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Old 06-21-2019, 10:50 AM   #11
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

It IS very definitely possible to listen too critically to yourself. Don't squeeze all the fun out. It's also possible to over-practice. Muscles get fatigued, even if you do everything you should to reduce tension. If you play better after a day off, that's why.

I love the comment about how it's supposed to be hard. Most non-musicians have NO IDEA how hard it is to play any instrument well. It IS hard, and that's ok. It's part of the process. Just remind yourself that it IS a process; the very best in the world still practice and work on stuff.
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Old 06-24-2019, 01:14 PM   #12
johnsog
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

Practice is a mysterious thing and it's a wise person who understands how to practice well. I think most good pipers have found a strategy that works for them. It can be helpful sometimes, on those days when the octopus on our shoulder seems totally foreign, to aim at a smaller practice target. There have been times when a piece just isn't working out; that's when I need to focus on just a single measure or even two or three notes to get the flow down well. That provides a smaller, more attainable target for me to aim toward. I'm relearning this as I have taken up the Celtic harp; I thought learning the pipes was hard!! We do need to remember that we do have competency in other areas and can attain competency with the pipes as well. As mentioned previously, a day off can be a good thing, too. Good luck and keep at it!!
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Old 06-25-2019, 11:16 AM   #13
Nerdypiper42
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

It has been really interesting to read othersí thoughts on this. I donít think my original post portrayed what I was actually thinking about very well...

FYI...Iím *well* aware that learning an instrument is hard. The pipes arenít my first and Iím no stranger to hard work and take pride in doing a job well even if it takes longer that way.

As for the frustration, I think a lot of it comes from having not yet figured out a way to convince my ear (which is good, Iíve been told) and my thought processes that I sound JUST FINE for where Iím at. Iím very much an auditory learner, and I wonder if itís because I have had little exposure to playing with or hearing other pipers that are at similar skill levels (the next newest Piper in the band Iíve been working to play with has been playing for 6 or 7 years, I think). Not really sure if thatís something that can be addressed or not

And in case it wasnít clear....I enjoy the hell out of playing most of the time. And as for ďtantrumsĒ I find that some active expression of frustration feels gets them out of the fucking way so I can get back to business.

And another thing...a person can be being patient, accept the ups and downs of a process, and still get frustrated. IMO, thereís nothing wrong with expressing a small amount of frustration once in a while and not to excess. Itís part of being a musician. Itís a part of any skilled process that a person is working at to become better. And for there to be (seeming) stigma around experiencing it could potentially be detrimental to the learning process. Confusing (or conflating) small amounts of frustration with impatience is counter productive.
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Old 07-07-2019, 08:46 AM   #14
PiperGirl00
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

Nerdy -
I hear and feel your pain! I too go through fits and starts. And sometimes tantrums... In some cases it is due to lack of time (work gets in the way, darn it all!) and thus almost feels like starting from the very beginning. Even taking a week off sets me back significantly. Not having a full time teacher or being in a band makes it even more difficult (a situation I am working on). Listening to excellent musicians helps but is a far cry from correcting the ever so slight "drift" in performance/skills to execute the tune correctly. Well, that's just me!

But I agree this instrument calls to me and all I think about is wanting to play, like a kid in school looking at the clock, when is it time to go practice :-)
I'm looking forward to retirement where I can play each day on "my time" not squeezed in between a thousand other things...well lets hope my hands/fingers still work if and when I ever get to retirement!! LOL
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Old 07-07-2019, 09:13 AM   #15
super8mm
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

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Originally Posted by PiperGirl00 View Post
Nerdy -
I'm looking forward to retirement where I can play each day on "my time" not squeezed in between a thousand other things...well lets hope my hands/fingers still work if and when I ever get to retirement!! LOL
The one thing about retirement is I still have not figured out how I ever found time to go to work.
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Old 07-07-2019, 10:26 AM   #16
Pppiper
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

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Originally Posted by Nerdypiper42 View Post
It has been really interesting to read othersí thoughts on this. I donít think my original post portrayed what I was actually thinking about very well...Iím *well* aware that learning an instrument is hard. The pipes arenít my first and Iím no stranger to hard work ... not yet figured out a way to convince my ear (which is good, Iíve been told) and my thought processes that I sound JUST FINE for where Iím at. ... in case it wasnít clear....I enjoy the hell out of playing most of the time. And as for ďtantrumsĒ I find that some active expression of frustration feels gets them out of the fucking way so I can get back to business. ...And another thing...a person can be being patient, accept the ups and downs of a process, and still get frustrated.
Hi Nerdy,

Well stated, and it's good that you chimed back in with some further clarity on your outlook and thought process.

I'm very much an auditory-learner as well, and I can tell you, the pipes are among the toughest for being able to like the sound you're producing early (and even mid-way) on. Though personally, I find the fiddle and similar such instruments to be even worse .... just less-loud.

Finding and getting a sound I'm happy with ... this really took quite a long time for me (5 or 6 years sounds about right). I do, now, tend to feel quite pleased with the sound I can produce, but the result is that I'm borderline fanatical in regard to my sound .. particularly the tuning of individual chanter notes.

