Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years (tin whistle)?

I would say I can only play 1 or 2 tunes without tripping up and stopping after all that time and with those it is only having played for at least half an hour and only if I am lucky, more times than not I will still stumble and stop on those.

It isn’t the difficulty of the tunes, but I will get bored of tunes quickly and move to another batch then the one I could play almost without stopping, when I come back to them a few weeks later I can’t play them properly again.

I probably know about 20 jigs and 20 reels and could probably play one or two of each after the above criteria were met of long warming up and luck being on my side.

I am thinking I have to force myself to stick with one or two tunes at a time and play them much slower until I do them without and tune stopping mistakes and move on to a couple more etc.

I will note that if I were playing some of those tunes I had been working on for some weeks I would be able to play them through as I got to the end of the few weeks, but then when I am bored and move to others the fluency doesn’t stick, and/or I forget some of the notes when coming back to them.

I have no idea how people on here have thousands of tunes in their head ready to trot out perfectly at the drop of a hat.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

„ I have no idea how people on here have thousands of tunes in their head ready to trot out perfectly at the drop of a hat.“

me neither. but to play at a session you can make a mistake or drop and come back in on a tune that you know but not perfectly. I would say even a set that you start, you can drop a couple notes as long as you know how to jump back in again.

maybe practice not getting derailed if you hit a wrong note? just staying with the beat?

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Have you ever played tunes with other people or at as session? I know know it’s not really an option at the moment but very different, and more motivating, than playing alone.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

@minijackpot a handful a times. I was just starting to get a feel for it before things closed down.

Not to say I was regularly like I could have but that was because I didn’t find one which felt comfortable. The 2nd to last place I lived the main regular one there was a drunk who was one of the main members who would become belligerent with people in the session when he got inebriated (which was every time past a certain time), made it really awkward; the last place there was no real scene for itm.

Now I am in leeds and I hear that there is a strong scene here so I will be interested to check things out once that becomes a thing again.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

I think all that is completely normal if you have an unstructured approach to learning your instrument and the tunes. If you’re playing and learning in isolation, it’s almost to be expected. Which is ok if you’re having fun and aren’t really serious about playing. The fact that you’re asking though makes me think you’d like to advance.

Playing with other people (especially a teacher or mentor) is probably the best single way to gain fluency. Having a live, real-time connection with another player or players is a great way to stay motivated and focused — sharing advice, comparing notes, commiserating, and knowing that on some level they are hoping you will contribute as best you can.

Everyone makes mistakes while playing. The trick is to keep going even when an unexpected sound comes out of your instrument!

Hopefully there is a Zoom session with folks from the Leeds area that you can join. One of the nice things about a Zoom session is that you can play with your speaker on mute, so you don’t have to feel like you’re disrupting anything by playing along on tunes you’re still learning.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

It might not be normal but I still cannot consistently play through tunes that I have been playing for 50 years. From the above comments I must not be serious about the music but it is still fun to play. Songs are a different matter.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

"but I will get bored of tunes quickly ", and then again, "but then when I am bored and move to others".
You need to fix that, otherwise you’re wasting your time.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

3+ years isn’t that long a time. Think of how a child speaks 3+ years after they said their first word. Music is a language that you have to learn. The more you speak the musical language the more fluent and expressive you will become in that language.

Everyone makes mistakes, but those by more experienced players might not be noticed by the novice. One, experienced players are more able to cover their mistakes and, two, their "mistakes" are often at a level that the novice is not yet working at (dynamics, phrasing, variations, etc.).

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Country Roads said:
"…tripping up and stopping…
…stumble and stop…
…I could play almost without stopping…
…tune stopping mistakes…"

I don’t understand what all the stopping is about 🙂

I think the cure to your frequent stopping is to pick one tune you want to work on, turn on a recording of somebody playing that tune, and force yourself to play along. Mistakes will come, don’t worry about them! Don’t let the sounds coming out of your instrument deter you from the Prime Directive which is to keep going.

You might be playing half the notes at first, or every fourth note, it doesn’t matter. It only matters WHEN you play them, not how many you play. Playing half the notes, but all played at the right time, throughout the tune, is better than playing every single perfect note for a few bars then stopping.

