Never Too Old to Learn a New Art or Skill
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
The following is a recent exchange with someone asking how he might, even at
a mature age, find help in learning to sightread music. (The procedure in
Winsights No. 14 is only for very young children.) The following can apply to learning any new skill or art, not only sightreading of music. First, the
letter from an inquirer:
Win Wenger, hello.|
I came across your piece on brain development and perfect pitch while
searching for help with sight reading. I play guitar, mandolin and banjo by
ear, and the others in our ceilidh group say that I really ought to get to
grips with the dots. More of which in a moment.
I also came across the following and thought it may interest you, although
it may already be familiar. Headed "Music lessons may open the mind to math
and science," it's at: Music Opens Mind.
At the age of 34, I spent three of the happiest years of my life reading,
inter alia, cognitive psychology, philosophy and linguistics. Now that I'm a 61-year-old adolescent, I can still recall a little about brain theory and
I'm still fascinated by the interaction of body, mind and spirit, not least
in martial arts and music. Not too odd a mix: both dependent on harmony left/right brain, control of the body [mainly your own] and, of course,
cooperation with others. "Context dependent" still echoes and applies to
much of what we do.
Anyway, enough of biography. More to the point, do you have any advice on
learning to sight-read music for the allegedly adult? Learn on vacation,
maybe? It would be a great contribution to the comity of nations, learning
to live together and the happiness of yours truly.
Help me, Win! When was the last time you made an old man happy?
Keep up the good work and sing out loud in praise of showing out our passion
Any time you're in Geneva, come and join in the ceilidh.
My reply to him was as follows, and is what you can use to master any new
skill or art, with resources free on the web. (You can do still better with
the further techniques published in my book Beyond Teaching and Learning.)
Here is that informative (I hope!) reply:
I'm going to try to put my answer in terms which can be found in specific
referents on the Web. Much fuller answers, with a wide range of alternative
techniques, can be found in my book Beyond Teaching and Learning, but here are things for free:
Just a few years senior to you, I imagine that the number one issue has to
be to come at the task of sight-reading while you are fresh and not tired.
To further reinforce physical readiness to learn and practice
- Study Winsights No. 28 and No. 29 on this website and
get in several accumulated hours' practice at Noise-Removal Breathing.
- For 2 or 3 evenings in a row, get into what I call the "gravity position," feet and legs supported over a chair or sofa, you flat on your back on the floor.
For 5-10 minutes, practice Noise-Removal Breathing from there, relaxing as
completely as possible, then going immediately to bed and sleep, which gives
you the effects of 2-3 extra hours' sleep. Up more than a minute or so before
turning in after this procedure and the effect is lost for that round.
- You might consider supplementing your diet with RNA/DNA (ribonucleic acid
and desoxynucleic acid, the stuff of your genes and of your memory); and/or
with folic acid, which helps your body manufacture its own DNA.
- Before a learning and/or practice sight-reading session by whatever
technique, "noise-removal breathe" up and away whatever "noise" might be
between you and clear, successful sight-reading of music.
With your physical support in place, here are two of the Einsteinian-type procedures freely published on the Web that can be used directly to aid the process of effective sight-reading: