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Play by Ear V Play from written music?

GUEST,LDT 16 Sep 10 - 08:24 AM
Bernard 16 Sep 10 - 08:48 AM
Old Vermin 16 Sep 10 - 09:07 AM
G-Force 16 Sep 10 - 09:22 AM
Marje 16 Sep 10 - 09:26 AM
wysiwyg 16 Sep 10 - 09:31 AM
Howard Jones 16 Sep 10 - 09:56 AM
MikeL2 16 Sep 10 - 09:56 AM
JHW 16 Sep 10 - 10:01 AM
Mr Happy 16 Sep 10 - 10:04 AM
GUEST,FloraG 16 Sep 10 - 10:06 AM
GUEST,Daniel Nicolato 16 Sep 10 - 10:35 AM
Will Fly 16 Sep 10 - 01:23 PM
Paul Burke 16 Sep 10 - 01:40 PM
The Sandman 16 Sep 10 - 01:44 PM
olddude 16 Sep 10 - 01:50 PM
SteveMansfield 16 Sep 10 - 01:51 PM
Leadfingers 16 Sep 10 - 02:00 PM
PoppaGator 16 Sep 10 - 02:40 PM
kmbraun 16 Sep 10 - 02:44 PM
terrier 16 Sep 10 - 03:16 PM
Melissa 16 Sep 10 - 04:52 PM
Mo the caller 16 Sep 10 - 04:54 PM
The Sandman 16 Sep 10 - 05:11 PM
Ann N 16 Sep 10 - 05:33 PM
Will Fly 16 Sep 10 - 05:43 PM
Melissa 16 Sep 10 - 05:48 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 16 Sep 10 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 16 Sep 10 - 06:07 PM
Bobert 16 Sep 10 - 06:26 PM
John P 16 Sep 10 - 06:30 PM
GUEST,LDT 17 Sep 10 - 08:41 AM
pavane 17 Sep 10 - 09:18 AM
SteveMansfield 17 Sep 10 - 09:40 AM
pavane 17 Sep 10 - 09:43 AM
C-flat 17 Sep 10 - 09:43 AM
C-flat 17 Sep 10 - 09:45 AM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Sep 10 - 09:55 AM
theleveller 17 Sep 10 - 10:04 AM
GUEST,leeneia 17 Sep 10 - 11:25 AM
Old Vermin 17 Sep 10 - 11:30 AM
Melissa 17 Sep 10 - 11:59 AM
Will Fly 17 Sep 10 - 01:29 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 17 Sep 10 - 04:33 PM
JHW 17 Sep 10 - 05:01 PM
Lox 17 Sep 10 - 05:10 PM
Melissa 17 Sep 10 - 05:30 PM
Joybell 17 Sep 10 - 05:51 PM
Artful Codger 17 Sep 10 - 06:54 PM
Tim Chesterton 17 Sep 10 - 07:26 PM
Edthefolkie 17 Sep 10 - 07:29 PM
Rob Naylor 17 Sep 10 - 08:39 PM
GUEST,andrew 17 Sep 10 - 09:34 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 18 Sep 10 - 01:24 AM
Will Fly 18 Sep 10 - 05:08 AM
Desi C 18 Sep 10 - 07:29 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 18 Sep 10 - 05:40 PM
SPB-Cooperator 19 Sep 10 - 06:53 AM
Old Vermin 19 Sep 10 - 07:20 AM
Old Vermin 19 Sep 10 - 07:25 AM
GUEST,LDT 19 Sep 10 - 03:10 PM
Don Firth 19 Sep 10 - 04:04 PM
Don Firth 19 Sep 10 - 04:11 PM
The Sandman 19 Sep 10 - 04:47 PM
Joybell 19 Sep 10 - 05:17 PM
Old Vermin 19 Sep 10 - 05:54 PM
Tootler 19 Sep 10 - 05:55 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 20 Sep 10 - 12:25 AM
Ann N 20 Sep 10 - 02:30 AM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Sep 10 - 03:34 AM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Sep 10 - 03:48 AM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Sep 10 - 03:55 AM
GUEST,LDT 20 Sep 10 - 04:12 AM
Lox 20 Sep 10 - 04:58 AM
Jack Campin 20 Sep 10 - 06:42 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 20 Sep 10 - 12:33 PM
Tradsinger 20 Sep 10 - 06:29 PM
wysiwyg 20 Sep 10 - 08:23 PM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Sep 10 - 10:04 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 20 Sep 10 - 11:46 PM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 12:50 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 21 Sep 10 - 12:57 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 01:00 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 10 - 01:15 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 01:18 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 21 Sep 10 - 01:28 AM
Jack Campin 21 Sep 10 - 05:05 AM
Old Vermin 21 Sep 10 - 05:15 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 05:32 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 06:35 AM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Sep 10 - 08:21 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 10 - 10:15 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 10 - 10:21 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 10 - 10:23 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 11:03 AM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Sep 10 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,LDT 21 Sep 10 - 12:01 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 22 Sep 10 - 02:04 AM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Sep 10 - 10:52 AM
Ebbie 22 Sep 10 - 11:25 AM
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Jack Campin 10 Dec 10 - 01:36 PM
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Subject: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 08:24 AM

(I'm assuming its okay for me to start a music related thread?)
Okay here is goes. I find that many people are either for playing by ear or playing from the dots. But thing is I don't do either...and yet do both.
Let me explain. I can't read music 'properly' all I can get is what dot means what button (I play melodeon)and generally long note/short note. So I get what to play from the dots but I have to 'hear' the tune to know *how* to play it.

I'm not sure which 'skill' is best to focus on improving.
Am I the only person doing this or do others have this dilemma too?


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Bernard
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 08:48 AM

Playing 'by ear' is far more useful for folk-related music, as all too often the dots are merely a representation of an average... there are almost as many versions of a melody as there are people playing it, and to be pedantic about which version is 'correct' is another thread altogether!

If you can read music sufficiently to work out how the tune goes for starters, that's probably all you really need.

As for myself, I read music fluently as I was classically trained. However, unlike most classically trained musicians my first instrument was the voice, so when I've learned to play instruments I've kind of learned to play by ear even though I'm 'reading' the dots. In other words, I look at the dots, hear the tune and then can play it on virtually any instrument.

Unfortunately, a lot of classically trained musicians find playing 'by ear', or even without the crutch of the dots, quite difficult... so I count myself fortunate that I can do either with little difficulty.

Some tunes are easier to play on one instrument as opposed to another, usually because the tune originated on that instrument - playing fiddle tunes on pipes may not be as easy as playing pipe tunes on a fiddle, for example. Again, another thread needed!


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 09:07 AM

Unless you can do everything by ear, you need both.

I have seen a classically-trained woodwind player utterly frozen and bewildered in a session where there were no dots.

My own approach is a mix - harmonica mostly by ear, not necessarily accurately. Melodeon by dots to get at least melody, some of the timing, but have tried the big slow session by ear at Towersey, and playing by ear seems less impossible. Ancient East German Anglo treated as subset of melodeon - it helped when I worked out that it seems to be in G/D, not a dreadfully out-if-tune G/C. Guitar by listening and guesswork in a session, but dots or sometimes tab otherwise.

Voice by ear, but dots were given the other day and came in handy.

To quote Rollo Woods, there are three secrets to playing music:

Practice

Practice

and

Practice

Quote from Lester Simpson that only when you are heartily sick of practising something are you ready to play it and play with it.


Be interested to hear how people may have got on with DVDs - I know John Kirkpatrick has done one for the melodeon.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: G-Force
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 09:22 AM

Try and improve both. But it is more important to learn to play be ear, because then you can function as a musician in the folk world. If you can only play from dots, then you are lost without them.

But ... if you can read music, it is a much quicker way of learning tunes because you can go away and practice them on your own. By ear, I find even if I've picked it up OK in a session, I've forgotten it again almost immediately.

Or get a little digital recorder, then you can learn by ear and not worry about written music.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Marje
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 09:26 AM

Bernard, you've expressed exactly what I do when facing a new tune. I have to read the music into my head to know how it should sound, and then get it from ny head to my instrument (in my case, voice or melodeon). Only when I've got my head around it and put the printed music out of sight can I begin to play it anything like properly. It's good to know I'm not the only one who does it like that!

But there are many ways to learn and play, and everyone has to find their own. I'd say that relying entirely on the dots is as limiting as not being able to read them at all, and that some sort of mixture works best for most people.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 09:31 AM

Old dilemma, welcome to the dilemma.