I’ve had students who focus on creating a little two-bar island of perfection, losing sight of the big picture, which is to generate rhythm for dancers. What I did- and this will seem radical to some- was to put on a loud recording of a reel that NEITHER of us knew, and both of us would just blast along. The point is to let go of "knowing" and "correct" and "mistake" and just play, like a child might do, listening and exploring and mimicking what we’re hearing.

After a few minutes both of us would be cracking along with the recording.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

I second Richard D Cook regarding stopping. Unavoidable thought it may seem, *you* make the decision to stop before the end of the tune – nobody is wresting the instrument from your hands or stepping on your fingers (at least, you don’t mention either of those scenarios). You simply have to make the decision not to.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

I can remember the feeling described. I don’t think it lasted 3 years but it was a long time. I thought of giving up, learning to sight read and finding a context where I could do that.

I think the solution was persistence. But I do remember some stages and things I came to know along the way. One was that if I couldn’t sing/hum through the tune without the instrument I probably couldn’t play it through; on the way to that was listening to a recording until I always knew what phrase came next. I then found that if whilst playing one phrase I could hear the start of the next in my head then my fingers would usually find it (so long as I had already ‘got my fingers round it’). Then, when playing with a recording or other people I found (or maybe I was advised) that I also needed to be able to hear in my head a phrase after the one I had just failed to play so that I could jump back in. Not getting bored helps, though often after some tens of minutes I find it time to set a tune aside and stop for a while or look at another one - even if I really want to sort the tune out.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

I am reminded of the old saying: the amateur practices until he gets it right, the professional practices until he can’t get it wrong. There’s more than a grain of truth in that.

Another thing the learner musician needs to learn at some point is how to shrink the amount of brainpower they use to control their instrument. To begin with, every brain cell is needed just to hold the damned thing and make a few notes on it. That psychological reflex persists even after we don’t really need it any more, and learning to get rid of it means that we can redirect conscious thought to higher level activities which make silly slips much less like or much more easily controlled. Playing with others is one of the best ways of doing this but there are others.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

@Richard and CMO, indeed a good point has been revealed, I believe it is probably more a learned bad habit to stop than that I couldn’t continue; probably from playing alone so much as playing with others there would always be the impetus to pick yourself up and carry on!

I usually stop because I didn’t play it ‘perfectly’ and indeed it is liberating to hear that everyone makes mistakes.

I remember reading heifitz say that he made as many mistakes as the amateur it is just his mistakes are smaller or something of that nature.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

@calum that is a chicken or egg thing, or rather I would say cart before the horse. Competence breeds confidence as they say and the intuition and non thinking only comes from gaining a fluency with the minutiae. It isn’t some zen thing about just ‘change your perspective’ and suddenly you become a wizard on the instrument.

@calum it isn’t about not knowing the notes, I can hum the tunes, I know them well in my head but the fingers are clumsy and after a hiatus I will have forgotten where certain fingers placements go to make the sound I want in my head.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Agree with Richard Cook: the only thing that cures this is playing through the mistakes without losing the tune. Think of it not as practice but as a performance? The show must go on!

I also think getting through it your way, as opposed to the way it’s played on whatever recording, is important. It’s great to be able to play it exactly like someone else; it’s not easy, but ultimately the goal—or my goal at least—is musicality and a personal voice, within a tradition.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

In the absence of others to carry you along, try playing along with recordings. You may fluff or forget a note but keep going and cycle the recording many times. No-one likes to make an obvious mistake but continuing the rhythm is more important than a misplaced note.

I don’t know which tunes you know but chances are you’ll find them in one of the Comhaltas session tune books, which have an mp3 recording for each tune that you can download and then slow down or cycle on your player.
https://comhaltas.ie/shop/archive/C57/

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

First off, this is not a race or competition. Everybody is on their own path into this music, and while it can be useful to compare what you’re doing to what other people do, it’s potentially destructive to worry that you’re not far along enough for how long you’ve been playing. Everybody develops at their own pace.

To second something that has been mentioned a few times, playing with other people is where you really learn to keep it going, or to catch up if you stopped. The music doesn’t stop if you stop, so it’s much less jarring, and then your goal should be to get back on the train as quickly as you can. Meaning that you should be able to pick up the tune again a note or two later, instead of waiting for the next phrase to start, or even worse, waiting for the tune to start over again.

