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  • Reply to: Speedskating Season is Starting and During an Olympic Year it Matters   1 year 14 weeks ago

    I've been following Joey Mantia's Instagram account. Every now and then he posts videos of things like him on a skating treadmill. Incredible how much work goes into Olympic training.  It's another world entirely. 

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  • Reply to: Crowd-Sourced Color Names by XKCD   1 year 15 weeks ago

    Sorry so late to respond. I must have been distracted for a long time! Let's see 2 Carolina Centuries, 2 A2As, Holidays, work, training, eating, goofing off. Maybe i couldn't handle thinking about color names without being sad about not making a yearly Roadskater.net jersey. Ha. Anyway this is a great post and deserves a reply, so here it is, lame as it will be. You know all of this timv, but for those interested who may not, here goes.

    Anyway, back to the color names. These are extremely useful, and Pantone has made a bundle of money printing the color-fan books used to color match and to communicate about printed color...for example, the exact color of your company logo. They deliver specific ink color that is predictable where it is most important to get it right. Reflex blue is a popular named color that used to be a popular choice for business cards and such at a local printer running a press in the very same ink-smelling building. "Here you can have any one of these colors for the base price; If you want us to mix colors, you're gonna pay for dat."

    Of course most printed items done on paper and cardboard I would guess use CMYK, even if they are trying to achieve a color agreed upon using the Pantone color matching system books. (Take a look at the boxes containing processed foods; if you see color blocks on the underside flaps, it means those are the colors they want to be sure to get right, because people don't want to buy boxes of food that don't look right. My understanding is that they use cyan, magenta, yellow, black, PLUS spot colors they care about most, like logo colors and colors that make their food look like it want to be eaten by you who went to the store hungry again.)

    Many things that used to come in just Pantone colors and may have been screen printed (like tee shirts, maybe jerseys, say) later could be any color, and could have gradient fades. So that all sounds like they're not using single color pigments of ink, but a digital system that produces essentially all colors using a dye-sublimation process. 

    If Pantone's so great for specifying colors, then what's the problem? It's proprietary intellectual property, and they want to make money from their great implementation of a great idea. Most open source software makers are not comfortable using proprietary intellectual property, and others don't want to pay to use it.

    So for that and other reasons there is a need for color names that have a specific meaning, in the RGB (color on a web page or other light-screen display) and CMYK (color as printed using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to make the blacks really black) spaces.

    In the XKCD set, for colors like "blueygreen," I wonder if it was blue y (and) green or more like "blueish green," and why not just call it "bluegreen"? Oh. I see. All three of those are there. Bluey must mean something different than blueish to the people who took the survey. Language about colors! OMG. I take it that those with no y or ish are the more direct mixes. Blueishgreen is oh so slightly darker than blueishgreen. 

    Also, about the national flag of Roadskater.net, that's pretty much right. For those who wonder, it was a flag-sized white piece of jersey fabric with color blocks of Pantone colors printed on the jersey material. An irritable jersey manufacturer sent these to customers who really cared what blue it was so they could actually see the colors as they would be printed on (what was then) the fabric they offered. It helped more than any amount of discussing colors or studying their CMYK equivalents (which does also help, but doesn't show how they look on a particular fabric, as different fabrics will have different saturation of color capabilities, and varying amounts of sheen or reflectivity...which is why a jersey may look a lot more colorful wearing even neutral grey polarized lenses...they cut the reflections from the surface of the fabric that tend to white-out the color saturation...not speaking technically here). 

    Anyway this color block flag-sized fabric went with me many places and times of day and during varied weather as I tried to decide on each year's jersey color. Notice for example, that hi-viz green is bright early and late in the day and on cloudy days when the light is bluer, but hi-viz orange kicks it when the light is more yellow on sunny days and in the middle parts of the day. That's my take on it, anyway. So I wanted to see how the jerseys were going to look in different weather and different light, and there was no way we'd have one too close to the color of tree leaves or tree trunks or asphalt, because:


    It's good to be pretty, and even better to be seen. (Talkin' 'bout the jersey, now.)

