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Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: caddy on October 03, 2013, 10:36:58 AM

Title: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: caddy on October 03, 2013, 10:36:58 AM
How does everyone learn the tunes they play. Do you learn by ear or off sheet music?

Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Lester on October 03, 2013, 10:38:15 AM
Both of those and from ABC as well.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Helena Handcart on October 03, 2013, 10:44:56 AM
Both of those and from ABC as well.

Wot Lester said.  ABC offers a bit of the best of both worlds.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: GPS on October 03, 2013, 10:48:19 AM
Both.  Never got the hang of ABC.

Graham
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: EastAnglianTed on October 03, 2013, 10:51:41 AM
    Ear.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: SolGatos on October 03, 2013, 11:06:26 AM
I learn by ear, I never learned to read music. I've recently discovered some really helpful, slowed down, note by note, shows you how, youtube videos. These have helped me considerably in working out more complicated fingering. My interest is in cajun, tex-mex, blues and soul.
 Cheers Sol.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: John MacKenzie (Cugiok) on October 03, 2013, 11:32:49 AM
The tadpoles are a my6stery to me, unfortunately. However, having reached 71, I have decided that life is too short to start learning them now.
Shame though, I'm sure it would have helped if I had been taught it at school, where they me taught Tonic Sol Fa, which I have forgotten now.


John  :|bl
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: **DTN** on October 03, 2013, 12:20:50 PM
By ear only... I use a slowdowner software and learn from recordings of others.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: StupidFingers on October 03, 2013, 12:21:12 PM
Dots.  I haven't gotten to the point where I can hear a note and know which button to press!
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Lester on October 03, 2013, 12:26:01 PM
Dots.  I haven't gotten to the point where I can hear a note and know which button to press!

Interesting point, not sure I can do single note to button correlation but give me a short phrase of music, and I have little or no problem. I guess I have a stock of phrases which appear in many tunes and it's just a matter of sticking the right ones together.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: malcolmbebb on October 03, 2013, 12:47:06 PM
I'm with the dots. However, by ear is progressing, slowly.

I surprised myself by playing nearly all the A of Black Joke straight off once I'd played the first two bars from the dots, mostly accurately. Then did it with the B.

I have done similar with short pieces of other tunes, only to subsequently discover that the version that I was happily playing differed by a few notes from the dots I was ostensibly following.

However other tunes - even Lollipop Man, which I know well - just do not gel.

What I can't do is hit named notes. If someone says play an A, I have to think - where's an A? Similarly, when looking at a score, I have to stop and think if I need to name anything much other than low G, D or E.
I guess my brain just works graphically on positions on scale/relative positions.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: malcolmbebb on October 03, 2013, 12:49:03 PM
I suppose I should add that originally learnt straight from ABC, still do to some extent. But, probably for reasons noted above, it's a much slower process.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Helena Handcart on October 03, 2013, 12:56:22 PM
Dots.  I haven't gotten to the point where I can hear a note and know which button to press!

This started happening on the odd note during the latter part of the summer, I think the first sign was when I started playing phrases on the 'wrong' row (not the one I had learned to play them on) without meaning to.  Then I learnt 'Bob and Joan/Bobbing Joe' by ear after morris practice a couple of weeks ago, then last week looked at the first two bars of 'Orange in Bloom', looked at the TV and absent-mindedly played the tune straight through. 

Clearly some connections are being made between ear and finger and I am really encouraged by this  (:)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Helena Handcart on October 03, 2013, 12:59:24 PM
What I can't do is hit named notes. If someone says play an A, I have to think - where's an A?

I know that feeling too I'm trying to improve on this 'cos I hate having to think in terms of fifth button pull, fourth button push etc when all I need to do is remember the names of the flipping notes.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Lester on October 03, 2013, 01:08:03 PM
all I need to do is remember the names of the flipping notes.

 (:)   (:)   (:)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: deltasalmon on October 03, 2013, 01:09:32 PM
I do both. I can read ABC but have been reading sheet music for 20 years so it's much easier for me to convert it and read the dots instead of trying to read the ABC.

I am trying more and more to play by ear. I also use slowing down software or even better just sitting down with someone who can play the tune you want and have them break it down for you.

