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Beginner (Intermediate) Plateaus?

mizmar

mizmar

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I guess this applies to many/all skill based activities.

So, something like playing an instrument requires a number of skills coming together; however people tend to learn different skills at different rates... let alone neglect developing one or several components. So, seems to me, learning to play develops in a series of improvement up-ticks (when all the bits are lined up) and plateaus (when some bits are lagging and hold everything back).
I guess something like the abrsm exam schedule tries to ensure that all the bits are about at the same level.

Anyway, any tricks for identifying what's keeping one on a plateau and away from an up-tick?

I guess it's a question of a more holistic view of learning rather than the (normal) "learn this scale, that arpeggio, some lick etc.".
For me, one issue is that, IMHO, sometimes you're not on a flat, plane like plateau; but in a rut or hole and one has to be prepared to break things, shake things up, take a step back and re-learn things better.
 
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DavidUK

DavidUK

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I'm on a submarine plateau...

Regular playing comes behind:
  • Working
  • Home DIY and "jobs"
  • Furthering my new pad system
  • GAS
My music room is dominated by a workbench. The music stand, music, and amp are to one side. A stack of sax cases to the other.

I often wish I'd just stuck to playing and not got so sidetracked into "everything" saxophone, but whatever hobby I have I tend to get fully immersed into researching history, what's best (for me), technical details, chasing more bargains, innovations... it IS a disease.

...but I quite like all of it.
 
MikeMorrell

MikeMorrell

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Great question! I'm interested to hear how talented players & experienced teachers weigh in on this!

I've been pretty much on the same 'sax playing' plateau for many years. Essentially through waning ambition to play any better and gradual lack of regular practice/development. And a lack of a tutor! I play (just about) good enough to hold a place in 2 Big Bands and that's OK with me.

I suspect that a good tutor is best-placed to assess your level of different skills development and recommend the most important areas to work on at any time. Without a tutor (which I couldn't afford for years), this cafe has often inspired me to work on improvements. Usually via links to various (tutorial) YouTube videos and downloads. The main problem - without a tutor - is that you don't get any direct feedback (or tips) on how your development in any area is progressing. It's (in my case) also easier to fall back into tried and trusted 'bad habits' whereas a tutor would keep you 'sharp'.

I don't know for sure but I'm pretty sure that there are a couple of 'models' of how best to develop all-round sax skills. The abrsm exam schedule is a one widely recognised 'model'. I may be completely wrong on this (absrm students please weigh in!) but my impression is that the abrsm 'model' is primarily an assessment of your ability to play written music at different levels. There may be other models of 'sax skill development' but I don't know of any.

I like your 'holistic view of learning' approach. Perhaps I would re-phrase this as 'self-directed learning'. FWIW (OT), I did some 'adult training courses' back in the day and different people do indeed have different (preferred) 'learning styles'. In all areas of education, 'self-directed learning' has become much more prevalent over the past 20-30 years. But always within some 'framework' (= model) through which learning outcomes are assessed (and as necessary supplemented/ guided).

I'm leaving for a 2.5 week holiday tomorrow so I don't have time today to post all the links that have helped me over the years. But they do provide a good basis for making a 'self-assessement' of your skills and hopefully provide some inspiration to take your sax playing to the next level.

FWIW (OT), most of what I've learned over the past few years - from band directors - are:
  • better dynamics/interpretation/timing
  • better balance in the sax section
  • musicality, expression (and confidence!) when playing solo's

Yet another OT subject: for years, guitar was my main instrument. First Electric, then Folk and finally Classical. Each switch forced me to re-learn how to play guitar (and read music). So it's just possible that including styles that you don't normally play could open up new opportunities :)
 
Caz

Caz

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I guess this applies to many/all skill based activities.

So, something like playing an instrument requires a number of skills coming together; however people tend to learn different skills at different rates... let alone neglect developing one or several components. So, seems to me, learning to play develops in a series of improvement up-ticks (when all the bits are lined up) and plateaus (when some bits are lagging and hold everything back).
I guess something like the abrsm exam schedule tries to ensure that all the bits are about at the same level.

Anyway, any tricks for identifying what's keeping one on a plateau and away from an up-tick?