One of the steps to being able to play music is developing some "kinesthetic memory", or "muscle memory". This is where you’ve built the subconscious neural pathways that help in your ability to play a tune. Your fingers "remember" where to go next. This is an important step in learning to play, because it helps you handle all the stuff that you used to have to think about, like how to hold the instrument, which direction are you bowing/picking/or moving your bellows, etc. But there are a couple of pitfalls with relying too much on the repetitive movements of your hands. First off, if you miss a note, often times you will find that you’ve lost the pattern, and you can’t keep going. You end up stopping because you don’t know where to go next.

The way past this is to treat the tune more like driving a familiar road. You drive the road all the time, but you still have to pay attention to the twists and turns, and watch out for unexpected things, like wildlife running into the road in front of you… So with that analogy, you can think of playing a tune as being akin to watching the road ahead, not the road that is currently under your tires. With a tune, you should be anticipating where it’s going, and not worrying so much about what note you’re playing right now (because you had already anticipated that note, and it will come out, while your conscious brain is working on anticipating what’s next…) When you get to where you’re treating it more like that, then missing a note becomes less of a problem, because you’re brain is already focused on what comes next.

Another pitfall of the "kinesthetic memory" is getting stuck in a rut with a tune. If you’re simply playing a sequence of notes because you’ve built up the memory for the pattern, then you’re not necessarily being particularly musical. This is also a contributing factor to you getting "bored" with playing the same tune repeatedly. Your ultimate goal is to have your conscious brain guiding the sounds coming from your instrument, and you can then start putting some expression into the music, by changing dynamics, timings, attack, sustain, and ornaments/articulations, etc.

Playing with other people is a really good way to move beyond all of these issues, because the music keeps going even when you screw up. So stopping becomes less of an issue, and you can work on picking it back up as quickly as possible, which is much harder to do when you’re playing solo… So even Zoom sessions can help with this, even though you’re ostensibly just playing with one other person at a time…

And finally, the way to have thousands of tunes in your head at the ready is to keep learning tunes, and keep playing tunes. The more tunes you learn, the more you’re learning the language of Irish music, and the easier it becomes to learn tunes. (Especially if you learn by ear, but I don’t want to turn this into that endless debate…) I don’t know how many tunes I play, but it’s somewhere around 1000. There are tunes that I learned when I was first starting out, that I might not have played in a long time. But the thing is, I can play them way better now than I ever could back when I was playing them regularly, simply because I am a much better player. I don’t consider learning tunes to be "memorizing", I consider it more to be "internalizing". It’s like learning a story, and I am a much better storyteller than I used to be. So even if I haven’t played a tune in a long time, if I still remember the story that it tells, I can tell it even if I haven’t thought of it in a long time…

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

> It isn’t some zen thing about just ‘change your perspective’ and suddenly you become a wizard on the instrument.

Well, you can make of it what you will. But people tend to carry mindsets until they are forced to change them, so if you can get in front of that process, so much the better. When I teach music, one of the things I aim for as early as possible is to have the learner playing fluently, because the sooner they know what that feels like, the more efficiently they can practice.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Playing with other musicians would help, as well as being the life-blood of music. Most places right now, that’s impossible, but playing along with a video (helps learning to use visual cues as well as what you hear) is good. Youtube settings allow you to reduce the playback speed to what you can manage, and you can always find the dots here if that’s a help. The duo at The Good Tune are great players and sensible paced, with some Irish standards, but there’s plenty of stuff around—and you know you’re not annoying anyone in the session. There’s a whole world of fun to be had, and when we finally can play together face-to-face, it shouldn’t be too much of a culture shock!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1-80u—A1o

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

I’ve been playing piano for over 20 years and it only ever takes a few months for me to fall "out of practice" as in my dexterity, articulation, and accuracy are all diminished. Over the period of "falling out of practice", I’m forgetting everything; from lyrics to songs, to the keys they’re in, melodies, chord progressions, the order of their parts, etc. Our brains are simply programmed to forget things that we don’t give attention to.

