The Process of Learning by Mike Overly

September 25, 2014

Mike Overly Custom Schaefer GuiatrA few months ago I asked my students to list ten questions they had about playing music and the guitar. I thought that the vast majority of questions would overlap and I could make a simple top ten list. But guess what?  Nobody asked exactly the same question. What I learned from this random sample of guitar players of all ages, levels and styles is that like snowflakes, no two musicians playing the guitar are alike, each one is unique!

Here are a few of their questions:   

Why is there a nut?
How do I make a solo sound interesting?
How do I tune by ear?
What are some common blues turnarounds?
What does modulation mean?
What is a triad and how many are there?
Which is easier to play, electric or acoustic?
What are inversions?
What is alternate tuning?
What does a whammy bar do?
Why are there two dots on fret 12?
Is learning to read music important?
How much should I practice each day?
How do I know what key I’m in?
How do I overcome nervousness when performing?
What is a power chord?
What is the definition of enharmonic?
What is a moderately slow shuffle?
What are flat wound strings?

And finally, how can you play lots of songs on the guitar if there are only six strings? This last question reminds us that there are no stupid questions – only stupid answers!

Now, even though these students didn’t ask the same questions, the questions they did ask fell into three broad categories which are sometimes hard to separate: music theory, guitar theory and the musician.

Simply stated, theory is what and how we think about music and the guitar, and technique is skill or, how well we play. In other words, we play what we think and we think what we’ve learned. Now, if playing is the result of learning, and learning is the result of questions answered, then how exactly do we learn? The easy answer is: slowly at the speed of thought, transforming understanding into knowledge, in order to practice. Practice is simply the repetition of what we’ve learned until we can play what we’ve practiced at a steady performance tempo. Tempo is the rate of speed of the steady beat. Said a different way, we learn, then practice, and then play.

So, what are we going to learn?

Basically, we learn three important concepts:

1. What to play: scales, arpeggios and chords, and how to apply them,
2. When to play what we’ve learned: time as rhythm, and
3. How  to play what we’ve learned: dynamics and techniques, such as bend, slide, etc..

Future lessons will go into greater detail about the “what, when and how” of music and the guitar, but for now, let’s answer one of the student’s questions: What is the definition of enharmonic?  
Enharmonic is “the same pitch” but not the same letter or scale degree tone number. For example, G sharp (G#) sounds the same as A flat (Ab), however, in the key of C major, G# is tone sharp 5 (#5), whereas Ab is flat six (b6). As you can see, the letter and scale degree tone number of any pitch is determined by the key you’re in, but that’s another question.

So, ’til next time, I invite all of you to send me your questions, or answers, which in turn will generate even more questions and answers. This is our dialogue ~ this is the Process of Learning.

http://www.12tonemusic.com

Guitar Image: Mike Overly Custom by Ed Schaefer Guitars.


Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar Video – by Mike Overly

September 13, 2014

Tone Note guitar front CoverThe Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar makes it simple and easy to play fun and exciting music on your guitar correctly from the beginning.

On the cover of the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar is a connect the dots picture of a bass which presents four very important ideas that a connect the dots picture teaches us: 1. start at the beginning, 2. continue in order, 3. the end connects to the beginning, and 4. when the last dot is connected ~ you can see the picture! These four ideas form the basis of this book.

The Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar 1 contains a method book, rhythm book and song book. Each book is designed to present the benefits of the Tone Note® system with clear and simple step-by-step instruction. And each lesson within each book connects and continues with the last in a progressive order so that a person new to music and guitar will learn the symbols and signs of music quickly and develop the skill to play guitar easily. You will play and enjoy music and guitar from the very beginning just like you hoped you would and as you practice, progress and improve, the better you will get, and the better you get ~ the more fun you have!

The purpose of the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar is to introduce a beginner of any age to the simple pitch Letters, tone (scale degree) Numbers and harmony Numerals of music. The following flowchart illustrates this.

Tone Note Music Flow

The Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar answers this simple question: why is it so hard to learn to play guitar? Is it the fault of the student, or is it the fault of the instructor? The answer is neither, it’s the fault of false methods. So, let’s clean the slate and begin anew with a truly unique 21st century revolutionary music method for guitar.

Over the centuries, guitarists have believed many false ideas and have kept adding more false ideas over time. This has created much confusion and has made learning music and the guitar a problem. The Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar solves this problem by keeping only the truth of the past and leaving the false behind.

And the truth is, music is a simple language that may be learned easily by anyone of any age. All that is needed is a clear and simple step-by-step method which will introduces what you need to know, when you need to know it. In other words, a method that presents one idea and then connects it to the next idea. Learning in this manner guarantees that you do not have any gaps between your thoughts and ideas about music and the guitar. The benefit is, you will never feel overwhelmed or confused, and more importantly, you will never stop or quit! Understanding music on the guitar will always be easy for you.

