How long did it take you to learn?

How long did it take you to learn?

Hi I am 13 years old and I have a tenor guitar. I have been learning for 6 months. I am quite good at stuming and singing and I can play about 5 Irish tunes without strumming. I cant find the right notes to make up a tune on my own I need to read them for weeks How long will it take before I can just play any tune? My uncle said it took him 3 years

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Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Clair- When you say "I cant find the right notes to make up a tune on my own" I assume you mean figuring out a tune by ear, not composing new tunes. There have been a slew of threads on this topic, but here’s a quick summary :1-get the tune down in your head before you try to find the notes-it helps to start with very familiar tunes-nursery rhymes, TV jingles, etc. Since you sing, this is a big help- sing the tune, and then find the notes on the guitar.
2 -It can help to familiarize yourself with a few basic scales, most importantly D Major and G Major. Since most Irish tunes use the notes from these scales primarily, knowing these fingerings can reduce guesswork.
3-Many people use software to slow down recordings which can help to hear difficult parts.
4-As to how long it takes, of course the answer is it depends-on so many factors, but largely on how much time and energy you put into it. You’re young, so you have plenty of both. Good Luck.

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Thank you I did not know that was what playing by ear ment I kept seeing that word on the internet.
The only tune I can play by ear is happy birthday & I can only get that right sometimes. I can sing some Beatles songs & play cords without a book but I cant so any Irish music when you press the notes one at a time. I play every day sometimes I get up and play in the morning two. I can play more better now my dad fitted a capo because my guitar has a long neck ha ha

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I did not mean to say more better just better x

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Re: How long did it take you to learn?

if you ask "how long" it takes for you to start to feel like the guitar was a part of your body and really be comfortable and not have to hunt for each note…I’d say a couple years, like your uncle said.

Its hard to say because it depends on how many hours each day you practice, but its more like a couple years than a couple months

so just be patient and have fun with it

practicing scales like 5string says will bring it along faster than not practicing scales

just don’t think it happens over night, and also don’t think its hopeless just because it isn’t coming to you. that’s how it goes sometimes….you work and work and get no place fast, then all of a sudden you just get it

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

It seems you may be asking about how to memorize a tune, to be able to play it without having to read the music.
I think the only way to do that is to play it over and over.
Practice, practice, practice.
Eventually the tune will stick in your head and your fingers will know what to do.

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

I started playing at 13, just like you. The learning never stops. I’m 57 now and the only thing it’s all about is learning. Have fun, fun, fun. Learn all you can, get better and better but never stop learning because if one day you find yourself saying: it’s enough, you will definitely get worse at what you do…

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Clair, if you are in the USA then this musician’s school is just right for you; http://www.csarts.org/
Community School of the Arts has hundreds of schools around the USA.
Study, think, practice and enjoy for as long as it takes!

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Thank you everybody, I live in the England. I want to post a video but dad says I cant :(
I am leaning to play harvest home but it has a difficult stretchy bit that I cant do I have been trying for months ha ha I can play tenpenny bit with my eyes closed now 🙂 I can play the Kerry polka really fast. bye x

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Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Hi Clair

As you live in England, there may be a CCE branch near you where you could get help and instruction.
http://www.comhaltas.co.uk/

You can find a branch list on their website.

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Hi Clair! I may have missed this, but do you have a teacher, a personal music instructor? It sounds like you don’t. If not, at your age you need one in my opinion. Fact is you are just about as far as you can go without some kind of professional teaching, either in person or from an internet course perhaps, but I recommend the personal teacher(or a classroom setting where you can still get one-on-one help). Although the strumming and singing you are doing is nice, and I’m sure you are making that sound good, the fact is that Irish tunes go quite a bit further than that. For example, you will need to learn some basic music theory, and you will need to practice and learn scales and chords in a number of different keys and modes. You also need someone there to make sure you are doing all this with the proper technique and execution. Now, I’m not trying to sound intimidating. To the contrary, I think you are old enough and smart enough that you can handle all this given some time and practice. If you do not already have a teacher, six months learning an instrument from the very beginning is too long to go without a teacher. You may have already picked up some bad habits that you need to correct. But I know that you can do it. You already have the number one tool you need for learning any musical instrument: the desire to learn to play. I know that is true or you would not have asked for help here. Good luck to you!