I definitely can't hear a note and know which button to push (perfect pitch?) but I'll take a stab and guess and can then get to the right note after 2 or 3 tries. My relative pitch is getting better. I still can't hear two notes and be able to tell the interval but my fingers are getting better and better at guessing which note to hit if that makes sense. I guess my brain doesn't have relative pitch but my fingers sort of do.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: David J on October 03, 2013, 01:19:21 PM
I know some people can 'read' ABC code but for me its real benefit is to provide a bridge between my (fairly good) musical ear and (pretty poor) sight reading of the dots. So when I come across a new tune I want to learn the process is to first find the right version on abcnotation.com or wherever. I select which version seems closest to what I remember, dump it into my abc editor, and then listen to the tune being played back and make any changes as necessary to arrive at the remembered version (not always right of course  :-X).

So this process not only reinforces the tune in my head, but also I've found that it has facilitated my sight reading of the dots. The next step is to work out the chords I want to put with the tune, add them to the abc, listen back and play around with various options until I'm happy. Save the file - and move on to the next tune!!
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Anahata on October 03, 2013, 01:24:15 PM
I learned to read music at school (my first instrument was the cello, and I played piano too).
Over the last 20 years or so I've been learning to pick up tunes by ear. I can play something back that I've just heard, and follow a tune in a session, but it still take a long time for a tune to stick, and if I want to learn it I usually need to get the dots so I can practice at home, because I'm not going to remember it reliably otherwise.

In an emergency I can just about identify a tune by reading the ABC, but ABC was never intended for reading that way, only as a really quick and simple source code for creating staff notation for printing. I can read dots fluently, to the extent that when I'm inputting ABC on my computer I only have to convert to staff notation on the screen and look at it to check I've got it right.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Helena Handcart on October 03, 2013, 01:39:16 PM
In an emergency I can just about identify a tune by reading the ABC, but ABC was never intended for reading that way, only as a really quick and simple source code for creating staff notation for printing.

Indeed, I assumed that when referring to ABC in this thread we meant ABC pasted into a converter programme such as ABC Navigator so that the dots can be viewed and the tune played simultaneously.  That for me is the magic of ABC, you can share these tiny text files with players of a variety of instruments who can then choose to learn by ear, by reading the dots or a combination of both.

Although I am starting to 'read' unconverted ABC as a sort of by-product of learning to transcribe tunes I wouldn't want to learn tunes this way routinely.  Do people really really learn tunes this way?

Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Theo on October 03, 2013, 01:42:04 PM
What I can't do is hit named notes. If someone says play an A, I have to think - where's an A?

And yet you also say:

I suppose I should add that originally learnt straight from ABC, still do to some extent. But, probably for reasons noted above, it's a much slower process.

Which seems to imply that if you read an A in abc then you can find the note. Could you elaborate please?
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Lester on October 03, 2013, 01:42:39 PM
Although I am starting to 'read' unconverted ABC as a sort of by-product of learning to transcribe tunes I wouldn't want to learn tunes this way routinely.  Do people really really learn tunes this way?

Yep!   ;)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Mr Happy on October 03, 2013, 01:45:22 PM
 Ear
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: malcolmbebb on October 03, 2013, 02:14:01 PM
What I can't do is hit named notes. If someone says play an A, I have to think - where's an A?

And yet you also say:

I suppose I should add that originally learnt straight from ABC, still do to some extent. But, probably for reasons noted above, it's a much slower process.

Which seems to imply that if you read an A in abc then you can find the note. Could you elaborate please?

Not at all contradictory  ;D ABC says "Play an A" so I then have to think "Where's the A", usually (but not always) getting the right octave. Then it says "B" so I think, where's the B? etc... Eventually getting the tune into memory.
So yes, I can find the note, but I can't just "hit" it. The process isn't quite as painful as I've made out, but it is still quite clunky. Hence the comment about it being a slower process.
Contrasted with:
 - Other musicians who, told to play an A, instantly play the right note.
 - Reading a score (dusty notes excluded) which happens much more quickly

Not seeking to make any particular point about myself, just observations on how my brain appears to me to do it.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: xgx on October 03, 2013, 02:22:34 PM
After three decades of playing I'm finally developing the ability to identify the sound of notes and relate them to a button but the dots remain the easiest for me in as much as they tell which note but more important, its position in sequence.

Learning the correct note and sequence by ear is great but when trying to play there comes the inevitable 'missing bit', there's nowt to refer to unlike learning from the dots.