By the end of the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar 1 your technique will have greatly improved and you will have gained a solid theoretical foundation that will last you a lifetime and prepare you to connect and continue with the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar 2. Meet you there!

Here is a short video that will introduce you to the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7yK9IrNZLM

’til next time, have some Tone Note® guitar fun… I’ll be listening!

http://www.12tonemusic.com/guitar/tonenote/


Learn Guitar and Bass with Grammy Nominated Music Educator Mike Overly

August 14, 2014

Here is an impromptu video interview I did last week with www.findaguitarteacher.com ~ please check it out and let me know what you think. And when you have a moment, watch more of my instructional videos on the 12tonemusic.com YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/12tonemusic. Thank You.


If You Move Two Frets, You’ve Moved To Far – by Mike Overly

July 31, 2014

Barre Guitar ChordWouldn’t you like to change chords faster? You could if you played them closer.

Where do chords originate? The simple answer is: from the letters and tone numbers of a scale. In other words, it’s just like the Scrabble® word game. You know how to play that game, select some letters and then see how many words you can spell with those letters. Well, guess what? Music is exactly the same. You select the letters of a scale and then you see how many chords you can spell with those letters!

Since there are many scales from which you can select letters to spell chords from, we will limit this lesson to the G major scale and its chord triads. A chord triad is harmony of three different letters played simultaneously. Many books have been written about this “music-spelling” game. They are known as Music Theory books. These books go into great detail explaining the rules of spelling such as: intervals, inversions, extensions, alterations and so on, until you become a Ph.D. at the spelling game. But who has that kind of time? So, here’s a very simple concept that will have you easily spelling 7 different chord triads from the G major scale. Ready? Just select “every-other-letter” from the scale. Wow, that sure was simple!

Let’s begin by illustrating the G major scale as letters and scale degree tone numbers in two octaves. Figure 1.

 The following ilustrates the circle-6-2, G major scale as letters and tone numbers on the guitar fretboard. Figure 2.

Now, let’s start the chord triad spelling game. The first chord of the G major scale is the G major chord, which is spelled with three “every-other-letters: G B D. This first chord of the G major scale is symbolized by Harmony Numeral I (one). Figure 3.

Here’s another fun game, find the hidden picture. In other words, find the hidden chord! Do you see the circle 6-1 G major chord hidding within the circle 6-2 G major scale? Here is something interesting. Even though there are only three lettes, this chord has six sounds. Figure 4.

And now, a bit of the rules that was mentioned earlier. Since the G major chord begins on the tone 1 (also known as the root and tonic) of the G Major scale, it is called the I (one) major chord. Scale degrees tone numbers: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 symbolize single pitches. In contrast, harmony numerals: I ii iii IV V vi viib5 symbolize groups of pitches called chords or arpeggios. Chord tones are played at the same time and arpeggio tones are played one at a time with no sustain. The harmonies I, IV and V are major, while the ii, iii and vi are minor. The viib5 is a minor flat five. Traditional music theory calls harmony seven of the major scale: diminished.

Now, let’s proceed. In the key of G major, the ii minor chord is A minor (Am, A C E) and is shown in circle 6-3. Figures 5 and 6.

The iii minor chord is B minor (Bm, B D #F) shown in circle 5-1. Figures 7 and 8.

The IV major chord is C major (C E G) also in circle 5-1. Figures 9 and 10.

The V major chord is D major (D F# A) in circle 5-4. Figures 11 and 12.

The vi minor chord is E minor (Em, E G B) in circle 4-1. Figures 13 and 14.

And finally, the viib5 minor flat five chord is F#mb5 (F#mb5, F# A C) in circle 6-1 and circle 4-1. As we previously said, traditional theory  calls this a diminished triad. Figures 15, 16 and 17.


As you can now see, all the chords of the G major scale, or any scale for that matter, are within one fret of any other chord. You can’t get any closer, or faster, than that!

So, ’til next time, have some fun playing closer and faster chord changes… I’ll be listening!

http://www.12tonemusic.com


Plan Your Practice and Practice Your Plan – by Mike Overly

June 19, 2014

metronomeAre you spending a lot of time and effort practicing and yet never seem to make any progress?  Then maybe you need to re-think what practice is and what you can do to make it more productive.

To the ancient Greeks, practice was definied as: do. Today, the definition of practice is: repeated action to acquire proficiency. You’ve heard the old saying, practice makes perfect, well, this is not entirely true!  Repetition alone will not make you perfect. You must practice perfection, or else you run the risk of repeating previous mistakes… and what good are perfect mistakes?

