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Passive Learning/Active Learning/Consolidation (How easy it is to languish in consolidation)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Reading other peoples blogs has led me to thinking about practice over the last three or four days. (I've subsequently adjusted and gained a minor breakthrough, but more about that later).

I'm learning from tablature so what I'm gonna bang on about concerns that sort of learning. It's also related to some pretty basic tunes I am learning featuring no hammers/pulls/slides but plenty drop thumb. 

I think learning from tablature requires 3 different types of learning. Passive learning, consolidation, and active learning.

Passive Learning.... This could also be called maybe forced,  mandatory or necessary learning. This is forced upon you by the tab, especially as a novice. You read a note on the sheet, and you are forced to work out where to fret with your lh, and you are forced to work out where to hit strings with your right. It"s pretty much necessary that you work out how to link those notes and hand positions so as to play them one after another in the correct order.

Consolidation... This is also relatively passive. It's a continuation from learning where to fret and hit notes. Basically it means constant repetition. At the end of this process you will get 'phrases' under your fingertips and be able to play parts of tunes pretty much without looking at the tab. But this can only take you so far. Some phrases will be more difficult than others. Some will link easily, some will not. Mere continuation of rote playing is likely to result in fast/slow and stop/start playing. In order to move on you need to actively engage and work on difficult areas.

Active learning... This is inherently more difficult as it means actively finding out the difficult areas, then actively working on them to bring the whole tune uo to the same speed and flow. Here I found a metronome very useful  in isolating the more difficult areas of tunes. Start very slow and speed up till something doesn't flow. Work on it. Eventually once all the difficult areas are worked out hopefully the whole tune can be played at the same speed. That takes us back to.

Consolidation... Playing over and over will now help to embed the tune into memory. It will also help (for a beginner remember) in building basic hand speed.

It's at this point I was definitely languishing in consolidation in my learning. I had ten tunes. I had worked on the difficult bits. I was consolidating/constantly repeating playing off the tab. It did some good, I went without even trying from playing at an easy 100bpm up to around 140bpm. Some easier tunes more or less slipped into memory without even trying.  However, I could not play all ten tunes without looking at the tab. I was forgetting one very important point Tony Spadero makes in Rocket Science Banjo which reading other blogs has reminded me. 

You don't know the tune until you know the tune. If you have to look at tab you don't know the tune.

Time for active learning again. Time to trust the ear to find the notes linking the muscle memory phrases.

I'm pleased to say that after two weeks to a month pretty much languishing in consolidation in two short sessions I have now committed two more tunes to memory.(I have gone from 6 to 8) My hope is within a week I will have have committed all ten tunes to memory and be actively engaged in a little bit more consolidation, but this time with complete (till I move on) freedom from tab.

The point of this post......

Don't Languish, be active. 


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Playing Since: 2017
Experience Level: Just Startin'

AndyW has made 55 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

Gender: Male
My Instruments:
Gretsch Dixie Special Openback
Saga 'beater' banjo
Squier51electric guitar
Freshman acoustic guitar
Lee Oskar harmonica

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From the UK and new to American Old-Time. Just listening to as much clawhammer as I can without annoying the missus.

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Created 7/4/2017
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Teaching myself clawhammer from a mix of 'Clawhammer From Scratch' and 'Rocket Science Banjo'. Play guitar to a low intermediate level. Have played many instruments to a comfort zone level of just able to play enough to keep myself happy. Determined banjo will be learned more methodically to try and attain a higher level of playing.

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