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Effortful study and musical pedagogy at the start of 2012

So, at the start of 2012, I find myself with a rather nice musical setup that's not getting nearly enough use.

Recent physchological research talks of the notion of "effortful study". Essentially, you learn not by sitting around spending hours a day practicing, you learn by focusing on specific goals outside of your current capabilities. I suspect that there's probably some deep common cellular structure at play. After all, your body is constructively lazy, letting stuff you aren't using atrophy so it can build up the stuff you are using.

I'm bad about this. I've mentioned this a million times, I'm sure, but I took years of piano lessons so I could play piano off of sheet music, but never learned about ear-training or scales, just basic theory enough to read music. And then I learned guitar, but mostly in terms of playing other people's music, at which point I suddenly realized I was able to improvise.

I've picked up other stuff. Like the nature of musical intervals and scales and composition and progressions and what the heck a 13th chord really is and why it sounds like crap if you try to play a straight stack of notes.

But playing too much of other people's music, especially note-for-note is quite boring. Except that's what most people want to know.

I've decided that I should spend a bit more time on this in 2012. Because the problem is not necessarily that I don't have time to play some, it's that I forget that spending some time playing music is a great way to unwind. You can call it a resolution, but it's just been something that was bugging me of late. I realized that it hurts my vocal chords a bit to sing, because I haven't been. And how much it really bugged me that it was sitting there.

I do know a few things that I can do for practice, but I'm looking for more things still.

I'll usually play guitar, bass, and keyboards all in the same session. This might be screwing me up, because the fret spacing is totally different between guitar and bass. On the other hand, it motivates me to be able to switch between them, for some reason.

At least half of my progress with keyboarding over 2011 was playing the game where I pick a key, find some chords, and a scale, and jam. This got me somewhere with the guitar in terms of building a mental map of the fretboard, especially in terms of being able to go outside the common scale patterns. On the other hand, I do think I'm still approaching it as a mostly-one-handed instrument instead of a two-handed instrument.

I do know that I have a problem where I need to generate more mind-expanding exercises for the guitar and bass because, in both cases, I'm stuck in a bit of a rut with where my fingers go.

So far, I've been working on the improv game with the keyboard and loosening up my fingers in general. And I've been working on playing Moonlight Sonata on the keyboard, given that the sheet music is readily available and it's a major piece of the piano repertoire.

What I probably just need to do is order some books on Amazon. This is always a bit tricky because what I want is frequently different from what most other folks want. Whenever I've browsed the keyboard sections of bookstores, I've never been especially fond of the keyboard-oriented books because they seem to be oriented towards playing pop sheet music without covering the nitty-gritty details. I'll probably be happier with a jazz-oriented piano book... because the best piano book I have at the moment is jazz-oriented.

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