It’s been said that it takes seven repetitions for a memory to take hold and thirty five repetitions to erase that previously learned memory. Therefore, the concept of perfect practice becomes a necessity, otherwise you’ll end-up spending all your practice time trying to unlearn mistakes – with no time remaining to make progress! This unnecessary waste of time results in frustration, disappointment and lack of confidence. In other words, you feel like quitting. So, to help you avoid this and many other negatives – remember: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Some say that the goal of practice is the performance. I tend to think of it this way: practice is for yourself and performance is for others. However, I would agree that practice is the learning of the individual parts and that performance is putting the parts together holistically so as to play them as a whole from the beginning to the end. In other words, practice is digital (start and stop) while performance is analog (continuous).

Whatever your performance goals are, daily practice is essential for the goal to be reached. By setting aside a short amount of time, at the same time each day, you will start to develop the process of practicing and begin to create good practice habits that will last a lifetime.

It’s important to note that each practice session is made up of many sections. And when each section is followed routinely, your practice session will become more productive. This will lead you to a more successful performance. Although the responsibility to practice is yours alone, encouragement from a parent, spouse, friend, band member or teacher can certainly help you become more disciplined. So, be sure to share this article with them. Now, with that said, here are a few suggestions on how to structure your practice session to make your practice time more efficient and effective and your performances more successful too.

Let’s begin with the practice area. It should be a relatively quiet place with good lighting and a comfortable armless chair. It should also be free of interruptions from the computer, phone, fax, pager, tablet, TV and a host of other distractions that can break your concentration. In addition to your instrument, here are some other items that you will find useful: a music stand, metronome, drum machine or sequencer, tuner, CD, recorder, pencils, eraser and your music books. The idea is to have everything close at hand, so that you won’t have to stop practicing to go get something.  Next, begin to prepare mentally by focusing on what you want to achieve in this particular practice session. If you have the time, think about what you would like to accomplish this week, this month, or perhaps even this year. The more defined your goals, the easier it is to attain them.

To prepare physically, begin by relaxing and releasing any tensions from your body. This promotes correct body alignment and will help to avoid any future health problems such as carpal tunnel and tendinitis. Don’t forget, prevention is the best cure!

Okay, now we’re ready to begin the actual practice session. First tune-up your instrument, and yes, make sure the piano is in tune! Start by warming-up with technical exercises. These will include various scales, arpeggios, chords, etudes and other finger pattern exercises and studies. When you feel that you are sufficiently warmed-up, proceed to the next step of the practice session.

At this stage of the practice session, time is provided for a re-view of previously learned material. The definition of the prefix “re” is: again, therefore, rehearsal could be thought of as “re-hear-all” or, to hear it all again. This review of previously acquired skills creates a connection with the new material being learned. Other topics that may present themselves for review at this time are: rhythm, melody, harmony, sight-reading, analysis, tone production, and dynamics. Daily practice gives you the ability to proceed to the new material with confidence and optimism. That’s a very good thing!

The next stage of the practice session is the actual learning of new material. This is when you thoroughly examine the new material to learn as much as you can before you play it. Some of the things you might encounter at this time are: key signatures, time signatures, tempo, fingerings, phrasing, and lots of other direction signs from the composer. After carefully considering all these elements, you are ready to begin practicing, starting at the beginning and proceeding slowly and perfectly until you reach the end.

You will find it beneficial to break a whole song into smaller sections (even bar by bar) and then link those sections together. This will enable you to minimize, and hopefully eliminate, mistakes at this stage of the practice session.

Sometimes the fastest way is to go slow: think of the tortoise and the hare! A perfect practice is only possible if you begin slowly. Slow enough to think before you play. Another benefit of going slow is that you can break the habit of stopping and repeating from the beginning whenever you make a mistake. This in itself is a mistake! Instead, you learn to isolate and focus on a mistake as it occurs, then re-think it through as many times as necessary to get it correct before moving on. This is much better than wasting time repeating what you already know.

It also helps if you can record your practice so that you can objectively hear what you really played. This will help you identify any problem areas, correct them quickly and improve your future performances. And finally, a progressive practice guarantees that each practice session builds upon the last and that each sequential practice assures your continued ability to confidently proceed from perfect practice to successful perfect performance.

Now, with your eyes on the music, your hands on your instrument, and your ears on the sound, be sure to plan your practice and practice your plan. I’ll be listening…

http://www.12tonemusic.com


Top 10 Behaviors of Successful Musicians – by Mike Overly

June 13, 2014

Practice

 

Do you want to be a successful musician? Of course you do! Then it would be beneficial to learn all you can about how to effectively and efficiently approach the development of your musicianship.

Don’t worry if you feel as if you don’t exhibit these Top 10 behaviors already, the good news is, you can begin to cultivate them now. And best of all, as you acquire these ways of being, you will become more effective, efficient and successful in other aspects of your life as well.

