You’re all psychologically chunking to get better at your craft.
Now what does that mean?
Granted, chunking is not the most attractive sounding term, but it is a genuine term to describe how we group information into something that we can use and build a foundation to work from. Chunking is a practice method that helps to:
- Build musical memory and enhance recall ability
- See music in manageable pieces and take initial fears out of learning a new piece and
- Develop musical familiarity and the ability to go “Oh – that kind of sounds like X…” and act on that recall.
Chess players take information about chess – opening moves, Rook movements, best positions to have the Queen in – and align it all in a way that provides them with game winning stratagies and tactices.
Victor Wooten is also chunking. Rather than knowing chess moves, guaranteed Victor in his many years of playing reverts back to familiar grooves and combinations of notes that he uses as spring boards for other groove and other situations.
Think About This…
When we engage in deep practice, it is very similar to exploring a dark cave. Very unfamiliar and we’re moving very slowly, trying to get out boundaries, those familiar points we reference back to.
From those established “home base” boundaries – or chunks – we then use them as a foundation to build other points off of.
By taking those homebase chunks and using them to build new chunks is what chunking is (I’ll stop saying chunking now…).
It is fundamentally taking information and arranging it into a patterned way that we feel comfortable using over and over.
Am I Chunking?
Yes – more likely than not. In fact, we ALL are with SOMETHING!
There is nothing wrong with chunking. We chunk to make the learning process easier and more enjoyable.
I’m sure you have riffs and patterns that you revert back to when in a pinch, but use those familiar points as “safe zones” while you think of something else to play.
In fact, chunking is so integral to learning a new skill that even premier music camps make a point to turn years of skill into a few weeks of intensely focused practice using the chunking method. Often so far as to spend 3 hours on a single piece of sheet music! They are breaking the broken parts down EVEN FURTHER to make sure you know your music in and out.
Chunking as a Bass Player
Because of the nature of the bass, we can chunk ideas on it very, very easily – often times without knowing it or setting out to do it consciously.
Many aspects of music theory are patterned by nature such as major and minor scales and because the standard 4-string bass is tuned to 4ths, demonstrating these patterns and building off these patterns to make new riffs, hooks and bass lines is something that comes with significantly fewer barriers.
How to Make Dazzling Skill Vanish
The thing about musical patterns is that we learn them through recognition of the shape of the pattern and the sound that we expect to come next.
BUT – say we were to drop the low E to drop D tuning and then play that same major pattern. It wouldn’t be a major pattern as we know it any more. We would need to adjust the physical arrangement of the pattern to match how we expect to hear it.
More likely than not, if you took Victor Wooten’s bass and messed with the tunings, you would see his dazzling skills vanish.
Many of the musical patterns he held so close and went back to and used in his solos and bass lines wouldn’t be in their “normal places”. He would likely need to take some extra time to re-gain his boundaries and find where his familiar chunks were.
**Disclaimer: I am not taking a pot shot at Victor Wooten’s skills!
Pick Up Your Bass and Let’s Chunk!
Now that you have some insights into how the mind works when learning and building new musical sections, now it’s time to act:
If you’re learning a new song right now:
- Take out a pen or pencil and break the song down by 2-4 measure chunks.
- Take a few moments to make note of the physical direction the notes are moving. This part doesn’t require any actual playing, but just being aware of what to expect from the bass line.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes (to start) and work just one 2-4 bar chunk slowly, making note of how your hand moves, your fingers move and the sound of each note as it passes by.
- Work this process for only a handful of chunks a day (2-4 preferably, but whatever is manageable for you).
The goal is to see music in pieces and act on it accordingly, rather than take it all at once, feel like you’re not accomplishing anything and give up.
If you want to know more about chunking, check out this cool link as well AND check out the man behind Meadowmount, Ivan Galamain.
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