For us it's not "versus," it's both-- because each mode has advantages we want under different circumstances.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 09:56 AM

They're both useful skills. Reading from music will save you a lot of time finding and learning tunes, however to play them properly you need to have a feel for the music. Most folk tunes are written very simply, without notating the grace notes and shifts of rhythm that help to bring the music to life.

Playing by ear will help you to pick up tunes in sessions, or to learn them from recordings.

For folk music I think playing by ear is the more useful skill, but if you can try to develop both. I play by ear, and learned my instruments by ear, and I struggle with notation. I keep trying to improve my reading, but to be honest I'm not that motivated as I seem to manage pretty well without it. However I now wish that when I was learning I'd made more effort to learn to play from music.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: MikeL2
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 09:56 AM

hi

I agree with all of the above. You need both.

In my case as a guitarist and vocalist I use the dots to learn the tune , or the approximate tune, as I know I will almost certainly not play exactly as the written music "demands".

On the guitar particularly for folk music I can usually work out what and how I want to play. For some pieces and when I am feeling particularly lazy I will not use the dots but from the chord diagrams where they are provided. Or sometimes I use the tablature if it is available.

I do not believe that one plays by ear - rather I think you play from memory. But most will argue that it is the same thing.

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: JHW
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 10:01 AM

Were it not for the dots we would have lost many a song melody the collectors saved for us but the dots are the bare bones of the tune and need careful realignment and adjustment to interpret each verse of the song.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 10:04 AM

So many people convinced that dots is gospel.

Singers attempting stuff they don't have the range for because the dots is in a specific key.

Giving advice that any dots music is merely a reflection of the key preferred by whoever wrote down that particular version can be a total revelation to those I've advised.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 10:06 AM

I think some people are born lucky. My keyboard player is not a folkie - but he can play all our barn dance tunes second time round. I've even given him a tape of a tune that I was having difficulty with and he produced a set of dots. Me - it takes ages to get a tune in my head - and then sometimes I find I don't have the right notes on my basic melodeon.

I find with the melodeon I think I know a tune when I can play it in both D and G, as a waltz, reel, and 6/8. ( 5/4 is just showing off). I then find out how fast I can play it before the notes disappear. Then its probably ready to play out. However, over time I have got better playing by ear and with the music.

For me, the first bar of a tune written down helps to remember what the tune is.
FloraG


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Daniel Nicolato
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 10:35 AM

I play 100% by ear and it works for me. Some remmarks through:
- I don't care much about accuracy
- I am bad with reading dots.. this is a factor
- I don´t mind taking a long time to learn a tune (I am sure sheet music can speed up things). My cycle, with recorded music, goes like this:

1 - Listen
2 - Sing, whistle, "billy iddle diddle", tap rythm on table, all day long..
3 - Listen some more..
4 - (Try to) Play

Repeat hundreds of times.

- Daniel


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Will Fly
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 01:23 PM

I started attending a local, monthly session of French music over a year ago (playing mandolin as I find it easier to pick up single melody lines quickly on that instrument than on guitar). Problem was, even though I got to grips with a new tune fairly quickly during the session, the moment I got in the car to go home - no memory of them remained!

I took a Zoom H2 along to one session , which was a help, but what really helped was the session organiser emailing me a PDF of the dots for the core session tunes. This reminded me of what the tunes were and helped me to learn them and practice them at home. As has been said above, the "feel" of the tunes comes from the playing of them in the session, and the dots help you to get started and to practice away from the session.

Reading Standard Notation can be daunting if you started, as I did, to play by ear. I have a good ear, which got in the way of reading music at first, then I started doing song arrangements for other people. This forced me to get to grips with the mysteries of notation - mysteries which grew less with time and patience.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 01:40 PM

If you are lucky enough to be able to do both, do both. But remember that any written folk music is only a mnemonic, there are no "authorised versions" outside the imagination of some folklorists. Read the music, but try playing it "not quite" as written, in different ways, until the tune or song becomes your own.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 01:44 PM

to have two skills is better than one, my advice is learn to do both.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: olddude
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 01:50 PM

Can't read a thing and even if I could the dot would be backwards to me
(dyslectic)   but for me the ears work ok .. and I have fun. I have no allusions of being a great studio musician so it works for me since I only play for my kids and friends. I envy those who can read however, I am sure it makes learning a new song a lot easier


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 01:51 PM

What everyone else said really - they're not competing, or mutually exclusive, skills, and having both in your armoury is far better than only having either one.

It's not ear V written, it's ear + written.

Which you prioritise in the short term depends on your situation, and which skill will benefit you better in the immediate future. But you'll be a far better, more flexible, broader-based musician if you can do both to a passable extent.

And then you'll also be able to disprove the old joke: what's the best way to shut a melodeon player up? Put sheet music in front of them.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 02:00 PM

Ideally being able to do both would be best , but as stated above , by ear is best for sessions . However , being able to read DOES make learning complicated tunes a faster process .


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 02:40 PM

I'm a little surprised that no one has touched upon the dots-vs-tabs conroversy (which probably applies only to the guitar and similar stringed instruments). I have learned a LOT of my instrumental skills/riffs/etc. from tablature, and have real admiration for those who were able to produce those tabs by listening to records; something I could never have done for myself. However, when I've promoted tablature on this forum in the past, I have usually prompted arguments from naysayers, both from the "by-ear-only" school and from the conventional-sheet-music contingent.

I've been singing in a choir lately and am learning to more-or-less sightread from the "dots." At first, I had to hear the piece played through at least once before I was able to use the sheet music, but now I'm starting to be able to get a sense of the tune from the page even before the organist starts to play.

So far, at least, I'm really only able to read the main melody, or "soprano" part, which I usually sing an octave below the true soprano part. Howver ~ even though I am often able to improvise a harmony part ~ I get hopelessly confused trying to sing a written tenor or bass part off the page.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: kmbraun
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 02:44 PM

What has troubled me about this debate (over about 40 years of it) is that each has advocates that take pride in not being able to do the other. I've even known academic musicians that say with some pride that they haven't taken the time to learn to play by ear. Mostly, it is more in the form of a reverse snobbishness where a person takes pride in note being able to read (the dots). In no other area do so otherwise intelligent people take pride in not knowing something.

Finally, ultimately, reading music, if done properly, is playing by ear. That is, if you really read music you do not translate the symbol on the page to a button or position, but to a pitch (and duration) and then you play it. Put another way, you hear what you see and play what you hear. That is reading music, or music literacy. Plus, there are way more people in this world that really can do this than you might think and very few without the means to learn this very useful skill.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: terrier
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 03:16 PM

Just to add to kmbraun's excellent post, I find that so many people want to play music but never actually put any time into learning their instrument properly. The number of peoply I come across who can't even play a simple major or minor scale correctly, how are they going to cope with playing all the twists and turns of the tunes they want to learn.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 04:52 PM

PoppaG/Will:
Is there a type of tab where the melody is in bold or something to make it easier to hear what it's supposed to sound like as you go along?

(sorry for pulling off topic..figured it was a good time to ask while the thread has slid from people talking about themselves to talking about others)


As long as I have access to folks I can acquire music from, I will stick with playing by ear. I don't think I'm particularly prideful about it and I'm certain there's no reason for me to be ashamed or consider myself a dullard.
I want my head (and fingers) filled with local versions and I still have a few musicians playing around.

If I ran out of Ear, I'd learn to read.
If I was starting out with nobody to hear, I'd want to read.
If anyone thought they were going to prove me a poor musician by demanding that I play a certain scale..I suppose I'd say "You first" and IF I felt inclined to, I'd follow by playing the scale. That's how playing by ear works.

There's nothing wrong with Reading, Tab, or Ear and nothing lost by having a broader foundation to launch from.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 04:54 PM

It is good that many of the folkies going into schools are teaching both skills (e.g. I saw a TV programme about Kathryn Tickell).

In all my years learning piano and taking grade exams it was never suggested that playing by ear might be useful. Yet we sing 'by ear'.