David E.

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thank you David & Big Dave. I went to see a mandolin teacher for 3 lessons when I fist got my lovly guitar.
we live a long way from teachers and nobody knows about a tenor guitar but in the summer holiday my dad will pay for 3 more lessons (thanks dad) David you talk like my head teacher at school are you a teacher?

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Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Clair- If you are having trouble with a stretch on Harvest Home after practicing for months, then you should try other fingerings, including ones that involve shifting your hand up the neck, and possibly playing some of the notes on other strings; for example the F# that is normally played on the E string 2nd fret can also be found on the A string 9th fret. If I knew the exact version of Harvest Home that you play I could be more specific.

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Hi my dad says I can post a sound cloud when we have time but I think I was wrong because it is tenpenny money that I cant get to the high bit sorry x
do you know if my friends blind bard & gobby o gobby are still here?

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I already talked. But let me give credit to David Elosser for a really fine post, as above. Yeah, with any instrument there really are a LOT of details to be learned, about the instrument and about music in general, and having the guidance of an experienced, qualified teacher really can put you into the musical picture. Imagine becoming a musician!

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"David you talk like my head teacher at school are you a teacher?…"

Thank you Clair. 🙂 Actually, I got my bachelor’s degree in music education in North Carolina, U.S., but I never actually became a teacher. I’m glad you are seeing a teacher, even if it is not on a regular basis. You have a great start, keep up the good work!

David E.

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Hi Clair,

Maybe you could suggest to your Dad that the video just focusses on your hands, and nothing else, if privacy is a concern. For loading to Youtube, you can use any screen name you want. Just a thought.

I know there are some very good melody guitarists on this site, and their responses would be of value.

blind bard posted here a few days ago - gobby o gobby last posted about 3 months ago.

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

David E gave excellent advice. For what it’s worth that’s what I mean when I use the term "chops"…the technical skills that all good players have and can be learned independently of a specific tune. After that I’ll echo some advice I’ve heard often enough on the Session "be sure to learn the tune and not the notes".

As for how long it takes…well (at 70 years old) I’ll let ya know when I get there! Best to you.

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Thank you everybody it is 830pm where I live so I only have 30 min s left to practice :( I can do the treble thing now & that is so great so I an going to play until dad shouts ha ha I will post some more when I am on holiday & I can stay up late bye xx

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Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Hi Clair Am i right you are playing the tenor guitar and do you have it tuned G D A E .If yes why not get a tenor banjo book (say Gerry OConnor’s ) The numbers on the strings plus the music above make it so easy to play a lot of tune’s .You will find a lot of people on here are against this method but its worked for me . Is it the tenpenny bit or the tenpenny money you are trying to playDes

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Hi yes GDAE I have a Gerry o Connor book but it is in CGDA but I play the same as he has in his book but in GDAE it sounds ok to me? the one I cant get is called tenpenny money it has some notes down on number 7 fret but I don’t know if that is still a number 7 because I have a capo but the differcult ones are 2 frets lower down than all the other notes. Anyway I am almost getting it now it is not very good but it will be when I get it ha ha

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Clair, if you experiment a little you should find that you can play the same note on two different strings, but with one seven frets higher than the other. When you have tricky passages like the one you describe it’s sometimes easier to play the same notes higher up on different strings so the hand doesn’t have to move as far.

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Hi you might have the wrong book .you wont the first one .The order number is iiawal-1337.Its the book with a picture of gerry on the front and large yellow writing on it .The complete guide to learning the irish tenor banjo

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Hi Claire,

back to your original question about how long it will take to learn to play. Here are a few things that I wish my teachers told me when I started learning to play musical instruments (the piano and the recorder, in my case):

HOW QUICKLY YOU LEARN VERY MUCH DEPENDS ON HOW YOU SPEND YOUR PRACTICE TIME. You may need different skills in order to become a great musician, and each one of them is best learnt in a different way:

