The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

How to Learn Music Correctly...The First Time.

Right now Ol' Yeargain is in a music learning fury. It's starting to pile up.

My current goal is to learn Zuniga in Carmen in 2 weeks. That's translations, notes, rythyms, somewhat memorized in two weeks. I'll admit that it's not a very big role, not a great deal of singing, so this should be accomplished very quickly. However, I thought I'd document the process and show you how I'm going to learn this music quickly and efficiently.

Pregame: I strongly suggest if you're going to be in a production and there is one available, get a recording. Get lots of them. Listen to it as much as humanely possible. Saturate yourself with the language, the style and the performance history. Read the novel it's based on. I know that sometimes this luxury isn't always possible, sometimes you're busy, I get that. However, there is no such thing as being over prepared. Knowing more about the show you are performing than you need to will just allow you to pull lots of different ideas for your performance, assuming you're focused and intelligent enough to apply it.

Step 1.) Acquire the Translation.

As a former student, I have access to the Nico Castel translations and IPA of Carmen, and as a person with friends who don't mind committing crimes, I have a PDF of it as well. I don't condone crimes, but do what you need to do to get your translations. I also have pictures of the pages my character is in saved on my phone so I can have it with me at all times. The Nico isn't always 100% correct, but it's a good start. Hopefully your education will allow you to see where the faults are, and your coachings for the show will take care of the rest.

Step 2.) Divide and Conquer

I used to get the translations and hit the ground running. I would spend an hour just translating the whole score. I wasn't even focused about what I was reading, writing, putting in my score. I just knew I had to get it in there so I could reference it. However, this is a terribly unfocused manner to go about this. You're going to get sloppy with it, you'll have to decipher your chicken scratch later, which has caused me to have to go back two or three times to the Nico to find out what the hell I was talking about. Instead of that, do this...


Zuniga is in 8 numbers in the edition of Carmen we are using. I have highlighted and marked out the sections he is in. I have 8 markers separating the book. You now know exactly how much work you have in front of you in actual concrete numbers. Now you're not just thinking "I have so much music to learn" you know exactly how many numbers, pages, and even notes if you're that neurotic.

Conquer (by scheduling)

You know when your first rehearsal is. Ideally you should be fully prepared for that rehearsal. (Notes, language, translation, plot, and rhythm Memorized.) I have 4 weeks (more or less) until the beginning of Carmen. I know I want to have it learned in 2 weeks, and spend the rest of the time memorizing. My first week I will spend learning at least 1 scene a day in it's entirety. The second week I will brush up the scenes, singing through it multiple times in that day. Feeling comfortable with the notes in my voice, checking rhythm, language, punctuation and stresses and adding muscle memory. 

The Next Two weeks...

Step 3.) Memorize

If you're a person that doesn't memorize easily, use everything at your disposal. Figure out what kind of learner you are (Visual or audible) and apply techniques. Even if you do learn and memorize things easily, utilize some of these tools to know it even better.

Repetition. This usually takes care of it for me. I just sing through it enough that my muscles remember it better than I do. I read through it, listen to it, and just immerse myself in it over and over until I know it backwards and forwards.

Everyone has their little tricks how to memorize. My favorite I've heard and done myself is listening to either a recording of the piece, or perhaps a recording of them singing the music whilst working out or doing their cardio. It's kind of awkward working out aggressively to the sound of your own voice...but whatever works, right?

This App helped me out quite a bit during street scene when I had lots of dialogue to get into my ear.

This App helped me learn a bunch of french in RomeĆ² et Juliette at Des Moines.

And if that doesn't work, you can always try this...

Happy learning, everyone. Enjoy the process.

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