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Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: Chris Brimley on November 17, 2011, 11:51:39 AM

Title: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Chris Brimley on November 17, 2011, 11:51:39 AM
Many contributors on the top 5 tips thread have commented on the effectiveness of 'subliminal learning', and I agree with them, it really has an effect.  I thought it's such a weird and interesting topic that maybe it merits a new thread in its own right.

Apparently 'Subliminal Learning' has another meaning, the proven effect that people learn from subliminal messages, which I don't think is what this is about.  However 'Spaced' learning (where you keep taking breaks) has apparently been shown to be more effective than 'Massed' learning (where you do it all at once).

I don't actually think I can learn new things in this way, as such.  But it seems what I can do is to let the subconscious processes sort out right ways from wrong ways, when the conscious mind has become confused, and is going down the wrong path.  I find it particularly effective where you find when you're practicing that you're getting worse at something.  That's generally because you have remembered more than one little trick, and you keep using the wrong one.  If you stop at that stage, I find the subconscious will often sort out the right connections for you (neural building?), and hey presto, next time, it works!

I'm going to try to use this practically.  Now that I have a lot more time than I used to, I've decided that it would be a good idea to revise dance band tunes that I've been playing for a long time, to see if I can play them better, or more easily, with different fingering.  (OK, I know I should have done this when I first learned them, but hey, I've got more experience now of fingering patterns that work!) 

For example I'm working on a little phrase in Athol Highlanders at the moment, which is in A, and I'm playing it on a D/G/Acc box.  There's a run of B,C#, D, (bar 6, etc) played against an E LH chord.  It would be cleaner to play that all on the pull, instead of push, pull, push, against a B bass note, which is what I've previously used.  So I revised it and found I could play it OK.  The trouble is, the same phrase occurs quite often elsewhere in the music, and if I change that too, I run out of bellows air because then the tune's largely all pull.  So I need to find a way of remembering when to use the right fingering for just bar 6, and fixing that memory.  I think this may prove a challenge for spaced learning!

Has anyone else got any thoughts on the best way to use subconscious learning?  For example, I must say I'm pretty impressed by Ukebert's technique of taking fingerings from his memory, and learning them while he's doing the shopping!  That's a very nice trick if you can do it!
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: ladydetemps on November 17, 2011, 11:59:50 AM
I don't know if you could count it as 'spaced' learning but I find if I'm really stuck on something and I play it intensely I then give it a break for a week and I suddenly find improvement.
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Chris Ryall on November 17, 2011, 03:01:20 PM
Has anyone else got any thoughts on the best way to use subconscious learning?  For example, I must say I'm pretty impressed by Ukebert's technique of taking fingerings from his memory, and learning them while he's doing the shopping!  That's a very nice trick if you can do it!

I used to slave away on 'the hard bits' and occsionally whole tunes and seemed to get no better. Then I'd sleep on it and miraculously be able to make a decent first of it the next day. I think this still happens on the longer courses.  Guess it's all to do with the dreamtime lahying down of memory, or in this case more likely programming your cerebellum to control a complex movement.

I find I can now also imagine fingering a tune in my head. Not sure that does me any good whatsoever though.  ::)
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on November 17, 2011, 07:54:56 PM
Chris: There has been a Radio 4 programme mentioning this very recently with a headline of " Improve your memory - go to sleep!" and they mentioned  research on this.
Something along the lines of giving someone a problem to solve before they go to sleep, and in the morning some people are up to 40% better. They had noticable positive results, though some people seem not to posses this ability.
I seem to solve problems driving back to work at ~ 6.30am, when some idea happens to drop into the brain.
 I don't visulise finger patterns, never have with the English Concertina either. Once I have the tune enough to tumtee it well, it'll somehow migrate to the fingers. No idea how!
Q
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: ChrisK on November 17, 2011, 11:14:27 PM
Chris,

This is an interesting subject.  I also play the anglo concertina.  I have recently started to study a new book by an American player called Bertam Levy.  He approaches the problems you described using techniques he learned from studying the bandoneon as a classical instrument, and then applying them to the anglo.