I've learnt a lot of my tunes 'by feet', I find I can play them because I've danced them


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 05:11 PM

i think tab is pretty good, even though i can read music.
tab can be specific, lets take guitar tab, if you were in standard tuning eadgbe, you have an e open top string, but you also have an e, on the next string down on the b string, on the fifth fret,
well thought out guitar tab tells you which e, of the two you should play, to make it easier to go to the next note that you intend to play.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Ann N
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 05:33 PM

I try to do both but tend to pick up tunes by ear first :) No good at sight reading a new tune straight off but can follow the dots slowly.
   If I've heard the tune before seeing the dots it's so much easier, somehow there's a mental 'map' to fit the shape the tune makes in my head to the dots on the page.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Will Fly
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 05:43 PM

Melissa:
Is there a type of tab where the melody is in bold or something to make it easier to hear what it's supposed to sound like as you go along?

I'm assuming you're talking about guitar tab which has multiple chords/notes in it as well as the melody line?

I'm not aware of any "emphasised" tablature in this sense, though there may be some somewhere. One of the beauties of standard notation is that you can put the melody lead line with the stems pointing up (for example) and the accompanying chords or notes with the stems pointing down. This gives a very visual pointer to the melody.

When I've written my arrangements out in the past - and you can see a whole pageful of stuff at my tabs & music page - I've fluctuated between creating music sheets with music, tablature & chords. I got the occasional comment, from those who read SN, saying that the tab cluttered up the page and they preferred just music. Others said that the SN cluttered up the page - and they preferred tabs! You can't win. It's much easier to just include both, IMO - and including both lets you see a melody line much more clearly.

As an aid to all this, I can really recommend buying some simple software which allows you to (a) write music and create tab from it and (b) write tab and create music from it. It helps you to read and understand both tab and SN - with the bonus of getting the computer to play the tune for you - and the simple process of writing the notes does improve your musical knowledge. I personally use Harmony Assistant, a French package, which is fairly sophisticated but much cheaper than, say, Sibelius. You can also print the score, and I'm finding it a huge help at the moment in preparing arrangements for panto tunes for my local theatre company.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 05:48 PM

Thanks, Will.
If you happen to run across a type of tab where the melody line is easy to see (but still written with filler/extras) I'd really appreciate it if you'd mention it in a thread along the way.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 06:05 PM

Just as Old Vermin says, and as good friend, Mairead Nesbitt says PRACTICE, PRACTICE PRACTICE!! I also mention in my, posted, 'Ten Commandments for Musicians'!!!

NOW THIS IS NOT HARD...BUT PAY ATTENTION!!!!!!!!!!!!

Whether it be written, or by ear, THE GOAL is to hear INTERVALS!!!!!

Etch that in stone!!!!

For instance, take 'Over the Rainbow'. The first notes sung O--takes an octave leap("O--O Over the rainbow"). Learn to grab that sound, on whatever instrument you play, and KNOW that is the POSITION change, for an octave!
Now there are other songs, that you may be familiar with, whose FIRST TWO notes, are the 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-7. Lock in those sounds!! and Those intervals, learn to grab their positional change!!!!
THAT WAY, as fast as you can imagine a melody, you can grab it on your instrument!!!!!!
IF you are ACCOMPANYING another player, you can ANTICIPATE the change, and you will KNOW exactly where to grab it!!!!!!!!(or even what fills you can do before you get to your 'target-note'!!!!!

I have, and still compose a great deal of music. This tool is invaluable!!! If you can imagine a piece of music, YOU CAN PLAY IT!!!!

Let someone else write the 'flyspecs' as to what you have played! If you play, using MIDI, just get the written print out.

LISTEN TO THIS PLEASE!!!!!!! From 00:45 to 2:20seconds into this video, LISTEN to what this young girl says!!!!!!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdZx1oIgAHk

Regardless of what you think of my views, whether you agree or disagree, on other subjects(BS Threads), what I have told you here, is absolutely the path!!!!!!!!!
You can thank me later....JUST DO IT!!!!

Any questions on clarification, FEEL FREE!! I'm ON YOUR SIDE, IN THIS MATTER!!!!!!

Warmest Regards,
Guest from Sanity


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 06:07 PM

Sorry, my 'blue clicky' didn't work in the last post...here it is!!!!

where she gets it!!!!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Bobert
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 06:26 PM

Yeah, intervals is what good music is all about... I call 'um "pauses" but they are the same thing... Most younger musicans try to cram too much stuff into their music... All that crammin' does not allow for the listener to appreciate what comes next 'cause that space is all filled up and there is no time for the listener to absorb what he or she has just heard before there's more of it layered on... That makes for some very boring music...

Me??? Came up as a tab player until I internalized the art of listening and therefore playing... Since then it's all ear plus a healthy dose of my hands thinkin' that they are smarter than me and goin' off into their own thing... That's a nice problem to have 'cause it frees me up to deliver the story/song without also having to get bogged down with the playing aspect

Now the P-Vine??? She is a music major (dotter) and is clueless how I do what I do... Just as I am about what she does...

Ain't no right or wrong if the music is good...

b~


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: John P
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 06:30 PM

I'm one of those who use a combination of poor reading skills and moderate ear skills. I can do either by itself, but the combination works best for me. I can play pretty much anything once I learn/memorize it.

I often say that reading music is like reading a map. It will tell you generally how to get where you're going, but when you're actually behind the wheel it's best to have your eyes on the road. For lots of folk music, notation simply cannot tell you how to play it, only what the notes are (or might be). When I play with other people, I find it very useful and efficient if they can read music, but absolutely necessary that they know how the music should sound. Think about an Irish reel played strictly according to the notation. Doesn't work.

John


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 08:41 AM

Its that whole 'jack of all trades master of none' thing.
I can either be just passable at both or good at one....as I've not got enough mental energy to retain both ways properly. If you get what I mean?


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: pavane
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 09:18 AM

Just wondered if you had noticed that my program HARMONY does Melodeon and Anglo Concertina Tablature as well as the dots? Might be useful to someone.

On the main topic, I have always found, in general, that if I learn from the dots, I need them in front of me to play it - but if I learn by ear, I don't.

Uses a different area of memory I suppose.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 09:40 AM

On the main topic, I have always found, in general, that if I learn from the dots, I need them in front of me to play it - but if I learn by ear, I don't.

Uses a different area of memory I suppose.


Interesting, because my experience is exactly the opposite - once a tune's in the head and/or fingers it usually stays there, regardless of the whether the inItial source was the eyes or the ears.

If anything I think I file tunes by title, because I can sometimes play a half-remembered tune much better once I've recalled its name ...


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: pavane
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 09:43 AM

Cecil Sharp noted that in his experience (collecting dances), a traditional Morris dancer could not dance a step of a dance until he heard the right tune played. He couldn't just imagine it.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: C-flat
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 09:43 AM

You can get a long way just "by ear" , it has it's limitations, but there's a lot of gigging amateur musicians that never reach those limitations by sticking to what they know or have had time to practise.
Anyone hoping to move on to a "proffessional" stage will need a decent grounding in notation and theory.
Having said that, all the theory in the world won't help the player who doesn't have an "ear", so if it had to be a choice of one over the other, the "ear" would win every time!

Joke: Q. "How do you keep a guitarist quite?"
      A. "Put a sheet of music in front of him!"

C-flat


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: C-flat
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 09:45 AM

"quite?" ????

That would be "QUIET"

tsk, tsk,


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 09:55 AM

It'd be very handy to be able to read music, in order to be able to work out new tunes and remind myself of old ones.

But a musician who has to be reading the notes in order to function is in the same position as a singer who has to be reading the words - no matter how well they play or sing, they don't really know the music or the song.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: theleveller
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 10:04 AM

mrsleveller reads the dots and I just copy what she plays. When I write a song she just copies me. Seems to work OK.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 11:25 AM

Every fall there's a pickin' party where all the folkies of River City bring their instruments and play tunes by ear. It is so boring. People spend 20 minutes trying to think of a tune most will know. Then they play it for 5 minutes, in unison, with no variations. Then they spend another 20 minutes trying to think of another one.

If somebody would prepare a list or bring their copy of the dots, it would reduce the delays, but nobody wants to do that because it would dilute the purity of their 'playing by ear.'

Oh well, as others have said here, there are advantages to both ways, playing by ear and having the dots.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 11:30 AM

Could I just ask again how much success people have had using DVD as a learning medium?


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 11:59 AM

Vermin,
If you're talking about good instructional dvds, I don't have much luck with them. The ones I've tried seem to focus very well on things that seem common-sensicle to me (and stay there for a tediously long time) and barely touch whatever rough spot I'm trying to get around.
The licks I've picked up from dvd don't seem to stick in my fingers as well as ones I've snagged from musicians during play.


leeneia,
When is that pickin' party? Is it open?


