percent play. Pure play occurs more often in children than in adults. In adults, play is commonly blended with other motives, having to do with adult responsibilities. That is why, in everyday conversation, we tend to talk about children “playing” and about adults bringing a “playful attitude” or “playful spirit” to their activities. We intuitively think of playfulness as a matter of degree."

JustinJ
09-02-2015, 03:10 AM
Hi Jollyboy,


You're misrepresenting my thoughts.


1. I use my playing time as a time to experiment. I will often come up with something new. Here is the issue. I'm able to come up with something new because I have the knowledge through deliberate practice to apply the ideas.

2. There are many books written by psychologist about deliberate practice.

Here is an article from Psychology Today for you to read about practice.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201202/some-ways-practice-are-more-perfect-others

DownUpDave
09-02-2015, 03:13 AM
This has been an interesting read. What I am gleening from this thread is the difference between learning and practicing. One Bad Monkey's response really made that clear to me. We can always learn something while playing an instrument if we pay attention but it is not the same thing as structured practice. We as individuals can choice how we want to learn, just depends on your goals and how soon you want to get there.

jollyboy
09-02-2015, 04:34 AM
Hi Jollyboy,


You're misrepresenting my thoughts.


No, I don't believe so. You continue to promote the idea that structured practice is the qualitively best way to develop as a player. This smacks of One True Way-ism and inevitably is going to end up annoying people (as it clearly has done) as implicit within this attitude is that other approaches are of lesser value.

Add in a few inflamatory statements such as:


The real issue with most people is they are not willing to put the work in to get better.

...and your viewpoint seems pretty clear.

JustinJ
09-02-2015, 05:34 AM
The reality of life is there are better ways to accomplish things. If you want replace better with more efficient. We no longer use horses for transportation. A plane or car is much more suitable for traveling distances.

There is work involved in getting better at something. You can not get around it. If you want to be good at academics, you need to study. Not only do you need to study, but you need to understand how to study.

This idea of study pertains to all aspects of life for when you want to improve.

Mivo
09-02-2015, 05:40 AM
2. There are many books written by psychologist about deliberate practice.[/url]

Nobody here has questioned the value of deliberate practice, though, so that's a bit of a strawman. What seems to be questioned is the value of "non-deliberate" practice, i.e. "just playing" for the fun and enjoyment of it, without a structured, strict study plan, and possibly without specific goals and ambitions. (Rllink's analogy of bee-lining to the destination vs. exploring while moving in the vague, general direction of a potential destination.)

TheCraftedCow
09-02-2015, 06:17 AM
The longer one does something, the more proficient one becomes at doing it. One of my former students is in jail for being the most proficient car thief the local police agencies has ever seen. Wrong for long will never become right. Without a change of how one thinks, one cannot change how they act. There is a person in our group who has perfected playing up and own at one speed. When the entire group plays a song where her technique is appropriate, she is an asset. The rest of the time ? You can use your own choice of words. Through this entire thread, no one has discussed what they mean by practicing. I don't recall anyone saying that six ten minute practice sessions is the same amount of time as the one who sits for one sixty minute session. There is much evidence that diversified sessions are more effective than an amassed session. The mind can absorb only what the seat or the fingers can endure. It is a thinking error that ANY time the both hands are on the instrument is not structured practice.

PRACTICE DOES not MAKE PERFECT. PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT.

What is the RIGHT or WRONG way to do anything should not be the question. It should be what is APPROPRIATE for what you want to do. When I go out a play for my goat herd and ask them what they think of what I played for them, I get the same response all the time..... baaaaaaaaad ! To get their unreserved adulation, I start to yodel. They come from all over the pasture on a dead run. They know they are going to be fed.

CactusWren
09-02-2015, 06:22 AM
It sounds like JustinB has clearly-defined goals and a plan to get them. I would guess he values measurable improvement, size and complexity of repertoire, and technique.

I hope it's not too confrontational to opine that, yes, a logical, structured routine is how to achieve those goals. Many skills require consistent, repetitive effort ("work") to attain. This is uncontroversial.

I'm not threatened that JustinB has big goals and a plan to get to them. Go for it, man!

Dan Uke
09-02-2015, 07:06 AM
Interesting read. The only thing I like to add is that playing with soul or playing too mechanical can be subjective. I've heard both adjectives used for the same player, depending on the listener.

acmespaceship
09-02-2015, 07:37 AM
Can we agree that "practice" means different things to different people? I know some Adult Survivors of Childhood Piano Lessons who get positively apoplectic at the mere mention of "practice." All they want to do is "play." And I agree with y'all who are saying this is a false dichotomy.

All I know is, there have been years when I made zero progress as a uke player, even though I got my uke down from the wall and played it several times a week. Because I kept playing the same songs with the same chords, in the same way and with the same strums. I wasn't paying attention. Playing uke was a fun thing to do and maybe 12th down on my list of hobbies. Nothing wrong with spinning your wheels if that's all you want to do. But I am living proof that a person can spend countless hours "just playing" and get nowhere.

On the occasions when I pay attention, I get better. You can call it practice, you can call it play. I'll call it "mindful." Play, listen, think, and play it again better. I think some people do this instinctively, even when they say they are "just noodling." While others don't, and get frustrated when "just noodling" doesn't work for them. Some people need a map, some can use dead reckoning, and some need turn-by-turn directions. It's all good, but you have to figure out what works for you. Respect the journey, and the travelers who are taking a different route.

johnson430
09-02-2015, 10:23 AM
Careful, let's not take this quote out of context, because it brings up what many of us are saying, in that there has to be a BALANCE.



You need both.

Thank you, monkey. I laughed when I saw the others were only taking bits of my post.
You understand my point. I tried to put it very clearly, as RLink was discussing the one way to get there or the other.

johnson430
09-02-2015, 10:34 AM
And there it is again. This idea that improvement is only possible through structured practice. The perpetuation of this false dichotomy that one must be either a: VERY SERIOUS ABOUT WHAT ONE IS DOING INDEED or b: RESIGNED TO THE FACT THAT ONE IS JUST SOME SAP PADDLING AROUND IN THE SHALLOW END.

This is not an 'either or' scenario. There is a whole spectrum of possibility in between. To return to the 'journey' analogy I do not seek the road less travelled but rather the via media.
Wrong, I said it was balance.
The art and the science. Did you read my whole post?
Please do not cherry pick my excellent post.
(Wags finger disappointingly)