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Thread: Sage Advice from a World-renowned Musician

  1. #1
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    Default Sage Advice from a World-renowned Musician

    This evening I had the incredible pleasure of seeing legendary acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. What he can do is mind blowing. And a wonderful entertainer as well. If you haven't discovered him yet, check out Youtube.

    He said during his performance basically the following:

    There are no shortcuts. Learn one measure at a time. When your fingers can mechanically play the first measure. Learn the second. Then string them together. Then learn the third measure. String that with the first two. And so on. When you can play the whole song mechanically, then keep playing it over and over until you don't think about it. Only then can you really start making music.

    Now this may seem somewhat obvious at its face value, but to hear it from such a legend gave it profound meaning for me, so I thought I'd share in case others find it helpful.

    Oh, and guess what? He's been playing since 1959 at the age of 4. He does not read music. I was quite stunned by that.
    More an appreciator of the ukulele than a true player. My motto is: "Don't matter how good it ring if it ain't got some bling."

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.—Voltaire

    Curious about the relative importance of tonewood vs. the luthier? See Luthiers for a Cause to learn more!

  2. #2
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    True words of wisdom.

    This applies to everything that uses muscle memory and motor control. It's developed from gross to fine. After many years of being a motorcycle instructor and telling people, "you've now learned to operate the controls. That will morph into actually riding the motorcycle. Then you'll discover another level of operating the controls, which will then morph into the next level of actually riding the motorcycle. It's an ongoing cycle, embrace it." I've had students call me years later and say, "hey! You were right!"

    The same for playing music. You learn some notes, chords, picking and strumming patterns. Then you learn songs. Then you turn the songs into music. Then you learn more, and the process continues.
    I too, have nothing of value to add to this thread...

  3. #3
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    Thanks Eddie......I needed to hear that......again. I have been learning / playing "Greensleeves" (Mike Lynch's arrangment) since the middle of December. I really wanted to have it down pat by Christmas, that did not happen. I have played it over and over and over again everyday. Just a few days ago I finally ran through it without looking at the sheets, how liberating. Roman was not built in a day and neither is a musical repertoire.

    Look up the Tedtalks youtube featuring Tommy Emmanuel. He talks about growing up in the outback, learning to play guitar by listening to songs on records. How he became engrossed by the music of Chet Atkins and how everyone one said he could never play like that. Very inspirational stuff, just like his guitar playing is now.
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields walnut pineapple super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Enya Nova *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  4. #4
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    Thanks, Eddie. Valued tip. Did Tommy play this song of his? I adore it so much. I'm learning it now, one measure at a time. (from Aaron Cromwell's tutorial).

    Last edited by coolkayaker1; 01-20-2016 at 03:10 AM.

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    There's certainly no substitute for practice

    One suggestion I would make ... if you learn a tune from the end forward, that is to say, the last bar or two, then the bar or two previous, etc., you're always in the position of knowing "what comes next", which can give a degree of satisfaction

    I'm not saying there's any time saved, even learning a 16-bar dance tune takes time, but being able to play it to the end feels nice
    There are those who will wax lyrical about the ability to play a double shuffle with a split fan and a tight G-string ...
    it just makes me walk funny!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ukulele Eddie View Post
    This evening I had the incredible pleasure of seeing legendary acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. What he can do is mind blowing. And a wonderful entertainer as well. If you haven't discovered him yet, check out Youtube.

    He said during his performance basically the following:

    There are no shortcuts. Learn one measure at a time. When your fingers can mechanically play the first measure. Learn the second. Then string them together. Then learn the third measure. String that with the first two. And so on. When you can play the whole song mechanically, then keep playing it over and over until you don't think about it. Only then can you really start making music.

    Now this may seem somewhat obvious at its face value, but to hear it from such a legend gave it profound meaning for me, so I thought I'd share in case others find it helpful.

    Oh, and guess what? He's been playing since 1959 at the age of 4. He does not read music. I was quite stunned by that.

    David Sudnow, in his piano course, said exactly the same thing. That course was about arranging and playing cocktail style piano without sheet music. The course was introduced in the early 90s.

    There is another guitar player, Tomi Paldanius, from Finland, but now living in Thailand who teaches how to learn tunes by ear and put a solo fingerstyle guitar rendition together, and I took that course live online a few years ago. He graduated from university in Finland with a degree in classical guitar performance. He said that when he realized he would be spending his life tied to sheet music and playing exactly what somebody else dictated hundreds of years ago, he felt as if wanted to "just shoot himself". He badgered Tommy Emmanuel to show him how to do it all by ear.