I used to lug loadsa paper around now I just take one Tablet, very useful when the Brain goes into a teflon phase ;D
(or when a luggite musician says 'How does that start? :P )

If you are able to, the best method of learning tunes is a combination of both lugs'n'dots  8)
Whichever method (dotty or luggite), the only way to fix it is through practising frequently... good old fashioned Rote (memorization technique based on repetition).
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Orma on October 03, 2013, 02:28:33 PM
Sheet music (which I can't follow whilst playing) with my own tab for the bones. BUT....... I have to have the tune solidly in my head before I can get it in my fingers. The original score has little resemblance to the tune a few sessions down the road....but that's another story.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Sage Herb on October 03, 2013, 03:53:24 PM
Mostly by ear, but I can read the dots though really only use them as a storage medium. Drawback of playing by ear is that it's easy to omit the detail of a tune.

Steve
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: John MacKenzie (Cugiok) on October 03, 2013, 04:14:41 PM
Yup, you can get in dire trouble playing by ear. It's called dire ear  :|glug

John
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: MandoC on October 03, 2013, 04:38:13 PM
I read music on mandolin, but I am not a great sight reader.  On BC button accordion I record tunes I want to learn and slow them down with Transcribe! (similar to Slow Downer) put them on a playlist on itunes, and try to practice them daily.  When I finally learn them, they graduate to a playlist of tunes played at full speed.  This process is glacially slow and drives my wife crazy. Charlie
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: DDickie on October 03, 2013, 04:43:42 PM
Both - whatever is the most convenient at the time!

It's probably in my genes.  My grandfather learnt the dots and could play piano by ear and from music; my father learnt the dots but played by ear, and my mother learnt the dots and kept to them!

I learnt to play piano and guitar, and taught myself how to play the melodeon.  (:)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: ladydetemps on October 03, 2013, 05:42:20 PM
Neither and both. I can't read music fluently and learning a tune by ear takes me months.
But if i write down the buttons play it for a week then just go by audio i get best results. And helena i'm useless with note names too.
I'm really trying to work on picking up tunes i recognise by ear in sessions more.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on October 03, 2013, 06:18:19 PM
Both.
I read dots, though it helps if I know how the tune goes!
I can also learn by ear.
 I also get ear worms, where if I've heard a tune I really like, I'll hum parts of it as I can't get it out of my head.  Then it means I'm already starting to learn by ear and need to get to a box before the tune goes so I can start to work it out on the keyboard. Sometimes the difficult bit is remembering the start, or a bit to get me into it so I can work the tune round to the start
Just discovered Audacity has a built in slow downer and have used it recently, which helps get it to a speed where you can work it out.

Only ever use abc to get a tune off the web, then get a converter site to change it to dots, possibly change the key too if I want whilst converting.
Q
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: pikey on October 03, 2013, 06:23:10 PM
By ear 99percent of the time. I can play from music, but if I do I record it then learn by ear :-)

Listening to the same tune over and over and over again, then playing along with it, is for me and a lot of others the best way to learn. Plus how most of the 'traditional' musicians did it.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: GPS on October 03, 2013, 06:37:20 PM
By ear 99percent of the time. I can play from music, but if I do I record it then learn by ear :-)

Listening to the same tune over and over and over again, then playing along with it, is for me and a lot of others the best way to learn. Plus how most of the 'traditional' musicians did it.

Well, I'm not 100% convinced of that; there are so many "traditional" musicians' tunebooks preserved that you have to think music-reading was surprisingly common even among "traditional" players.  A lot of "traditional" players would have been members of church or village bands and would probably have needed to play from written arrangements at least some of the time.

Just a thought.......

Graham
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Rees on October 03, 2013, 06:51:34 PM
I often learn a tune by playing it with my fingers on the pillow as I'm falling asleep. It's surprising how well this method works (for me).
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: pikey on October 03, 2013, 07:19:53 PM
By ear 99percent of the time. I can play from music, but if I do I record it then learn by ear :-)

Listening to the same tune over and over and over again, then playing along with it, is for me and a lot of others the best way to learn. Plus how most of the 'traditional' musicians did it.

Well, I'm not 100% convinced of that; there are so many "traditional" musicians' tunebooks preserved that you have to think music-reading was surprisingly common even among "traditional" players.  A lot of "traditional" players would have been members of church or village bands and would probably have needed to play from written arrangements at least some of the time.

