Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

I have been reading about ‘being deadly’ at 3 and 1/2 years palying and from what others are saying I seem to see many insights coming from the 3rd to the 5th year..

Does anyone else have these sudden jumps, I am working on my fiddle now for 3 years and the intonation is getting better and the tunes are coming, I can’t play Blair Atholl as well as I’d like but it is starting to come, should I concentrate more on bowings than other aspects now or should I concentrate on playing with the sounds I get out of my bow? Or does anyone have other tips for me

Regards

Shylock

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

It’s hard to tell on what you should concentrate, because I don’t know how you play. But three years on the fiddle is nothing and I think you will have to work on everything. Do you go to a session regularly? I learned a lot from that and I also learned a lot from playing for set dancers (I started this when I had been playing for ca. three years). We probably were the worst "ceili band" in the world, because we were all relatively new to Irish music, but we all improved tremendously concerning rythm, phrasing, speed, listening to each other etc. So my general advice would be: Go out and play with other people. And watch fiddle players you like very closely. And another thing which helped me very much: Go to workshops. If you by any chance are into Donegal music, I can for example recommend the Fiddle Week in Glencolmcille in the first week of August.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

I’ve spent my life among musicians, and I can tell you that you hit another level around the 5th year, a whole other plateau around 10 years. After 20 years you will see things that much better still.

growing as a musician not linear (for most folks). Most folks reach plateaus and stay at a level for a while, then something happens and you break through and start playing way better all of a sudden. I’ve seen this happen time and time again with myself and the guys I played with

just a caution…there is a big difference between playing for 20 years and playing one year 20 times. So don’t just wait for it!

keep challenging yourself, keep learning, and practice, practice,practice!

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

I go along with Nate’s assessment. It describes fairly accurately my progress as a cellist (I’ve been playing that instrument for a lot longer than 20 years), and I’m seeing it happening in my fiddle/violin playing (I’m just coming up to the 10-year mark).
I’ve particularly noticed that a summer school or other major workshop will always spark off an improvement within a couple of weeks. So that is something I would recommend every year if you can manage it.
On the technical side, I’ve personally found that the discipline of playing violin in a string chamber orchestra, which I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year - I got a free transfer from the cello section (!), sharpens up my technique no end.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

you know for me, starting from scratch with the fiddle and Irish music sparked me to a new level. I’d played jazz all my life, but the opportunity to be a true beginer again produced several breakthroughs over the last 2 years. My ears are better from the fiddle, my overall musicianship improved from playing more different kinds of instruments (whistle and concertina)

…and the nature of Irish tunes actually helped my bebop jazz playing!

there is somethng else that we really should mention…when you play with better players, you get better

that is the best way to break out of a plateau that I know of…go play with the best guys you can find who will play with you

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Good point Nate, those last sentences. In the English session I go to there is a stable core of about half a dozen pretty reliable players, most of whom play, or have played, in bands. There’s that invaluable underlying discipline and experience which is such a great help to the less experienced..

I’ve also noticed the effect in the chamber orchestra - a professional conductor, and several professionally trained players, one or two of which have played in major symphony orchestras. Something’s bound to rub off from them eventually.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

The plateaus are frustrating.

You think you are hot and then you play for your teacher…badly…. and he/she suggests you are still technically challenged.

But there are non-linear changes. Ejoy them when they happen, all too infrequently. But you just have to keep setting goals and not get too frustrated when things don’t come out the way you hear them in your head.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Nothing quite like thinking you are playing reasonably okay, then going to a class at Willie Week or similar workshop and sucking really, really badly in front of the teacher and seven or eight other students.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

that’s a good point about not getting frustrated and to be patient. I was lucky that my friends were some of the best players in town, but it was also hard to be their friend and not be able to stand as an equal for a long, long time

that’s why I’m always a very benevolent player with beginners

its my way of giving back to the art of music. Fellas played with me when I was young, even though I had no real business being on the same stage as them

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Well said, Nate.

Too many times you meet people who won’t treat you as a friend or their equal because you simply cannot play at the same level as them. It’s sad. I’ve found myself slipping into that, which frightens me. It’s like a self-perpetuating pattern — you were (and in my case, still are) treated like kind of a social outcast and then find yourself behaving that way towards people with less experience than you.