- developing "technique", that is skills such as playing quickly or making some notes accented
- the best way for this is practicing one piece until you can play it really well
- it is very helpful if you can learn that piece by heart so that you can look at your fingers and concentrate on the music instead of concentrating on the notes on the paper; maybe memorize the LAST two bars on day 1, then the two bars before that on day 2 and so on, so that you can start playing the tune from the score and then stop looking at the score when you get to the part you already know by heart
- when you start learning a new piece, practice it extremely slowly and then slowly increase the speed, maybe with the help of a metronome (here is a video explaining that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8Czdr_7j6I )

- also, it is a good idea to draw a rectangle around the bars or even just few notes that you find really difficult, and then practice only those few notes over and over again, until you can get them right; you then practice the bar in the box together with the bar before it, and later together with the bar before it and the bar after it, when you are happy with the difficult places, you can go back to playing the whole piece from beginning to end (which often leads to drawing more rectangles and going back to practicing just the newly discovered difficult spots); while it may seem pretty boring to be playing four or eight notes over and over again, this is a great way to learn something difficult REALLY QUICKLY
- as said above by others, a teacher will make this type of learning much easier and quicker by giving you exactly the kind of advice that you need at any given time; I do think that as you are a beginner, any guitar teacher will probably give you some useful hints, even if they do not play the tenor guitar themselves

- sight-reading, that means playing music you have never seen before and getting it mostly right the first time… or at least, not having to spend weeks reading it
- the best way to practice this is to play lots of different really simple pieces, so it would be great if you can get hold of several different beginner methods (="textbooks") for tenor guitar and/or the other GDAE instruments and try playing from them, in an extremely slow but steady tempo (by extremely slow, I mean so slow that you can get all of the notes right, even though in the beginning it may mean only two notes per MINUTE 🙂 … or maybe you can try playing tunes from a normal song-book
- people actually normally only start practicing sight reading after they have been learning to play the instrument for a couple of years, so do not worry if it seems really difficult right now

- playing by ear, that is playing a song you know well without having to look at a sheet of music
- the best way to start learning this is trying it on some super-simple tunes you know really well (maybe nursery rhymes?)

- improvising, that is making up music
- just do it!

- knowing about music theory
- there are a lot of nice websites and youtube videos about the kind of stuff that would be good to know

- listening to the kind of music you would like to play yourself
- people often find it helpful to find recordings of exactly the piece they are learning; some even slow the recording down and then play along
- somehow, my teachers forgot to tell me this when I was your age, but listening to the kind of music you would like to be able to play really helps to make you a better musician - and you will probably enjoy it very much, too!
- it is also a good idea to listen to lots of different kinds of music, including Classical and Jazz


These skills / types of practice are interlinked. For example, you need to develop your technique to be able to sight read with ease - people can normally only sight read pieces that are much easier than the pieces they can play after practicing them. Another example is that learning about music theory helps you understand why it is a good idea to practice certain purely technical skills (such as scales and chords), helps you to play by ear and to improvise great tunes, and even may make playing and listening to music more fun. It may help you become a great musician in shorter time if spend a minute or two on each of these kinds of practice every day.

Oh, and two more things that are true of any kind of learning, not just learning to play a musical instrument:
- (this is what Nate Ryan said above) when people are learning something, there are often periods when it seems that they are not improving even though they spend a lot of time practicing; THIS IS NOT TRUE: their brain is slowly developing new connections all that time and after some time, they seem to make a great progress in a very short time, as if all of a sudden - so do not give up if something seems to take terribly long
- if you practice every day, even just for a few minutes, your brain will continue developing new connections even when you are thinking about something completely different, and even when you are asleep - so practicing often is a good idea even if you only can give it a little time.
- make a list of all the things you have learnt already, such as slowly reading sheet music, knowing the names of some notes, learning to play 5 Irish tunes, knowing what a capo is for, learning how to hold your guitar and how to sit with it, learning about the difference between strumming and playing chords and getting some practice in both, … you will probably be surprised how many things you have learnt in just half a year!

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Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Just to make a mess out of this … ahem … a violin is also tuned to G D A E and a violin has its fingerboard positions. Yes, you are playing a tenor guitar but your fingerboard positions are similar to the violin.