Just a thought.......

Graham

I reckon they wrote them down as aide memoires, rather than to read from. I do the same, in my Time Manager (yes, I know.....) I've got lots of tunes scribbled down on roughly drawn staves. These days I just hum the tune into my phone !   ;)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: martinpratt on October 03, 2013, 07:29:31 PM
I can learn a piece by ear, but very much trial and error. Preferred method is to learn a tune by sight reading having heard it first to get "the feel" of it, but I can only play a piece really well when then playing from memory. Not enough brain cells to cope with sight reading and quick fingering at the same time.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Pat. on October 03, 2013, 07:36:03 PM
Ear for me ,I am fortunate that I can do it with ease,just as well as I do not read music and the sort of music I play ITD mostly ,sits well as you have no choice but to put your own mark on it wich is the best way as far as I am concerned
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: AirTime on October 03, 2013, 07:52:51 PM
By ear. I really feel the limitations of this method & feel that I should make an effort to learn to read music, or at least the ABC.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Anahata on October 03, 2013, 08:56:46 PM
there are so many "traditional" musicians' tunebooks preserved that you have to think music-reading was surprisingly common even among "traditional" players.  A lot of "traditional" players would have been members of church or village bands and would probably have needed to play from written arrangements at least some of the time.

I reckon they wrote them down as aide memoires, rather than to read from.

I think you're both right.

It's a myth that village musicians couldn't read music. Some of them could, and the competitive market for "this years tune book" by the London music publishers in the 18th and 19th centuries suggests this too.

I've been told that John Clare "collected" some of his tunes by sneaking into the local bookshop when a new tunebook was in and copying them into his notebook.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Fsamuel on October 03, 2013, 09:17:02 PM
How does everyone learn the tunes they play. Do you learn by ear or off sheet music?
Sheet music to get the tune then recordings/videos to get what it is supposed to feel/sound like. I'm usually impatient at workshops and learning phrase by phrase seems to take so long however I go to a french dance evening once a month and the tutor Mark Prescott (fiddle) surprised me, I'm usually hassling him for the dots, he made us all sing the tune till it was in our heads we then started from scratch to play all the way through, by about the third time we all had it, so something to be said for getting the tune in the memory.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: pikey on October 03, 2013, 09:21:58 PM
there are so many "traditional" musicians' tunebooks preserved that you have to think music-reading was surprisingly common even among "traditional" players.  A lot of "traditional" players would have been members of church or village bands and would probably have needed to play from written arrangements at least some of the time.

Wheres the Agree button? Im lucky that I can sight read from music on any instrument . But my preference is by ear. Apart from orchestral work.

I reckon they wrote them down as aide memoires, rather than to read from.

I think you're both right.

It's a myth that village musicians couldn't read music. Some of them could, and the competitive market for "this years tune book" by the London music publishers in the 18th and 19th centuries suggests this too.

I've been told that John Clare "collected" some of his tunes by sneaking into the local bookshop when a new tunebook was in and copying them into his notebook.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: squeezy on October 03, 2013, 09:28:59 PM
By Ear only here ... I think once you get the knack then allowing any other method to also succeed is very hard indeed.

I can decipher written down music - but it's a long way to go from that to learning the tune that way.  I have to learn the tune by ear from hearing myself play it slowly and out of rhythm when trying to get it from the dots ... which I have had to do on many occasions!  If that makes sense.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: BJG on October 03, 2013, 09:29:29 PM
Preferred method is to learn a tune by sight reading having heard it first.

Similarly, I find it easiest if I can hear it in my head and use the score as an aid. (I've never looked at this "ABC" thing, guess I should...)

The only instrument I've ever been able to look at notes and play them was the trumpet, once, since I learned it at school. But I mostly play by ear.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: squeezy on October 03, 2013, 09:32:01 PM
I often learn a tune by playing it with my fingers on the pillow as I'm falling asleep. It's surprising how well this method works (for me).

I do this!