As for the people who can play thousands of tunes, perfectly? Think about that for a moment. Thousands of tunes means they’ve spent a lot of time not only practicing the music, but practicing their musical instrument. Someone who genuinely knows that much music has "been around the world" more than a few times, and certainly knows their instrument like the backs of both of their hands.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Hi there
Some considerations - How often do you practice, and for how long, and what do you practice?
IMHO its always good to get some kind of focus - For example maybe learn sets of tunes rather than single tunes although single tunes are ok. Making up your own sets obviously involves researching and playing through loads of tunes till you make up sets that you like. If you consider that bands / artists that produce albums, might have say a dozen sets of tunes on an album, that could be up to say 36 tunes. It might take say 6 -8 months or more to put the album together then to promote the album at gigs the band might set a tour etc. The band would be focusing on these 36 tunes for say a year. The point being here that the musicians have to put in a lot of practice unless they can play the tunes in one take!! to ‘complete the mission’ People who write tune books or tutor books also have a focus, again they will be researching and playing through tunes for their books. Whether its an Album CD, Concert, Session etc the focus or platform is there to encourage one to practice regularly!!.
When I put a Ceilidh band set together - I had about 150 separate tunes put into sets to cover all the dances.
I might be playing say 8 Gigs a month and rehearsing once a week as time permitted.
So I would say try to get some kind of focus, practice regularly if you can, upwards of an hour or more a day. Learn an Albums worth of tunes and develop you own style. Then keep going with maybe a second albums worth or a different focus ie tune book etc

Pkev

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

The previous post reminds me …. A few years back, I was talking to a member of a semi-pro family band about the one album they had recorded, particularly, about the studio experience. She said, "Well, we had been performing all those tunes and arrangements almost every night for five years …. " Probably doesn’t help with the original question; it’s just a thought.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

As far as muscle memory goes, that’s a critical thing I didn’t think about when I posted.

Especially with Irish reels the notes go by very quickly but usually the notes aren’t floating independently but are the atoms which form bigger phrases. There’s a finite number of traditional phrases that you’ll encounter in reel after reel, and once these oft-used motifs/licks/phrases are under your fingers/in your muscle memory then churning out reels at full speed becomes exponentially easier.

So each bar in a reel often has 8 notes, in a 16 part part that’s 128 eighth-notes. But you don’t have to learn 128 individual notes to learn 16 bars of a reel! Those 16 bars might mainly consist of the same familiar 1-bar or 2-bar phrase repeated and alternating with another familiar 1-bar or 2-bar phrase, so if you have those phrases in your muscle memory you have most of that "new reel" in your muscle memory from the get-go.

When you’re playing along with a recording you can hop in on those familiar muscle-memory phrases from the beginning, playing them in good rhythm, and later fill in the little linking phrases that are like the mortar in between the bricks.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

One thing that I would like to add to my previous post is that listening to a recording of yourself can be really helpful, but it can also be a bit devastating. Pretty much everybody feels that way. A lot of the professional musicians don’t particularly like listening to recordings of themselves playing. I think there are a lot of little contributing factors to that, but at its core, I think that it is unpleasant because it doesn’t sound like it did in our heads when we were playing it. And that’s OK. A recording is only a small window into the reality of the moment, and doesn’t include anything about what you were thinking, feeling, and hearing when you were playing. You don’t get all of the sensory data that you had when you were playing. It’s very much like the fact that pretty much everybody dislikes hearing their voice recorded. Heck, I was a full time radio DJ on an FM station for about 6 years back in the 90s, and even I bristle at hearing my voice on a recording… And I’ve recorded two albums of Irish trad. I like my albums, but if I go back to the original recordings and just solo my playing, I don’t like it much at all!

However, I am not saying that you shouldn’t record yourself! If you can just get over the initial shock of disappointment in what you hear, there is a ton of useful information there as to things you should work on! One thing that helped me in the past with casual recordings of my playing was to not listen to them for a month or so after I recorded. By then, I’d lost most of the personal connection to the recording, and wouldn’t remember all the places where I screwed up, so they weren’t magnified simply because I wasn’t nervously anticipating them. So that allowed me a bit more objectivity.