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 01:29 PM

Vermin:
Could I just ask again how much success people have had using DVD as a learning medium?

It's probably a little unseemly to advertise oneself in this context, but may I point you to: How To Play Davy Graham's "Angie", which I posted on YouTube 3 years or more ago.

If you read through the comments, it's fairly clear that it's helped several people to play this tune. I've also sold a fair few number of DVDs on the strength of this and similar videos. One of the reasons is the animated finger positions that I use to illustrate the tune in slow-motion.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 04:33 PM

Several things: What I posted to you earlier, is the quickest, more sure way, to translate from a tune you are thinking, to your fingers. In fact, if you develop through PRACTICING, and developing 'muscle memory', then as fast as you can think it, you can play it! This is what people who read('dots'), try to get to. Just like people who don't read, but wish they could(but won't admit it, because they're too lazy), know the frustrations, of the limitations of their education, people who read, often have a frustration, that they HAVE to read!!!

HOWEVER, music that comes from the heart and soul, of the player, SHOULD NOT be impaired by the limitations, and mental blocks, that they impose upon themselves!!! Neither should you have an instrument that 'gets in the way'!!!

Written music was written for one musician to COMMUNICATE to other musicians, just what the composer had in mind, in relaying the tune, to other support musicians, so they could all have a clue, as to what in the hell the piece of music is suppose to sound like!..so others can play it, either with them, or later. It is not a curse!

Also, musical terms, are STANDARDIZED. Intervals are intervals..they are NOT 'pauses'. An 'interval' is the space between notes, as in half or whole steps(or a series of them). Pauses, are delays of time, usually between phrases of notes...and the term is 'rests'..(though between musicians familiar with each other, they could say, '..put a slight pause, between this note and that note..")

the reason for this, is so two musicians can know what the hell you're talking about! Using wrong terminologies, is just another way of telling people that you are ignorant, and don't know what the hell you're talking about!!....and if music is your passion, LEARN IT!!..How to play, how to communicate, how to allow your heart and soul to freely come out, WITHOUT offering excuses why it CAN'T.

'Folkies', and a lot of 'Blues players' are noted for not knowing much about music, other than to play a limited amount of the same ol' shit over and over again, with maybe slight variations. THIS IS BORING!!...Not only in playing, but to the listener! So, these people are usually stuck in the past, holding dearly on to their particular brain-lock!..Instead of learning 'voice leading'..they just beat on their guitars harder, to emphasize, something they hear in their heads, but can't play!..Shame, shame shame!.....If you have something to say through your 'ax', for God's sakes, get off your lazy asses, and learn how to play it!!!

The hints I gave you earlier IS the path, that most ALL proficient professional musicians strive for..and YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Once you get that down, here's some more 'little' tidbits:
LEARN THE MAJOR SCALE ON YOUR GUITAR IN ALL KEYS!!!!!!!!
This is not difficult..for there are three basic patterns on the guitar. The rest is just where you start.* (Actually there are FIVE patterns, but three will get you by, and astonish your listeners!!)

*Meaning, where you put '0ne' (Do, as in Do Re Mi). I'm sure there are charts to the patterns online.

Start with one finger per fret, and move up or down, across the fretboard to complete the scale. Then use the handy hint, I gave you earlier, to grab intervals, (let's say, 1-3-5-7...or 1-4-5...and 6-2-5-1) within those 'shapes'. Practice them over and over till you
DON'T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THEM!!!!

Now, that is enough for now. TRY IT!!

I know people like 'Will Fly' (a very proficient player),and others KNOW exactly what I'm talking about! I'm to understand 'Donuel', has conducted, so he probably knows too!

Don't slack off. Music is a gift!!! Learn as much as you can about your gift, as to say, 'Thank You, for the gift'!!

Awaiting Either Results from Those who Tried It, or stupid, dumb excuses from those who WON"T!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: JHW
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 05:01 PM

I can't remember (someone will) which esteemed banjo player was asked "Can you read music?"
"Yes", was the reply, "But not enough to spoil my banjo playing".


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Lox
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 05:10 PM

There is a myth that if you cab read it somehow handicaps your ability to play by ear.

It isn't true.

For everyone, apart from a very select few, learning a basic level of reading is essential if you want to train the ear to be able to hear and understand anything beyond basic harmonic understanding.

Being able to read a poem does not affect the ability to learn it by ear.

The same applies in music.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 05:30 PM

Where are you planning to play, LDT?

If you stick with both ways, you might find that each feeds the other and you can surprise yourself by getting a lot better than you expect..or maybe one will turn out to make more sense to you.
Why do you need to decide early on which to lean toward? You're not going to waste time by keeping the decision open for a while..


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Joybell
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 05:51 PM

Lots of interesting thoughts here. Like most people here I also use both methods. I've sung as long as I've talked so learning from written music came second.
At primary school in the 1950s, in Australia, we were given ear training alone -- a cheap option and very effective. We were shown how to find intervals by using well-known songs. We sang a lot. In high school we were taught to read music AND how to combine it with singing by ear. Again a cheap, but effective, option. There was no money for instruments for every child. Piano was used because you can easily see where the notes are -- even when it's just a picture of a keyboard.
We were very lucky -- I believe. My children and grandchildren were/are not so lucky -- Sad.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Artful Codger
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 06:54 PM

I jot down music to remind myself how tunes go. I learn tunes by ear fairly easily, but many fiddle tunes and such sound so similar it's easy to get them muddled. Given just a title, I may completely blank on how the tune goes, and even if I have the start, I may blank on how a subsequent section goes. So I keep lists of the tunes I'm learning or have learned, with the start of each section of the tune in ABC (essentially, dots in an ASCII form). Sometimes, I don't even need to decipher the ABC; just the visual appearance of the notation may be enough to make the mental links click.

I also get tunes coming to me at odd times, and if I don't write them down immediately in either standard or ABC notation, they're lost. I can come back to what I've jotted down weeks, months or years later and pick up where I left off. Relying on ear/memory alone, I'd never be able to do this. I've experimented with using a tape recorder for capture, but it's so much easier to file and browse written music--not to mention tolerable.

While a written tune may be just a bare-bones "average" form of how it should actually be performed, I find that if I rely only on memory, I may flake some important and desired aspect of the "original" tune. The "folk process" is not always positive.

Once I've learned a tune from written music, I have no extra difficulty transposing it to a different key.

I've learned so much music from print sources alone, much of which is hard to obtain on recordings--and certainly the cost of doing so would be prohibitive. I generally dislike the pervasive souped-up versions of "trad" music, and often would rather learn the music from untainted print sources. I also run less risk of infringing copyrighted arrangements.

I can't imagine having to learn all poetry from oral transmission alone, without the benefit of print; I can't imagine having to learn (and especially, retain) all music by ear. Written music is such a boon.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Tim Chesterton
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 07:26 PM

I think it also depends on your situation. I live in Edmonton, in western Canada, and there aren't many people in this city singing traditional songs. So I don't have the opportunity to pick up traditional songs by ear.

That being the case, if I want to learn new songsI have two choices: (1) listen to CDs (Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Coppers, Bert Lloyd, Kate Rusby, Martin Simpson, James Keelaghan - I've picked up songs from all of them), or (2) Buy books of old folk songs with the tunes in dots, and figure them out from there.

It may be true that the dots are a song collector's interpretation of what they heard - but the same goes for the CDs. So I use both methods. Also, if I hear a song on a CD and like it, I tend to check online or in a book and see if I can find a copy of the tune (dots), so I can see what the musician who made the CD did to it. Often, I find that they made up a new tune, or played around a bit with the old one. Gives me more choices.

Just to clarify - I don't sight-read well, but I sang in choirs as a teenager and learned to use the dots that way. I can't translate the dots into guitar melody lines - I have to sing them to myself first and then transfer that to guitar. Or even better, get my wife (who plays piano by the dots) to play them for me, and copy what she's playing.

Again, if I lived in a city that had more of a living tradition I might do it differently, but I don't.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 07:29 PM

I think as others have said it's not versus, it's plus, and the vital addition is practice. I've always had a very good ear, and used to be able to read stave notation pretty well - for singing, piano etc. anyway, so managed OK.