Not just on a pillow either ... on the steering wheel while driving, out for a walk on my legs ... "air melodeon" practice has a lot to commend it when in a situation where you haven't got a melodeon!
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: busbox on October 03, 2013, 09:46:49 PM
Yes. I use both. But I have not yet managed to play my melodeon with other players. I'm not sure what will happen then. The pattern for me tends to be as follows: I play harmonica for my sheep, adding new tunes by ear as I think of them. I then come inside and translate them to the melodeon. The similarity of the harmonica and melodeon makes this a natural transition. I also play tunes on the melodeon by ear when I know them really well from other instruments. What I find with those other isntruments however, especially the whistle, is that even - or maybe esp. - when I know a tune well to play alone I often need to discipline myself by looking at the music when playing in a group. I suppose this is what comes of being a hermit!
If you don't read music I'm sure it doesn't matter. I am trying to emulate you! Remember the story of the Verger (Somerset Maugham or Edgar Allan Poe?) who was sacked as a Verger because he could not read but later became a millionaire. When interviewed about his success he was asked ' What could you have been had you been able to read?' He replied 'A Verger'.
Tony
School of Bush Philosophy
Australia

Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: mory on October 03, 2013, 09:48:07 PM
I often learn a tune by playing it with my fingers on the pillow as I'm falling asleep. It's surprising how well this method works (for me).

Foreplay?  ;D
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: oompahman on October 03, 2013, 09:48:37 PM
Another vote for the "ear" brigade!
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: pikey on October 03, 2013, 10:02:51 PM
Yes. I use both. But I have not yet managed to play my melodeon with other players. I'm not sure what will happen then. The pattern for me tends to be as follows: I play harmonica for my sheep, adding new tunes by ear as I think of them. I then come inside

I thought it was just the Welsh and Yorkshiremen that enjoyed sheep?

 >:E
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Helena Handcart on October 03, 2013, 10:42:11 PM
I often learn a tune by playing it with my fingers on the pillow as I'm falling asleep. It's surprising how well this method works (for me).

Me too, well not on the pillow but on my desk at work or my workbench at home.  Works for me (in a beginnerish sort of way in my case)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: penn on October 03, 2013, 10:49:13 PM
When I started learning the box, I promised myself I would make an effort to learn dots, having been an “ear” guitarist for so long.
I use an ABC app on the ipad to display the dots; I work out the first note by counting the lines; I find the first note on the keyboard by referring to the melodeon.net keyboard layout.

Then I listen to the tune on the ipad and learn to play it by ear.

I've worked out that the lines work pretty well with the box. If the tune starts on a line and the next note is on a line, then it's (probably) the next note up in the same bellows direction. So generally this method gives me a decent reference for relative positions of notes. I tend to be a bit lost if I forget where the tune starts tho.

I have tried accordeon tabs, but I find them less satisfying – finding the shapes and positions and working out when a bellows direction change is needed (or how to avoid one) is all part of the enjoyment of learning a new tune.

So I'm still by ear, the dots get me started. I couldn't manage without the ABC ipad app.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Rees on October 03, 2013, 11:12:51 PM
I often learn a tune by playing it with my fingers on the pillow as I'm falling asleep. It's surprising how well this method works (for me).

Foreplay?  ;D

No, contraception.  ;D
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Rob2Hook on October 04, 2013, 12:08:32 AM
[... "air melodeon" practice has a lot to commend it when in a situation where you haven't got a melodeon!
Do you often have policemen approach you on your walks, John?  The picture is priceless!

Rob.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: squeezy on October 04, 2013, 12:11:54 AM
I think it just looks like I'm whistling a jaunty tune and tapping out a rhythm on my pockets ... I think that's what it looks like ... Please God - just let it look like that!
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: GPS on October 04, 2013, 05:06:10 AM
Obviously written music has enormous value in providing a record of thousands of tunes; a slight downside is that it also tends to fossilise tunes in a particular version which comes to be accepted as "correct", and (some) players then strive to play it note-for-note EXACTLY as written, and slight variations when playing in the company of other musicians may attract a disapproving glance.  I've never been told "You're playing that wrong", but "That's an interesting variant" can mean exactly that!

Graham
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Chris Ryall on October 04, 2013, 09:35:48 AM
strange mélange of ear (preferred) and .… i'd probably call it ABC. 

I can hit named notes and these are mapped to the buttons in my head.

But dots are manually converted. I know what those tadpoles on the lines are, but some of the spaces still get worked out the long way. They don't map like the letters do. I should have got this sorted on courses, but most were abroad where I had enough problems with the teacher naming Sib but hitting Bb :-\

Scales are embedded in my music-brain and I construct the chords form these at  reasonable pace, then look for Ab, C, Eb, G somewhere on the keyboard. Common chords I learned long ago.