During the pandemic, a group of us have been playing on JamKazam for 8 months now, and it is a lot like recording in a studio. Your own instrument is amplified into your headphones along with everyone else. So at the beginning that will often make you feel even more uncomfortable about your playing, as if every little foible is amplified for all to hear. But it also gives you a perspective that is similar to listening to a recording of yourself, while being in real time. So even though I have a fair amount of experience being amplified and recorded, being in that situation multiple times a week for hours at a time over the course of 8 months has actually helped me improve my playing. I am MUCH more conscious of how my playing comes across to other people, and have used that knowledge to adjust some of what I do…

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got for improving was to record myself regularly. Like maybe every couple of weeks, or once a month. Not necessarily with an aim towards a produced, audience-ready track. But rather to experience what I was doing with just a bit more cognitive distance from what’s going on in my head as I play. And it sure is devastating, at first. But I can hear the unsteady rhythm, sloppy phrasing, trying to play too fast, or the tension from playing too loudly. Slowly, I’m learning to control all those things, if not perfectly, then at least a little better than I did before.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Youve got to be able to internalise the tune, hum, sing it to yourself. Then slow it down to where it still is musical, and tap your foot along. Then take up your instrument and play along. ( you could also get a metronome). Stay at that slow steady rythym. Dont go faster in bits you know or try to speed it up to something like you have heard people play. Push through bits you screw up until you get to the end of the tune 2 times around. Were you going wrong in the same places, practise that phrase, with an intro and out few notes so you dont make it isolated. Go back and play through the tune again 2 times through. Repeat infinitum link to another tune that you would like to play in a set. Add some feel, loud, soft, give it flow, but play steady. Usually best to start with a march/polka/single jig. You know when yiur clicking because you will start tapping 2 feet. When you got it infinitum go up a notch on the speed. Record and take out the kinks before you speed up. Dont get ahead of yourself. I think if you join oaim you get backing tracks that you can play along with, this mandolin site has different speed backing tracks as well. Not surs about the versions of the tunes. Theres probably plenty others, and slow down software if you handy. You need to play with a beat and go the hole tune through. So easy to mash it up and change to another to dabble at. You can alternatively start and the point that you screw up, go back to beginning and restart. If you keep messing up at same place, practise that bit and restart. Hopefully you will be able to find a slow session, real life teacher in leeds: https://www.mandolessons.com/

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

The following bits are completely out of context. I’m deliberately posting them this way to (unfairly) bring out the scary bits.

"…it can… be… devastating. …everybody feels that way. …professional musicians don’t… like listening to recordings of themselves… it is unpleasant because it doesn’t sound like it did in our heads when we were playing it… (**And that’s OK.**) ..doesn’t include anything about what you were thinking, feeling, and hearing…"

"However, I am not saying that you shouldn’t record yourself!"

I’m like, WHAT!? Reverend, you coulda fooled me with your entire opening paragraph. It’s not the most persuasive introduction to a newbie for recording yourself. But I know it’s ‘real’. Reverend, you’re an excellent mentor on these pages. If anyone doubts that go back & read his reply in "it’s full context" then it reads as the sound lesson it is; complete with practical advice, years of experience, compassion & wit. I sincerely beg pardon for having a bit of fun while pointing out one of the more brilliant posts you’re likely to find on these pages.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Loads of good advice here. A thought on recording yourself - don’t make it a big deal. I sometimes practice sitting at a computer with Audacity running. Play something, listen back, delete it, play again. You swap frequently between being player and listener. Audacity or similar makes it quick and easy because the waveform on screen means you can see where you are, skip false starts etc.

But I only do it only sometimes.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Yes recording yourself reveals the truth of your playing, the good and the bad.

I’ve been shocked both ways!

After I had been playing a quarter-century I came across an ancient tape of myself made when I had only been playing a couple years. When I popped it in the machine and hit "play" I cringed, imagining the worst, but the playing was far better than I thought it would be.

A number of years ago I tried picking up a new instrument. I hit it seriously, practicing for an hour a day, or more. After playing a couple years and thinking I was getting somewhere I recorded myself and it was shockingly horrible. How could I have deluded myself so? Soon afterwards I sold the thing, which in the long run was a wise thing.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

"When I popped it in the machine and hit ‘play’ I cringed, imagining the worst, but the playing was far better than I thought it would be."

