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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

How to learn a piece of music in three steps: more about step one

Carlos interviewed on Radio Nuevo Leon Monterrey, Mexico, 2009

In a previous article How to learn a piece of music in three steps I wrote:

1.Treat sight-reading or memorising as a fast track to learning
2.Alternate close-up detail with long-distance overview
3.Allow time for you to improve the piece and the “5 time test”

Step one may make you dizzy since I suggest it already involves sight-reading or memorizing – and that’s just step one! Not to worry, I encourage you to play to your strengths. Say you are a reasonable sight-reader then emphasize that aspect for the learning process, if you are not emphasize the memorizing process.

Can sight-read more or less? Try this: concentration and repetition
Sight-reading is not just about getting it right the first time, however praiseworthy the achievement of so doing, but about getting it close to right very quickly. That is where concentration comes in. Concentrate on the work in hand so you do not repeat the same error next time round. This is easier said than done, since the fingers seem to have brains of their own. This is where repetition comes in. Play the passage or phrase or piece enough times and you will find that eventually the big brain in your head will take over the little brains in your fingers.

Here is what BBC Science/ Bitesize has to say about repetition:

- If the experience is repeated, or the stimulus is very strong, more nerve impulses are sent along the new pathway. This reinforces the learning process and explains why repetition helps us to learn new things. Repetition strengthens the connections between neurons and makes it easier for impulses to travel along the pathway -

You will also discover this is not a million miles away from memorizing, for repetition will help you play more securely from memory.

Can’t sight-read? Memorise as you go along
Learn the piece phrase by phrase. This involves a similar process to what I have described above: concentration and repetition. Here the process is slower and requires even more concentration, for it is best to memorise as you go along. Learn very short phrases, one at a time. The slower your reading, the shorter the phrase you should learn. Repeat each phrase until you can play it from memory. Now take a step back to the previous phrase you memorized and join the two up, and so it goes on. Yes, I know, this is a slow and even frustrating process! That is why I advise Good Sight-Reading Speeds Up Learning.

Find the time to read this article too, it will save you time in the long run…..and make it all more fun.

26th January, 2013, Mexico

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