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Play by Ear V Play from written music?

Jack Campin 10 Dec 10 - 01:36 PM
Bernard 10 Dec 10 - 09:03 AM
Ebbie 22 Sep 10 - 11:25 AM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Sep 10 - 10:52 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 22 Sep 10 - 02:04 AM
GUEST,LDT 21 Sep 10 - 12:01 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Sep 10 - 11:09 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 11:03 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 10 - 10:23 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 10 - 10:21 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 10 - 10:15 AM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Sep 10 - 08:21 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 06:35 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 05:32 AM
Old Vermin 21 Sep 10 - 05:15 AM
Jack Campin 21 Sep 10 - 05:05 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 21 Sep 10 - 01:28 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 01:18 AM
The Fooles Troupe 21 Sep 10 - 01:15 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 01:00 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 21 Sep 10 - 12:57 AM
Melissa 21 Sep 10 - 12:50 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 20 Sep 10 - 11:46 PM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Sep 10 - 10:04 PM
wysiwyg 20 Sep 10 - 08:23 PM
Tradsinger 20 Sep 10 - 06:29 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 20 Sep 10 - 12:33 PM
Jack Campin 20 Sep 10 - 06:42 AM
Lox 20 Sep 10 - 04:58 AM
GUEST,LDT 20 Sep 10 - 04:12 AM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Sep 10 - 03:55 AM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Sep 10 - 03:48 AM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Sep 10 - 03:34 AM
Ann N 20 Sep 10 - 02:30 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 20 Sep 10 - 12:25 AM
Tootler 19 Sep 10 - 05:55 PM
Old Vermin 19 Sep 10 - 05:54 PM
Joybell 19 Sep 10 - 05:17 PM
The Sandman 19 Sep 10 - 04:47 PM
Don Firth 19 Sep 10 - 04:11 PM
Don Firth 19 Sep 10 - 04:04 PM
GUEST,LDT 19 Sep 10 - 03:10 PM
Old Vermin 19 Sep 10 - 07:25 AM
Old Vermin 19 Sep 10 - 07:20 AM
SPB-Cooperator 19 Sep 10 - 06:53 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 18 Sep 10 - 05:40 PM
Desi C 18 Sep 10 - 07:29 AM
Will Fly 18 Sep 10 - 05:08 AM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 18 Sep 10 - 01:24 AM
GUEST,andrew 17 Sep 10 - 09:34 PM
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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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 10:15 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 01:00 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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 03:34 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: GUEST,andrew
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 09:34 PM

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


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