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Making learning interesting?

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by Mike Money, Oct 30, 2003.

  1. Mike Money

    Mike Money In Memoriam

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    How can I make learning interesting? I've tried many books to learn to read music... I get a few pages into it, and get bored... and never pick it up again.

    Is there anything you can recommend to make it more fun/interesting?
  2. You could buy sheet music to a song that you really like and/or familiar with. I guess pshycologically you already know what to expect because you know how the song goes. It's just learning how to actaully decode it on the fretboard which is the hurdle. The thing that keeps you interested is that you "dig" the song and therefore want it under your belt. The only drawback is that the song has to be within your ability (ie, no Victor Wooten...well not yet anyway).

    Remeber that on the bass clef, the notes in the spaces of the stave (excluding extra ledger lines) is A C E G (low to high). The notes on the lines are G B D F A (low to high).

    0 (A)ll

    To remeber the notes in the spaces, just remeber:

    (A)ll (C)ows (E)at (G)rass

    To remeber the notes on the lines, just remember:

    (G)ood (B)oys (D)eserve (F)ruit (A)lways

    The (D) note is in the middle of the stave and you can use it as a reference point.


    An open E on the lowest string is an extra ledger line added below the stave.


    You could also play chords and name the notes that you play. It helps you translate notation on to your fretboard for you have an idea of where the notes lie. Not only is playing chords on your bass helpful for figuring out where the notes lie, but its also very fun and very original on the bass.

    You could also try to write sentences in notation with the notes A B C D E F G and sight read them to see if they actually sound any good.
    For example:


    But heck I'm a guitarist, what the hell do I know about bass playing.....
  3. Mike + Money = :hyper:

    Wow! I wish that worked with my name!
  4. Mike Money

    Mike Money In Memoriam

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan

    I know all the notes and can read music... as long as it is simple shizzle. I need motivation to get into the stuff that will teach me how to count stuff out... that is my real problem... I dont know how to count the music unless it is like all quarter/8th notes.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Get a female bass teacher, to whom you are attracted.... !! ;)
  6. I'm having the same problem, I think. I've figured that the best solution is getting sheets for some kind of music that you like. And not to quit playing until you've learned the song, or at least a part of it. I'm lazy ass hell when it comes to that :)
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    It's not about the materials you choose ... it is about the way you approach those materials. I have used the following philosophy for years and never codified it. Then I saw a clinic by the wonderful Todd Johnson who really took the time to codify things.

    You need to break the practice session up into small increments. This gives your brain a chance to assimilate all the info you're taking in. You also need to vary the practice time with different musical ideas. For example, if I have an hour to pratice, I might break it up as follows

    The first 10 minutes I might review some stuff I have been working on previously. The I'll take a 5 minute "break" where I just get creative and noodle around a bit, see what ideas flow. If I get something good I might record it real quick or make a note of it. Now I'll get back to "practice" - I might spend another 10 or 15 minutes on a specific detail I need to work on. For example - -a new solo arrangement or if I have a reading gig coming up, just work on my reading chops. Then I'll take another "break". I might play with the ideas that came up earlier, work on something new, or go get a snack. The next ten minutes will work on the specific book/exercises etc, followed by another break. The last 15 minutes will be pure fun. Nothing else. Just having a great time playing my bass.

    These times are not set in stone. You never want to get to the point where any particular exercise feels like work. If it does - move on! Finally, you want to remember that you are creating music, not exercises, not techniques. If you are working on a specific technique (like The Chordal Approach for example) then remember the technique is just a tool to reach a goal - to create music. Try to make everything you do, even scales, musical.

    In conclusion, I think you really need to look at the way you approach the music and the practice of music.

    This is a great question. Thanks. It is much more rewarding than some of the dribble over at the amps section :D

  8. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I'd like to add some comments...

    The most important word in Mike's post and advice was music. If you (Mike Money) I or anyone practices practicing we might be good at scales, arpeggios or reading but are we making music?

    I don't practice. Let me quantify this. I have a problem with the whole concept of pacticing that I don't like the term.

    Last year I had two months to learn two covers sets for two bands. I listened, transcribed and played those songs constantly for two months. I don't consider it practice. My playing improved because I was doing something different.

    Work out your goals and work towards that. I want to be a better musician and everything I do musically is working towards that.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think that's a really good point - I know that I'm a pretty lazy person and will put off doing anything I don't want to, or that bores me... :meh:

    So - for anybody like me, I think you have to have a reason to be doing the practice - as CS says - if you know you're going to be up on stage playing this stuff and will look pretty stupid if you don't get it right - then that can be a great motivating factor! ;)

    I only tend to practice if I am working towards playing music as CS says - it is a nice idea to practice just to become a better musician - but it is much easier to motivate yourself if you have some definite goal in mind.

    So - playing a set well, for gigs or whatever is one way - but it can be other things.

    So, as one example - I go to regular Jazz classes, where it is mostly about playing, but there is discussion about theory etc. We have a great teacher, who I really respect as a Jazz pro band leader, player etc. and I really feel I don't want to let him down, so I make sure that I have practiced the things he was talking about last or that he says we will be looking at next time.

    I would be embarassed to play in front of him unless I had done some serious practice beforehand and this keeps me motivated and I always feel like signing up for the classes again, as I know this will keep me practicing and improving.
  10. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    There is also the concept of playing for yourself. To create the music within you -with no goals, no pressure. The music as a refelction of your being, as an escape from the drudgery of society, an investigation into th joy of making music.