Or at least, it appears fanatical to some others. I'm constantly listening and adjusting, whereas I feel many others will have simply carried on with their practicing. So it's a bit of a back-and-forth ... I like working toward having a good sound, and am not content to "let it go" when it comes to individual notes sounding out, or my drones needing another touch up.

Truth-be-told though, I spend at least 20-25 minutes out of an hour "tuning" to some degree ... especially when I'm practicing on my own. Might I benefit from practice time more by simply "getting to the tunes," letting some things slide in order to do so?

Maybe ... but that simply won't do for me. There are different philosophies in this, but mine is that a good sound/tuning is the basis upon everything else rests. And I think one could rightly argue that my fastidiousness with tuning and sound is MY internal form of a temper tantrum ... and as you had put it so well:

"thereís nothing wrong with expressing a small amount of frustration once in a while and not to excess. Itís part of being a musician"

Hear hear. It's all part of the process.

For me, I get lost in the sound ... it's almost meditative. A false-sounding note breaks the feeling of peace and serenity, so that's all that I'm doing ... getting things back to my "happy place."

Anyway ... I remember not really liking how my pipes sounded, and feeling a little lost in where/how to "fix it." Then one day, I was listening to the CD from the Gaelic College Pipe Band ... released the year that they went over and won Grade 3 at the Worlds'. The very first track featured a slow air (Hasten and Come with Me) being played solo by one of my favorite instructors from the college, Ryan MacDonald. Her pipes (and notes in particular) grabbed me in a very real way ... and for some reason, the high G sounded REALLY cool.

https://gaeliccollege.edu/shop/gaeli...h-revelations/

The next time that I was practicing, I had "her 'G'" on my mind, and I was really curious as to how/why hers sounded so much nicer, and mine didn't. I wondered if pitch could have been it, so for the first time, I curled my finger into the hole a bit to flatten it out ... and there it was ... the nice "buzz" of the note, sounding against the drone.

I put some tape on the hole, and carried on ... I was VERY content. Next thing I knew, I was curiously "testing" all of the notes on my chanter on-the-spot with my finger ... listening to how they sounded against the drone ...

... and there you had itóthe birth of a crazy guy.

Anyway ... again, as you'd said ... it's a process, and that process WILL have a "tantrum" from time to time. But I'll tell yah, in conquering each little tantrum you will inevitably emerge into a wondrous feeling of accomplishment ... which is precisely what had occurred for me, the day I learned how to tune my high G ... and countless times in the years since.

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 07-08-2019, 11:49 AM   #17
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

Nate: I'm totally a "sound fanatic," too. I don't have spectacular hands... but I can blow, and I really, really don't like listening to out-of-tune bagpipes. The tough part is figuring out how to get your instrument to produce a sound you're happy with consistently, and without having to wrangle it much . If this was easy, i'm sure everyone would do it...
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Old 07-16-2019, 12:04 PM   #18
SquintingPatrick
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

My goal at any point is to raise my standard of play just a little. That's all I want: a little crisper in my articulation, a little more tuneful in my expression, a little closer in my tuning, maybe just the F for this afternoon and I'll sort out the D later. The elements are all inter-related, of course, but I don't worry about playing like Stuart Liddell, I want to just sort out that second bar in the third part for now. That does not frustrate me. It invigorates. There is always, always, going to be something that is a stumbling block in this journey, each of them an invigorating challenge.

One thing that guides me, is identifying what it is that I am doing that leads to actual, tangible improvements. Repetitions in themselves do not necessarily do that. The trick is finding out what kind of repetitions - repetitions with a metronome? repetitions while playing along with a recording of a good player slowed down? A feed back loop listening to myself? Perhaps some exercises to work off the ticks in the hand that prevents certain kinds of execution. I am sure it is different for each of us. It's introspective detective work.

Stop when it seems to be getting worse. Do something different, then come back to it later. Consult the teacher, of course. I try to take away, and latch onto one insight per lesson. If I am made aware of just one thing from a lesson and I understand it - "your first cut note in the dot cut cut dot in that phrase is held too long. Make it a 'Question and Answer with the previous phrase'" - that's well worth the time and money.

The peaks and valleys will never end, but the discoveries along the way make up for the frustration. The valleys are the brief respites so that you can recover from the highs of scaling the peaks.
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Old 07-21-2019, 08:42 AM   #19
salmunmousavi
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

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Originally Posted by Nerdypiper42 View Post

Anyone else have the occasional (private) temper tantrum?

In the middle of one right now!
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Quite possibly one of the only Iranian players of the Highland Pipes in the world.
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Old 07-22-2019, 03:47 AM   #20
Piping Potential
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Default Re: Peaks and valleys of the learning process

I was chatting with someone today about piping frustrations and his advice was to just let go. Stop trying to be in control. Even with diligent practice, fingers and brains will progress at their own pace. We can't force it.

Good advice but easier said than done. I'll let you know if and when I reach piping zen.
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