Monday, July 8, 2019

Learning and teaching

There are now two Ukuleles living in our little apartment. The original Blue Soprano gifted me by Daughter Eldest and Family nearly two years ago, and a new wood Concert Uke with a finish as deep as on any good teak work. It is a pretty thing, with a slightly deeper tone and offering a little more room on the fret board on which my mechanic’s hands can fumble. I play them both, with Blue being my companion when I’m out on the road. That doesn’t happen very often, but it went with me to Dallas last month and will likely go along when I head to Orlando in a few days for another week of classroom work. In addition to plunking away at the strings, the urge to actually learn some music theory came over me…and I thought the theory of flight was confusing. But I think its good to keep learning new things.

Stumbling up to bare competence in Basic Ukulele with the goal of someday actually playing passible music keeps me on the student side of the student / guide equation, making a good balance to teaching in the jet. Though the people I work with are far from amateurs, their learning experience is a compressed, drinking-from-a-fire-hose marathon of classes, tests, Sim time and check rides. It is a high pressure learning environment.

Any learning curve is jagged, filled with slumps, valleys, and plateaus. Instructors need to remember that and, more importantly, remind students of this inescapable fact. Serious learning is never easy and never goes smoothly. Another fact is that mastering the rationale behind a physical skill is one thing, perfecting the skill quite another. Learning the physics behind and the complex relationships that form a musical scale helps in understanding just how the music should sound. But there is no escaping the fact that the fingers have to play that scale a thousand times before it sounds good enough to be included in a song. It was the same learning to sail. Classroom time spent learning the basics was time well spent. But no one becomes a sailor, or a pilot, in the classroom. No one becomes a good instructor sitting in a classroom either. Standing in front of one? Sure. Sitting in one? Not so much.

Which is the one tiny frustration I have right now, not doing a lot of teaching. Though I have worked with a couple of crews in the GFS, most of my time is still spent on internal training, with the class coming up being focused on meeting the requirements to teach European crews. I also get to spend some time as the right seat pilot for other FSI instructors doing their own internal training. It is all good stuff, adding to my own store of knowledge and offering up some good practice time. But I am really looking forward to more time spent working with those learning to fly a machine new to them.

And though it seems a little odd, being a student of the Uke helps make me a better instructor in the jet.

Ed Note: If you have always wanted to play the ukulele but feel like you're too old to start, read Tj's book, Learning From a Uke, available on Amazon.


Tod Germanica said...

I love my Luna Tat uke bass, which is tuned E, A, D, G like any other bass but an octave higher. It's a contrabass and sounds more like a stand-up 'doghouse' bass than a ukulele. The wood carved 'tatoos' on the spruce top are mighty pretty too.
It features a piezo amp and pre but I seldom plug it in since it is plenty loud for practice played acoustically due to the higher pitch-normal basses require 10x more power to produce equal volume compared to guit**s.
Since I can't read music I'm a total TAB slave for now. But maybe some day I'll learn what those chicken scratch notes mean.
Luckily, tabs mean even musical illiterates like me can make music of sorts. All it takes is 10,000 hours of practice, they say. I've been at it for almost 2 years with no musical experience, training or obvious talent, just for my own amazement. Never played with others yet either except my amp's drum tracks.
Luckily the bass is a great solo instrument, as Homer Simpson said, though I do need some gels.
Safe to say nobody is calling from the Sex Pistols asking me to play bass.
But music is my best mental, emotional and psychic therapy and I need to play every day. And with my arthritis the slight 2 lb weight is welcome. The portability also means it is a perfect travel bass with no amp needed.
For sure I need music more than it needs me. Strum on, sir.

TJ said...

Thank you for the comment Tod, I love the idea that "I need music more that it needs me". When I was growing up music was taught to every student starting, if I remember right, late in grade school and, for sure, in Junior High. Instrument cases were a common sight in the hallways. I was a pretty good drummer, a member of the marching band, the orchestra, a non-school-related drum line, and a couple of garage bands. Shop class, the swim team, and music were the only parts of school that I didn't loathe. Without them its hard to imagine that I would have graduated, which is a bit of an overstatement. I didn't really graduate so much as they gave me a diploma so they wouldn't have to see me again.

I don't know that the public schools emphasize music much any more, or any of the arts for that matter. Sometimes I wonder if that is a symptom of a society failing to strive forward in things human, or a cause. But I know a day does't feel "right" if I don't spend some time plunking away on my Uke or hammering out a drum line or two on the practice pad.