    I generally tried to flip between cool and warm colors from year to year, and tried to consider how many team members that year (or jersey wearers) might have tolerance for colors often considered in various parts as too timid or soft, or whatever. If you're going for certain colors the guys may not be as happy wearing, you at least want to make it highly saturated version of it...make it "bold," was my thinking. And if it's a "sissy" color you'd better have a big black bold logo there to make a statement.

    Unfortunately on the year we finally went for the "Hot Magenta," it was a bit milder and the manufacturer made all of the logos too small except on the smallest jerseys...they inexplicablyused only one size of art, so the 3XL had the same sized logo as the XS. Inexplicable except perhaps from taking more orders from more customers than they could do and buying new print machines that used a new process and meant all their art had to be laid out again by the artists even if there were NO CHANGES. I can only say they made great jerseys most years, but it was a real pain talking with anyone other than a salesperson who knew less about their product than I did, because every year they were a new salesperson.

    Subsequent prints of this Hot Magenta jersey, however, came out spanking great, with lots of pop in the color contrasting and a logo that was close to too big on XL because we wanted it bold all the way to 3XL. Colors that had been great in their early fabric and printing process, looked OK but not as rich, later. I think the purples and blues, which had been no real problem, when reprinted a few years later (the "True Violet" and "Sky Blue") did not look as saturated. It was like the fabric didn't take the blue as well as Cherry Red, Sunflower Yellow, even Ocean Teal (which looks great with the orange spot color).

    I would often say in amazement, and I don't know if someone else said it first, but "the hardest thing to get every year is the same thing as before, just different colors." We made very few changes through the years because I wanted all the jerseys throughout the year to maintain the look of a set, so people who didn't want or couldn't afford a new jersey could wear a previous one just fine and look like part of the team. We did add the Carolina Century logo. OK that's too much about jerseys and colors! Oh there's so much more to say about bat-wings on the sleeves, and how it all finally came down to not being able to do business with that jersey mf'er (that's short for manufacturer) ever again. 

    I bet a lot of this info is still on http://skatejerseys.com! Oh yeah. Including photos in sun and shade, white balanced. All that.

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  • Reply to: Ok. But Can It Do Crazylegs?   1 year 15 weeks ago

    Interesting how it kind of skates backwards doing the turns, as it looks to me. I can't decide if the knees are backwards or the arms are.

    But when I think of it as a skater doing tricks on one wheel (just the front wheel of an inline skate pair) then it seems about right...if that one wheel could drive itself, as this one does.

    Can it carry a wider basket? Can it carry that milk crate down the stairs without spilling stuff (I assume not because it needs to balance itself). Is there a faceplant video? I want to see that!

    Yep it's scary good what it can do. Still can't do the shortest Carolina Century distance, but it won't be long!

    Also yeah Philly Steps, no problem. I can't do that, or am not going to try. Seems like they mostly only do that one backwards, so maybe there is some inline skate influence from the inventors and builders.

    I wonder how much this is controlling itself (I assume all the balance is done by itself). I like when the wheels lock in the snow. When it ignores the ramps, for example, has it been told to ignore changes in the surface and not to try to ride them somehow?


