Learned #2: Like Butter


Welcome to Learned, a resource for all of us who are trying to get just a little more educated, for varying degrees of “educated.” We’ve got links, we’ve got commentary, we’ve got a couple of pretty pictures. Let’s get to it.

Photo by Elena Taranenko on Unsplash

What We’re Learning:

Photo by Joel Neff on Unsplash (Hey! That’s me!)

This week, we're learning how to play the piano.  Again.

Like a lot of kids, I took piano lessons but, like a lot of kids, I didn't particularly enjoy them and so hectored my mom into letting me quit.  Fast forward many, many years and I wish I could play the piano.

I still remember some of what I learned then - I know where my fingers are meant to go, I know which notes are which on the piano, and I can play simple progressions with my right hand or my left hand, but not usually both together.  

I've taken stabs at learning before, on my own and with friends, and with a couple of other instruments in between.  This year, however, I opted to try it again with more than a handful of YouTube videos and a textbook.  

The key to learning an instrument is repetition.  I know, I know, hold on to your surprise.

I fell into the trap that many adult learners have - if I can't be good enough right away then I don't want to do it at all.  Besides, who has time to practice?

But, after reading, for the nth time, that even just ten minutes a day can turn you into a competent pianist (or guitarist or whatever-ist) given enough days, I decided to have another stab at it.  I've been working (slowly) with this piano book for adults: Adult Piano Adventures.  It emphasizes slow, steady progress, although it does say 20 minutes are better than ten and that 30 is better than twenty.

I like the way this book progresses through actually teaching me how to read music as well as the way it presents all the various concepts necessary to understand how music actually works (chords, progressions, etc.).  I don't know that I'll ever be a fantastic pianist, but I do know that after a couple months, I play much better than I did before and that I can now use both hands together, if I concentrate real hard.

Having said all that, YouTube is making it easier than ever to learn an instrument.  Just the act of watching someone play is helpful and having so many good musicians acting as teachers is immensely powerful as a learning tool.  Some of what I’m watching:

If you've been putting off learning, or re-learning, or continuing your music lessons for whatever reason, there's no better time than the next ten minutes and the next ten minutes after that.

How about you? What are you learning this week? Let me know.

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What We’re Reading:

Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Peers, and Play

by Mitchel Resnick

I think about teaching a lot.  I have students of all ages and backgrounds and I have to tailor lessons to suit their individual strengths and learning goals.  And so, in thinking about teaching, I think about how we learn and I feel like I'm never quite as competent at understanding how people learn as I'd like to be.

Enter this book, Lifelong Kindergarten, in which author Mitchel Resnick presents case studies and evidence to support his assertation that we should all be learning as we did in kindergarten - through imaginative play and creative projects.  I believe in his premise, and I do all I can to teach using those methods.  Where I find things lacking, just a bit, is in how to re-instill those mindsets in those of us well past kindergarten age.  I agree that having these mindsets are great, I'm just not sure how to re-ignite them in people whose outlooks have calcified somewhat.

Still, this is a great book for not only for teachers and parents, but for anyone in any sort of managerial or leadership role.  Understanding how people learn and how they should be learning can make or break a team. 


I'm Joel.  I've got a website.  Another website.  And a twitter.  And an instagram, too.  Sometimes, even a byline.

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Down the Rabbit Hole:

Atlas Obscura has recently branched out into the odd and wonderous world of food with Gastra Obscura and that's where our rabbit hole starts this week:

Last week, I mentioned the song “Johnny Appleseed” by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, which lead me to wondering about the historic Johnny Appleseed: John Chapman, born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774, really did travel the countryside planting apple trees as he went. But, the apples he planted were more suited to making booze than pie.

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

But what is an apple, anyway?

An apple is a sweet, edible fruit produced by an apple tree (Malus pumila). Apple trees are cultivated worldwide as a fruit tree, and is the most widely grown species in the genus Malus. The tree originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today.

There are over 100 varieties grown in the U.S. alone, only a handful of which end up in the grocery aisle, which begs the question, why are there only a few varieties in the supermarket? (The short answer: economics and ease of transport.) It’s not just apples, though, many of our favorite fruits have hundreds of varieties that just don’t get sold.

The Temperate Orchard Conservancy is fighting to bring back several lost varieties of apples through modern agricultural techniques. Which ought to help us all keep the doctors away.

Random Fact:

Photo via Wanderlustinfo on Pixabay

While Matryoshka dolls are considered a traditional handicraft, the first set was made in 1890, which is hardly ancient.

That’s it. Stay strong, stay healthy, learn something.