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my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing
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Erin
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PostPosted: 2011-06-11, 15:56    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

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Well said, Jeff.
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Lance
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PostPosted: 2011-06-11, 18:03    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

Thanks for that, I obviously don't have that perspective, having never devoted myself to such practice. I do regret that there is so much I will never be able to do, without a teacher.
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PostPosted: 2011-06-11, 18:42    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

Lance wrote:
I was jaded long ago when I asked a girl I knew to 'play something' on the piano, she'd taken lessons for years. She started paging through sheet music, and could only play a song from there or some song she'd memorized. That made me cringe, seeing that all she was was a human player piano, yuk.


The fact that she had some things memorized is commendable. Memorizing a piece is a beautiful thing. It demonstrates an intimacy in the musician's relationship with the piece, and that intimacy is not only something merely seen by the audience, it is a feeling experienced by the musician that is transmitted to audience. It's true that at early stages of memorization and mastery of the instrument there is some roboticism going on, that just playing something 1000 times will carve a map in the musician's neural pathways and the musician's movements will eventually go that direction automatically, but at higher skill levels that gives the musician room to hear and interpret the piece as he goes along.

Lance wrote:

This could start the "you have to know what you're doing before you can improvise" discussion, but I hope not.


It seems to me you started it, but I'll leave my followup on that for later in this post.

Lance wrote:

That piano story from long ago turned me against teachers and learning 'songs'.


Here I can empathize. I have noticed that often frequent lessons often are more a source of frustration than growth, both with music (flute and voice) and partner dance (tango, ballroom, West Coast Swing, hustle) lessons. With music it works something like "I've taught you everything I know about this piece including the technique behind it, onto the next" and with dance it's "I taught you that move and the technique behind it, onto the next", of course with the understanding that the student should continue working on it. The problem is that the less "talented" students find themselves over their heads quickly, realize that they are not the fun students to teach no matter how hard the teacher tries to hide it, and become discouraged. Needless to say, that's not a good thing. However, I do not see any easy solutions, either on the part of student or teacher. Spacing the lessons out further gets the student the extra practice or floor time, but beginning students often need more guidance than that because there is a lot of truth to teachers fears that bad habits may be developed.

Lance wrote:

I certainly don't want to become some robot, even one who adds his own flare here and there.


Some teachers produce more robots than others. Teachers are individuals, and different methods of teaching produce different general results. For example, I've noticed that violin students taught with the Suzuki method tend to be less robotic. As far as shakuhachi is concerned, I'd think that the nature of the instrument and the music is such that "robotic" playing isn't common, so I think your fears regarding this are misplaced.

Lance wrote:

I've been playing Shakuhachi for a few years and totally enjoy the freedom of learning what I can 'from it'. I'll also agree ahead of time with those who say I'm lazy, I don't like the idea of the drugery of playing some songs over and over and over, trying to get them 'right'.


I wouldn't say you are lazy. You just have a different set of priorities.

Lance wrote:

Anyway, to me the Shakuhachi has been a wonderful experience, and I can enjoy sitting and learning from the bamboo.


Which is all good. I wish a lot of the younger robots out there playing European instruments were able to appreciate their instruments more in this respect. The problem is, most of them quit after college if they even make it that far. It's created an environment where it's harder for us older folks to find people to play with in a casual setting.

As promised, I'll now put forth my opinions on improvisation. Basically it seems like you expect to hear arguments that you can't improvise without learning song structure and such. And you very well might, because most improvisations aren't all that interesting if some kind of structure isn't followed. Even in music that is highly improvised, the better sounding musicians follow some sort of structure. I'm sure that there are some aspects of your improvisations that you are getting very good at and listeners that are open to it will enjoy it. However, you're more likely to impress more friends if your improvisations follow some structure that they can relate to. And if you ever want to play with other musicians, you'll probably find that you need to establish some kind of base structure to follow if you want it to sound like anything. Even if the structure is a simple drone, without structure it tends to not sound musical. Outside of a simple drone, you'll need to teach whoever you want to play with the structure you want to use unless you use a commonly understood structure. Blues is a common American structure improvisations are played over. East Indian music is highly improvised, but follows a structure, so does Turkish taksim. So, you don't necessarily have to learn it, but it makes a musician's life easier.

