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Chris

The improve your musicianship thread 2014

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Right it's January, a new year and a new you etc.  Time for resolutions and self-improvement.  I figure this might be a good place to lump together everyone's plans for becoming better musicians and we can all share tips, online resources, tools and point towards books that can help us achieve our goals.

 

 

 

 

I'll kick things off.

 

I've dabbled on and off with understanding music theory for years but as a guitarist there's never seemed to be much of a need. Tab is easy, why bother learning something difficult like sight reading?  Now over the last couple of years I've been picking up other instruments (keyboard/synth, mandolin, whistle) and am learning more traditional tunes and switching between notation systems (abc for whistle, tab for mando and guitar, struggling to read sheet music for keys) is a total pain in the hoop.  Plus a lot of tunebooks for Scots trad are aimed at fiddle players so if I could sight read sheet music I'd have an easier time of getting reliable transcriptions of music I want to learn plus i might be able to switch a tune between instruments with a lot less pain.  At the moment if I learn a tune on one instrument it will take me ages to figure it out on another. Having one musical language - sheet music should make that process a bit quicker.

 

 

So the goal is to learn to sight read.  To begin with I'm going with doing it on the mandolin, it's my new obsession and has less notes to learn than guitar. Plus I'm far too stuck in my ways just now on 6 strings, I'll cross that bridge later.

 

There's exercises on note identification for the treble staff and on the fretboard available on the excellent MusicTheory.net: http://www.musictheory.net/exercises

 

I also found a good chart of the notes on the fretboard and how they relate to the notes on the staff (also got one for guitar):

mandolinfretboard.png

guitarfretboard.png

 

There's a few apps out there for the various phone OS's which also do note ID exercises. Very useful.

 

Now to practice I need tunes to play. Nigel Gatherer has a great selection of reliable transcriptions on his site:

http://www.nigelgatherer.com/tunes/std.html

 

Anyone got any more good tips for sight reading or learning to read music?  I guess the main thing from here is to practice it as much as possible and it will just improve the more I do it.

 

Anyone else looking to improve their playing or theory this year?  Need help?  Got some good tips?

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I'm going to practice towards playing faster, although I suppose there's not a lot more to it than battering away until I develop a right wrist like a 16 year old shut-in.

 

Really improved on playing along to a click track in 2013 though, so I'll keep at that too.

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Right it's January, a new year and a new you etc. Time for resolutions and self-improvement. I figure this might be a good place to lump together everyone's plans for becoming better musicians and we can all share tips, online resources, tools and point towards books that can help us achieve our goals.

I'll kick things off.

I've dabbled on and off with understanding music theory for years but as a guitarist there's never seemed to be much of a need. Tab is easy, why bother learning something difficult like sight reading? Now over the last couple of years I've been picking up other instruments (keyboard/synth, mandolin, whistle) and am learning more traditional tunes and switching between notation systems (abc for whistle, tab for mando and guitar, struggling to read sheet music for keys) is a total pain in the hoop. Plus a lot of tunebooks for Scots trad are aimed at fiddle players so if I could sight read sheet music I'd have an easier time of getting reliable transcriptions of music I want to learn plus i might be able to switch a tune between instruments with a lot less pain. At the moment if I learn a tune on one instrument it will take me ages to figure it out on another. Having one musical language - sheet music should make that process a bit quicker.

So the goal is to learn to sight read. To begin with I'm going with doing it on the mandolin, it's my new obsession and has less notes to learn than guitar. Plus I'm far too stuck in my ways just now on 6 strings, I'll cross that bridge later.

There's exercises on note identification for the treble staff and on the fretboard available on the excellent MusicTheory.net: http://www.musictheory.net/exercises

I also found a good chart of the notes on the fretboard and how they relate to the notes on the staff (also got one for guitar):

mandolinfretboard.png

guitarfretboard.png

There's a few apps out there for the various phone OS's which also do note ID exercises. Very useful.

