Musical Learning Model by Approximation. In 7 Easy Steps.

Yesterday, after we’d played old-time music for hours at the Alton Sesquicenntential, 12-year-old N. and I came back to the house for a classical music lesson, and worked for 1 1/2 hours more.

Here’s a method I’ve figured out for learning a piece of music by approximation. You can use the same learning method on many other projects. Basically, break it down.
1) First, we research the background of the piece on the internet if there’s anything interesting or unknown. Who was the composer, what is the period and so forth.
2) Secondly, we see if there’s a model of the song on You Tube. These days, often there is, so we can hear it played properly instead of groping for the sound.
3) Third, having established the historical background, and having the piece in our minds, we sight read silently. We look the piece over thoroughly before we even lay bow to strings. Key signature, time signature, dynamics (soft or loud), bowing, repeats…all get careful attention. Then, we have the lay of the land.

4) Next, we get the notes, without concerned ourselves with anything else. Can we get the right pitch? Where do we shift and what position is the passage played in to get the smoothest sound?

5) After getting the notes, we work on rhythm.

6) After notes, and rhythm…dynamics (loud to soft)…and bowing. There are so many types of bowing patterns in classical violin playing beyond the ever-important up or down: detached or spicatto, for instance.

7) Only after all these basics are established, do we put it all together through practice, and then add the magic ingredient: feeling.

Finally, after all this preparation and hard work, finally, we are making music.

All art making follows a similar path. Preparation to establish technique as the foundation…then joined with the soul of the artist to make it more than mechanical renditions of our craft.

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