    Practicing towards a goal is a good thing, but it only works if there is a tangible goal (I have a gig in two weeks), but what about the rest of the time, or what if that goal is not so tangible or too far often in the future. You have to find the joy of music from within. CS has a great point about the word "practice". It is after all just a word. You can call it anythin you want. The point is that practice, the way we tend to think of it 9Scales for 2 hours, reading for 1 hour, etc) only works in rare cases. We have all heard of the stories of musicians who "practice" 5,6,8 hours per day. First off, that is hard for me to believe that people have that kind of time, but more importantly I think most of that time is "playing", "investigating", "discovering" music not "practicing".

    The point about goals is a good one, but I think ultimately, you need to look inward and find he joy in holding you instrument and discovering the nuances of its sound , your technique, and your musical ideas. You have to find how the music flows through you and not force it through the materials that mean to shape you. Use the materials as guides not as blueprints.

    BTW, read "Effortless Mastery" by Kenny Werner

    I know that some of the stuff I mention is a bit "fluffy". There are two kinds of motivation: external and internal. Internal motivation, in the long run, always has better results. So it is my recommendation and advice to try and find that internal motivation to improve yourself as a musician (notice I did NOT say bassplayer).

  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I suppose I was just going on my own experience - there have been periods in my life when I have just played at home for the joy of sound and making music - recording my own original compositions, on bass, keyboards, guitar etc.

    But I found that I would quickly get frustrated and certainly didn't improve as a musician. Whereas, in the periods where I have been playing in bands or taking classes - then I have been much more motivated and I know that I have improved considerably - people have remarked on this to me, as well.

    So - various Jazz educators I've met, have said that the thing is to practice what you can't do and not what you can do. They say they often hear people "practicing" - and what they are actually doing, is playing through all their stock "licks" - going through tunes they know well etc. etc.

    My view is that when I am on my own, I tend to play things I know and stay within my own limits - it is only when I play with other people who stretch me, that I get the inspiration to try to improve and try to play above myself and get inspired to practice enough to get to the next "level".

    But that's just me....:meh:

    I have read Effortless Mastery and have gone through the meditation exercises - they made me feel great, but didn't seem to have any effect on my playing !!!

    Werner seems to be addressing a problem that I don't have - he talks about getting nervous on stage and things like that. Whereas I usually feel quite laidback about being on stage and have no problem with nerves stopping me playing.

    What hinders my progress, is that I am lazy and don't practice enough!! ;)

    That's why this thread "struck a chord" with me!!
  12. I agree with Mr.Dimin on the 'taking a break' theory and just noodling around/enjoying what you want to play. Because,if you don't do what you want or whatever...you'll become bored and distracted.

    For example...if you read a boring book from cover-to-cover you'd lose interest fast. However,if you acted out the scenes in a group after completetion,then you'd be more motivated to do so.

    Just my .02 :D
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Errr...what - this makes no sense to me at all?? :confused:
  14. christle


    Jan 26, 2002
    I'm kind of hoping that he is referring to applied music theory and not applied murder mystery.

    I often like to take an exercise that I see in a magazine and try and play it. Sometimes I apply a music theory concept that I just learned and see if I can make it work within the context of a song. Doesn't matter if it worked or not, but that I learned something from it. Sometimes having and idea fall flat on its face is more useful than if it worked. But that's just me. I also try to learn new songs from styles I am not familiar with - not because I want to play that style necessarily but because I hope it will teach me somthing and cause me to have a new perspective about music. It also helps to improves my ear training as well.

    What has been said about goals is very good advice IMO. You need to have at least a general idea as to where you want to go and work towards it.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    So - if you had to read "Data Warehousing for beginners" - you would turn it into a murder mystery and act it out with friends - sounds very much like hard work to me!!

    I would just get an interesting book!! ;)
  16. christle


    Jan 26, 2002
    Sometimes I think my students would want to act it out as a murder mystery. Coincidently it is DB Design they are studying now :)
  17. SlimT


    Feb 27, 2002
    Eden Prairie, MN
    This is a great thread!

    I started out playing bass rather late in life - age 35. :rolleyes:

    I took lessons at first, and then my teacher told me it was time to go to my first open jam. I personally thought he was crazy. I wasn't ready to play in front of people!

    I did it all the same. It turns out that most musicians are really nice and supportive. I asked them to give me three songs I could practice for the next jam session, showed up the next week and played them. They were very nice about the whole thing and I recorded more of their material for the following week. I repeated this until I got the job of being their bass player!

    Honestly, getting out there and playing with other people was so fun that it motivated me to learn all those songs. I learned a lot by playing to those recordings - my first bass teacher told me that the ear is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

    However, I learned the most by showing up at those open jams and playing even though I didn't feel I was ready.

    So far, learning material to play with others has been by far the biggest motivator. I do noodle around with my drum machine, and I'm going to be installing GarageBand soon so I can practive with more stuff, but what gets me going the most now is learning material for a different band that I may have the opportunity to do some subbing in.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    If you read my replies (above) that's exactly what I was saying. :cool:
  19. SlimT


    Feb 27, 2002
    Eden Prairie, MN

    I read your replies. :)

    I was just chiming in for emphasis.

    I guess I could have been more direct, too.

    Go out and start jamming! :bassist:
  20. I've had my bass for about 2 months and just now have had the time to get down and learn how to play. I just baught an eMedia Bass Method cd-rom to help me teach and I've picked a few things and really have just been thrown a curveball to say as far as the music terminology and all the detailed lessons and "proper" ways to play. Any advice as to books to get or some sort of music dictionary would be great if anyone has any suggestions or thoughts please post back. Thanks and look forward to playing some bad-ass Bass!
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    Primary TB Assistant

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