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  • Reply to: Clarinet: Middle Aged Woman Dares To Learn New Musical Instrument   1 year 16 weeks ago
    I've been meaning to post an update here but just have not had time since getting an interesting new job last year and commuting 80 miles a day (3-4 hours) before being able to move closer to work. My practice time suffered over those 5 months but I have recovered it again. 
    I skimmed my previous posts to check for redundancy, stupidity and contradictions. tl;dr - I'm sure there will be many!
    I think I have gotten a little bit closer to answering some of the questions I had 18 months ago with my first post here. Some of the gaps are starting to fill in. I realize now how I should have been practicing each skill as I came upon them, as the goals have been not only to be able to play the instrument but to read music. 
    I'm starting to think that for the clarinet, 'scales are the key to all improvisation' makes about as much sense as 'everything happens for a reason' or 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. When you're in the thick of it the answers all float in ridicule over your head, but you'll be able to draw the pathways and correlations back to them later. Most musicians and tutors have already come out the other side and therefore think it's obvious.
    My relationship with my own memory has evolved over 3 years, and I've learned to hack into it whichever ways I can to improve my clarinet playing and music reading. At my age, anything I learn parrot-fashion flies away in my sleep overnight or is otherwise long gone after a full day at work, and muscle memory is a coward that flees at the first sight of stage fright. Logic and reasoning have their feet firmly on the ground and set me off on the right footing, but fade into the distance and out of earshot when I'm already several measures into a journey. I'm at the point right now of looking for anything else that works, but it's important to separate mastering (even just the) major scales with learning a piece of music in an ensemble. 
    I'll start with the easy one! I found a crazy band to play with that doesn't care whether I play anything at all during rehearsal (but dressing up in outrageous costumes is a must). Many of them couldn't play a single note on a particular instrument when they started and learned it as they went along: "This week I'm going to play all the G notes. Next week I'll throw in the A's too". I love this band. I guess it's a common thing when you join a club or take up a new activity to assess whether you belong or not, or whether it'll be worth your time to continue. I spent the first five weeks thinking I would be forever inadequate and was perhaps the only person in the room who had never played decades before at school, but knew it would be worth my time to keep going back. If I learned anything new each time, it's surely not a bad thing and the other band members didn't seem to mind. I recorded each song on my phone to be able to practice at home - I've got recordings and sheet music to about 40 out of 50 in their regular playlist so far, and there are about 95 songs total, counting retired and special occasion pieces. I started listening and reading along on the train in the morning and evening and couldn't wait to try to play along. Earworms are inevitable and make learning a piece much easier. I can't say I'm up to recognizing any patterns or phrases yet but I do remember whole chunks of sheet music and see them in my mind's eye during the earworm, which is a handy memory-crash workaround. Spreadsheets are also inevitable, and I think I've checked off about 5 pieces in the Can Read column. They're the easiest tunes (to me) out of the bunch so the next column is Memorize, which I think will happen naturally. I know I'm still cheating in hearing the whole in my head and joining in the ensemble conversation from ear instead of reading my part, but after about 20 minutes of reading the same 40 bars or so over and over, I'm no longer reading it anyway. This brings me back to what I should've been doing the whole time since I started in the year two-thousand-and-whatever-it-was. 
    I should've put most of my preparation efforts into seeking out new-to-me sheet music appropriate to my level at the time, and practiced playing those as often as possible for a few minutes at a time. Much longer than 5 minutes even at the right level for me is counter productive. Instead, I worked on anywhere from 3 to 5 pieces each week, trying to 'perform' them perfectly for my tutor instead of practicing reading them. In entirely the wrong way, I would figure out how these pieces were supposed to sound, hear it in my head and then just mimic that whenever I played it later instead of reading it each time. Granted, I still needed to practice reading rhythms, note values, pitches and key signatures to be able to figure out how it should sound in the first place, but then I'd ditch those aspects of reading and use my internal playback from then on. Consequently, I'm still stuck at "Urgh! Dotted eighth! Think. Think. Think." And nothing happens. 
    Roadskater went on a clarinet used-book buying spree a few years back and handed them all to me. These are high school band books I'm currently using to practice what I should've 2 years ago. I use the metronome and read the simplest pieces of music. It's painstaking but there really is no other way for me to do this. What I have learned from this exercise (thanks to a great Reddit piano thread) is that I tend to space out and drift off, as is written on all my high school reports. No surprise there. It's essential to my progress to go back to the beginning and figure out what I'm doing wrong. I can't do that when trying to read way above my level. 
    Following along with my eyes only to the grown up band sheet music during rehearsal is not difficult for me. But playing it is! So my interim goal is to narrow that gap asap. Perhaps the ensemble-playing part of my brain will be able to communicate with the elementary music-reading part and point out how to recognize phrases and patterns. I'm really no good at abstract.
    Which brings me to scales. I've never read my scales but only ever practiced from memory. Perhaps this is why I still cannot play them straight up perfectly for my tutor every week. It's come to my attention while searching for help and advice on this that many people only ever read them and have no idea why anybody would want to memorize them. My tutor wants me to reach my goals of being able to improvise, so I'm sure that's why. Again, with hindsight, I should perhaps have started out reading them. 'Music With Ray' showed me last year why muscle memory alone would not work, but I didn't practice the way he suggested until now. Right now all I have is a vague idea of the key signatures plus muscle memory. The internet here is not much help: "Just take a few weeks and memorize them!". Ok how about a few YEARS? If I set out playing a scale, I can think ahead of time how many sharps or flats there are in it, but by the time I get to said sharp or flat I lost track of which scale I was on, or where the pitch is on the clarinet. This makes me wonder if I know 100% where all the pitches are on the clarinet and that solving one problem would solve the other. It also makes me wonder whether I really know anything at all. 
    In rereading the above paragraphs I can see plainly that I need to read the scales for a while  - accidentals and all - and take a mind's eye snapshot to refer back to when performing them for my tutor. 
    There are some apps that show you unfamiliar music for you to play and grade you on your performance, but are for piano only. I wish there were one for clarinet. Maybe this'll be something available in about 5 years that'll revolutionize learning to read music. 
    I need to remember also that I started a new career in a specific industry just over a year ago and have been on a huge learning curve there which is now just starting to level out a bit. Personal hobbies and enrichment take a backseat to food and shelter. 
    Here's an attempt for me to answer some of my questions of 18 months ago:
    Is it better to just memorize whole sections of the music? No, not if the goal is to be able to read music. You'll be able to remember it as a natural progression later but it's better to get the reading skills down, if reading is your goal. 
    Do I rely on the shapes and paintings in my head of how it sounds, while trying to follow the dots on the page with my eyes? Shapes and paintings are good if they help you remember the clarinet fingerings but you'll have to separate any enthusiasm for the actual sound while you're focusing on learning reading skills. 
    Do I identify the first note and be so familiar with the instrument that I play it from there? At some point that will help when playing phrases rather than note-by-note, but to get to that point you have to do the hard slog, boring donkey work. 
    If I only 'read' the music while playing it, what good is that if it all vaporizes when the sheet music is taken away? You can go on to memorize the stuff you like, and leave the rest. 
    Does that mean I haven't really learned anything? No. It means you've given yourself a leg up to live life on a whole other level you didn't have before you learned how to read music. 
    What do the anonymous internet people say about all this? Keep digging until you find advice that specifically addresses your problem. It takes a lot of digging. 
    I've written about this for long enough now and need to go practice!
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  • Reply to: 2016 9th Carolina Century Bike Ride 'n' Roll Greensboro NC October 22 2016   2 years 18 weeks ago

