Sequential Learning

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Pablo Conrad's picture

This is a question that's been on my mind for a few months. Some of the people posting on RN are quite advanced and some are just setting out to learn their way around on the dobro. No one will argue that you should NOT spend time messing around, exploring the neck, jamming with your friends, and playing along with recordings of songs, and of course, slowing down a favorite dobro break and trying to work it out yourself, note-by-note, by ear.

And then there's structured learning: time spent with the metronome, running through scales in different positions or different keys, drilling on those three-finger rolls, and gradually building up speed on Shenandoah Breakdown until it ripples effortlesslessly out of your fingers, the way it does for Mr. Douglas back when he recorded songs like that for his solo releases.

I have a big binder full of tabs I downloaded and printed from Rob Anderlik's site, and from resoGuit, and from various other places, and my signed copy of a Rob Ickes AccuTab book, and a copy of a Mike Auldridge videocassette plus a lot of other pieces of instructional material in print, on mp3 or on DVD that have taught em a lot.

But, I jump around. I spend weeks on Bill Cheatham and then I get the newest book with mp3 disk in the mail (Mike Witcher's) and I move on to learn Soldier's Joy and Whiskey B4 Breakfast. Then I decide I really want to be able to contribute something coherent for the jam session when Salt Creek comes up, so back I go to the Rob Ickes, and so on and so on.

My daughter's violin lessons go a little differently: first, you learn this piece, and you practice your scales. Then you learn the next piece (and continue with the scales), and only then do you go on to the next piece. It's all based on a developmental sequence, so that you move progressively to greater challenges — not just when you feel like it, but when the teacher feels you're ready.

Maybe I'm on the lookout for some guidance from people who really give lessons (not a one-time workshop or "my one hour in heaven visiting Mike Auldridge's house") but where the student is moving from one thing to the next in some orderly fashion, over the course of a year.

Should students typically not go chasing after a "Forked Deer" or crack the whip on "Wheel Hoss" if they haven't already got a grip on something easier? And, since many of us don't have a teacher, and rely on common sense and self-evaluation, what would be the basic guiding principal? Just "comfort"?

Maybe what I want is the next Mike Witcher book to come with a suggested sequence for learning the tunes, in terms of level of challenge, based on bar movements, complexity of roll patterns, or rhythmic /timing issues. I've done real well there with Soldier's Joy and Whiskey, but am puzzling over his version of Angeline Baker. Or any other book.

and what do the other hour-or-two-a-day learners have to say?



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