The Start of My Journey

January 25, 2017, 11:43pm. This marks the start of a new journey. Having failed a musicianship class and being inspired by Tim Ferris and his ‘meta’ learning, I’ve decided to journal my progress and my goals for the next 6 months. Why? Because this journal is something that allows me to check back on my progress and include some stakes into my learning.

 

Let’s begin.

I will begin by apply Tim Ferriss’ meta-learning theories: DiSSS, which is short for Deconstruction, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes.

 

Goals: 

  1. To be able to hear chords up to 5 notes, with their extensions, inversions. Ex: Maj7b5
  2. Be able to hear any quality of chords. Min 7, maj7, dimmaj7, minmaj7,
  3. Be able to hear compound intervals with the full range of the piano in short times.
  4. Be able to dictate intermediate-advanced rhythm and melody at the same time.

 

 

STEP 1. DECONSTRUCTION

Deconstruction simply means to take something large and break down into smaller pieces. It’s to also focus, and find problems that would go against my progress .

That something large is musicianship. It’s the inherent ability to be able to decipher music through listening and understanding the theory behind it. It’s a combination of developing the ear and having the knowledge to connect the dots. So if we were to break this skill down, it would start off with a piece of music, which is then broken down into a form or structure of repeating sections. The sections are then broken down into a combination of musical phrases. A musical phrase is  made up of a chord progression, which is then made by chords, and then by intervals. Music, at its core and its earliest form, starts with an intervalic relationship between two particular notes. (Note: Rhythm, among other things, is also included in the chord progression and between intervals, but since interval recognition is the most uncommon and most untrained musical ability, then it must take precedence).

To summarize:
Piece of music  >  Sections(Form)  >  Musical Phrases  >  One Musical Phrase  >  One Chord Progression  >  One Chord  >  One note

 

Great, so it’s all down to one note. Now, I must outline what my weaknesses are and what’s prevented growth from the past. Why and how have I failed in the past? How have others failed in the past?
1.  Didn’t practice enough.
2. Felt overwhelmed and felt like not enough growth happened.
3. Felt discouraged when others seemed to pick up things more easily.
4. Others have failed through mindless, boring repetition.
5. Others have accepted that they just don’t have the ears to be able to perceive musical theory.
6. Others aren’t able to perceive the distinction between certain notes, and therefore can’t determine the quality of chords.
7. We all don’t know how to really approach musicianship and ear training correctly, and accept that it’s this fleeting thing that comes into our lives.

The two biggest main concerns to me are numbers 6 and 4. My perception of single notes and intervals are not strong enough, therefore making it hard to distinguish chords, and because I always practiced everything over and over and over mindlessly, hoping that one day it will just click, I haven’t made that much progress. Therefore my approach to this first step of deconstruction, is strengthening my understanding of intervals and notes, and through this journal and through my research, I will be able to train in a way that is efficient and effective.

 

 

STEP 2. SELECTION

Selection applies Pareto’s 80/20 principle, outlining that 80% of results come from 20% of causes. I will focus on the 20% that offers the most value.

Let’s state my goals again:

  1. To be able to hear chords up to 5 notes, with their extensions, inversions. Ex: Maj7b5
  2. Be able to hear any quality of chords. Min 7, maj7, dimmaj7, minmaj7,
  3. Be able to hear compound intervals with the full range of the piano in short times.
  4. Be able to dictate intermediate-advanced rhythm and melody at the same time.

To accomplish 80% of the above, I must focus FIRST on interval recognition. Why?

  1. Knowing the intervals such as the 7th, 11th, 5th, will allow me to recognize when notes are added for color and when notes are sharped or flatted
  2. Knowing the intervals will help me decipher the tone qualities. For example, a major 7 is a major third, minor third, and then another major third.
  3. Knowing intervals means knowing compound intervals
  4. Knowing intervals  allows me to dictate melody instantly, which can possibly give me more time to decipher the rhythm

In number 4, rhythm is neglected, but it will be worked on later purely because of the realization that working on intervals alone, will help me finish 3/4 of my goals, which is relatively close to 80%.

 

 

STEP 3. SEQUENCING

 

Sequencing means to do things in the right order, and the right order doesn’t necessarily mean from start to finish. Sometimes, the right order is working backwards and reverse engineering your goals. Firstly, I need to ask myself some questions before beginning this process. Questions like: What if I did things in the opposite order; What if I practiced in a way that was different from everyone else, etc.

So to outline, here’s how everyone else practices:
1. In front of a computer or piano, testing themselves
2. Going interval after interval through pure recognition
3. Going through chords through pure recognition

What I plan to do differently deals with doing things oppositely:
1. Practicing completely alone, without any reference, but then taking interval tests later to capture data.
2. Learning intervals using only association. Every interval will be associated with something, no matter if it’s ascending, descending, or harmonic.
3. Chords will be learned through intervals and their associations.

 

Furthermore, to increase learning growth. I will increase the amount of my deep sleep and sleep an average of 6-7 hours a night, since I usually sleep less than 5 hours. Here’s an article by Julliard Performance Psychologist Noa Kageyama, about the importance of sleep with musicians and how it affects learning and growth.

 

 

 

STEP 4. STAKES
Stakes refers to setting incentives so that procrastination is combatted. This means consequences for most people, since humans are hardwired to be loss-averse.

So, as a broke college student, I joined stickk.com and pledged to donate $25 each week to an anti-charity if I don’t practice everyday and make at least a 5% increase in all of my tests. I’ve also assigned my best friend with the task of being the referee to also improve the chances of improvement and consistency with my practice schedule.

 

 

 

 

1ST WEEK PRACTICE SCHEDULE

  • I will transcribe 2 bars of a random melody from a random classical piece, everyday. Very simple, but will help with my ability to hear pitches monophonically and as singular beings, before hearing them as groups.
  • I will train intervals based on association. I will associate each ascending, descending, and harmonic interval with a song.
  • I will define the characteristic of each interval and become acquainted with it.
  • I will take 50 tests of ascending intervals, 50 tests of descending intervals, and 50 tests of harmonic intervals daily.
  • For each category of tests, I will write down all of my mistakes and spend the next day only working on those mistakes. No exceptions
  • For extra credit if I am willing to, I will also practicing singing individual modes in melodic minor to orient my ear, and listening to chords.

 

I will very much post the data to this training regimen here on this blog, every Thursday. My goal is to increase my knowledge of intervals by at least 5% every week. Setting the goal low is necessary to attain consistency. As this becomes a habit, I will increase the goal percentage.

 

If you are following this for some reason, whoever you are, thank you. I’m excited to begin this process of deconstructing and mastering a skill within 6 months.
Let’s do this!

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