Richard, that is exactly what I was talking about with regards to letting a recording sit for a while until you’re more disconnected from the act of recording it! I really think one of the reasons we bristle at hearing ourselves recorded is that we still have the context of the playing fresh in our minds, and the recording feels wrong because it’s disconnected. But if you let it sit for some time, like a month or more, before listening, you can be much more objective about listening to it, because you’re not feeling the disappointment of it not sounding the way it did to you when you were playing… However, I don’t have anything to back up this theory other than loads of personal experience, so I could be wrong 😉

And AB, you’re right, I was pretty blatantly stating that recording is a painful process when you’re not used to it! But I was also pointing out that this is not something is limited to people new to the music. I know people that have been playing much longer than myself that don’t want to hear recordings of themselves playing… Anyway, thanks for the vote of brilliance 😛

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Pete, for the record I think you’re brilliant as a mentor. You have compassion with newbies and you’re devoted to helping them on their journey. However, as a practical matter, I should point out one bit (from the earlier post) which gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to improving anybody’s playing; regardless of ones’ years of learning…"there is a ton of useful information there as to things you should work on!"

Not something an ego appreciates. Definitely spot on for newbies wanting to improve.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

I generally can’t stand to hear myself in recordings, but did have a very surprising experience hearing myself on a soundtrack I was hired to play on by composer Patrick Cassidy for "Kill the Irishman". It was the story of the Irish gangster Danny Greene in the 1970s.

I didn’t know how exactly he’d use the tracks I recorded on pipes, flute, and whistle, which were here and there throughout the film (mostly pipes when someone you were supposed to care about got blown up by a car bomb), but when the film ended, the first thing you hear as the credits start rolling is a extended whistle solo of the air Bonny Portmore.

It took me a second to realize, oh, that’s all me. He had overdubbed whistle, low whistle, pipes, and overlaid it on a big orchestral background. Was kind of mindblowing to hear it in the theatre.

Here’s a bit of it on a demo reel I put together a while back, the music with the credits are at about 1:33 into the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMOcXPFxhzQ

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Hi, I record myself almost every time I practice so there is no issue with thinking about how I sound. I have found that a good motivator actually. I will record in the evening and then usually listen back the next morning. I think I must be progressing because I used to not be able to stand listening to myself and have to turn the recordings off after only a couple of minutes but now days I will happily leave it running in the background, almost like background music, while I work etc.

The most important thing I have taken from the comments is everyone messes up (
that Paul McCartney vid was a great example 🙂. He even said ‘it’s because we are live’ or something to that effect) and that those recordings you hear of the professional albums are the product of many months or even years of repetition.

Also the working towards a goal is a good point and something I found myself too.

As I have been taking stock the past days things aren’t nearly as bad as I first thought. There are tunes which I have played much more than others and I can indeed play them through. I say this now as I have set a loose goal in my mind to record a couple of tunes to send to someone as they might be doing backing for it just for fun (tying into the other point above of having goals set); so I had this loose idea in my mind and went back the the tunes I think I know best. I think I was basing my whole level on the newest tunes I played because I can actually play through the ones I have known the longest ones pretty much fine (talking about playing them through rather than without any fault at all).

So to sum up the best thing I learned here is that everyone messes up. When you listen to recordings on youtube of the pros I was thinking that that is the norm and basic standard everyone should be at for regular session play but if I understand it correctly that is not the case? I you can let a lot more hang out at a session 🙂? ie that level of recorded play is the product of probably many takes? and the years of practicing the same tunes?

Added to that I do remember even the session runner of one I went to a couple of years ago stopping a couple of bars into starting a tune and just shook his head a little and one of the others said ‘not feeling it?’ or something of that nature and it took him a second run to get it going properly. Does that happen often? It is nice to know at sessions you are all holding one another up in terms of keeping the tunes afloat rather than it having to be a perfect performance every time (which is what I had kind of thought - I mean I knew nothing is perfect but so good as to never falter).