Make no mistake though, reading dots can go if you don't keep at it. In my experience it wasn't like riding a bike! I was severely embarrassed a few years ago when I was suddenly promoted to page turner for the organist at Choral Evensong at Gloucester Cathedral, and lost it halfway through a Herbert Howells piece. The scene in the organ loft was interesting and not exactly religious for a few seconds - luckily a better reader was standing behind me....

Now said organist has composed a strathspey, keeps sending me ever more complicated accompaniment dots for it for comment(he's on version 5 or something and the chords are approaching those of Vaughan Williams) and I'm really going to have to sit down and have a bash as I haven't heard it so can't fake it!


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 08:39 PM

Old Vermin: Could I just ask again how much success people have had using DVD as a learning medium?

Not so much from DVD (though I did learn a couple of the tunes off my Transatlantic Sessions DVD) but from web-based videos, yes, I've had a fair bit of success.

I particularly like the YouTube vids of some bloke called Will Fly, which I find very clear and easy to follow.

kmbraun: What has troubled me about this debate (over about 40 years of it) is that each has advocates that take pride in not being able to do the other. I've even known academic musicians that say with some pride that they haven't taken the time to learn to play by ear. Mostly, it is more in the form of a reverse snobbishness where a person takes pride in note being able to read (the dots). In no other area do so otherwise intelligent people take pride in not knowing something.

I certainly haven't seen that on this thread, or other threads I've read on here touching on the same topic. Most posters seem to get by doing "a bit of both" or doing one and wishing they could do the other (or do it better). Unless I've missed it, I can't recall even one poster on this thread that takes pride in not being able to do one or the other.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,andrew
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 09:34 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIeAsOpavzE


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 18 Sep 10 - 01:24 AM

I, too, agree that BOTH reading, and ear is great! One should NOT preclude one over the other...However, reading alone WILL NOT make a virtuosic player. That is when you can play from your heart, and reach the listener's heart. That comes with playing with EXPRESSION, and being able to emote those feelings, that are in your heart, and are universally recognized. The method I gave you is how to get past the obstacles, of trying to 'figure out' where to go, when you hear the music within, and need to grab it on your ax, without guessing! Should you throw a 'clam', you can improvise your way back to 'ONE', and get there on time. People who listen, hear in reverse, and it will make sense to them...IF..you get to 'ONE' on time!!!!

What I gave to you, is invaluable, in fact, absolutely necessary, if you are serious about your music....or, you can always strum 'Kumbayah' by the campfire, and/or learn the 'secret chord progression' of Neil Young, and play that for the rest of your life.........(yawn).

Also, those who play Jazz will find it absolutely essential!

Okay, enough for now.....

Guest from Sanity


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 10 - 05:08 AM

I'm very fond of acquiring old books or compilations of tunes. Any source will do - second-hand bookshops, t'internet, friends collections - and the probability is that a very high proportion of the tunes will be unfamiliar to me.

What unknown gems might lurk between the covers? How will I know without being able to read the notes? I remember acquiring the "Northumbrian Piper's Tune Book, No. 1" sometime in the early '70s and reading through the titles in anticipation. Some of the tunes I knew from my vinyl album of Billy Pigg (still treasured), the rest I just worked my way through, very slowly - but getting faster as I did more.

I doubt I would have heard some of these tunes at a session, either in London (where I was living then) or would hear them in Sussex, where I live now - and no recordings to speak of. That's where being able to work your way through the dots - however slowly - is a bonus.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Desi C
Date: 18 Sep 10 - 07:29 AM

I started learning guitar much in the same way 4 years ago, for a year it was murder (for me and audience!) and I nearly gave up. Till one guy told me it was very acceptable to change a note here and there, or add/take one away and gradully I improved til now I can just about write and arrange my own songs. The Music or the dots are really just one persons interpretation of the tune/song, as Pete Seeger says in 'Rise Up Singng' it's all part of the Folk process of finding, saving, changing, improving songs, but always credit the original

Desi C
Circle Folk Club host
Coseley West mids
UK


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 18 Sep 10 - 05:40 PM

Will Fly: "I'm very fond of acquiring old books or compilations of tunes. Any source will do - second-hand bookshops, t'internet, friends collections - and the probability is that a very high proportion of the tunes will be unfamiliar to me.
What unknown gems might lurk between the covers? How will I know without being able to read the notes?"

Ah, Thank you Will! I've often heard that the book was better than the movie! ..Because in a book, you can interpret the author, perhaps better than a director, or actor (who are working under limitations)...and, in reading, your mind is ACTIVE...and your imagination is filling in the gaps. In watching a movie, OR listening to a recording, your mind is PASSIVE...most the work is done for you! Often, during recording sessions, actually not just often, but more like 'rule of thumb', it is best to listen to your recordings, THE DAY AFTER, recording..because when you're playing and recording, your mind is WAY too active, to listen quite objectively. Eric Clapton once remarked that he was often very dissatisfied with his earlier recording performances, because he very often was playing 'mistakes', and NOT what he was hearing, in his head!..But the listening audience didn't know the difference...then again, he was listening right after recording...when your mind is still trying to hit 'perfection'....and of course, everything doesn't sound quite 'good enough'..or "I could have gone 'here' instead." Those who have much recording experience, know exactly what I'm saying.

In any event, keep working on the few things I laid down. Your playing will greatly improve, exponentially...and quickly if you PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!!

Regards To All,
GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 06:53 AM

With regards to tunes - unless I know a piece of music really well, the dots are a useful guide as to what I am playing as it is not always easy to pick out the melody in a session,but after that I tend to play by ear as I find following the dots a bit pedestrian.

With regards songs, I always refer back to the dots if they are available, as I feel a lot a the original nuances of the original tune can be lost when it has been passed on repeatedly by ear, particularly in the case of shanties.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 07:20 AM

Thanks for answers on DVD & video.

I guess that on guitar I need to really work on the rapid, smooth switch from G to G7 that Will Fly does keeping the wrist still - I find that conceptually attractive and physically terribly difficult compared with using a C-shape twisted over. Very smooth when he does it, of course. Yes, the video works - it's just my hands struggling.

I know, practice....

At the back of my mind, I was probably wondering if anyone had used John Kirkpatrick's melodeon DVD. Maybe worth me looking in melodeon.net or searching for video excerpts.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 07:25 AM

Mazurka d'Auvergne now playing...


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 03:10 PM

@old vermin
I do have JK's dvd and found I struggled as an absolute beginner to get much further than the first chapter. But it was useful when I read something in a tutorial book and couldn't visulise it I could see it done in the vid which helped.
I think now 18months later I might give it a proper watch again as I might be able to keep up now.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 04:04 PM

Being able to read music opens up the whole field to you.

If your only way to learn tunes is to hear someone else sing them, you can get stuck in the trap of thinking that you have to sing them the way they do. But if you find the song in a book, you can work out your own interpretation of it rather than slavishly following someone else's.

There is one prominent folk singer who has been at it all her life, can read music, and who has had access to a great amount of material, both printed and on recordings. She says, in the introduction to a song book, that when she learns a song or ballad, she gets together just about every version of it that she can find, both records and books. She learns as much as she can about the background of the song, studies the various versions of it, and in the end, what she comes up with is usually a composite of several versions of the song.

Knowing how to read music is no more limiting that learning how to read any written material. John Gielgud, Lawrence Olivier, Kenneth Brannagh, and (ahem!) Mel Gibson all have quite different interpretations and readings, all valid, of Shakespeare's Hamlet, and they're all reading from the same text.

Reading music is a tool. And when you have the words and tune down, from then on, it all depends on how skillfully and creatively you go from there.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 04:11 PM

If you get together a bunch of recordings of a classical violin work recorded by, say, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, and Hilary Hawn, they are all playing the same notes. But each one has a different interpretation of the piece.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 04:47 PM

Don Firth, That was so well put, thankyou so much.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Joybell
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 05:17 PM

Back to the comment by kmbraun: "What has troubled me about this debate (over about 40 years of it) is that each has advocates that take pride in not being able to do the other. I've even known academic musicians that say with some pride that they haven't taken the time to learn to play by ear. Mostly, it is more in the form of a reverse snobbishness where a person takes pride in note being able to read (the dots). In no other area do so otherwise intelligent people take pride in not knowing something."

