Why have a slow session?


Part of the point of the slow session is to encourage ourselves (myself included) to learn to play tunes off by heart. When I was younger, I only really played by reading music. Even when I knew a piece really well, I may have been able to play parts of it from memory, but not the whole thing.

Since I’ve started to learn to play folk music on the viola, I’ve been trying to memorize tunes. At first, I thought I was incapable. I thought ‘I’m fifty and my brain is too ossified to do this’. Even three notes in a row seemed difficult. I persisted, I’m not quite sure why, perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps because Jim (of Wod) said you just have to keep going and the joy of joining in is worth it…

The first tune I memorised was Rusty Gully – and probably because the finger pattern on the viola proved to be very easy. In fact, for many tunes after this, I memorised the finger pattern first and only after playing them by heart for at least a month afterwards, did I find that I could really hear the tune. Then something lovely started to happen – I could think of the tune in my head and not my fingers and that made playing it quite a new experience.

I’m now trying a new thing, apart from still learning new tunes, which is to try and change the key or change the octave on a tune that I know well to see if the tune can tell my fingers where to go… mmm. It takes time, I think, to master this….

In the meantime, I’ve found some encouraging pages about having patience with yourself when you are trying to learn something new. So go slowly and learn better….

A quick summary article is here.

But really the best advice on how to practice (ie slowly) is here, on the key question “how to play music faster” by starting slow…

And a handy motivation for trying to learn something new… and how it isn’t impossible to make good progress in only 20 hours! (And useful for anyone who is thinking about learning the ukulele).

I’ve recently found another slow session website with some more useful advice about learning tunes by heart: slowplayers.org

The thing is that I really notice is that it is all very well learning a tune off by heart at home, but it really only gets tested when you have to listen to other people and play at the same time. It’s doing the two things at once, listening and playing, that takes the brain to a whole new level of activity – and when it works, its just thrilling. So we may play slowly, but when we manage to play well together, it is a real treat. I do hope you will join us.

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