Beginner The Curse of Prior Knowledge

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,057
Location
West Midlands
#21
Of course learning to master or improve at any instrument is difficult, if it was easy everyone would be playing, i like the fact its not easy as it makes what we achieve worthwhile, i had a friend who decided to play and rented an alto, he gave up after a month because it was not as easy as he thought.
Enjoy where you are on that musical journey, depending on how much you put in will determine how much you will get out, but finding people to play with will move you quicker to where you want to be.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
401
Location
New Mexico, US
#25
If you've played a different instrument for any length of time, if you have a moderate knowledge of music theory, if you've listened to saxophone players for years, you're cursed! When you approach playing, you have 'voices' in your head. A thousand thousand melodies, riffs, licks and phrases (although, that's three ways of saying the same thing) are shouting for your attention. Although I could never play it, I can sing the first few choruses of Giant Steps and hear them in my head. I have listened extensively to many great players and have analyzed their playing.

Then, I rented an alto sax, determined to reach back 60 years to when I briefly took clarinet lessons and must have been able to produce a note or two between squeaks. Squeaking was so bad, I broke my clarinet in two smashing it against the wall. My parents were nice about it, they got it repaired. But the clarinet wasn't in my musical future. It was the guitar, the accordion of the sixties, one in every closet, that won me over. In the 1970's, I was fortunate to meet a drummer who was very knowledgeable in jazz and other music, and his influence "ruined" my life, because it kindled a lifelong interest in jazz. So I listened to the walls of albums he had in his basement. Sometimes, he narrated them for me, saying things like "Ok, now listen to McCoy's church bells" in Spiritual. Those chords do sound like church bells in the first part of his solo!

Having a lifetime of great music in your head and trying to learn to play a new instrument creates a terrible dichotomy. My teacher would put it this way: "Don't try to go in 50 directions at once!" and he's right. But I can't help myself.

How can you possibly NOT include symmetrical scales and altered scales in your practice? And after a few long notes, how can you NOT launch into Naima, or You Don't Know What Love Is, or a thousand other tunes in your head? I'm starting to feel that it's easier to start playing knowing nothing at all about music. At least, discipline-wise, you can focus on one or two things at a time.

I think the number one lesson I learned from my drummer friend, was something he said the bebop players said:

It's all rhythm, man.

I think that the tendency is to play too many notes too fast, because you can. My current teacher also said something else that I found interesting. We were talking about Coltrane and he said, "There's no throwaway junk, there. Nothing extra." It's true, when I listen to a ballad like All or Nothing at All, there'"s the occasional waterfall of fast notes, but's it's there because it's part of the story.

I'm saying all this to encourage new players like me to stay the course. I'm trying way too much stuff I shouldn't do for a year or more, probably, but it's impossible not to.
OK, just for the sake of diversity here...I am gonna reply:

while I understand where you are coming from...I absolutely disagree with the conclusion it has led you to.

In no way, IMHO, does prior knowledge/experience of other instruments/genres/etc handicap an individual from learning a new instrument.

I think you are confusing two things: your particular modus operandi as a human being.....and "how music should be learned more easily".

From what you have provided here, you perhaps have a tendency to splinter your focus. Concluding that "my past musical experiences have hindered my ability to learn sax"...is not necessarily sequitir.

"I'm starting to feel that it's easier to start playing knowing nothing at all about music. "

But are you, really ? Because then you wouldn't know how to read, you wouldn't have a sense of time/counting/tempo, you wouldn't have a sense of the way things can be phrased, I can go on and on.

So, I would posit that rather than your past knowledge being the issue, it is more being conscious/mindful of the negative/digressive aspects
of your particular habits and MO's, and working on ways to rein some of them in and stay focused...which might be the key.


Any art, craft or discipline has a long, long line of individuals behind it who have done their various 'thangs', and left their legacies. There's no need for that to overwhelm us, however.

Just some thoughts....

Try to find the corner of the instrument you want to live in and make yourself at home
Word.
 
Last edited:

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
401
Location
New Mexico, US
#26
I hate following a prescribed method of learning anything, especially music. It's probably to my detriment in the end, but I can't structure learning in the way that some can.
There's two ways to approach the situation.;Try and change myself and struggle causing myself distress, or just accept the way I am and go with that. I (finally, after many Years) choose the latter. If that 'holds me back' as a player, then so be it. I'm comfortable with the decision.
Hmmmmmm. So, trying to change oneself, and the habits/patterns they know are detrimental to themselves...will only lead to struggle and distress ?

...therefore better to just accept that this is the way it is ?

Might not the attempt to change/mitigate one's negative habits/patterns possibly lead to something other than simply frustration and distress ?
Yes, it might be a heck of a struggle...but is it possible that that struggle/effort may well in fact lead to something quite significant , and perhaps even life-affirming ?