I love to put on a synth drone and play long tones varying the pitch and dynamics, selecting different notes changing scales, and experimenting with different rhythmic patterns and just space out. It feels really cool. And I can't deny that there is a good amount of musicality to it, but there's no way I'd ever imply that I've reached a high level of sophistication with it. And it does get boring after a while. So I practice songs too.

BTW, for those out there remembering me as radi0gnome (I'd still use that handle if real names weren't being explicitly encouraged here), you might remember that I was missing all the benefits of learning traditional music. I've filled some of those gaps with video lessons from Perry Yung, with decent results: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isGu3inNVXg

Cool, right? And now that I have a hot (3.4Ghz!) new computer I think I'll start Skype lessons again soon.
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PostPosted: 2011-06-11, 19:07    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

Lance wrote:
Thanks for that, I obviously don't have that perspective, having never devoted myself to such practice. I do regret that there is so much I will never be able to do, without a teacher.


You can gain that perspective from learning any song, even European ones. That's what I did. And it wasn't until I took up shakuhachi. For me, some Beatles melodies were real easy to remember to play by ear, and when I learned from a book (Tokuyama Takashi's Path of Bamboo) how to get all the notes, that is what I went for. Later, some Skype jazz lessons from Geni helped me get around on the instrument better and I was able to make some decent stabs at some of the baroque music I learned on silver flute some 30 years ago (but I never even dreamed of memorizing them then). The written music is just the notation, not the song. I'm sure if you find a song you really know you can work it up on shakuhachi to understand what Jeff is talking about, even if it is a simple one.
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Dean Del Béne
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PostPosted: 2011-06-12, 12:46    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

Nice post, Jeff.
The engaged mind and heart changes everything; music is a journey of feeling, don't stop believin', it goes on and on and on and on... Laughing
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Nathan
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PostPosted: 2011-06-14, 07:10    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

""Some people write one new song after another. For me...I really don't know about other people...that would be shallow. There are perhaps forty 'classic' tunes. I've chosen about seven. I can play them over and over. I can spend the whole day doing that."
I shake my head, amazed: the humility in playing only seven songs. When I think of how attached I am to the idea of improvisation, I realize how profoundly hypnotized by twentieth-century American culture I have been, how I had thought any other way would be unbearable.""

Kogan Murata (student of Koku Nishimura) from "A different Kind of Luxury" by Andy Couterier

Two differing and equally interesting perspectives!
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PostPosted: 2011-06-14, 12:31    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

Also Murata said: “Nishimura-san taught me very important things. Blowing into the flute isn’t the problem. It’s the essence that he taught me.” “This!” he holds up his fingers in the shape he uses to cover the holes, “…this is just technique, just making sound. He told me, ‘If you think about technique, it won’t be the real thing.’ He told me to just forget about technique. Throw all that away. It’s only playing, and continuing to play that has meaning. That’s it.”

See more at http://myoanshakuhachi.blogspot.com/2010/05/kogan-murata-ancient-echoes.htm…

carry on and then to now
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GalinaSG
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PostPosted: 2011-06-14, 20:38    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

Why we seek kind of controversy between technique and imporivisation?
You can not improvise dancing before you are able at least to simply walk.
Two sides of one coin, imho.
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PostPosted: 2011-06-15, 04:49    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

Very true Galina. Following a way, ultimately starts with self interest...some sort of goal or outcome. It doesn't matter in the bigger scheme if you choose to improvise without the benefit or distraction of established technique or not. It doesn't even matter if you choose not to improvise or not. In the end, one chooses their path. The only problems that exist is when those who choose to ignore established technique for the freedom of playing from their heart cross paths with those who decided to learn to crawl through technique as taught through established pieces first...no matter how many pieces that might be. They essentially have a different vocabulary. It would be the same as a Russian who unlike Galina doesn't speak English and me who doesn't speak Russian trying to compliment each on their beautiful playing, but not having the vocabulary and resorting to a second-best situation offered by gestures which are poor at conveying nuance. It seems that both types of players exist with the shakuhachi, but what do the two have to talk about in a forum setting without discussing the 'how tos' of shakuhachi playing; in other words, technique. There the argument stands.
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2011-06-15, 08:46    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

How many of us wish we could go back to being illiterate? If we stopped being able to read or write we wouldn't be able to have this particular conversation. Similarly I doubt most people who can read music would chose to forget that knowledge. Why is that?
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PostPosted: 2011-06-15, 14:38    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

I'm sure not many would say they want to go back to illiteracy, but most can see that the old ways of sitting around a fire telling stories and playing music every night is something good that's been lost in the highly literate cultures. If I were to speculate whether the stories and music had structure or not, I'd guess that they did.

