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Does it all come back to you - or not?
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Author:  Brus [ Thu Oct 01, 2020 10:35 am ]
Post subject:  Does it all come back to you - or not?

I played clarinet in grade school band, but not since - until very recently.

I had a chance to acquire a clarinet at a reasonable price and did. I also got one of the beginner methods for band, since I was effectively starting from scratch. Well, maybe. Wouldn't it all come back to me?

Well, it's not as though I'm having difficulties learning from the method book. I'm progressing along. It took a few minutes to get a sound from the reed at first.

But nothing is familiar about the fingering of the notes. I don't remember it, and it doesn't even seem familiar as I relearn it. I thought it would, but it's all new to me again.

Anyone else had a similar experience?

Author:  Dan A. [ Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

The short answer, I do suppose, is yes. I was away from the whistle for about two years, and returned earlier this year. I only needed a few minutes of practice to re-acquire two or three basic tunes, but I still take a while to learn more complex tunes. And I still mess up notes with some frequency. Overall, I'm happy with how it has come back to me.

In Brus' case, I have no idea how much time has passed between grade school and the present, but I'd guess at least a decade. The degree of proficiency attained during childhood could also be a factor. Perhaps the childhood clarinet and the present-day clarinet have different fingering. I'm sure some of it will seem familiar eventually, and if not, at least the process of re-learning seems to be going well.

Playing an instrument seems to be what my Airframes instructor referred to as a "diminishing skill;" that is, if one does not perform the task regularly, one's proficiency decreases with the passage of time. Would other, more tenured members agree that point?

Author:  trill [ Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

Brus,

How many years since grade-school band ? (to the nearest decade).

My own experience is as follows: I hadn't touched my whistles for about 5 years. I used to have dozens of tunes that I "knew" - could play from memory. So, when I tried to play a few, there were rough spots. I simply couldn't remember some passages. However, by listening to the tunes + consulting some sheet music, the passages came back.

It's funny how memory works. Apparently, the memories can "still be there", but access has been slowed by disuse.

My hunch: the longer the absence, the longer (+ the greater the effort) it will take to get the skills back.

Were you a sight-reader ? Do you play any tunes from memory ?

Did you play other instruments in the mean time ?

trill

Author:  Nanohedron [ Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

Dan A. wrote:
Airframes

?

Author:  Dan A. [ Thu Oct 01, 2020 7:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

Nanohedron wrote:
Dan A. wrote:
Airframes

?

Oh, I should have seen that one coming!

Ten years ago, I was in school with the goal of becoming an aircraft mechanic. I was referring to the instructor who taught the Airframes component of that curriculum. Airframes dealt with parts of the aircraft other than engines and propellers. Of questionable pertinence, I know, but the term "diminishing skill" has stuck with me since.

Author:  Nanohedron [ Thu Oct 01, 2020 7:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

Yeah, I looked up "airframes" and that's pretty much what I got, but what with so much terminological crossover and appropriation these days, I wasn't 100% sure you weren't referring to some different, shiny new Thing that happened to have the same name. Thanks for the info. :)

Author:  trill [ Thu Oct 01, 2020 10:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

Dan A. wrote:
the term "diminishing skill"

Honestly, I think it's a great term.

Upon reflection, are there any skills that aren't diminishing ?

trill

Author:  Dan A. [ Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

trill wrote:
Upon reflection, are there any skills that aren't diminishing ?

Brings to mind the cliché "its like riding a bicycle." I did well on a bicycle in 2016, despite not having ridden one for 15 years prior. Driving a manual transmission may or may not be diminishing; in my case, it's mostly a matter of adapting to a vehicle's quirks. But I agree that most skills are of the diminishing variety.

Author:  fatmac [ Fri Oct 02, 2020 2:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

I played recorders years ago, & when I started on whistles, it seemed natural enough, so I guess the basics are/were still in the old memory bank. :)

I even started to remember how to read music, but I'm as bad at it today as I was back then. :D

Author:  Brus [ Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

It's been about five decades.

I've played other instruments since then. Piano (which I actually started before clarinet, and had about a fifteen-year break from. I never lost the memory of which keys played which notes). Whistle. Irish flute. To a much lesser extent, recorder, harmonica, guitar.

I don't think the fingering of a basic Bb clarinet has changed. I didn't expect to remember the tunes we played, but I thought the fingering would at least seem familiar. Ah, well, I like learning new things.

Author:  Nanohedron [ Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

There probably isn't a lot of value in this post because when I put aside my previous instruments for physical reasons, I had, and still have, no real intention of going back to them, so there's no way for me to see if or how my skills will have diminished. I suppose whistle could be an exception, but it's probably telling that I still haven't bought another yet; but who knows - give it time. Every now and then I do wonder how I'd do. But anyway, my thing now is in being a totally sucky beginner at the harp. I had to take several months off due to a broken fingertip, and I was convinced that surely I had lost everything I'd learned, but to my surprise I found myself pretty much at the spot where I left off. True, a few months aren't the same as a few years or even decades, but that's my experience as a rank beginner on an instrument completely alien to my previous experience.