Now to practice I need tunes to play. Nigel Gatherer has a great selection of reliable transcriptions on his site:

http://www.nigelgatherer.com/tunes/std.html

Anyone got any more good tips for sight reading or learning to read music? I guess the main thing from here is to practice it as much as possible and it will just improve the more I do it.

Anyone else looking to improve their playing or theory this year? Need help? Got some good tips?

I'm the same but with the traditional music I pLay by ear it's easy to do it on guitar not sure about the others though as depending on the style I.e. Hornpipe jig reel or slow air there's a kinda rythym to it, but when doing less traditional ones I.e. Fairy tale of New York it was a struggle as all the change I'm time signatures and all that stuff then there we're repeats I know my symbols and that and starting to get there with reading notes but it would be a good resolution to finally read music as it's been 3 years since I first tried
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I started writing songs (and actually presenting the ideas to the band for further development) last year and I want to get better at it. Probably just by doing it more, as most of the stuff I've read about song writing has been airy-fairy, content and direction free "you can do it" twaddle. Improving my understanding of music theory, keys and chords and the like will probably help.

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I'm focusing on what I'll be able to get away with doing music-wise once my offspring appears in March/April. Hopefully we'll get an opportunity to play a few gigs outside Aberdeen between now and then.

 

In terms of musical development I'm putting my focus on recording/producing/mixing/mastering as I'm keen to improve my skills and add another string to my bow. I'm looking for bands/musicians to work with on the mixing/mastering front at the moment to gain some more experience with different music types so If anyone wants something done I'd like a bash at it.

 

I've got a couple of bands lined up but I'd like more :)

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I'm the same but with the traditional music I pLay by ear it's easy to do it on guitar not sure about the others though as depending on the style I.e. Hornpipe jig reel or slow air there's a kinda rythym to it, but when doing less traditional ones I.e. Fairy tale of New York it was a struggle as all the change I'm time signatures and all that stuff then there we're repeats I know my symbols and that and starting to get there with reading notes but it would be a good resolution to finally read music as it's been 3 years since I first tried

 

Playing by ear is another area I struggle in.  Would like to improve that too. 

 

I've been playing guitar for almost 20 years (fuck!) and am only now getting serious about music theory.  You certainly don't need it but I feel like it's holding me back a bit and a lot of things I want to do would be easier if I understood it and could sight read.

 

There's a new Scottish Culture and Traditions class term coming up and I'm interested in going along to one of their classes, the one I'm looking at seems to have an expectation that you can read the dots so that's given me a kick to brush up on it just now.

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I started writing songs (and actually presenting the ideas to the band for further development) last year and I want to get better at it. Probably just by doing it more, as most of the stuff I've read about song writing has been airy-fairy, content and direction free "you can do it" twaddle. Improving my understanding of music theory, keys and chords and the like will probably help.

 

When I first started songwriting I read a blog by someone called Irene Jackson who had a few good tips on it: http://irenejackson.com/songblog/

Layout is horrible but some of her articles are good.

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Playing by ear is another area I struggle in. Would like to improve that too.

I've been playing guitar for almost 20 years (fuck!) and am only now getting serious about music theory. You certainly don't need it but I feel like it's holding me back a bit and a lot of things I want to do would be easier if I understood it and could sight read.

There's a new Scottish Culture and Traditions class term coming up and I'm interested in going along to one of their classes, the one I'm looking at seems to have an expectation that you can read the dots so that's given me a kick to brush up on it just now.

we'll I can play by ear but I need to go to the doctor about them as I play my music so loud my ears are now fucked and I get constant migraines but it can kinda read notation but it takes time. But my main aim this year is to finish my composition but that's turning out to be a struggle
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I guess I want to write more 'complex' music. Right now we kinda find a good sound, jam it out, add bits, chop bits and go for it. I definetly want to start actually sitting down and writing songs. 

