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|You show me a professional musician, rock, jazz, country, or
bluegrass and I'll show you someone that spent their formative years bent
over a half speed tape recorder (or if they are old enough... a variable
speed record player).
You're thinking "Wait a minute, what does this have to do with learning by
In order to learn the melodies, leads, and chords from a recording, it's
usually necessary to slow things down. Some people that are unusually gifted
and have incredibly good ears can do more than most of us by listening at
full speed, but even those folks can't figure out faster solos without some
kind of electronic aid. For the rest of us, it's even hard to figure out
slow music without slowing things down. Why is this? Well, most of us can
match a pitch with our instrument or voice if that's the only thing we hear.
However, when lot's of notes are put back to back, we get confused and can't
lock in on the individual pitches. If we can slow the music down enough, we
can work our way through the piece one note at a time until we get the
In the past, this was done with half speed tape recorders. The problem here
is that as you slow the music down, the pitch drops. By the time you get to
1/2 speed, it has already dropped by one octave. So you see it's not
practical to go much slower. The drop in pitch makes it much harder for us
to figure things out and for most of us, 1/2 speed is just not slow enough.
In fact, I do transcribing for magazines and frequently require 1/10 speed
to figure out certain passages exactly.
This is where our digital slowdown technology comes into play. We can slow
the music down as far as we want, but keeping the same original pitch.
You might be thinking, "Wow, figuring out those things note by note seems
like an awful lot of trouble. Can't I just buy a book and skip the figuring
out on my own?"
The answer is, yes you can buy the book and yes that book will most likely
just gather dust on your bookshelf.
Experience has shown that you need to be involved in the process by the act
of listening that goes along with figuring things out yourself.
Without getting into a giant essay on this, I'll just say that figuring out
the music by yourself is the best, but trying to figure it out and
consulting with a good book of "Transcriptions" can also be very good.
Some people prefer to just learn from the Transcription books but play along
with the original recording at a slower speed in order to get all the nuance
of the original