While you won't find that attitude here are Mudcat it was, and sometimes still is, very common elsewhere. Here in Australia it usually goes "... and he/she can't read a note of music". It can be used as praise, but not always. Older musicians sometimes apologize for "only playing by ear". They say they aren't "real" musicians. Children, back 50 years ago had their hands smacked by piano teachers if it was seen that they played from memory. So yes -- this attitude may have become less obvious -- thankfully -- but it's a valid point made from observation.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 05:54 PM

@LDT - thank you for that. I've been slogging away on and off at the Pokerworkfor a couple of years, get a few more-or-less recognisable tunes out of it, just about use use more than one row at a time and get to use the basses a bit. Possibly nearly ready to begin actually learning properly. So maybe now worth my while to get a copy.

Do you, perchance, put stuff on YouTube from an expanded version of your initials?

And getting a back towards topic, I found a notable lifting of the spirits on actually beginning to get a bit by ear. A very big session in a festival marquee, so not at all exposed - melodeon players keeping a safe distance from each other - but good to do anything at all.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Tootler
Date: 19 Sep 10 - 05:55 PM

Mostly, it is more in the form of a reverse snobbishness where a person takes pride in note being able to read (the dots). In no other area do so otherwise intelligent people take pride in not knowing something."

Not quite. I often encounter the same kind of thing with maths. People who say with almost pride that they are lousy at Maths. The same people would hang their heads in shame if they could not read.

While you won't find that attitude here are Mudcat...

I disagree. I have come across this kind of attitude in Mudcat on threads like this, though not in this particular one. It is usually expressed as some variant of "You can't know a tune properly if you learn it from the dots" As if being able to read written music somehow means you are unable to listen.

I am with those who say use both methods but it is also very important to listen as well.

Listening to others playing gives you a feel for style whether you are learning by ear or from dots. It helps in developing your own style. Listening to your own playing will help you in developing your own interpretation of a tune or song.

It comes back to what others have said earlier - Practice - but practice is more than just going through the mechanics it is also about listening to yourself and being self critical as well.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 12:25 AM

For once, (and mark your calenders to celebrate this day, next year), I agree with Don Firth.

Any way, you can get music into your noggin, to roll around, for future compositions, interpretation, or ideas, possibly just input, take it in!

Once again, there are practice exercises that can enable you to grab, what ever you 'hear' in your brain, and onto your fret boards, from the new things you can 'hear' from ALL the input you can get, and retain.
In the studio, we used the term "Containing the Chaos"

There should be no valid excuse that anyone should exclude reading over any other way. If you think you can't 'get it'....YES YOU CAN!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Ann N
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 02:30 AM

Quote, D Firth ..'Reading music is a tool. And when you have the words and tune down, from then on, it all depends on how skillfully and creatively you go from there'

..... or as Eric Morecambe said to Andrew Preview .......

'I am playing all the right notes ..... but not necessarily in the right order'   

:)


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 03:34 AM

"a lot of classically trained musicians find playing 'by ear', or even without the crutch of the dots, quite difficult"

Actually this is not totally true.

"I have seen a classically-trained woodwind player utterly frozen and bewildered in a session where there were no dots."

This is not to contradict the previous.

You will see the world best Classical Music soloists - whether vocal or instrumentalists, play without written music in front of them - they are NOT playing 'by ear', but 'by heart'... , which is very different from 'playing by ear' :-)

Playing by ear, involves LISTENING and picking up the piece. But orchestral and choral musicians NEED this skill of listening, so that they can fit their contribution in - in a VERY scripted way, very different to the way that 'free jazz' players fit into each other. Do not be confused, the Big Bands of the 30s and 40s were NOT 'free form - they were very tightly scripted and controlled and always played from the score in front of them - many such 'session' musos were so good that they only a brief period of familiarization and a run thru to be able to play as requested. Nothing like a 'folk session'!


In order to play certain levels of music exams in the Classical Music style, you must learn the exam set pieces 'by heart' to a high level of capability, with full expression. You must also, in a separate section of the exams also be able to play to a high level of performance, pieces that you have NOT SEEN before, just by reading the score AND PLAYING WITH ALL THE FULL EXPRESSIONS DESCRIBED in the score. This is 'sight reading'.

When the guy sits down to play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto, you are seeing the result of many tens of thousands of hours or practice (ON JUST THAT ONE PIECE!), at first with the score (by sight), then without (by heart). That many thousands of hours practice without the score is because the whole soul of the piece has been ingested and digested, and the exact (although there can be more than one 'official' interpretation!) interpretation of what dynamics, expression, pacing, etc has been absorbed so well, that what is being practiced is NOT the actual piece, but the expression and interpretation - the 'performance' in fact.

This is 'playing by heart' not 'playing by ear'.

This skill does not prepare one AT ALL for 'playing by ear'. Hence, unless such a musician trained in this manner has also learned the skill of 'by ear', they will appear confused, and try to fall back to the one skill that they know will ALWAYS get them thru a 'performance' - 'follow the score by sight' - for this is PART OF THEIR TRAINING!

I discovered by accident that many songs (in certain folk styles) I have never heard before, and with words I have never heard before, I can totally 'sync' to, to the extent of being able to sing harmony with - a skill that appears to frighten some people! This is a different skill, so it seems, since so few other people seem to do it ...


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 03:48 AM

"Singers attempting stuff they don't have the range for because the dots is in a specific key."

My music teacher would transcribe the Eisteddfod vocal pieces for me to the correct key for my voice range (allowed under the rules!).

The Classically Trained muso learns another VERY IMPORTANT skill to those I previously mentioned, which he has to demonstrate in exams - 'transcription'. In written exams, you must show how to shift a tune from one key to another, and write it our correctly, correct time signatures, note lengths, etc. In practical demonstrations, you don't even get the luxury of pen and paper, you just 'do it' - 'on the fly'!.

In case you still think that Classically Trained musos (Instrumental AND Vocal) are stupid for spending all those thousands of hours doing all those major & Minor (2 variants) scales (36 basic scales in all) (and arpeggio scales! - oh and all that other exercise stuff in 'Hanon'), and that you, as a 'Folkie' are 'better that that', so that 'all you need to practice is just the pieces you want to play', I'll let you into a little well kept secret - all that scale and other exercise practice makes that 'transcription' stuff a real doddle! :-)

Now I'm going to have to kill you .... and since you aren't really practicing enough (by Classical Music standards!) to be as good as you think you are, that's probably a great kindness to Mankind anyway ... :-P

:-)


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 03:55 AM

"But a musician who has to be reading the notes in order to function is in the same position as a singer who has to be reading the words - no matter how well they play or sing, they don't really know the music or the song. "

Anyone who believe this has never seen the best professionals work.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 04:12 AM

"Do you, perchance, put stuff on YouTube from an expanded version of your initials?"
Yes. :)


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Lox
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 04:58 AM

"Anyone who believe this has never seen the best professionals work."

Indeed.

Someone who doesn't read English very well or fluently has to practice a poem a few times before it sounds good.

When they read a story, it sounds disjointed and incoherent.

Someone who reads easily and fluently however is able to see ahead as they are reading and they can easily inject all the necessary feeling to bring the story to life.

The same goes for music reading. A fluent confident reader can sight read a piece beautifully without rehearsing it.


The fact that some people aren't that good isn't an argument against reading, but for learning to read well.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 06:42 AM

The Classically Trained muso learns another VERY IMPORTANT skill to those I previously mentioned, which he has to demonstrate in exams - 'transcription'. In written exams, you must show how to shift a tune from one key to another, and write it our correctly, correct time signatures, note lengths, etc. In practical demonstrations, you don't even get the luxury of pen and paper, you just 'do it' - 'on the fly'!

You mean transposition, not transcription. Transcription is just getting music down on paper. Transposition is shifting it into a different key, and doesn't necessarily involve notation at all. I do it a lot (as I play recorders, flutes and clarinets in many different pitches) and nearly always by ear, on the fly.

I am currently attempting to play "MacArthur Road" on the voiceflute (a tenor recorder in D, i.e. a tone higher than the usual ones). It's a reel which lies in an awkward range for any standard size of recorder. So I'm reading off the normal fiddle notation, playing on an instrument where the music comes out in E if I play with fingerings I'd use on a normal tenor recorder for a tune in D. This sort of reading is a trick that doesn't come easily. It would be easier to do it all by ear, but in the long run it'll be handy to be able to sightread like this. (Another tune in the same range is "The Sweetness of Mary" in A, but I know that one well already).