I guess it's a question of a more holistic view of learning rather than the (normal) "learn this scale, that arpeggio, some lick etc.".
For me, one issue is that, IMHO, sometimes you're not on a flat, plane like plateau; but in a rut or hole and one has to be prepared to break things, shake things up, take a step back and re-learn things better.
Intresting, i usually experience growth after hitting a plateau/the rut

Maybe I’m just choosing to do new stuff in order of keeping myself entertained. Never gave it much thought tbh

Atm I’m having lot of fun playing over a single chord jam, exlploring shapes, rythms and adding different out-of-chord tones to see what “fits” - Something i began exploring after a week of “the rut”
 
Colin the Bear

Colin the Bear

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Trying to be better than you are is pointless. We are where we are.
Maybe this is as good as it gets. Maybe progress is slower than ambition so that progress made, sees ambition disappearing over the horizon.
I don't play to be good. I play to be musical.
Remember. It's not about you. It's all about the music. Tastes, perception and appreciation changes as your ear and capability matures.
Two big bands is pretty good. Twice as good as one in fact.
Maybe it's not a plateau but a very gentle incline.
 
Pete Thomas

Pete Thomas

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The big problem is that as you improve your technique you also improve your critical faculties so you get more judgmental about yourself and don’t even realise that you actually are improving.
 
mizmar

mizmar

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...your critical faculties...
For me, in a way, that's a big problem! Ones ears (slowly) improve as well and so can hear the gap between what one wants (needs? Should do?) and what one is doing. Just one or two of the skills
 
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Caz

Caz

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But isn’t that what motivates you to get better?
 
Colin the Bear

Colin the Bear

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Coming out of a cold and not having blown for 7 days, I would settle for sounding like a saxophone.
 
D

David321321

 
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Interseting to read the comments here.

I'm curious to know how many of us are mulit-instrumentalists whereby sax was NOT our first instrument. And I'm including the voice as an instrument as well - not shower singing, you know what I mean. I wonder because for those of use like that, plateaus for the sax can come in even more shapes and sizes and it can be a very different type of challenge exiting them.
 
mizmar

mizmar

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know what I mean
Yeah. It's a fascinating thing, in fora, what a range of things "beginner" means. Anything from "hi, I've just come down from a mountain having been raised by a hermit. I heard music! Wow! I want to learn sax!!" Too "hi, I'm a pro geetar picker with some piano, harp, trumpet... thought I'd learn sax as well". Not just fora but a lot of teaching material out there isn't clear on prerequisite skills.

I'm sure there are common bits of brain that do; sense of rhythm, good ears, remember tunes etc. (Deep skills) as well as common skills (eg read music) , that build up with playing whatever instrument.
 
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Wonko

Wonko

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Regular playing comes behind:
  • Working
  • Home DIY and "jobs"
Same here!
And on top of that I have a few other non-musical pass-times that also take up quite a bit of time. And often life just gets in the way of practicing.....

The big problem is that as you improve your technique you also improve your critical faculties so you get more judgmental about yourself and don’t even realise that you actually are improving.
That's something I am experiencing at the moment.
I am aware of the progress I have made over the last few years. My tone has improved a lot, I have been working on my embouchure the last year, I am more confident to play in the combo at the music academy.

And at the same time I am somewhat frustrated about all the stuff that I would want to master and is out of reach at the moment (because I need to develop some skills that I need for that).

And generally speaking, I have noticed that learning a new skill or discipline generally has a rather uneven path.
I have compared it to climbing a mountain. You stand at the foot of the mountain and look up at the slopes that you have to climb. After climbing for a while, when looking back you can be pleased about the distance you have travelled already. And when you look up, you see that there is a long way to go before you reach the top.

And when you reach the top, you look around, and notice that you are actually at the top of one of the foothills of a large mountain range. The higher peaks were hidden from sight by the foothills.

You can now see those higher peaks because you have learnt the basic skills that allow you to see or experience things that you didn't notice before (what Pete said about "get more judgmental about yourself")
In order to reach the higher levels, you often have to descend a bit in the valley that is between the foot-hills and the higher peaks. That means getting rid of some bad habits that are holding you back, tackling some new obstacles that are in your way, .....

And those peaks keep popping up every time you think you have reached a new top.
 

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