    Roadskater.net started the Carolina Century as a skateable bike event to keep the costs down and to share the road with cyclists who welcomed us at Tour to Tanglewood and so many other events. We don't even mention that it's designed by roadskaters because then people think it's not a bike ride, so over the years we've mostly left the talk about roadskating among the roadskaters. It is very much aimed at the cyclists who need the extra hours to complete their first or repeat century...and the roadskaters who might need that too, like me!

    Roadskaters are definitely welcome, but you need to have some braking and road skills, of course. Helmet required for all; brake strongly recommended but OK, stop the best way for you.

    There's a pretty fast hill on the Western 51 (on the 72/82/90/102), but it has a runout. It's nowhere near as long as Silver Hill on Athens to Atlanta's course. Still you may want to be able to slow yourself as you enter this one, particularly the first time.

    On the Eastern 51 (the 51/64/90/102), there's a downhill T on Gold Hill Rd (when you see the STOP AHEAD sign) that leads down to a STOP SIGN at Bethany Rd. You really need to be able to STOP for this. This is a neutral zone for any of you worried about it; if there's a rest stop there and you want a ride down to the stop sign, or help from a cyclist braking, ask. Safety is number one.

    If you've done Athens to Atlanta or Tour to Tanglewood, you've already demonstrated the skills you will need at Carolina Century. For those not quite ready for 51, the 31 is a nice route without the fastest downhill or the downhill T.

    Always check the CarolinaCentury.com website for the latest updates.

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  • Reply to: Clarinet: Middle Aged Woman Dares To Learn New Musical Instrument   2 years 38 weeks ago

    I may well understand this years from now (or perhaps a little, right now)! Thanks for explaining. I'm as yet unfamiliar with those modes you mentioned. 


    That the song was parodying another theme or style makes sense, and explains why I didn't really understand it. 

