Using Fundamentals to Your Advantage

April 8, 2015

 

No one likes practicing their fundamentals. Scales are boring, exercises are draining, and music reading can be dull. A lot of good students know, however, that this is what they need to go through to learn how to play. Here's what I have found as a teacher that I find to be so interesting though: Even the best and most studious of my students will work so diligently on their fundamentals, but won't know how to actually use them to help them play pieces of music.

Now I'm not saying this makes fundamentals a waste of time. Obviously, working on the not so fun stuff can really hone our chops, but a lot of students see their basics as something totally seperate from playing actual songs, which I think is really missing out on getting everything they can out of all that time they're putting in. Making this mental connection is really powerful.

Here's a perfect example of what I mean that happened only a few weeks ago:


I had a student working on a Minuet by good ol' J.S. Bach in the key of C. He found that often times, especially while his eyes were glued on the music, he would confuse himself on where his fingers ought to go. His fingers weren't programmed to go to the right spots. This isn't an uncommon problem, but what I found interesting is that we had been working on a C Major scale in that position for the past couple weeks as well, but his mind wasn't thinking about that scale at all. It was seeing this minuet as something totally different and therefore his brain was getting confused.. Once I explained to him that major scale we had put so much time into is the blueprint of every note he'd need, and we played through the scale again, he then went through the minuet with a lot less trouble. 

Our brain doesn't like switching gears too much, so if we run through a scale and tell it this is all it needs, it tends to be a little more at ease. We can "program" our fingers and tell them what all of their options are beforehand, so that they don't have to think as much later. Here's what I mean:


Minuet in C by J.S. Bach


C Major Scale in Open Position 

 See how every single note we need in our Minuet is right in this scale? It sounds like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised by how many students don't use this concept to help them play through pieces. I think this is a real shame, because good students put in all of this time into their fundamentals, which isn't very fun, and don't even end up using them to their fullest potential! If I do something that I really don't like, I want to at least get as much out of it as I can. I'm sure most would agree. 

Start trying this out in your own practice. What fundamental that you've been working on will help with whatever it is that you're playing? What fundamental that you haven't worked on might help you with what you're playing? Really make the mental connection in your brain between the two, and your brain will be a lot less on overload. 

Stay tuned for more blogs from me and the other teachers here at Falls Music School! If you have any questions about this idea, or any other practicing ideas, don't be afraid to contact me at the email below.

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Happy practicing!

Mike Lowden
Guitar Instructor, Co-Owner
mikelowden@fallsmusicschool.com



 

 

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