Break the cycle! Be nice to beginners!

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

I met a classical violinist who told us that, as a child, he would get up at 4:30 so he could put in 3 hours of practice before he went to school. He’d do another 3 hours of practice when he got home. Six hours minimum. Every day. Really made me stop and think, about expectations and commitment.
Yeah, be nice to everyone, we are all at different levels of commitiment, doing the best we can, under our circumstances, because we love the music.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

the old guys told me when I was a young sprog that at some point in your life you have to practice 8 hours a day for 4 or 5 years. then you forget everything and just go play as much as you can.

it works

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

The trick is, like I said in the other thread, to become fluent in your instrument. It takes a while to feel like the instrument is a part of you, where you don’t have to think about what you are doing, where you can just think the music and have it come out.

Everyone’s different. There’s no set amount of time that it takes to get to that point.

…and even then there’s no destination, just more of a wonderful journey. More things to challenge yourself with, more things to lear. Always more things to learn.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

After reading through this discussion, I would like to add the following comments.

I have never played in a professional symphony orchestra but I did play in band in school for six years from age twelve to age eighteen. I learned a lot about how to play in and with a group of musicians who were led by a conductor.

After four years of military service, I went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in music at a local college. I earned some credits towards my degree by accompanying voice majors during their lessons.

After I graduated with my degree, I began sitting in and playing at a local blues jam. Some of the musicians who participated regularly in these blues jams were semi-retired professional musicians who used to work as backup musicians/sideman with some famous performers. Since these semi-retired musicians seemed to think I had the potential to improve and become a better musician, they were willing to let me perform with them as well as trying to help me by making suggestions to improve my playing. I think this is an example of trying to improve by playing music with better and more-experienced musicians.

I did all of this before I began playing piano at the local Irish sessions in 1995.

On the rare occasions when I have been able to attend workshops, yes they have helped improve my playing.

Yes, I know what it is like to "die" in front of an audience and/or make a fool of yourself in a workshop in front of the instructor and the other students.

On the other hand, though, now that I have been playing music for much longer than is good for my (in)sanity, to my surprise, there are actually people who think I am good enough to teach them how to play an instrument. I am flattered by this and I do try to help them if I can.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

25 years at this, and still waiting for enlightenment.

Maybe it is time to take up a non-melodic instrument?

Hmmn…

….

…banjo?
;-)

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Some days my fiddle is a non-melodic instrument! But there are good days too.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

They say an instrument takes seven years to learn, seven to become proficient, and seven to master. You have 18 years yet to go.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

"They" are idiots

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Ah, I see I’ve provoked our local troll out from under his bridge. Greetings Llig. It must be dark in your cave.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

llig is right, though.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Others say that any skill takes 5000 hours.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

I’m coming up on four years now, and I remember very clearly that a year or so ago, I found that I was able to play *easily*.

Not brilliantly, by any stretch - but it was at the 3-ish year mark that I got to the point that I could pick up my fiddle and produce danceable music without feeling like the fiddle was still an awkward contraption in my hands, and without having to draw upon all of my mental energy.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Who are "they" anyway?

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

"there is somethng else that we really should mention…when you play with better players, you get better"

Agreed. But I also find there is value in playing with not-so-good players - if you want to make consistently good music, you have to be able to make the bad players sound good as well. So you are forced to exercise all your musical resources. Playing with good players is great for learning style, technique, feel - basically, acquiring all the qualities of musicianship that make *them* good. But if *they* can make *you* sound good, then you can come to rely on their ability to do so and thus become complacent.

Of course, I always strive to find sessions where the other players are as good as or better than myself; such sessions are usually more enjoyable to play in - and not too hard to find. But when I find myself in a session where the converse is true, I see it as my role to play my best against all odds, and to bring out the best in the other musicians.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

"they" =seamus ennis talking about Pipes?

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Ennis said the 3x7 years thing but I doubt he was the first.

