Balancing IFR with New Material

Does anyone have advice for balancing practicing the IFR method with learning/transcribing actual pieces of music? I find that the IFR method can only take me so far technically, and that learning songs is essential to taking me that last step. But, I tend to get overwhelmed with learning songs and feeling like there’s always more to learn, whereas IFR is helpful for slowing me down and reminding me of the essentials.
Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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At the risk of stating the obvious each person’s balance will be different @jackbat4 .

I’m doing music as a hobby activity purely for the pleasure of it. So, I have no specific need to produce any particular type of music on any particular time scale. If I were booked to, say, perform a 30 minute spot at a 60’s themed event in x months time the situation would be entirely different.

Accordingly I just try to combine the pleasure/fun principle with a desire to progress & ‘do what I feel like’ on the basis that enjoyable practice is practice that is more likely to get done & to last longer!

Usually I only learn a new song if something pops up that appeals. A few weeks ago I decided to have a go at ‘Over The Rainbow’ by ear. I’ve no idea what brought it in to my head, but the idea appealed. I’ve only done one song ‘by ear’ before so the idea was quiet a challenge. I knew it started with an octave leap, so I started from there and over a period on non-intensive development I now have a passable version (well, my wife recognises it…). I probably ought to check my work against a score, but I haven’t so far.

That’s unusual. More usually if something appeals I look to see if it’s in one of my books or onlline as staff notation. If it is, I may try a tenative slow walk through from the staff, but more likely the first thing I’ll do is transcribe the melody in to an IFR melody contour. It will then be that contour that I learn from.

I’m currently working on part of ‘All of Me’, prompted by it being this month’s song in the IFR Jazz Study Group. The ‘from the book’ one before that was a version of the start of “Jesu, Joy on Man’s Desiring”. How’s that for contrast?

As an aside, I recently came across the idea of learning a song from end to beginning!

It may sound daft, but the idea is that if you learn the last section first, then gradually add sections towards the start you are always starting each pass with the newest material, then moving onto ground where you are just reinforcing material you already know.

Sorry if none of that is of any relevance or use, but hopefully it at least provides a example perspective to consider & say “well that’s not for me”? LOL!

I think that’s an aspect of music that’s best to get to feel at home with and appreciate. I sincerely hope there will always be more.

If there wasn’t ‘more’, there’d be nowhere to progress or aspire to.

Onwards & upwards. :smiley:


I find it useful to have a general framework for all my practice sessions. The framework DOESN’T MEAN you slavishly follow it every day, just that it shows what you kinda expect to do most of the time. When I outgrow that framework over time, I change it to where I am musically at that point.

Here’s mine these days…

%5 of time: warm up
10% of time: technical exercises (scales, arpeggios)
30% of time: IFR type things
40% of time: learning a new tune, or polishing it
15% of time: playing something I already know, just for fun


@jackbat4 I have a similar arrangement. If I have a good length of time I may use ‘interval training’ (in the non-musical sense) in the main part (i.e. the middle 3 of @hender99 's 5 sections). By that I mean a periodic rotation of activies, e.g. 5 minutes (or maybe the length of an IFR jam track) of one thing, then 5 minutes of another, then 5 minutes…

When using intervals I sometimes I use a HIIT timer (e.g. GYMBOSS miniMax, or there are online browser based equivalents). If I do that the timings include slots for ‘reflection & change over’ as well as for the activies themselves.

Other times I just pick up an instrument… :wink:

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Recently I’ve been trying to blend to IFR material with my other musical practice (like learning and reviewing tunes, or exploring chords), rather than doing them separately. So, when looking a tune I’m trying the think (or I transcribe it) in numbers, and I’ll sing the numbers, or focus on harmonic environment and chords in the context of the tune I’m looking at.

Really trying to approach the same topic from multiple angles, rather than segment my practice into different topics.


Agree 100% on that @mem. As I’ve writte before, IFR is the lens through which I see (or rather feel) music.

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