Miscellaneous jottings about music classes etc.

I was pleased that I could keep up with my teacher’s playing in my violin class, of course she must have been playing in a way that made it easier for me to keep up, I do realize that, but to my own ears I didn’t sound half bad. I am starting to make little changes or corrections in how I hold the bow, I practice often and I practice in front of a mirror. I was overjoyed at being able to play The Ode to Joy…I never could have imagined, a year ago, that I would be playing a bit of Beethoven! I am astounded.

On the Indian classical vocals front things are going well for the most part. Have been learning Raag Yaman for about a month but I never thought I would find this training so formidable. I finally realize how much of an approximation singing along with a radio is. One may have a good voice and a good ear but formal training elevates one to stratospheric levels where it literally is difficult to breathe! Take the longer taans for instance, one needs to sing these in taal and stopping to take a breath makes one miss the beat! I don’t know how the classical greats and my teacher do it! Or I do know, she told me…she practices three hours a day with no distractions.

I am getting the sense that unless I put in similarly rigorous hours of practice I would never emerge from a state of awe.

And what about not being able to identify individual pitches in isolation? I can only identify the Re and the Ga in relation to the Sa. When will I be able to hear a standalone Ga (Me) and know that’s what it is? In the taans I am learning I simply cannot remember the one that starts as follows:

G M D N S N D P M G R S — the G M D N bit always makes me stumble — even if I practice it on the keyboard repeatedly, or sing it repeatedly. The next time I try it I stumble all over again! What is it about G?

It must be something to do with losing any “perfect pitch” abilities by age six if one isn’t trained early. However I have heard that most people can be trained to hear relative pitch. So if it always has to be relative then would I always have to mumble S R before getting to an audible G, or will I ever be able to reach the G without the S R steps? I am hoping practice will get me there.

I never imagined how challenging this training at this age would be!

Can a brain as old as mine be trained in the finer aspects of music? I am hoping I’ll have the resolve to continue.

My struggles underscore how much of an approximist I have always been. If something was good enough it was always good enough for me but it just doesn’t work that way with anything, not life, not work, not music. “Good enough” is really…well…BAD.

Although it seems there is something to be said for approximation. Researchers have found that in math the human brain is only hard wired to be exact in calculations that involve 3-4 numbers, everything else is learned and forced….trying to make a weak sort of case here…or telling myself that if I am not learning disabled or if I am tenacious enough maybe I’ll be satisfied with my musical progress.

I have also changed the way I listen to music, any music. It used to just wash over me before, now I am making it stick by trying to listen for every instrument in the orchestra, especially the drums, the tabla, the way each instrument makes its entrance into the piece being performed.

I am determined to go about this quest in the right way, the goal is to learn about music and to derive some enjoyment from the learning process…no ambition, no grandiose plans.

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