My progress (nothing to show that you wouldn't laugh at) appears slow, but is in line with my expectations. Progress in learning music always seems glacial, because we compare ourselves to virtuosos.
Aside: virtuosos, by the way, have recently been found to be "nothing more" than people that may have a mild aptitude for music, and then spend 10,000 hours practicing with clear intent to improve, see Genius: The Modern View
Personally, I feel that anyone who has spent that much of one's precious life on a study had better be good at it. ;)
However, considering that I have a brand new instrument, being played in a configuration that few people have tried before, and I'm inventing the fingering as I go along, perhaps I should amend the previous statement: I am making decent, but not great progress.
Suffice to say that on a music talent scale of 1 to 10, I started off at a solid, definite zero: I was unintentionally taught not to sing on key. I strongly suspect this is a actually a pretty common condition; it's an easy acoustic trap to fall into.
My deadline: the clock has started ticking.
In summer of 2010, I'll be going to the Naramata Music Camp, a congregration of music afficatos from all over western Canada that gather to learn challenging songs, drink wine from the abundant surrounding wineries, gab, and drink more wine. These are people to whom Music is a Way Of Life; at least one of whom can play the Moonlight Sonata with his nose in front of 200 people to riotous applause (you had to be there).-
I foolishly demoed my first prototype jammer to this gang. Since they are musicians, mostly keyboardists, the general (polite) reaction was "interesting theory; show me the music'.
Now, if I show up without "the music", I will feel the distain (real or imagined) of my peers, or far worse: pity. Hence I'd better start learning. Fast.
Practice techniques and Tips
First, I've improved a tentative key fingering theory. Supplemental to this, I've developed a few exercises that help learn where the keys are and teach my not-very-talented fingers how and where to go. For all of these, the important factor seems to be to keep the pace steady and the key loudness steady, with a light, even touch, centering on the dimple in the key.
It works best, I think, to have a home row and a home column one brings one's fingers back to.
I also try not to look at the keys, doing all my fingering by touch and by ear.
Going over the major scale is not just a useful finger practice, It's essential, I find, to do this at least once at the beginning of each new piece of music. I recommend one look at the key signature, establish where one's fingers go, then play the scale carefully and evenly to set in the fingers, the ear and the mind the notes that are going to be played. This makes a heck of a difference.
Minor Scale - have not really tried this much - thus far it seems best to pretend that one is playing a major scale, but starting on the relative minor note.
CDE (in succession), then DEF, EFG, FGA, GAB, ABC, BCD, CDE, then do it in reverse.
Simple Interval progressions
C+E (at same time), then D+F, E+G, F+A, G+B, A+C, B+D, C+E, then do it in reverse. This one is great for learning when the interval jumps from a major third to a minor third.
CC (C, then C), CD (C, then D), CE, CF, CG, CA, CB, CC'(Octave), CD' etc. - this teaches how to play the intervals.
Arpeggios over a progression of more complex exotic chords
These are fun! Some fingerings are mildly tricky, but compared to a piano - bliss!
The Bottom line: a very cool keyboard layout.
It is, thus far, everything I had hoped to have:
- a keyboard where the fingers can sit on the same notes of the scale all the time
- one does not have to look at the keys
- interesting properties are are emerging
But these can all be fixed. The buttons won't be hard - a combination of washers, o-rings and springs - just finicky to get just right.