Basically, the anglo has more opportunities for cross-row playing than the melodeon - mainly due to the reversed 5th/6th (G/A and A/G on a C/G instrument) buttons on the third row.  So, for example, you can play the phrase G B C D all on the pull, or all on the push.  The difference is that the fingering patterns are completely different.  His approach is to first visualise the finger shape for each phase of music.  You then place your fingers over the buttons in that shape, then exercise the phrase of music.  You learn the phrase by the finger shape and the sound of each note.  With practice, you should be able to play the same phrase in different parts of the tune in different bellows directions - and thus optimise the air requirements.

I have found this quite challenging, as I have always played the anglo bouncing up and down the rows.  After several weeks of practicing it is starting to sink in!

I will keep you posted on how this progresses.

Chris
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Chris Brimley on November 17, 2011, 11:58:36 PM
Interesting, ChrisK, I also think I remember things in finger patterns or shapes of note sequences (and I hope my subconscious is listening, here!), because I find they take into account the physical difficulties in using your fingers. 
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Chris Brimley on November 18, 2011, 10:34:26 AM
Quote
The trouble is, the same phrase occurs quite often elsewhere in the music, and if I change that too, I run out of bellows air because then the tune's largely all pull.  So I need to find a way of remembering when to use the right fingering for just bar 6, and fixing that memory.  I think this may prove a challenge for spaced learning!

Well, it worked!  I tried playing the tune again this morning, and could immediately play it better.  But the funny thing is, not in the way I predicted - my subconscious came up with a different and better fix which I hadn't consciously thought of, which involved finger-swapping immediately after this run, rather than remembering two ways of fingering the run itself.  Now that's weird! 
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: george garside on November 18, 2011, 01:07:28 PM
Yes it works  despite the fancy names that are sometimes attached to the process.  It is as if the tune festers in the brain and in so doing grows the missing bits.  I have found that it works often over periods as long as  a year or more & moe importantly -m perhps vitally - involves absolutely no concious effort on my part. 

It seems to work this way - start to learn a new tune, by ear, from dots or a combination of the two  and decide to forget it for whatevr reason  including idleness, can't quite get it the way you want it, lack of time or whatever.  Then the festering process starts within the head!. St some later date months or more after 'forgetting it' I find I pick up the box & play a tune  well that I previouosly gave up on.  I then have to think   where did that come from  and realise it was one I gave up on earlier.  Wonderful thing the autonomic nervous system.

george
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: ChrisK on November 18, 2011, 05:25:18 PM
George,

Do you think that you subconciously "melodionise" the tune in your head before you come back to it?

I'm sure that I have done this with several morris tunes.  On occasions, I have played a tune that I have been playing for years, and another musician will say "that's not what is in "THE BOOK"".  When I go back and look at what I thought was my original source, I find a couple of notes are different to what I now play!

The dancers never complain, though, so s*d-em.

Chris
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: george garside on November 18, 2011, 07:22:16 PM
There are often many slightly different versions of tunes printed in different books so there is nothing odd about a few notes difference here & there  .  I have on occasion been told that I am playing a tune wrong that I have played for years without any complaints.. On looking at the dots that are claimed to be 'correct' I am indeed palying it 'wrong' . However  a perusal of other printed versions usually reveals that I am playing it as writ in   a different book.   I would therefore argue that provided it  sound good & is recognisable as what it is purported to be it is but one of several 'correct' versions 

george
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: docEdock on November 19, 2011, 09:38:11 AM

I find I can now also imagine fingering a tune in my head. Not sure that does me any good whatsoever though.  ::)

There's a body of literature that claims mental practice (aka motor imagery) can improve performance, including this paper http://www.mcgill.ca/files/spl/bcrme04.pdf (http://www.mcgill.ca/files/spl/bcrme04.pdf), which discusses music. So, it can do some good, particularly if your auditory skills are strong. If nothing else, imaginary fingering is entertaining and no one else complains when you hit a sour note.
Doc
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: george garside on November 19, 2011, 09:50:25 AM
I can't say I have ever imagined fingering in my head ..  Anyway imagining is a concious effort whereas the festering or development of a tune over a period of time  in the head is a totally unconcious effort and therefore must use a different mechanism.

AS to imagining fingering  it has the built in, restrictive, inference that a particular finger should be playing a particular button instead of forging  the diirect connection  from brain, down arm, to enable any handy finger to play any button (thereby leaving 3 spares to do other things.  Singers don't have to imagine opperating the gob - it just happens in order to transfer a tune/song from brain to the outside world.

Probably just goes to show how little we understand about the working of  that abstract  thing/concept 'the mind' as opposed to the catalogued function of various bits of brain.
george :-\
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Chris Brimley on November 19, 2011, 10:26:59 AM
Quote
a particular finger should be playing a particular button

Funnily enough my memory seems to remember patterns of buttons and bellows movements more than fingers - I sometimes find I'm playing a tune with different fingers than usual.  It feels a bit odd, and the problem is obviously that you can run out of fingers, and have to switch hastily.  I need to train myself to remember 'start fingers' consciously, I think.

Some time ago we discussed an annotation system that gave the memory cues, and I must say that I do use this on music notation, and I believe it's relevant to this learning process - I find the thing to do is to write down only the minimum you need to start playing in the right way, so it may be push/pull/push symbols where there's alternatives available, or maybe the row number.  If you only do the main cues, you can take them in as you're reading the music, whereas with the other systems I've seen, the problem I find is that there's too much information to take in while you're playing.  In my score for the tune I was talking about earlier, I've now put an 'I' for 'index' over the key note that needs to be played with the correct finger for the run to work, for example.
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on November 19, 2011, 10:34:20 AM
Doc reminds me, as he's said. imagining things is a well known technicue in sporting things.
i.e. imagining the track or course you are about to run/swim/paddle/bike etc etc down before actually competing in the event.
Similarly to the 'operatic gob', the competitor doesn't visualise themselves paddling/biking/runing etc, that seems to be programmed in, it's *how* they tackle the track or course.
That directly relates to this discussion, we tend not to visualise pressing the button, more what sound ( which note order ) and exactly how we play that sound ( soft, clipped, loooong, loud )
There are distinct parallels here.



Ahhh Chris has just posted.
Hmmm perhaps there are two sorts of visualisers - those that visualise the tune as a sound-tune as I've tried to explain, and I do, or those that visualise mechanically pressing the buttons, sort of visual-tune, interesting stuff!
Q
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Chris Brimley on November 19, 2011, 10:42:18 AM
Thrupenny Bit, I think I'm a bit of both sorts - I usually learn to associate a pattern or run of buttons and push/pulls with a mental picture of the tune.  In fact, if it weren't for this complex pattern, I don't think I would be able to learn at all.

A similar thing happens to me with playing guitar - it's quite easy to remember complex finger-style tunes, but it's impossible to remember just sequences of similar chords, other than by ear and by association with the tune as it's playing. 
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Chris Ryall on November 19, 2011, 10:46:59 AM
Quote from: george garside link=topic=8310.msg103231#msg103231 ate=1321696225
I can't say I have ever imagined fingering in my head ..  Anyway imagining is a concious effort whereas the festering or development of a tune over a period of time  in the head is a totally unconcious effort and therefore must use a different mechanism.

AS to imagining fingering  it has the built in, restrictive, inference that a particular finger should be playing a particular button instead of forging  the diirect connection  from brain, down arm, to enable any handy finger to play any button (thereby leaving 3 spares to do other things.  Singers don't have to imagine opperating the gob - it just happens in order to transfer a tune/song from brain to the outside world.

Probably just goes to show how little we understand about the working of  that abstract  thing/concept 'the mind' as opposed to the catalogued function of various bits of brain.
george :-\

Quick pedant point before I join back in.  ''Autonomic nerves" are the little thin ones that supply your sweat glands, heart  gut, etc.  They are IME more of a barrier to music than a wonder. eg I had a friend in Northern Symphonia in the 80's who would sweat profusely when soloing (excellent bassoonist). Well recognised in concert circles it seems. not doubt his heart rate was well up too. I'll stop there ::)

As I've learned to play more 'out' I've tried to .. well in essence play what I hear in in my head. This does mean making fingering automatic and is one reason I feel early learners of tunes shouldn't get into a  1↓1↑2↑2↓3↓3↑4↑4↓ notation. Produces a nice G scale, but that isn't in the direction you are headed?

My more challenging tunes - Morpeth rant is one - have become chained blocks of patterned movements rather than simply note runs. I tend to medley MR with something in D and the lead in A7 chord at the change is now suc h an old friend that I can do it is several ways. So long as you keep the C# and G in there it has the same harmonic effect of shifting key. So I have a red block, a yellow one, definitely a blue one -to make an analogy rather than name or even think of the chord or arpeggio.