My point (for those who found it too taxing to read beyond "they" and thus trolled the first word of the post) is that three years is a very short amount of time in the scheme of mastering an instrument, particularly when one is starting as an adult.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

the music is the master

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Somebody who comes to our session has been playing fiddle for a few months. Previously he played guitar, and not Irish music. Now when he plays a tune he can play, he sounds ok, he sounds like somebody playing Irish music on the fiddle.

So that’s it, he’s there. Now he can just enjoy playing the tunes he can play and learning new ones.

All this stuff about turnarounds and having to practice for x amount of time to be any good is just counterproductive.

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

"Others say that any skill takes 5000 hours"
I’d just add to that, if I may, the implied "to get to a professional level"

Sounds about right. Think how long it takes to train as a doctor, scientist, lawyer, engineer, accountant, artist, writer, actor …

A musician who wants to get to the top international level as an instrumentalist in the classical musical world would normally start at the age of about 5-7 and would be doing several hours of practice/playing every day - it may very well be similar for other kinds of music such as folk or jazz. This is exactly what the international classical violinist György Pauk, whom I mentioned on another thread, did as a child - and under the very difficult conditions of WW2 in Hungary and its aftermath in the ’50s. If, after all this training and practice the young musician hasn’t attained a complete technical mastery of his instrument (I mean that literally) by the age of 17 he can forget about the very top flight in classical music. But that certainly doesn’t mean he won’t be excluded from a successful and fulfilling career in music at a lower level.

Anyway, attainment of technical mastery (or as much as the individual is personally capable of) is only the first milestone in the life-long road of acquiring musicianship, experience, repertoire, and learning how to pass on the torch to others.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

I’m sorry Berni29, but when people tell these stories (never actually met anyone who’s managed it, mind) of people who can play OK at session level in just a few months, I find it disheartening. I’d much rather hear that I may not be doing too badly after all, and that another few years may just see me someone reasonable. Not counterproductive at all.

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

"Bernie 29" … sorry, proof-reading skills gone down the pan tonight …

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Seamus Ennis was a great actor. He loved to wrap the whole stuff up in mystery and mystic poetry, that’s who he was. But he didn’t tell Liam O’Flynn it would take 21 years. So there you go.

The "they" are merely the numpties who believe Seamus Ennis’s fairy stories. "They" are the numpties who, after 20 years of being crap, use it as an excuse.

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

If you think you haven’t learned much, try playing the fiddle left handed. See if you can manage a scale without poking your eye out.

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Ennis was a great storyteller.

Although on the 40 Years of Irish Piping album, he tells a story about a competition between an English piper and an Irish piper which he associated with the tune "the Lark’s March." The way he told the story, I swore there was going to be a punchline at the end. Then there wasn’t.

But it’s still a great tune. Maybe it just needs a joke about an English piper and an Irish piper who go into a bar…..

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

"Others say that any skill takes 5000 hours"

Gladwell’s Law has been devalued - it was pegged at 10K hours just a few months ago. It’s still a nonsense claim, though, like any claim that X time spent practicing will achieve Y result.

What is likely, though, is that starting to play in a session regularly will be a leading indicator of a qualitative change in your approach to the tunes. I’d be willing to bet that a player who has been going to a session every week for a year or two is going to have begun to learn tunes by ear, if they didn’t already, or will have begun to play tunes they didn’t know they knew - this regardless of any other lessons or practice they might or might not do.

(I’m assuming, of course, that they are able to play a few tunes when they start going to the session, of course)

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

The breakthroughs usually come 3.14159 years into the endeavor….

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

My best tip is to be patient with yourself.
Proficiency in playing music doesn’t happen overnight unless you happen to be extraordinarily blessed with an outstanding talent
I think you’ll find the weeks, months and years slip by all too quickly; the the thing is to fill them with honest endeavour which will bring its own reward. Whether that might be beside a recording device, dots, you tube, sessions or what ever. Even bad players can show you how not to…Keep your ears and eyes open at all times.
To be able to enjoy music and music making is a great benison and hopefully it will be with you for the rest of your life. Treasure it.