I do not think the teacher or no teacher question is equivalent to the structured music or non-structured music question. It's true that in the beginning a "no teacher" path will most likely result in non-structured music, but as more facility is gained on the instrument I think the tendencies would be to apply structures that were learned from pre-conceived notions of what music is. The meaning of "no teacher" is somewhat tricky too, as teaching books are a transference of knowledge from a teacher even though no teacher is present. Even in absence of both physical (or virtual) teachers and books, wasn't the individual or recording a student heard that was inspiration to play shakuhachi in essence a teacher?

It could also be argued that the holes on the shakuhachi being drilled in a manor to produce a pentatonic minor scale are imposing pre-conceived notions of what music is and structure to the improvisations one plays on it, but for some reason that is considered by "let the bamboo teach you" purists as OK. Taking it to the ultimate extreme, even if given raw bamboo, someone taught us that there is a way to get music from it. I don't think we can get away from it, teachers exist and we've all been taught, to some degree or another.
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Rick Riekert
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PostPosted: 2011-06-15, 18:25    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

CharlesKoeppen wrote:
I'm sure not many would say they want to go back to illiteracy, but most can see that the old ways of sitting around a fire telling stories and playing music every night is something good that's been lost in the highly literate cultures.


That’s probably in part because highly literate cultures tend have many readily available sources of passive entertainment, most of which have precious little to do with a high level of literacy.
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PostPosted: 2011-06-27, 20:35    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

I would just like to say that here in cornwal there is'nt any one that knows what a shakuhachi is let alone a teacher.So I have to make the best of it. I have made a bunch of flutes two of which I consider reasonable its just five holes and you move it up and down to bend the note.I am recording at the moment music that I suspect a lot of taditionalist's would consider inapropriate for shakuhachi but I always say if things don't change they will stay as they are
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PostPosted: 2011-06-29, 15:37    Post subject: my 2 cents about the whole teacher thing Reply with quote

It's good to see that this issue is still being debated and it is quite interesting reading everyone's thoughts and differing opinions. I loved your comments, Jeff; I like to crawl through technique but also to improvise. I suppose that if one is interested in learning honkyoku or other traditional genres and/or in carrying on a tradition of playing pieces that goes back for hundreds of years that having a teacher would be something of a short cut to those goals just as if one is interested in practicing aikido or another martial art, it is considerably easier learning from someone who is experienced in the art rather than from a video or a book (for me, at least!) though some talented individuals will be able to pick up everything they want or need from books, recordings, videos, or perhaps from deciphering one koan of crazy wisdom from Zen master Horst, and meditating on it for several weeks. It depends on what you want to do with shakuhachi and what purpose the flute plays in your life. It's great that there is an ever growing number of people who are finding joy in playing the shakuhachi no matter what their methods of learning happen to be Smile .
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PostPosted: 2011-07-08, 19:27    Post subject: All this talk of teachers. Reply with quote

I've spent the last couple of years trying to learn the shakuhachi by myself and have made some progress, but in a sense progress for some people implies movement through a repertoire or perhaps accumulating a body of work. For me progress is measured through the constant repetition of a small number of tunes with a view to gaining for myself some degree of satisfaction as to how I might be improving. Time is definitely not an issue nor in my view should it be. I tell a lie, I have promised a friend that I will play at his 80th birthday as a first public performance , but since he is 61 years old I feel I have time to prepare. I treat the practice much the same as I do my Tai Chi. Years of practice to refine what I know. Memorization of short tunes, some more demanding than others, seems to be the way for me. Any idea of improvisation may come from the slow increase in my own ability and repertoire, but I would be cautious to avoid the idea that I could suddenly improvise from nothing. I once met someone who said he did not read books because he didn't want to pollute his mind with the ideas of others, and I have to point out that he had very little to say. I should say that I had no practical musical experience before finding the shakuhachi and a form of notation that wasn't baffling to me. For this reason I may make a bad student but nevertheless I will be attending the ESS Summer School in London. I hope they will be gentle with me!!
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