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  • Reply to: Clarinet: Middle Aged Woman Dares To Learn New Musical Instrument   2 years 39 weeks ago

    Only recently did I learn that "Is That All There Is" was written by Leiber and Stoller, and it made more sense then. They were clever hacks--sometimes very clever even, but hacks--and, for me at least, it works better understanding that it's a mock-profound fake cabaret song from the "You ain't nothing but a hound dog" and "Charlie Brown, he's a clown, that Charlie Brown" guys that appeared suspiciously soon after the musical Cabaret opened on Broadway.

    As for the key signatures, what you said sounds right to me. One particular thing I had in mind was for example (using keys without sharps--sorry, I forgot, horn players!) that the key of F major contains the F, Bb, and C major chords, while C major contains C, F, and G. F and C are held in common, so the difference is having a Bb versus a G major chord. The Bb note is the 4th degree of the F major scale, which gets "raised" to a B natural, the 7th scale degree of C major, when you move over one step "clockwise," as you put it, on the circle. That's all that changes: the Bb major chord that's in the key of F, and a G major chord that needs the B natural in the key of C. (Same deal with minor triads--Gm in the one case, Em in the other. The Dm and Am chords are common between those keys.)

    And scale-wise, B natural--the natural 7th in C--is a sharp ("augmented") 4th when it's used in the key of F. Raising that one tone and leaving the rest of F major alone gives you the "lydian mode". From the other point of view, B flat is the flat 7th ("minor seventh" or "subtonic") when used in the key of C, and a melody in C with that tone lowered and no other changes is in the "mixolydian mode." Those get used a fair bit in pop and jazz, and it helped me to make the connection between adjacent major keys and have that as another way of looking at them.

    ... if I got all of that right.

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  • Reply to: Clarinet: Middle Aged Woman Dares To Learn New Musical Instrument   2 years 39 weeks ago
    Thanks, Timv! To be more specific about my 'whys'...for me, the answers need to represent some practical application. Why do I need to know how many sharps or flats are in a key? To know my scales better. Why do I need to know my scales inside out? For improvisation and to hopefully one day become fluent in reading many levels of music. Why? To be able to play with others, for joy, living, etc. So it's not really all that deep, it's just more specific than "Reading music is better". However, I'll happily collect as many reasons as anybody wants to throw at me, especially if meaningful to them too. 
    Memorizing our times tables, foreign language vocabulary and verb conjugations is quicker than doing mental gymnastics, as you mentioned. But I never was any good at that and my mind always just wandered off. I've never been a stellar pupil. It's a struggle for me now to remember what scale I just started doing as my mind wanders by the time I get to the second octave.
    Yes, I'm still going at it! Failure is not an option (just a regular event). As long as I am alive and have thumbs I will keep doing this. 
    At first I wasn't trying to find a way to sneak around memorizing scales, and I wanted to commit them to memory! I thought it'd be faster than reasoning and studying the whys and wherefores. I'll go ahead and admit here that I spent a good 16 months trying to memorize them, thus proving you really can't teach an old dog new tricks after a full day at work. The only thing I didn't try was getting up an hour earlier, driving somewhere while my brain was still fresh, parking, and practicing trying to memorize scales or pieces of music in my car (there's no way I can get up an hour earlier!). 
    I agree - I don't think it's realistic to expect me or anybody else to run through all the steps first, on the spur of the moment, to be able to remember a scale or know which notes to play according to a key signature. But for some reason I have to go this route first at home, now, to be able to order it in my mind. Once that's done, I'll just take the shortcuts. This is the flowchart I kept looking for in the very beginning. The problem I run into if using my ear to pick out pitches, plus my moth-eaten memory for fingerings, is I have no agility from there on. I'd be lost in another key, or if anything changed. And I could just forget all about improvisation. 
    There are something like forty different places on the staff relating to the clarinet, for which I need to know individual fingerings (counting either flats or sharps, not both). I never committed that many guitar chords to memory. Additionally, some of the 'notes' have a couple of alternate fingerings for smoother transitions. I'm also currently full steam ahead on trying to drill into my head where all the enharmonics are, since much of the sheet music I've been using so far seems to like throwing in things like A#. In the eighties I remember hearing non-professional guitar players saying "Ooh no...it's not A SHARP! It's B FLAT! Don't ever say A sharp or we will laugh you out of town". Now that I know it's not a crime to call it A#, I can get wild and start bandying terms like C flat around.
    Oddly enough, you kicked off a series of three separate references to Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is. I had not heard this song before. Roadskater then mentioned it yesterday in an unrelated conversation, not having read these posts, and I just heard it mentioned on a Public Radio story repeat, about David Rakoff fasting. I took the cosmic hint and gave it a whirl. I'm not sure I understand the sentiment, but I enjoyed it musically. Perhaps the message is 'Don't take life too seriously and just have fun'. 
    And I saved my anticlimactic bit for last! 
    "why does the key signature of the higher key always have either one more sharp or one less flat than the lower one?"

