Saturday, July 31, 2010

More Song A Week Thoughts

My last post really only covered the period after you know the tune you're going to play or have learned it from tab or whatever. But there's also a process I go through before I get to that point, so here are my thoughts about that.

The first thing I do when considering learning a new tune is to find as many recordings as I can. I prefer recordings by players I admire of course, but if the tune hasn't been covered much I'll take whatever I can get. iTunes is great for this, and there are other methods. YouTube is quite good, although it's harder to get them onto your iPod. They don't have to feature the mandolin heavily, although it's great for getting ideas from if they do. Then I listen to them over and over, hum them to myself, or just imagine them in my mind, and see what I can pick out on the mandolin.

If I can't quite grasp the tune that way or there some bits I want to understand, then I will look at tab. You should never be afraid to look at tab. Once you've developed a good ear, tab can't take it away from you, it can only help, and similarly knowing how to read tab will not stop you from developing a good ear. The only thing that will stop you from developing a good ear is if you never use it to try and pick out a tune for yourself without it - and of course you're going to do that sometimes, right? I wanted to cover that off because it's a myth I hear repeated that somehow tab is bad, it's just not true, it's only people who are bad, and it is your inalienable right to use tab. And if you do learn the tune from tab, stop looking at the tab as soon as you can. While you're playing, look away from the tab as often as possible. Pretty soon you'll have it in your memory instead - memories are lazy, and as long as they know the tab will be there they don't bother. But if you continually take the tab away from them they finally get off their lazy asses.

I'll often take those two or three versions on my iPod and listen to them over and over before I go to sleep. But I don't listen to them in a sleepy kind of way, no I am thinking very hard about what each note might be and where the chords change, and why that bit's different and so on. By the next morning I'll know the tune pretty well, and after listening to it a few more times I'm ready to start playing it from the tab or from my own memory, and then start the process described in my last post.

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