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

By the way that Paul McCartney tune is very english folksy. I recall hearing it in the past but probably before I was into trad. It sounds very Martin Carthey/Nick Drake’esque.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

"By the way that Paul McCartney tune is very english folksy. I recall hearing it in the past but probably before I was into trad. It sounds very Martin Carthey/Nick Drake’esque."

Interesting perspective. I listened obsessively to The Beatles for a year or so of my teens, before I discovered trad/folk, so I never really made a stylistic connection between Blackbird and anything outside The Beatles. I can hear the similarity with Nick Drake and other ‘contemporary folk’ (English and American) – Martin Carthy, not so much.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

This is a good tip. I hadn’t realised, but I experience the same thing re. recordings (learn more from listening to old ones of myself), but hadn’t thought of actively using that principle to get better.

“One thing that helped me in the past with casual recordings of my playing was to not listen to them for a month or so after I recorded. By then, I’d lost most of the personal connection to the recording, and wouldn’t remember all the places where I screwed up, so they weren’t magnified simply because I wasn’t nervously anticipating them. So that allowed me a bit more objectivity”

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Philosophical Guidelines for playing the Fiddle. (cobbled together from several sources)

1. Regular consistent effort over time produces results.
- Play daily. Even if for only a few minutes or for just one tune.

2. Try to remember that you choose to play. You never have to play.
learn to look forward to the time that you can say "Now I get to play."
Rather than "Now I have to practice."

3. Memorize all tunes.

4. Divide and conquer, think in musical phrases.

5. Don’t stop playing when you make a mistake carry on to the end of the piece.

6. Train your ears while you train your hands.

7. You can’t play the tune well until you can hear it in your head. The music
you hear in your head is always better than the music that you can actually
produce. If this were not true there would be nothing to reach for. At the
same time as we learn to love what we do we want to do more. This gives us hope.

8. Playing music is always better when playing with others.

9. There is no such thing as too much rosin on your bow, but clean the rosin
off your fiddle regularly.

10. Have fun!

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

From my fiddle days this one seems to be a taboo, and the rosin was worn as a badge of honor to show you had been playing:

"but clean the rosin off your fiddle regularly."

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

I brush my teeth reqularly and clean any rosin on my fiddle regularly. Both for pretty much the same reason.

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Simply being human means you’re not perfect. What comes with experience is the ability to not let mistakes derail you. And the really good players will find a way to make the listener think they meant to do it! Yes, (professional) recordings could be the product of multiple takes stitched together, or they might have been done in one take. But experienced players can generally make it through a tune without stopping, even if they make mistakes (or, as I like to call them, "spontaneous musical decisions that went awry"). As to whether it takes years of practicing a tune before you can play it that well, it really isn’t necessarily that way. It takes years of experience with your instrument, and years of immersion into this music. When you have more of a mastery of your instrument and this music, everything will be easier. As an example, I recorded a couple tracks with Isaac Alderson on my last album, and two of the tunes that we played in one of the sets, I taught to him the day before we recorded. He didn’t need years of practice on those tunes, because he’s a great player, and immediately made them sound great… And the sets that Isaac and I recorded together each had several takes, but the final product in both cases is just the best take. We didn’t take pieces of one take to patch up other takes… (although, I have done that on some of my recordings too…)

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

There are few things more satisfying than hearing recorded music and being aware that it sounds good to you - then suddenly realizing that it’s you playing on the recording. Or so I’m told, anyway … !

Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Well yes, that has happened to me. I always hate hearing a recording of myself, although I do endure them for the purposes of learning. Usually I delete them straight after, for fear that somebody else may hear them. But one day while I was listening to my vast collection of Irish fiddle tunes being played in random order, I heard a tune that sounded vaguely familiar and thought I’d like to learn it. So I went to my computer to see what it was called and who was playing it, and I was shocked to see that it was actually me, from a few years earlier.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

And sometimes a player recording (or not recording) makes a spontaneous musical decision and it is brilliant. Who says humans cannot learn from their mis-takes. I know Tommie Peoples did.

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Re: Is it normal to not be able to play a tune without stopping after 3+ years?

Once or twice I’ve made an ‘error and recovery’ that apparently came across as clever improvisation - I managed to stay mum on the subject, and let them think what they would. The rest of the time, my errors and recoveries have not come across as clever improvisations, sadly.