How Long Should I Give Myself to Learn a Tune?
Am I spending too long at this tune? There is no concise answer to this question. As with a lot of learning outcomes, the answer is dynamic in nature. Different for everyone and it depends on a lot of factors.
I have been playing a tune over and over, and it is not improving… I am spending too long on a tune
I would always encourage my students to spend considerable time practising. Setting a certain amount of time to spend over a week. Many of the pupils coming to me for lessons are of school going years. They take out the accordion on four occassions over the week. Subsequently spending twenty minutes on each occassion. This is a very broad outline with more details given depending on the level.
Caitlin Nic Gabhann wrote a great blog about a lot of things music orientated. She touches on aspects of this blog, it’s well worth a read: https://blog.mcneelamusic.com/general-tips-on-how-best-to-learn-traditional-irish-music/
“I am spending too long at this tune”. Happens (regularly) that a student’s progression through a tune is frustrating them. Even though they have rehearsed and spent more time on the tune than is suggested. It happens that a tune isn’t developing as well as other tunes.
The reasons for this lack of progress can be many. Students can spend their time doing counterproductive practising. An example of this would be when a student rehearses through the whole tune. Each time when they rehearse the tune, they start at the beginning and play through the entire tune. From experience, this is a waste of effort. It is much better for learners to identify the points in the tune where there is room for development. This can be one particular or two bars that are tricky, one broad example.
In Practise…..there isn’t a time limit to spend on a tune
Quite simply, there are tunes which I have been playing for years, and I would not be happy to play these tunes in a concert situation as a solo performer. I rarely think to myself, now, “I am spending too long at this tune”. It will come with time. For whatever reason, I don’t have these tunes to the level I would like them to be yet. But to counteract that, sometimes I have learned a tune in a couple of minutes and I am happy to play it as a soloist. The conclusion is though that it is always useful to rehearse tunes that you have had for a significant amount of time, and keep playing these tunes, particularly the repertoire you enjoy. You will find as you play through the tunes and you keep coming back to them, in general, they will improve.
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