    Tommy Emmanuel (TE) was not interested in teaching, because his focus at the time was on playing. Finally, Tomi Paldanius (TP) showed up at TE's house. TP was stunned to find that TE's house was filled with CDs, and no sheet music whatsoever. TE could play anything that TP called out, as long as he knew it well enough to hum the melody. What Tomi teaches in his course is pretty much the methodology that he learned from TE.

    This is a skill, and not a talent as many would have us believe. However, it is a skill that takes a long time and a lot of practice to master. How good any of us get at it is, just like TE or TP, a factor of how much and what we practice. Most of us (including me), will do well enough to amuse ourselves, but probably never reach the heights of skill that these guys did, simply because we do have other lives. It is definitely a good skill to have though, even if we don't develop it to that degree.

    The course that TP teaches is 15 weeks long, and runs for 3 hours once a week. TP teaches it live from Thailand. Fortunately for me, locally it was Sunday mornings at 5 AM. There were 12 other people from various parts of the world participating, and therefore getting up at all sorts of odd hours, depending on their local time zone.

    In the course that TP teaches, you log onto a web site that allows one person at a time to be on camera. The display can be split between the camera and a virtual white board so the instructor can write things on it in real time. Below the camera view, is a chat area that all the students have full access to, as well as the teacher. One of the things that TP would do is put up a link to a Youtube video and tell us we had 1 minute to figure out the key, later it was the key and the chords. We would get homework assignments to watch a particular Youtube video and come up with a fingerstyle arrangement for the next week. The tunes were rock tunes with quite basic chords. The biggest problem I had was getting through all the distortion and pounding to hear the content we were listening for. Though that is not at all the style of music I listen to myself, I did get pretty good at picking out the stuff I needed to hear.

    So, the good news is that these skills are just that - skills, and not something one is born with (i.e. the myth that "some gots it, some don't"). It really is a matter of desire, and stick-to-it-iveness for the very long haul. That, some have and some don't, but again we all desire something, so it is not something we are born with either. For more about this, read "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle. He researched what he calls "talent hotbeds", in which sports people, musicians, singers, chess players, are developed, rather than having been born with some mysterious "talent".

    I have met and talked to TE, and he simply lives and breathes "guitar". He seems interested in very little else. That kind of focus, when developed with practice long term and consistent, will yield the kind of results that you see in TE. He learned a lot from people along the way, rather than coming up with his wisdom out of some sort of vacuum, as we all do learn from each other. Most of us have other things in our lives that, more often than not, take precedence over a musical hobby such as guitar or ukulele. Some people are willing to sacrifice all that for their art. The guitar has those folks, as obviously does the ukulele world, and then there are the rest of us who enjoy playing, but pay to see the folks who were willing to make that sacrifice.

    There are a lot of people who will cling to the "myth" about people such as TE, refusing to accept the "skillness" of it. That is fine, but for the rest of us, it can be learned and the degree to which we become accomplished is a factor of time and dedication.

    Tony
    Last edited by tbeltrans; 01-20-2016 at 04:39 AM.
    Ukuleles: yes, three.

  7. #7
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    Wow. Some great stuff here. I'll just add that, for me, learning a song so that I could play it without the sheets was hugely important. I can then listen to the sound as it happens and put real feeling into the playing. Much, much more fun. Also noticed that my family and friends comment that my playing has improved so much...it's just that I'm playing the same songs but without looking at the sheets. I play mainly chords and sing along so I'm not talking rocket science here. Some bass runs and the like with fun single string flourishes. Body english helps elicit applause. Heh heh.

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    For the almost 50 years of playing guitar, I never excelled mainly because I didn't heed that advice, but once I started playing uke three years ago, I did and I'm a better uke player than guitar, and even further, when I started playing bass uke about a year ago, I followed that rule even more, and now I make all my own bass arrangements, one measure at a time for the music our group plays. My big breakthrough happened a few weeks ago when the leader decided we'll do "Fly Me to the Moon" in tribute to Frank Sinatra and I had to come up with a very jazzy walking bass arrangement (with a little theory help from my bass teacher), came out really well I'm happy to say.

  9. #9
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    Great and true advice for musicians (and life in general). Take it step by step and keep at it. The rest will take care of itself.
    Making the world a safer place for sawdust and ukuleles!

    KoAloha KSM-01
    Kala KA-SSTU-T Tenor

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    Wow, i haven't met TE, but saw him in concert about 3 years ago. He was brilliant. I would love to see him again, the audience was very quiet and very amazed. He did some duets with well known uke players, some are on You Tube.
    I could listen to him for hours (I do)
    He said he learned guitar from the radio. He heard bass, rhythm, lead, and percussion, and thought it was all one instrument, so he learned to play them all at the same time.
    I've heard that he is one of the nicest people in music.
    I wonder if he needs a guitar polisher?
    "Those who bring sunshine and laughter to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves".

    Music washes from the soul, the dust of everyday living.

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