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 12:33 PM

Well said, Foolestroupe. I'm glad you emphasized the difference between 'playing by ear, and playing from the heart'. I thought I had covered that, but I see that your phrasing of that, was more clear, I think, than mine.

Music is a language, an expression from the heart, and unless the player, digests the music, and then interprets it, to be meaningful, in expression, it becomes merely mechanical...and if there is anything we DON'T need today, is more sterile, mechanical robotic emotions!

Now just a word on another part of Foolestroupe's post: "In case you still think that Classically Trained musos (Instrumental AND Vocal) are stupid for spending all those thousands of hours doing all those major & Minor (2 variants) scales (36 basic scales in all) (and arpeggio scales!..."

This is not as hard as some 'Folkies' who, as Foolestroupe described as, "... and that you, as a 'Folkie' are 'better that that', so that 'all you need to practice is just the pieces you want to play',...."

As I mentioned before, there are 3 COMMON PATTERNS of the scales,(5, for those who venture further), in which you play the scales ACROSS the neck with NO shifting of the fretting hand up or down (STRAIGHT ACROSS). These patterns are the SAME! To play in a different key, you just move your hand to the position, up or down on the fretboard, to where 'ONE' is located ('Do', the name of the key), and proceed in the SAME pattern across the fretboard, and bingo!..You're in a different key.

THEN: (As Foolestroupe posted),
"......are stupid for spending all those thousands of hours doing all those major & Minor (2 variants) scales (36 basic scales in all) (and arpeggio scales!..."   ...............Is not such an intimidating, undertaking to procrastinate away for YEARS!....AND.....you will be able to play, and 'improv' with virtually anyone, at anytime, in any key!!!!...USING THE SAME PATTERNS!!!!

Taste, of course, is another subject...BUT...as long as you play within the key(pattern), and get to 'ONE' on time, you will NOT hit a 'wrong' note!!!!!

I hope that is clear. It is NOT complicated!

Here's a link Patterns . There are others, you might find, but this is pretty basic. Make use of it!

Regards,
GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Tradsinger
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 06:29 PM

I'd like to add my fourpennyworth to this thread. Of course it is is important to learn to read music and play by ear and the 2 are not mutually exclusive but mutually supportive, as many have stated above. But I will add more - if you do learn to read the dots, then that's fine, but take the next step and learn what makes up scales, arpeggios and chords, and not only that but learn what they look like and what they sound like. It's not rocket science and you can learn it very quickly from the right book. Once you have that, you have the musical syntax to understand what is going on in a tune. It's like knowing the grammar of the language you speak. Once you a) understand musical 'grammar' and b) can recognise it in the music you play, both by ear and by the dots, you will be a better musician. It will help you to improvise, it will help you to play the right chord, or even more interesting chords, and will certainly help you to harmonies that fit.

If you are lucky enough to be able to do this instinctively, without the knowledge of the theory, then good for you but most of us can't. However, if you can grasp this theory and then hear it in practice, you have a lingua franca when talking to other musicians.

I consider that I have an average musical ear but can recognise a flattened 7th or a Maj 7th chord when I hear one. And if I can do that, I can possibly apply it to the music I play.

Of course, the majority of source singers and musicians did not read music and still produce thrilling music, but I still argue that these days you can add value to what you play by knowing a bit about music theory.

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 08:23 PM

BTW, what you will find over time-- even if you do not work at it-- is that you will increase in both skills, one after the other. Synergistic thing.

Music! It's all good. Let 'er rip!

~S~


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 10:04 PM

"you mean transposition, not transcription"

Yep, I was tired and in a hurry.... and I'm not as young as i used to be when I was always right ... :-)

"play "MacArthur Road" on the voiceflute (a tenor recorder in D, i.e. a tone higher than the usual ones). It's a reel which lies in an awkward range for any standard size of recorder. So I'm reading off the normal fiddle notation, playing on an instrument where the music comes out in E if I play with fingerings I'd use on a normal tenor recorder for a tune in D. This sort of reading is a trick that doesn't come easily. It would be easier to do it all by ear, but in the long run it'll be handy to be able to sightread like this."

When I learned to play the whistle, I was naughty - I bought all the basic keys I could find easily (didn't have money to buy the 'low set'!) - for instance I would play a tune in D or G on the D whistle, then pick up the C whistle. I always did have difficulty getting my head around 'transposing instruments' - clarinets, etc cause I never had the money to get one to play it - but after a while the whole thing 'clicked' and I can just work out the 'difference' in semitones, then start!

This all fell apart once .... a guy who had learned to play the recorder (C) got given one set in F - and insisted on playing the thing in the same fingerings he had learned - which transposed things - and said that 'it was too hard to play the thing with the correct fingerings', but played with those still playing C instruments. Well, it worked cause what he was playing was just a 'riveted down harmony' at a fixed distance from the tune.... until I came along and was playing the correct notes on the correct instrument at the correct pitch. I just gave up trying to play with them. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. :-) Funnily enough, he (who had no music training or experience before playing the recorder) bumped into me years later and admitted that he was just lazy, ignorant and stupid. :-) But by then I had moved on years before from that group ... all my years of training was resisted (as I was obviously a stupid fool to just be rejected), but they were happier 'mucking about in ignorance' by themselves. So be it - it only distressed me to try tolerating such ignorant nonsense! :-)

Of course, GfS talking about patterns on a guitar is meaningless to a keyboard player - as there are thus 36 scale fingering patterns ... (Major and 2 Minor)... and the fingering patterns on a diatonic wind instrument are a whole new game.... (depending on what crossfingerings you are using, and the fact that some instruments respond better to certain cross fingerings due to their design & construction) :-)

OK - so "as a 'Folkie' are 'better that that', so that 'all you need to practice is just the pieces you want to play'" was a little hard perhaps, but is it really so far from the truth that it is really just a form of overconfident laziness? I did motor sport when younger, and can drive harder and to a greater degree of finesse that I did before I did all that training and practice.... but just watching me you might never know, because what it taught me was how to anticipate much better and forsee situations further in advance - I have no need to 'prove myself' all the time in a dangerous fashion.


"Someone who reads easily and fluently however is able to see ahead as they are reading and they can easily inject all the necessary feeling to bring the story to life. The same goes for music reading. A fluent confident reader can sight read a piece beautifully without rehearsing it."

And someone who says that cannot be true is either ignorant at best or just a fool at worst. Sorry if you don't like me putting it in those harsh words.... but often those who say that sort of thing are just trying to justify their own perceived lack.

Now, I must say that there ARE performers who may lack a little on some of these skills, but still produce beautiful results. So what? Good for them!

But just because in an emergency, an untrained person can land a 747 under guidance from a skilled helper, doesn't mean that he will be encouraged to sit in the pilot's seat again for the return flight .... :-)


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 11:46 PM

Foolestroupe: "Of course, GfS talking about patterns on a guitar is meaningless to a keyboard player..."

I play both Guitar and Keyboards, and both well. A friend of mine, years ago, told me, that when I 'saw' the keyboard on my frets, the whole world would open up, on the guitar...sure as God made little green apples, while improvising one night, there it was!!!

It doesn't quite work in reverse, as well, but I just thought I'd share that.

GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 12:50 AM

It looks like you're all arguing that Reading is good.
Who are you trying to convince? Nobody has said Reading ISN'T good.

As far as I know, I'm the only one on thread who has admitted to relying on Ear, and I am certain I didn't disparage reading.
Would I understand the points you all are aiming for if I was a Reader?

Sometimes the contentious agreement around here seems pretty funny to me.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 12:57 AM

Melissa, I rely on knowing intervals, and where the sounds are, more than reading....and, I don't think anyone is 'arguing'..just sharing, however, I agree with you..the reading is great!...Take what you can from it!!! ...PLEASE!!!

GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 01:00 AM

GfS,
Or, maybe I could do whatever I choose..and be fine with it.
Isn't it my business--and ONLY my business?


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 01:15 AM

"Would I understand the points you all are aiming for if I was a Reader?"

Perhaps ...


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 01:18 AM

that's what I was afraid of, Ft!
hmmph..secret code ☺


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 01:28 AM

Melissa: "Or, maybe I could do whatever I choose..and be fine with it.
Isn't it my business--and ONLY my business?"

In the community of musicians, some of us tend to offer whatever we can, to help our fellow musicians. Sorry you took it any other way...

GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 05:05 AM

It looks like you're all arguing that Reading is good.
Who are you trying to convince? Nobody has said Reading ISN'T good.