    Do you mean there's never a bigger difference than +/- one of either sharp or flat between 2 keys next to each other on the wheel? As far as I can tell, they're either one sharp or flat higher or lower in the higher key. I have absolutely no idea why. The only answer I can offer up is that 'it's much less cluttered that way' or easier to remember.  Also if it's true that going anti-clockwise in a circle of fourths presents the order of flat keys as they're likely to occur in real life music playing, perhaps it's easier to put into practice. I'm sure your answer is a good one and I will add it to my list of notes, so please do tell. I don't have a satisfactory answer for it yet for myself, but once I do it'll probably include some situational example common enough to be useful/memorable, related to playing music somehow. I still have so much to learn and am only at the beginning. 
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  • Reply to: Clarinet: Middle Aged Woman Dares To Learn New Musical Instrument   2 years 40 weeks ago

    It's cool that you've found a trove of videos that work for you, eebee. Actually cool that you're still going at it one way or another.

    I browsed the list of videos and there are some interesting looking ones there. And I know what you mean about YouTubers finding one way or another to make their videos annoying and distracting and less effective somehow than they could be. I've spent enough time in New York and around New Yorkers to be a little distracted by Ray's accent, but if it doesn't bother you...

    The much-missed John McGann, late of the Berklee College of Music, the acoustic supergroup The Wayfaring Strangers, and just about every music forum on the net, famously said, "Theory only seems like rocket science until you know it. Then, it's more like plumbing!"

    Aside from the minor point that plumbing is a pretty important part of rocket science, it seems a lot of people have had the Peggy Lee "Is That All There Is?" experience, finding out that "learning theory" didn't really open up any new musical worlds so much as it gave names to things that they already had a pretty good idea about. Actually I guess playing plucked string instruments could have something to do with that, since it's all laid out pretty well for you on a guitar or mandolin neck where a fret is a half-step and you go through the circle of fifths by moving up or down one string.

    As for the "why" of it, my first thought was that I need to resist going there as often as I'm inclined to. If I want to learn how to write the Chinese character 我 ("wŏ", the first-person singular pronoun) I won't get there by asking why it has 7 strokes instead of 6 or 8, or why that particular stroke goes from lower left to upper right and not from upper left to lower right. You do it that way because that's how it's done. And I wonder if some of the difficulty adults have in learning languages and other things kids get more easily comes from us wanting some clever way to avoid those tedious drills and the rote memorization. I know that I learned to play C, G, F, and D chords etc on the guitar by being shown them or seeing diagrams of what they were, and then playing them until I could remember each one without needing a reminder. Only years later did I come to understand why each note is where it is, and then I could use that understanding to figure out tasty things like F#m7b5 and C6add9 on my own. But I still needed to practice making those chords until I could do them on the spot from memory. Maybe others are more mentally agile than I am, but I find that at full real-time speed, in the heat of battle so to speak, there isn't time to compose chords and work out voicings from bare theory. I have to just know them and having them "in my fingers" already.

    In any case, here's a "why" question for you: Given two musical keys separated by an interval of a fifth (say A major and E major, for example) why does the key signature of the higher key always have either one more sharp or one less flat than the lower one?

    I learned this stuff in the typical patchy and haphazard way of the self-taught. So while I think I know the answer, or perhaps at least an answer good enough to suit myself, I wonder if you'd think it was correct, or helpful even, and what a correct and satisfactory answer would be for you.