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A bloke called Rikky Rooksby has written a number of books, How to write Songs on Guitar, How to write and play great guitar Riffs and so on.

The last time I read through one of his books was a good few years ago and his product line appeared to be expanding in a similar vein fairly rapidly. The how to write songs.... is one of the better books for music theory imo. It's a pretty easy read and even a cursory flick through and noodle was pretty beneficial.

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Good thread Chris :) Sight reading is a great thing to brush up on, as it can open doors of opportunity.

 

I plan on keeping on trying to overcome the physical restrictions of forearm and wrist flexion, extension and rotation in order to play more songs on guitar with simultaneous vocals. Due to the forearm being busted in seven places, the bone callouses have restricted the movement, and I have to try to make my fingers and hand rotate and flex to cover... so thats one painful thing to attempt... oh yes, and (reaches for the codiene)....

 

I think that we can all improve and benefit from playing with other musicians, and the more we do this the more capable we become, so I intend to seek out some others for jams, and try to listen to them, observe them, replicate or try to replicate some of thier techniqes in my own little interpretive way haha..

 

As for composing, I may attempt some composing, but never feel motivated to do such. however my approach is(has been) really to switch on the recorder, and capture spontaniety, Maybe a more methodical style of composing will reveal itself to me, and I will be able to deliberately write stuff insread of accidentally.....

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My chord theory is pretty bad - coupled with our approach to songwriting means it's easy for me to get lazy and just play octaves when i'm not sure where to go next.

I'd like to take the time to sit and actually understand how chords work so we can make more complex sounds.

Got a month off work coming up, any suggestions on Chord Theory books?

Also, i'd like to be able to actually use some of the electronic kit i've got (ableton and tenori-on) for playing live. Chord Theory first though.

Edited by colb
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When it comes to working with chords the main thing I learned was 5 &. 7 so example if you started on Aif you do 5. That's D then 7 would be E just an easy example for you, most of the stuff I do anyway is made from just mucking about on guitar

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When it comes to working with chords the main thing I learned was 5 &. 7 so example if you started on Aif you do 5. That's D then 7 would be E just an easy example for you, most of the stuff I do anyway is made from just mucking about on guitar

I was more talking about learning chord inversions and extensions to make our tunes sound a bit more complex. But you're spot on, learning every major and minor chord everywhere on the neck and being able to play them instantly is a good starting place for everyone.

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It's a great place to start here's a wee cheat for example do barre of E on the 5th fret then do a barre of A on the 5th fret then move up two frets to the 7th there's your A your D and your E works on every fret just barre E then barre A on the same fret then move it up two frets and there's your accenting major chord progression

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Ryan, +1 for playing with other musos improves playing...

Also good for jamming technique in general. Different genres, different musos, different jams can seem taxing, but is ultimately beneficial.

The biggest problem I have can be falling into a comfortable zone where you can find yourself rehashing the same old same old. I've been there all to often and equally have seen some good musos do exactly the same. The more you break out the comfort zone, the more you learn/ absorb, the more rewarding you find playing.

Curiously I found playing, practicing and studying Jazz had the biggest positive effect (for the least effort) on my playing in general.

Good thread Chris.

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I want to try and play didgeridoo. I'll probably fail miserably though.

I also want to try a Bodhran. I'll probably fail miserably though.

I've got a didgeridoo. Got it from a family member who came back from a trip to Australia.

First thing in the instructions proved a little challenging. "The mouthpiece of your didgeridoo is formed from a honey based compound. You will need to mould this to your mouth. Place the didgeridoo outside in the sun until the mouthpiece is soft and offer it up to mouth to form a mouthpiece unique to you"

Not a lot of point waiting for the honey to soften in the sun of Aberdeen. I used a heat gun.

Biggest challenge to me was the circular breathing. Nail that and you'll probably do pretty well

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I've got a didgeridoo. Got it from a family member who came back from a trip to Australia.