Just sayin'. Am playing a bit of Devil's Advocate here....;)
 

jbtsax

old and opinionated
Subscriber
Messages
6,587
Location
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
#27
It doesn't need to be that complicated unless you make it so. 1) master good tone production skills, 2) learn the "geography" of your instrument by playing scales, arpeggios, etc. in all keys 3) listen to players you like and try to match their articulation, phrasing, and other elements of style.

If you want to "wander off" and play a tune you like at the end of your practice session, that's fine. I think of it as the dessert after a meal.
However, if you do that instead of the heavy lifting of learning your instrument through scales etc., there won't be much progress. When I taught music a common scenario was for students to go home and meet the practice requirement by playing songs they liked and could already play for their entire practice time of 30 minutes or so. Eventually I put up a large sign at the front of the bandroom that said "Practice What You Can't Do---Not What You Can". I'm not sure it changed their behavior, but that was the message I tried to get across.
 

randulo

Europe
Subscriber
Messages
370
Location
Bordeaux, France
#28
Nothing is complicated for me as far as understanding the problems to solve. It's very clear that advancing requires work and discipline. The actual work is clearer to me than it would be for a true beginner, because I have already learned a language. I can make up exercises all day to help with weaknesses. The rest comes from the teacher I was fortunate to find, right in the neighborhood. He got me going on the cycle of fifths (I knew the cycle, I mean he told me to practice the majors scales through it), When I began practicing, I was doing it chromatically. I now see why use the cycle, to give it "context", as he called it. Pete's site is a big help too.

Little by little, I do hear the voice coming through, and I'm convinced it will come through more in the coming years.

And I'm grateful to all the input I get here, by the way, it's inspiring and useful.
 

randulo

Europe
Subscriber
Messages
370
Location
Bordeaux, France
#29
n no way, IMHO, does prior knowledge/experience of other instruments/genres/etc handicap an individual from learning a new instrument.
I never said handicap, what an idea? I'm galaxies ahead of the absolute beginner. I was in the first month. But my challenge is the music I hear in my head, all day. It's beautiful stuff and I want to be able to give it a voice. It will come, but meanwhile it's a little frustrating.
That's why I practice at least 2 hours a day, every day. I do go through all the basics first. There may be a distraction between two scales. Another good piece of advice I got was

Practice like you play

Not the whole time practicing, but practicing a phrase or phrases. I try to be expressing myself when I practice.
 

spike

Old Indian
Subscriber
Messages
1,825
Location
Half way up a hill
#33
I'm also very lucky with my tinnitus.
I have a constant soothing concert G drone in my right ear and a B in my left ear that pulsates in time with my heartbeat.
Don't listen to them an awful lot, it gets a bit boring after a while.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
Subscriber
Messages
805
Location
Hampshire
#36
Hmmmmmm. So, trying to change oneself, and the habits/patterns they know are detrimental to themselves...will only lead to struggle and distress ?

...therefore better to just accept that this is the way it is ?

Might not the attempt to change/mitigate one's negative habits/patterns possibly lead to something other than simply frustration and distress ?
Yes, it might be a heck of a struggle...but is it possible that that struggle/effort may well in fact lead to something quite significant , and perhaps even life-affirming ?


Just sayin'. Am playing a bit of Devil's Advocate here....;)
Who said anything about my habits being 'negative'? I don't see it that way. We probably have a different outlook on life, that's all. :)
 

randulo

Europe
Subscriber
Messages
370
Location
Bordeaux, France
#37
I think we're all trying to change ourselves for the better. Different ways to express how we go about it. Is anyone here not trying to play better? I think we all are. And maybe even trying to be better human beings as well.
 

Alice

Psychedelic
Subscriber
Messages
4,970
Location
Kent
#38
I never said handicap, what an idea? I'm galaxies ahead of the absolute beginner. I was in the first month. .
With all due respect, you have called this thread “The Curse of prior knowledge” which in many ways can be interpreted as a handicap.... It’s also a fairly dramatic thing to say, outside of a 1950s Horror B movie :p
 

saxyjt

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,414
Location
France
#40
I guess I can relate to what you're saying about the curse, but it's not a cirseat all, it's a blessing. It's the half full, half empty dilemma.

Because you know a lot and you're already more than proficient in another instrument, you are aiming much higher than a true biginner like me. My theory was not totally inexistent, but extremely rudimentary and dated from my primary school days in the 70s... As for practice, I only ever played a recorder and and besides 'au Claire de la lune', I'm not sure I ever mastered anything.

But I am also aiming high. Because I heard and listened to a lot of jazz and other music in 56 years. I don't make it easy by trying to master all 4 variants of the instrument and being curious I've been experimenting with dozens of mouthpieces...

So as others, I've accepted the fact that my progress will be slow. Like some kids growing up learning two or more languages at once. They don't speak early, but they eventually do speak and in all of those languages.

So being frustrated is just natural. You have to learn the strings of the saxophone and all will be well or swell. Riding the wave... :cool:
 
Top Bottom