Which leads me on to embellishments. These for me are quite conscious processes and I have to know where I am when I go 'out' - that's a #4th - this is 'on blues scale' that will work over the present dominant chord etc (I hasten to add MR hasn't yet been subjected to this  mistreatment)!  

But yes, I try to approach the melody development as a singer would.  Jeremy Mignotte (http://www.myspace.com/jeremiemignotte/music/songs/le-nombril-du-monde-61256995) (who has a degree in classical flute) actually teaches it this way. It seems there is no 'bit of brain' for music. Like most thought the map is 'holographic'. One reason why music can trigger so many memories and emotions.  My daughter DollyMay scats quite fluently (http://forum.melodeon.net/index.php/topic,7165.msg91727.html#msg91727) and approaches the whole thing from the emotional side of the same coin. Probably better music for that (certainly a surprise at Bagsoc)
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Ellisteph on November 19, 2011, 11:29:17 AM
Chris: There has been a Radio 4 programme mentioning this very recently with a headline of " Improve your memory - go to sleep!" and they mentioned  research on this.
Something along the lines of giving someone a problem to solve before they go to sleep, and in the morning some people are up to 40% better. They had noticable positive results, though some people seem not to posses this ability.
I seem to solve problems driving back to work at ~ 6.30am, when some idea happens to drop into the brain.
 I don't visulise finger patterns, never have with the English Concertina either. Once I have the tune enough to tumtee it well, it'll somehow migrate to the fingers. No idea how!
Q
I also find driving to work a good time to process tunes in my head. Playing a CD I also imagine myself fingering the tune as some other correspondents have mentioned: it's not always right when you pick up your instrument but it usually gives you a starting point. I find the most important thing is to make sure that the tune you want to learn is the last one you hear before parking the car. That's when the subliminal process starts for me; it seems to go round and round in my head all day. You often hear people say that they've heard a song on the radio they don't like, but can't get it out of their head; I try to turn this  into an advantage by making sure the tune in my head is one I really want to be there. Works for me anyway. Sometimes my subliminal processes even come up with variations on the original - I suppose this means even my subconscious is starting to get fed up of the tune I'm trying to learn!
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Chris Brimley on November 19, 2011, 12:12:40 PM
Ellisteph, re your comment on the last tune before parking the car, it seems that what the subconscious works on while asleep is things that are worrying you consciously, as if it recognises the need to sort it out for you while you're asleep.  Someone once said to me that sleep is a bit like a defrag process, and we need it so that we don't get overwhelmed with input - do you think maybe it's worry that is the cue to the subconscious to give that problem priority?
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Ellisteph on November 20, 2011, 10:32:25 AM
Chris, maybe sorting out your worries was the way the system evolved. I wouldn't say that I worry about tunes I can't learn though; just shrug my shoulders & accept that there are some things I can't do. May revisit them in a few weeks, months or even years. In the meantime I'll learn something else. Plenty of ideas on this site thank goodness.
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: george garside on November 20, 2011, 12:03:53 PM
The process I described, whatever it is, has nothing whatever to do with trying to learn, visualise play tunes or do fingring iin the head or in fact with any concious attempt to do anything eg while driving to work, sat on the bog or whatever..

 It is an entirely automatic process that goes on within the head without the owner of the head being in anyway aware that it is happening. The result is that months or even years after deciding to not bother with a tune you put on the box and play it well & then  have to think as to what tune it is!

george
Title: Re: Spaced or Subliminal learning
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on November 20, 2011, 12:19:32 PM
Ellisteph: I think playing the tune you want to learn before parking up is a good point. I've not always conciously tried to do it, but now you mention it, I think you're right.
It reminds me - Donkeys years ago, a colleague of mine would loudly hum a tune, then disappear downstairs, only to return a while later with a mischeivious grin on his face. After a while, I worked it out. He's hum a tune, disappear then return *knowing* I'd be humming it when he got back!

As George says, I've often heard at a session someone play a tune and somewhat confused " what tune was that?" and have had it happen to me too...... somehow unconscious absorbing of a tune then makes it's way to the fingers.
This 'seeding' of a tune into the memory is quite curious and if we can use it to our advantage, all well and good.

Q
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