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Hello,
The goal is the journey. Its not about product but about process. Enjoying the ride - each and every minute of what people call practice. Here’s a good book by a musician , about this philosophy that many musicians eventually come see as Truth.

The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life: Thomas Sterner, 2010. The author reads the book and can be downloaded on Audible.com. rated 4.5 stars on 2800 ratings.

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

"do you know if my friends blind bard & gobby o gobby are still here?"
Hi Clair, and Hi Andrew (Mr Bard). Glad to see that you are still keen on your tenor Clair. Thanks for asking - I’ve been missing in action after having cataract surgery that went wrong last February. I was pretty unable to read the computer screen for a long time and today is my first day back, and this nwas the first post I read. So I was so pleased to see that somebody had missed me.
Re your question;- well it seems like you are already doing really well. I know that at your age that you will be in a hurry, but don’t woory about when you will get there;- just learn to relax and enjoy the journey. You have it all in front of you and there is no doubt that you will acheive your goals. I must add , bye the way, that our mate Andrew (Mr.Bard) could also play "Tenpenny Bit" with his eyes closed. He’s clever like that. That’s why I once asked him to do the driving when we go on our road trip.

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Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Hi Clair,
Just a quick comment to add to all the excellent advice you’ve already received.
My husband tried to teach himself the tenor banjo using Gerry O’Connor’s books and couldn’t get on with it at all. He then tried Enda Scahill’s Banjo Tutor book and is flying through it. So might be worth a go if you are struggling with GOC.

Good luck 🙂

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Clair….I was walking my donkey (Polly) through the forest this afternoon and I was telling her about your question. Suddenly she said, “But Hang on! How old did you say she was?” …”Thirteen”, I told her. “Well”, she said, “Surely she realises her hands are going to grow and all those hard chords will become easier to reach ?”. “Good point Pol”, I said… And so there you have it Clair;- a pertinent observation from someone with more brains than me!

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Hi Gobby I am so happy you are better now 🙂
I do have little hands but I can put my capo thing right down & still make tune.

I have made a little recording so you can tell me how to go faster and better. I get really cross that I don’t know how to find the notes I want so I had to mix up a few notes to get this tune x https://soundcloud.com/user891653322/audio-recording-on-wednesday-1

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Hi Clair! I think you’re off to a great start, but I would suggest that you not worry about playing faster and concentrate on playing at a nice slow easy tempo. It’s better to develop good rhythm and feel, and let speed take care of itself in time, I think.

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Sounding good youngin’! I second what Cheeky Elf said, speed isn’t important right now. You want to learn how to maintain a steady, even rhythm. What I would say for right now is you learn how to keep count. Keeping count and staying in time is the single most important thing when playing music.

There are several methods you can use to learn how to keep count, one being the metronome. People speak against it, but it’s very helpful when working on time(maintinting tempo) and rhythm(staying on beat). It keeps count for you so you don’t have to count and distract yourself from playing the right notes.

Learning to toe tap is also good practice. Your foot becomes the metronome. Our bodies have an uncanny ability to sense time and rhythm and toe taping helps stabilize it. Though, you may have to slow down a bit at first to tap and play the music.

Playing along with a recording helps, but only if you can keep up. Sometimes the music is too fast and doesn’t help the cause.

One other thing is walking. It actually helped me out on fiddle. I probably wouldn’t recommend it with a long neck instrument like the tenor banjo but hey, wide open spaces lol.

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Good job Clair. 🙂 I concur with the metronome. We will "count" according to whatever speed our own bodies feel like at any given time or moment in a piece, so that tool is really helpful to train us to keep count consistent. Don’t put it on any faster than you can comfortably use it at the hardest section, or break up your piece into short little sections of notes that need the most work to get it all up to speed. Some parts are always easier than others. You want to get the trickiest patterns to feel as easy as the rest. You’ll naturally speed it up the better you get. It’s actually fun be able to move the clicker thing a few numbers higher as you improve, and see how well you are progressing.

