Teaching Yourself How To Play An Instrument
I liked Ariane Todes' essay, "A Bluffer's Guide to Teaching," from (Todes A. A BLUFFER'S GUIDE TO TEACHING. Strad [serial online]. December 2010;121(1448):44-46. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 8, 2012.) because it talks about ho to effectively teach yourself how to play an instrument, and it goes into special detail about transferring from one stringed instrument to another, which is what I am interested in. I am trying to transfer my knowledge of classical violin to alternative mandolin, and this article offers tips on how to do that and stick with it until you fully master the skill. I have started to teach myself how to play the mandolin, but have never been able to stick with it to the point where I learn something and can actually play something, and I think that the advice in this article may help me do so. It talks about how to transfer skills from one instrument or from not having any experience to be able to teach yourself to play and to interact with others in the musical community for advice and learning tips.
I'm learning more about teaching myself how to play the mandolin right now, and in particular what I'm wondering about is: Is it possible to teach yourself how to play an instrument based on a very small amount of musical knowledge? I was researching this question online, and this magazine article caught my attention because i was looking through the academic search premier on the New York Public Library for articles about musical instrument and teaching yourself how to play one, and I came across this article.
"If you’re in a situation where you have to teach an instrument that’s not your specialism you shouldn’t be expected to do it without training, or access to someone who can provide you with the advice that’s needed. The skills are transferable, but if you put a violin in the hands of a cellist it can easily look as bad as putting it in the hands of a man in the street."
Todes, Ariane. A Bluffer's Guide to Teaching. Page 45
The quote I chose here is basically saying that it is incredibly difficult to teach yourself how to play an instrument and that skills learned on one instrument, even if they are in the same family, doesn't always transfer from one to the other. Even if you have musical training, it isn't like you can just pick up an instrument and become immediately proficient. It takes a lot of skill and practice, and even some un-learning in order to switch from playing one thing to the next, especially if you have very little prior training or are trying to teach yourself how to play something new.
I think this is important because it is basically saying that what I am trying to do is very hard to do. It isn't impossible to make the switch by no means, but I shouldn't be expecting it to happen right away without even trying It makes me wonder how long it's actually gonna take for me to teach myself how to play this instrument. I wonder how much time and effort I really have to put in before I start to even remotely understand what is going on between my fingers and the strings. It just forces me to acknowledge that if I really want to teach myself how to play the mandolin then I have to put in the time and effort and enthusiasm needed for my brain to start making connections and for me to improve. I think I am ready to make that commitment though, and researching the topic has made me even more sure of that.
Another sentence Todes wrote that stands out for me is: "‘Get hold of an instrument. Play something you can play on your own instrument on the new one. It’s about having done it yourself, having tried to see what it feels like, preferably with feedback from an expert player. If you can, get access to a colleague for a lesson or two, or just to sit with you and give you feedback on how you look.’" I think this is interesting because it advises familiarizing yourself with the instrument and then starting with the things that you know already from prior musical experience and then maybe getting advice from somebody who knows more about the instrument than you do, even if it's embarrassing, because it will give you an idea of how to proceed.
A third sentence that I liked was: "If you’re in a situation where you have to teach an instrument that’s not your specialism you shouldn’t be expected to do it without training, or access to someone who can provide you with the advice that’s needed." This stood out for me because it talks about how you can't always teach yourself everything, but there are skills that are transferable and there are ways, like using the internet and online tabs, for you to make progress on your own, which is exactly what I'm planning to do and I need to stick to it.
I don't strongly agree with Ariane Todes that it is impossible to immediately switch from one instrument to another based on prior knowledge. One reason I say this is because I have friends who can pick up instruments that they have never played for and immediately understand how it works and how to play it and will start to make music with it. The skill level of these friends is very high, but still, they are a very strong exception to the rule, and it can be very frustrating when I have been working at the mandolin for a few months and still haven't really gotten it yet and they can pick it up and play better than I do without ever having played it before. Another reason disagree with Ariane Todes is that it's possible to "bluff" your way through teaching yourself how to play an instrument because it really takes time and effort to learn something.
What I appreciate about this writer's work is the depth that she goes into about how each musical instrument and the skills required to play each one are related to each other and how it is possible to transfer your musical knowledge. I think that this whole article was interesting because it really talks about how you can teach yourself how to play something, which is exactly what I was looking for when I first started researching.I look forward to seeing what she writes next, because I want to see if her next article on the same topics includes switching from a strined instrument to a fretted stringed instrument, which is what I am actually trying to do. I want to see if she has any tips or practice tips that I could follow even though I am not doing exactly what she is talking about here in this article. I am interested to see if the Bluffer's guide to teaching has more editions or if it applies to any other types of instruments.