First thing in the instructions proved a little challenging. "The mouthpiece of your didgeridoo is formed from a honey based compound. You will need to mould this to your mouth. Place the didgeridoo outside in the sun until the mouthpiece is soft and offer it up to mouth to form a mouthpiece unique to you"

Not a lot of point waiting for the honey to soften in the sun of Aberdeen. I used a heat gun.

Biggest challenge to me was the circular breathing. Nail that and you'll probably do pretty well

Luckily I have a heat gun for doing screen printing. Score.

And yeah, the circular breathing looks pretty fucking tough. However, I've watched YouTube tutorials about getting into the rhythm of it and started practicing before even getting a didge.

I have no idea what I'd do once I could play it. But I want to play one.

Edited by Teabags

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My chord theory is pretty bad - coupled with our approach to songwriting means it's easy for me to get lazy and just play octaves when i'm not sure where to go next.

I'd like to take the time to sit and actually understand how chords work so we can make more complex sounds.

Got a month off work coming up, any suggestions on Chord Theory books?

Also, i'd like to be able to actually use some of the electronic kit i've got (ableton and tenori-on) for playing live. Chord Theory first though.

 

Robben Ford is always going on about Mickey Baker's chord book; not sure if it's even still in print though.

 

IMO beyond the most basic stuff, chord "theory" is best learned as a holistic approach whereby one learns intervals and learns to pick them out relative to root notes all over the neck. From there you can construct whatever scale, chord or arpeggio shape/pattern fingering you might need. The CAGED system/shapes, which essentially involves moving the open chord shapes up and down the neck to get all the other chords/scales/arpeggios may help with this.

 

Beyond that there's not all that much to it: knowing the basic interval theory should be enough to construct any kind of chord (coupled maybe with a reference chart to check if you're not screwing it up) and the basic major scale mode theory to tell you what chord type goes where; assuming you're not getting into Holdsworth-esque modulation or pitch axis.

 

***

 

This is probably the first new year where I haven't been thinking about how to improve my playing (probably the same as Alkaline: find some time to do anything). On the one hand: improve my playing-by-ear; continue working on original stuff and record acceptable demos (like I said in the other thread), improve improvisation, learn some jazz standards, as many of my favourite instrumental tracks as possible (probably few, this year) and I'm entertaining dabbling in bits of pieces of various Asian folk and classical.

Edited by scottyboy
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Robben Ford is always going on about Mickey Baker's chord book; not sure if it's even still in print though.

 

IMO beyond the most basic stuff, chord "theory" is best learned as a holistic approach whereby one learns intervals and learns to pick them out relative to root notes all over the neck. From there you can construct whatever scale, chord or arpeggio shape/pattern fingering you might need. The CAGED system/shapes, which essentially involves moving the open chord shapes up and down the neck to get all the other chords/scales/arpeggios may help with this.

 

Beyond that there's not all that much to it: knowing the basic interval theory should be enough to construct any kind of chord (coupled maybe with a reference chart to check if you're not screwing it up) and the basic major scale mode theory to tell you what chord type goes where; assuming you're not getting into Holdsworth-esque modulation or pitch axis.

It is still in print, just ordered it. Cheers man - i'm sure it's not complicated and i've got a decent grasp of basic theory, just a total blind spot when it comes to using more interesting chords further up the neck.

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My finger picking game is getting upped so hopefully it will develop further during the course of 2014.

I'll sell you an acoustic then :). Not a customised one though

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IMO beyond the most basic stuff, chord "theory" is best learned as a holistic approach whereby one learns intervals and learns to pick them out relative to root notes all over the neck. 

 

Making the most of knowing the intervals and how they relate to scales and chords is one of my expected benefits to learning to read the dots and knowing the notes throughout the fretboard.  I've always relied on a few scale shapes and the root notes on the 6th string for melody and lead work.  Having the power to know that if I'm playing a note from one part of the neck then I can instantly play along the scale because I know the intervals and the note positions sounds like it could be really liberating.

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