Sounds a bit high falutin don’t it…

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

I played clarinet from age 10 - 40 and more or less gave it up
after that, but I kept learning the entire time. Some of the most
significant learning happened in the last 5 years - far far too late.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

I wonder what it would be like if we could hear what our listeners hear. I seem to recall many, IMHO, fine musicians who will trash themselves, where I found little fault, if any, with their playing. 3 years or 30 years, some folks seem to find the groove faster than others.

Perhaps all of these terms for "good" "accomplished" "great" "at a professional level" are relative. There are several older instrumentalists who come to my mind whose technical skills are well behind many of the young turks now coming up in the world, but I would rather have their sense of style and lift than the clinical brilliance of some of the new speed-addicts I hear blaring at 180 BPM.
You can have the best tool box, but not everyone will like what you choose to build with it.

So, in a similar vein, what are the hard-and-fast absolute rules/time requirements for becoming a good blues singer?

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Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround? - Certainly not. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with years.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

"what are the hard-and-fast absolute rules/time requirements for becoming a good blues singer?"

somewhere around 10000 pack of cigarettes

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

On a serious note, A jazz pianist by the name of Kenny Werner wrote a really good book about this subject titled music mastery or something to that effect. He talks a lot about good and bad practice and how one of his best teachers told him to play only one note for a week, for only 5 minutes a day (we’re talking about the piano mind you )

Another thing that stuck out was that it is better to play something that is familiar to you and try and play it well. really just next time you practice put play your 150% best and don’t play a single note until you are ready to do it (except to tune right before). hopefully the result will be what for you is superb playing, and what this should help you learn is that if you can do it once, all you have to do is recreate the conditions to do it again. Of course if you try to play when you are not ready to play ( maybe too tired, need a hot bath, some sleep, a good meal) then you won’t play your best. If you try to force music to come out it will sound like you are sawing down a tree to build a house in the rain. I do believe it to be possible to learn to play music in months, if you only have good practice (bad practice decreases self confidence and thus decreases ability) and apply what you learned on your first tune (which you learned very well) very easily to the material that you learn after it, and also submerse yourself into whatever type of music you are trying to play. If I really wanted to I could become a decent jazz violinist in 6 months, that’s not going to happen because I don’t have the time or energy to get in the amount of good practice I feel I would need to do so, but on a good night I play good enough for the occassion on the fly in an unfamiliar style, only on a good night

really, read the book, Mastering Music or something like that by Kenny Werner

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

It’s effortless mastery

he also mentions the importance with familiarity with a single instrument. The example is he was at a party at another piano player’s house with a bunch of other piano players and they all started taking turns on the piano. They all had a hard time getting good music out of the thing but when the owner took his turn the instrument just sounded wonderful.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

A strange instrument, the piano in particular, can be a nightmare for a performing musician.

There’s the story of a concert pianist who was due to play a piano concerto in Malaysia. What with plane, train and other unavoidable delays he arrived at the venue just a quarter of an hour before the start - far too late for the rehearsal with an unfamiliar orchestra and conductor in a hall with unknown acoustics, and no opportunity to try out the piano beforehand.

Tuning was perhaps the least of the problems - he had visions of the piano action sticking under the influence of the hot humidity. To make matters worse, he was to play Beethoven’s 4th concerto which has one of the most difficult openings in the concerto repertoire, starting with the solo piano playing very quiet chords which must be carefully balanced - so no place to hide if anything goes wrong.

As it turned out, he survived the opening section without the disaster of critical notes not sounding and got through the rest of the concerto without mishap, being very grateful for a conductor who knew what he was doing and was in full control of the orchestra.

Re: Is 3 years or thereabouts the turnaround?

Three years and almost three months now on fiddle. I love this discussion! We all suffer a bit and some of us suffer a lot. My big one is lack of confidence. I look on in awe as Mick Conneely approaches the microphone, sits down and seems fully assured that the right stuff will come out And it does too!.I can feel like that if I get the correct key for a song-I can sink confidently into it and roll along nicely…but to be like that on the fiddle- HELP! But john knoss is right. Thank you, sir. That word ‘benison’! Wow. It sounds like a lovely cascading phrase in some sad lament…..