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  • Reply to: Clarinet: Middle Aged Woman Dares To Learn New Musical Instrument   2 years 40 weeks ago

    Time on the instrument, hours spent practicing, repetition and trying to get the right sounds might work well for some, but I'm pretty useless if I don't understand why. I know teachers have to stick to a schedule and can't have all the kids in the class keep asking "Why?!", but really, I can't remember anything unless I know the reasons. It sounds like a lame excuse, but I remember things that have a solid (to me) foundation, and not if they don't. While 10% of me is trying to memorize an apparently random list, the other 90% is yelling "This is a load of meaningless crap and you're wasting your energy!". I know it's futile to be stuck on an endless 'why', and no I don't know what life is or if it even really exists in the first place, or what I mean by 'exists'.

    I have spent a good part of 17 months trying to make headway here with the clarinet. I have made some progress, yes, but not as much as I think I could have. To be fair to my tutor, 30 minutes a week is not nearly long enough to make great strides either in teaching or learning. I have always understood that the other 167.5 hours in the week were mine to go out and find answers and/or practice furiously. But I got so lost trying to look up the answers to all my questions, and it has taken me this long, frankly, to find a set of tutorials that actually helped me and didn't leave me with yet more questions. I don't have all day to sit and unravel etymology and terminology mixed with the practical whys and wherefores of music theory and practice. Watching a video of someone pointing with a stick on a whiteboard and distracting me with their hair or accent, throwing terminology at me with zero explanation is just not helpful. Sure, it's perfectly clear...IF YOU ALREADY KNOW ALL OF IT.
    But now I have found some very helpful videos on Youtube. 
    This guy doesn't show himself very much so I am not distracted by hair type, glasses choice, eye color, nose shape, skin tone, mouth, teeth, ears, or anything in the background. He speaks nice and slowly, clearly, directly. This video style is what I need to cut through the distractions via the tiny channel of focus and into the part of my brain that is trying to comprehend music theory. Lots of the right kind of visuals.
    I believe I have had a major breakthrough this week. This guy, Ray Melograne, teaches band in NY somewhere, so he is used to having to explain things clearly and slowly, and lucky for his students, appears to respect and help those who ask 'why'. I found his video series by googling 'memorizing scales', and in that particular video he explains why simply memorizing letters or using muscle memory won't work for long. This is exactly what I needed. My knowledge has expanded from there and I have even made myself a quiz to try to remember all the satisfying answers to all my whys. I have had many ahah moments this week from his videos. I still need to match up the circle of fifths & key signatures in my head to the clarinet fingerings in reality, but now I feel I can work on that and actually make some progress. Now it's just a matter of me remembering these correlations. This I can do.
    Yes my tutor explained all of this to me, and yes so has Roadskater, who is probably slapping his forehead reading this. But I can't pause, take 5 minutes silence, write myself a quiz question and answer, let it sink in, and hit play on real people and their pleasantly distracting presence.
    Ray has taken the time over a few videos (which I also listen to now during my commute) to thoroughly break down the pitches, key signatures, scales, circle of fifths, etc., with plenty of explanation of the terminology used and WHY. He isn't just pointing to the circle of fifths like most other videos I've seen, and just said 'Count five and there's your next note in the circle' ("okay...but why?"). 
    When I'm not thinking about anything else more important, now, I'm thinking about this! So this is the immersion I needed, and besides, it beats worrying about things I can't change. I can now look at the circle of fifths and see so many things in clarinet reality. It's starting to take on a 3D image in my mind. So here at last is a starting point to hang it all on, and may it snowball from here. 
    We looked at blues improvisation last week in my lesson, providing the impetus for my "memorize scales" google search. I was thinking if I couldn't intellectualize what the heck a flatted third was, I'd better try to find a way at all costs to memorize my scales before the next lesson, including brainwashing or hypnosis. 
    I sorted Ray's videos by oldest first and am going from there. I think he may have started these videos as a way to help his band students. So he's going about these from a teaching perspective, explaining concepts in as many ways as he can, knowing different approaches work for different students. During every video of his I've watched so far, I have let out a long, loud 'Oaaahhhhohhhhhh' epiphany-sound at least twice.
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