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Well done young Clair. You are doing well. Much better than me at the same age. And your tenor guitar sounds brilliant. Try to stop getting so annoyed at yourself when you can’t find the notes. We all occasionally experience that frustration. It’s just part of the learning process, and like I said, you are already doing well. You’ll be blazing away on that thing soon.

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Thank you everybody. I don’t really know what you mean about the rhythm do I go at the same speed all the time? And my mandolin teacher told me to tap my foot but I cant play and tap very well I will keep tying with my songs until I get better. We are going on holiday for 2 weeks to jersey so I can’t play :(

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People may disagree with me on this Clair, but personally, although I have a very good sense of rhythm, I couldn’t tap my foot when I first started playing my fiddle. I had to get the music first. It comes naturally to me now and I can’t help myself, but I’d be hesitant to suggest that it’s a necessary thing for a beginner to do. Anybody else have an opinion on this?

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P.S. Why can’t you play in Jersey? Will it upset the cows?

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I agree with you, Gobby, that the foot tapping arrives when I’m ‘into’ a tune already. Maybe being able to sing or la-la the tune is a better guide to the rhythm than foot-tapping.

Have a lovely time on holiday, Clair!

Re: How long did it take you to learn?

Foot tapping while playing an instrument only gives yet another thing to focus on. It’s not a requirement for good rhythm, I think it’s rather a symptom of it though.

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Thanks Boyen and Auntie Mollie(ha, ha). I always wondered if it was just me. I think that Boyen’s analysis sums it up in that it’s a symptom of your playing rather than a requirement.

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"I don’t really know what you mean about the rhythm, do I go at the same speed all the time?"

Perhaps the comments refer to the fact that you (occasionally) mess up the rhythm - some notes should be longer than others (if you know how to read music, you’re familiar with the symbols used for different note lengths). Anyway, keep it up! Make sure that each note is just a long as it should be. Very often it’s good to slow down to "get" that feeling; sometimes it can be useful to play a bit over your comfortable speed.

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I am not allowed to take my guitar because we are flying to jersey but my dad says we can see if we can find a teacher in jersey so I can have a lesson. I have finished school now because we are leaving for our holiday but my friends don’t finish until tomorrow my dad says to tell you that I don’t like school but I want to have lesson on holiday he thinks that is funny. I will post to you all when we get back x

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If you listen to your clip can you hear how you slow down when you come to a hard part? You don’t want to get into a habit of doing that. It’s tempting to play the parts you have down as fast as you can, but if you want to sound smooth you need to play only as fast as you can manage the difficult parts. I like to take the difficult sections and work on them awhile by themselves before playing the whole tune again. Play the difficult bits slowly and your fingers will quickly get used to them.

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Have a nice Holiday Clair, I sure wish I was taking one sometime soon!

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I love Jersey - went there last year. There’s a session on in St Helier on Thursdays - I never went, but it might be an opportunity for you to see what a real-life session is like. There’s bound to be a guitar teacher on the island, you could ask at the session.

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Cheeky Elf said "If you listen to your clip can you hear how you slow down when you come to a hard part? You don’t want to get into a habit of doing that. It’s tempting to play the parts you have down as fast as you can, but if you want to sound smooth you need to play only as fast as you can manage the difficult parts."

That good advice is set out in a very worthwhile framework here
http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/8_things_top_practicers_do_differently
One of the best things I’ve read about improving playing.

One key point is, it’s not how many times you play it right, it’s how many times you play it wrong!

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Jerone suggested walking. Fiddle Aunt suggested singing the tune. Try doing both at the same time (without the guitar !) and getting the strong beats of the tune to match when your foot lands.

I find it easier to keep a steady rhythm when walking than when tapping my foot - it is all too easy to tap a foot in time with singing that is not quite right. A steady uphill slope is good for keeping an even pace.

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We had a great holiday in jersey but we also went to guernsey for a day and that was really great.
When we went to guernsey there was a music festival on in the town and there were bands on every corner. We saw a very clever man with a four string banjo, lots of mandolins and my favioute was a man with with a really big mandolin! I have not been practicing as much with my guitar because I am singing with my friends to make a band but I am still getting better. I will make a new sound cloud soon x

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