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Ear training, because doctor's orders

Posted by WayneConrad on Thursday, July 4, 2019

I've got a chronic dermatitis on one finger of my picking hand.  The problem comes and goes, but gets worse each time it flares up, so I was forced to see my doctor about it.  He's sending me to a dermatologist, but in the mean time, concerned about possible metal allergies, he's asked me to stop playing banjo.  I don't share his suspicion, because my fretting fingers have no trouble, and also the banjos I pick most have steel strings lacking nickel.  However I'm so tired of this malady that I'm going to follow doctor's orders (for once) until I get this sorted out.

One of the things I'm focusing on while I'm banned from the banjo is ear training.  I'm using the mobile app "Chord Prog 2" to practice hearing chord progressions (I IV V, etc.).  I had installed this a long time ago but stopped using it because I got frustrated with my progress.  Now I've started up again, and I'm having better progress now.

Something I repeatedly forget about ear training is that progress is not linear.  I listen and listen and get nowhere, then suddenly something clicks and I hear things I couldn't hear before.  I think ear training must be a skill, not a knowledge.  My definition of a knowledge is something you can memorize and then recall and use right away.  But a skill doesn't have that kind of instant impact: it is something where the brain has to reorganize itself and build circuits it didn't have before, and that takes repetition and time.  While the brain is building those circuits, it feels like nothing is happening, and there seems to be no progress.

That apparent lack of progress is a problem for me because I don't like being patient or working hard when I'm learning things.  I want everything to happen right now, without effort (just as when I was 5, so some character flaws are persistent and have to be worked through one's whole life).  But persistence pays off.  Once the circuit is built, suddenly I can hear things I couldn't hear before.  So if you are trying ear training, be patient with yourself.  It may take dozens or hundreds of hours of listening before your brain builds the circuits that allow you to hear that interval or chord sequence.

Other things I'm doing on this banjo-less Fourth of July: Practicing Ukulele chords and watching music theory videos on YouTube.



4 comments on “Ear training, because doctor's orders”

AndyW Says:
Thursday, July 4, 2019 @4:08:12 PM

Clawhammer, your frailing finger doesn't really contact the string your nail does surely??

Listen to doctor Andy W and continue playing banjo.......

Nylon strings if necessary will allow you to continue to play whilst adhering to doctors orders to avoid steel strings.

WayneConrad Says:
Thursday, July 4, 2019 @6:07:46 PM

@AndyW, I don't do strict clawhammer, and sometimes my non-picking finger is resting against, brushing against, up-picking, or otherwise touching the strings. I agree with you that it's unlikely to be the strings, but this is such a bothersome issue I've been having that I'm going to follow my doctor's advice to the letter, just in case he's right.

Actually, I'm kind of happy to do practice other things for a short while. It's not that big a hardship to lay off the banjo for a bit when I've got ukulele, ear training, and music theory to practice. I enjoy all three of those.

Texasbanjo Says:
Friday, July 5, 2019 @4:22:03 AM

Ask your doctor if you could paint the inside of your picks with fingernail polish. That might stop any contact between your fingers and the metal. Just a thought and don't do it until the doctor says it's okay.

rcwright Says:
Friday, July 5, 2019 @5:55:36 AM

Find some real silver finger picks, Yates was making them......

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