There's a school of thought on performative muscle memory that says one's best isn't one's actual level; one's actual level is in fact below one's best at any given time. It's a relatively consistent level that shows through when we're not at our best, and is revealed by things like resuming after substantial time off. Of course, with practice one's actual level can be raised. I suspect, though, that this rule of thumb is only that, and may not apply universally. Maybe I should get that whistle after all and find out. It's been long enough.

Author:  Dan A. [ Sat Oct 03, 2020 10:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

Nanohedron wrote:
When I put aside my previous instruments for physical reasons, I had, and still have, no real intention of going back to them.

I'm curious as to how many chords I can still play after five months, and what DADGAD would sound like...on second thought, no, I'm not! Better to sell the guitar for whatever I can get and concentrate on the whistle. I've no intention of going back to the guitar, though my reasons are philosophical rather than physical.

Quote:
Maybe I should get that whistle after all and find out.

Of course! You only have $10-20 (if you go the super-inexpensive route) and whatever time you invest to lose.

Hope the harp playing is going well, too. I'd be at a loss if I tried to play a harp!

Author:  fatmac [ Sun Oct 04, 2020 3:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

Hey, Nano, good luck with the harp, they can sound really nice, but I think you should keep an alto/mezzo whistle handy, just in case you get frustrated with the strings, (or break some). :D

Author:  Nanohedron [ Sun Oct 04, 2020 1:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

Dan A. wrote:
I'd be at a loss if I tried to play a harp!

The first time I ever put my paws on one - this was many, many years ago - I was repelled as if I'd received an electric shock. But that's an easy reaction when you already have another instrumental direction with which you have experience, skills, and motivation. Take that away, and the game changes: A beginner is a beginner is a beginner. The only difference was that I knew intuitively that I'd take to flute and whistle like a duck to water; I never had that with harp. But I work on it only for myself without any audience yet in mind, so with the pressure off, there is only practice. Expectations are pretty distant, so the rest is discovery. I do want to be able to play/accompany Xmas tunes for family gatherings, though. With harp, that's almost a requirement. :)

fatmac wrote:
I think you should keep an alto/mezzo whistle handy, just in case you get frustrated with the strings, (or break some).

What I get frustrated with first is my damned fingers. Second is the patterns. But these things aren't complicated; they're just different. It's only a matter of familiarity and habituation, and that's where I'm at at this time. It'll be a while before I can play well enough not to have to think much about it if at all, to say nothing of doing so on the fly. Occasionally one wishes one had the learner's advantage of being in one's early youth, but there's no time for that waste of energy.

When I put aside my instruments everyone was aghast and said, "But what will you DO?", as if my identity were at stake. Trust me, it ain't. So partly to get them off my back, and partly because it was too late in the game to take up fiddle, and partly because I'd long lost interest in sessions and public performing, for a Tradster the harp presented a most sensible choice; besides, I'd always wanted to be able to play melody and accompany it at the same time. Anyway, when they heard this news they were aghast all over again, with "HARP!?!?" being the first thing out of everyone's mouth. Jayzus. I just can't win.

If I do get whistles again, they will probably be a C and/or a Bb. I lay odds that the first tune I'll automatically come out with - or at least try to - will probably be Banish Misfortune. Now because of this thread I feel almost obligated to get one, just so I can try it and report back.

Author:  Katharine [ Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Does it all come back to you - or not?

To an extent?

I was at a friend's house a while back and we were messing around doing some music stuff. She handed me her violin so I could show her something, and then we started talking about music, and then I mentioned a piece I had played in high school, and noodled out some of it. I was surprised at how much of it I could remember even though it had been almost 20 years (IOW, I was kind of impressed I could remember any of it at all, and I bet if I got out the sheet music-- I wish I still had my sheet music from then with all my notes and markings but I'm pretty sure I don't-- I'd do even better).

I'm thinking about getting it out again. These days I seem to have cognitive issues that make me unable to ever get a piece of music to "performance" level, but I wonder if I could manage to dust off something that old and have it work... it might be interesting to try.

However, when I took up recorder again as an adult (it was my first musical instrument when my mom gave me one at age 8 or so-- made life easier when I started music in school and could already ready music-- and I didn't do much with it and pretty much stopped playing when I started school music/violin at 10), there were things that, like you with clarinet, I definitely didn't remember. Some of it I'm pretty sure I never learned-- I don't think I did much getting into the second octave, hence why I don't remember pinched thumb holes, and I don't recall anything about alternate fingerings-- but some of it I may have forgotten so thoroughly that it's like I never learned it (most accidental notes? Did I learn those-- B-flat, etc.)?? (OTOH, I remembered some of the fingerings well enough that it made learning D whistle much easier.)


fatmac wrote:
Hey, Nano, good luck with the harp, they can sound really nice, but I think you should keep an alto/mezzo whistle handy, just in case you get frustrated with the strings, (or break some). :D

...or don't want to tune them... by the time I get done tuning a harp, even a 22-string, I'm already tired, lol.

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