If you read the forum at thesession.org for a while you'll come across a bunch of people who are quite messianic about not reading music. They aren't capable of putting energy and feeling into anything presented to them on paper so they assume everybody else must be the same. I've met people who think the same way.

It makes no sense at all, since a large proportion of tunes in the tradition got into it through the medium of print (like all the "Dances For the Year..." that Nathaniel Gow published as four-page sheets). Folks who think like that seem to believe that the musicians of Gow's time must have had supernatural abilities to interpret the notation of "The Fairy Dance" musically which have since been lost to the world. (They've probably never read anything with a more realistic take on the human condition than "The Lord of the Rings").

I know of one internationally renowned folkie who claims, for the sake of his image, not to be able to read music, but who in fact does do it in private.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Old Vermin
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 05:15 AM

The point about the Lord of the Rings is that it isn't, mostly, about humans. Or was that your point?


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 05:32 AM

Jack,
This isn't thesession.org and I haven't seen anybody in this thread being messianic about not reading.

The conversation here is funny..it went from people talking about what they do/think..on to a little light finger pointing about what others do (the 'others' being non-readers) and how it's a form of snobbery to be like the Other Guys.
Then, it slid neatly into a conversation about how Reading is so much superior.

Who is being snobby?
The only straightforward non-reader in the conversation?

I just don't see any reason for so much picking-apart. I happen to feel like it's pretty neat that people want to do music..I think music helps soften some of the jagged edges in life and I simply don't understand why there's so much "my way is better--probably because I'm the best..of course I'm far too modest to actually SAY such a thing" around here.
What's the point?
If music is a good thing, and we're all doing it, what does it matter HOW we do it? Why in the world is it anybody's business? Why is there so much crinkled-ego criticism in these threads?

Is there something encouraging about discouragement?
Is it more inappropriate for those gloaty non-readers to have opinions of readers (on thesession) than it is for you to have a gloaty opinion of them?

What's the point?
Right/Wrong are individual perceptions on this stuff and sometimes I just think it would be a nice idea if people would tend their own knitting instead of poking each other.


GfS,
Ok then..thanks, I guess.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 06:35 AM

Our OP asked a genuine, sensible question and it doesn't seem unreasonable to let that conversation roll a while before starting the posturing and stroking.

Drifts are fun and usually seem to turn into interesting conversations, but isn't it kind of rude for the stringing to start before the original question has been wallered around a while?
Common courtesy is nice sometimes.

..time for me to go back to lurking.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 08:21 AM

"But a musician who has to be reading the notes in order to function is in the same position as a singer who has to be reading the words - no matter how well they play or sing, they don't really know the music or the song. "

Anyone who believe this has never seen the best professionals work.


You misunderstand me, Foolestroupe. I think you take it that I was suggesting that an ability to read music necessarily diminishes the ability to play without written music. That would be very stupid of me, but it's not what I was saying.

I'd question whether the best professionals do in fact need to be reading the notes in front of them in order to function. As has been pointed out, playing by heart is perhaps a more useful term than playing by ear. Surely that's what we all aim to be able to do, whether we can read music or not.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 10:15 AM

"Then, it slid neatly into a conversation about how Reading is so much superior."

It did not - you just interpreted it as that - and you did admit that a lack of your capability in that direction colors your thought processes.

What WAS said is that is IS an essential REAL Musical Skill - but that many can (and have done so for generations!) function quite acceptably as performers without it. Also - though you may not have come across it personally - is that many Second Rate 'Posers' loudly and obnoxiously try to put down any who DO have that skill as if it is not needed 'for real music'.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 10:21 AM

"If music is a good thing, and we're all doing it, what does it matter HOW we do it?"

Don't tell me that you really want to adulate such as Conrad and WAV?

:-)

Because HOW we do it is WHY Bach, Mozart, Paganini, Vivaldi and John Lennon, Susan Boyle and many Folk and Rock Musos to pick a very few rapidly at random from Music History are held up as examples ....


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 10:23 AM

"I'd question whether the best professionals do in fact need to be reading the notes in front of them in order to function"

They DON'T NEED TO - but then they are also NOT obsessed by some nonsensical bullshit that THEY SHOULD NOT either! :-)


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Melissa
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 11:03 AM

"Don't tell me that you really want to adulate such as Conrad and WAV?"

Even with a smiley, that kind of creeps me out, ft!


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 11:09 AM

We don't disagree, I think, Foulestroupe. It's not really different from the position in regard to reading print. If you can't read print you are at a serious disadvantage. But if you feel you can't sing without reading from a book, you are also pretty disadvantaged.

I distinguish between needing to read the words or notes on the one hand, and on the other maybe feeling more comfortably with them there, just in case the memory slips.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 21 Sep 10 - 12:01 PM

The phrase "is this a 5min argument or the full half hour?" springs to mind. lol!
I don't look at a thread for a day or so and come back to find loads of posts.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 22 Sep 10 - 02:04 AM

Melissa: "Drifts are fun and usually seem to turn into interesting conversations, but isn't it kind of rude for the stringing to start before the original question has been wallered around a while?
Common courtesy is nice sometimes.
..time for me to go back to lurking."

Melissa: "Or, maybe I could do whatever I choose..and be fine with it.
Isn't it my business--and ONLY my business?"

GfS


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Sep 10 - 10:52 AM

As thread drifts go this, this one seems to be sticking pretty close to home.


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Ebbie
Date: 22 Sep 10 - 11:25 AM

A friend of mine read fluently but in her normal course played by ear. She couldn't understand why anyone should find reading difficult because, as she said, it is just a language, a language that is on paper in front of you and doesn't change.

She was impressive. You would start singing or humming something and she's interject, Wait! Wait! and get a pen and a piece of paper then say, OK. Now! and then she'd write down the notes as you sang.

That would be a helpful skill to have. However, I read laboriously and as long as I have people like that friend in my life I probably won't change.


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Subject: RE: Playing by ear or memory?
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Dec 10 - 09:03 AM

Playing 'by ear' is a completely different skill from playing by memory. Most 'ear' players do not read music and have little desire to do so.

I am able to do both, although there is a slight twist that I tend to 'hear' the music and play by ear if sight-reading! This is because I learned to sing at sight before I picked up an instrument in my teens.

Memorising is certainly NOT cheating - it is a skill that some would envy. I know people who cannot manage without the printed 'crutch' in front of them, and this even applies to singers.

Moreover, I would suggest that memorising puts you more 'at one' with the music - your ability to 'see' the dots in your mind's eye bears this out.

Learning by ear and playing by ear are really the same thing with possibly a different level of skill. Reading the dots until they are memorised does not necessarily breed an ability for playing by ear, but may in some instances. There often has to be a conscious decision to abandon the dots.

Lastly, does it really matter? If you enjoy what you are doing, and it, in turn, gives pleasure to others, is all that is important! Yes, it's possible your version of a tune may not be exactly the same as someone else's, but 'right' and 'wrong' only exists where the tune's composer is known, and a hard copy of their original is available. Otherwise, the 'folk process' justifies as many subtle variants of a tune as people playing it - even to the point of the tune being significantly different.

Off topic slightly - I'm Chief Musician with the Earl of Stamford Morris, and we include the Badby tradition in our repertoire. The tunes have interesting twists when compared with the more 'mainstream' versions - for example, 'Trunkles'.

I'm sure that the 'bluesy' sound of the Badby version is simply explained if you consider that it's possible the musician responsible simply was trying to play the 'normal' tune in G on a one-row 'C' melodeon, as it works! It's extremely difficult to play the Badby version on a D/G melodeon, as some of the notes (F natural for example) are missing! A C/G Anglo, on the other hand, presents no such issues.

Badby Trunkles is on Brian Peters' 'Anglophilia' album - oh, and I'm cited in the sleeve notes as his source! Brian's version is quite different from 'my' version even so - and Brian told me not so long ago that the tune is now in the repertoire of a New York morris side! It seems they learned it from his album!

;o)


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Subject: RE: Play by Ear V Play from written music?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Dec 10 - 01:36 PM

I just got the ABC for "Badby Trunkles" (didn't know it).

The tonality isn't the main issue. It must be fiendishly difficult to memorize if you didn't learn it while actually playing for dancing - the repeat pattern is like nothing else I've ever seen. Doubtless it makes sense if you're watching a sequence of dance figures, but without that you don't have any musical cue to tell you which melody fragment to play next.


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