If you surf the internet for advice on how to become the musician you’ve always wanted to be, you will most likely become overloaded with endless suggestions. So, for now, let’s just focus on the Top 10 behaviors that will guarantee your musical success.

1. Successful Musicians Practice Consistently
Successful musicians maintain a regular practice schedule and practice every day. Practicing is easier than most believe it to be. Just 15 minutes a day, everyday, will have you progressing steadily – little by little each day. The key to efficient and effective practicing is time management. In other words, successful musician creates the habit of practicing at the same time each day, every day. Some like to practice in the morning, while others like to practice at night. The time of day doesn’t matter as long as you practice daily. The important thing is to pick a time and do it. Remember, you can’t skip a couple of days and then practice for hours and hours to make up for the lost time – it doesn’t work that way. Slow and steady wins the race.

2. Successful Musicians Are Inquisitive
Successful musicians are curious and ask many questions to get the answers they need in order to progress. They are interested in what other musicians are doing and are happy to learn from them. Start by looking for different ways to approach your practice. Seeking new systems and methods of learning is always healthy and beneficial. Remember, contrary to the old cliche, curiosity did not kill the cat – she just played better!

3. Successful Musicians Are Analytical
Successful musicians don’t practice without thinking about what they’re practicing. They stay focused to avoid distraction and diversion. Successful musicians practice with attention to detail to ensure their success. So, be sure to think through your problems to find ideas that will solve them. Try out several approaches until you find the one that leads you to success. By staying on course you will discover what works and what doesn’t.

4. Successful Musicians Are Lifelong Learners
If you’re new to playing music, you will more than likely face a steep learning curve. But don’t let that stop you, learning and practicing gets easier after you’ve been playing awhile. And no matter how long you have been playing, there is always something new to discover that will keep you inspired and challenged.

5. Successful Musicians Plan Ahead
Successful musicians know where they’re going. They have a plan and stick to it. They realize that prioritization is the key to the success of any endeavor. Successful musicians put things in order and choose what etudes and songs to practice at the beginning. This makes it easy to follow through to the end. Successful musicians work on their plan daily, weekly, monthly and yearly so that they may reach their goals based upon importance rather than urgency. It’s important to periodically evaluate whether your efforts are propelling you toward the achievement of your goals. If they are not, then clarification of your goals and the means needed to achieve them will be necessary. Plan your practice and practice your plan.

6. Successful Musicians Are Self Motivated
Successful musicians take the initiative and are proactive self-starters. This is the primary determining factor for their effectiveness in music and life. Being proactive rather than reactive will quickly lead you to success. If you like the idea of playing an instrument, and perhaps even impressing people with your skills, then you will need to manage yourself. Successful musicians know that through self mastery many wonderful things may be accomplished. Remember, no one will fire you if you don’t show up to practice, and no one will remind you of the deadlines you’ve set for yourself. To paraphrase Smokey The Bear, only you can make yourself a successful musician!

7. Successful Musicians Think Win-Win
Perhaps it is your goal to be in a band or orchestra and play harmoniously with other musicians. If so, it’s important for you to value and respect others, as this will lead to the best long-term relationships. Genuinely striving for mutually beneficial solutions and agreements will guarantee success for all. Win-win relationships are much better than having only one person get their way. When everyone feels included and involved in an environment of trust and loyalty, everyone succeeds.

8. Successful Musicians Listen
Successful Musicians understand that listening to another first and then having them listen to you is the fastest way to create an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive conflict resolution. This skill of empathetic listening cultivates an environment where misunderstandings can be avoided to facilitate harmonious music making with others.

9. Successful Musicians Realize That The Whole Is Greater Than The Parts
Synergy, or combining the strengths of many people into one positive team, will make possible the achievement of goals that no one person could do alone. Successful musicians know that creating the most prolific performance by a group of people is best achieved by encouraging meaningful, inspirational and supportive leadership by all. It is essential to understand that everyone is a master of something – but not of everything. Be the one who takes the positive approach with other musicians in your group, then everyone’s potential will come together for the best result.

10. Successful Musicians Are Persistent
Successful musicians understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. If you persist in working toward your vision you will eventually realize it, even if there are a few rough patches along the way. Know that constant improvement of one’s self, along with the development of one’s skills, is necessary in order to achieve success. By balancing and renewing your resources, energy, and health you will experience effective musicianship throughout your life and become the successful musician you have always wanted to be.

Okay, now ask yourself which behavior is the most important for you to become a successful musician. It might be one of the Top 10 above, or, you may believe that it’s something else. I, and the others who are reading this post, would like to know what you think, so, please leave a comment… thank you.

http://www.12tonemusic.com

image ©Joshua Wells


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