Yes I know that's not Morris, there were saxophones in the room. I got my revenge 'cos the "break" was in G 8). The "song"? I let them sight read, then picked it up by ear. A right mix, eh?

Can't concur with Squeezy that learning other methods is wrong and bad for your ear. Doing just that has been enriching for me. I have however observed many people struggle with an unscored tune, the other way. Some find it impossible.

This suggests that there is some sort of "mapping" happening. I've mapped dot to note, and note to press. A true sight reader has achieved dot to "hit". Musical Nirvana, but not somewhere I've been
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Nick Collis Bird on October 04, 2013, 09:49:07 AM
I eventually got to the point, that if you can hum it I can play it.
I really really tried hard to learn music, but being a mathematical thing I found it impossible. :'(
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Open_G on October 04, 2013, 09:51:28 AM
My method seems simple enough in my head but thinking it through it suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

I learnt to read music playing the guitar- and guitarists are notoriously bad sight readers, and that transfers to my melodeon playing.

I sit with a tune in front of me, and tap out the dots in rhythm, before I ever touch the box. This gives me a feel of the tune and how it's written down to sound.
I am also far more comfortable with reading/knowing the notes on the G row (I have no idea why this is as I can cross row pretty effectively by feel- or ear, but the link between the D row and the dots has never really made it's way from inner to outer row in my mess of a brain)
From this I will construct the tune on one row, using the dots and rhythm, later adding in cross rows where it seems to be more efficient and suit the tune.

I must add that I am perfectly comfortable to pick up a tune by ear- get it in the head, and the fingers will teach themselves
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Anahata on October 04, 2013, 10:40:47 AM
Can't concur with Squeezy that learning other methods is wrong and bad for your ear.

Unless I've missed something, I think he said said it was "hard" - that's not the same as "wrong"

My observation of others with a natural quick ear is the same - how are you ever going to make yourself learn to read a tune from the dots if you already know it having heard it once? It can be done, but you have to force yourself to work your way though books of tunes you don't know, and it takes a long time before you get the satisfaction of playing any of it remotely well so it's not much fun. (= won't happen)

Conversely I don't believe anyone has a natural talent for sight reading - those who can read music well are, like myself, those who struggle to remember a tune a minute after they've heard it, even for the 20th time, so they've simply had to learn to read in order to be able to play anything at all.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: David J on October 04, 2013, 11:53:43 AM
Mostly by ear, but I can read the dots though really only use them as a storage medium. Drawback of playing by ear is that it's easy to omit the detail of a tune.

Steve
Agree, it's very easy to get sloppy once you think you've 'got' a tune, especially if you adopt one of your regular keyboard shortcuts which just happens to fit the tune. Guilty as charged on several occasions.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: squeezy on October 04, 2013, 11:55:31 AM
Can't concur with Squeezy that learning other methods is wrong and bad for your ear.
Unless I've missed something, I think he said said it was "hard" - that's not the same as "wrong"

I definitely didn't say that anything was wrong!  I said:

Quote from: Squeezy
By Ear only here ... I think once you get the knack then allowing any other method to also succeed is very hard indeed.

Which I admit was not the most clear of sentences.  But what I meant was for me, because I started by ear - then it was hard to succeed at any other methods because I kept going back to the old tried and trusted method I knew.  I was also inferring that I think similar forces are at work in the other direction too.

Cheers

Squeezy

Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Chris Ryall on October 04, 2013, 11:57:58 AM
Apologies to Squeezy there, think my coffee hadn't absorbed! What's emerging though is that the music brain process wants to go one way or the other, doesn't really like us mixing them?

Quite the opposite from anahata, whom I regard as a "proper" musician. As a younger man I took up several songs having heard them once. Often there'd be scribbled notes on a beer mat wrt words, but that was it. Nowadays we have mudcat for that.

The sweet spot is to do both of course. Guess I need to sit down for a week and practice. As with Steve's post (just landed above!) it is best to go back to dots source at least once in the process, my neurones try to simplify too,  and in that you lose something.

red bar, Squeezy this time think we've agreed that nothing is "wrong" ;), now I really need to hit "post"
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: squeezy on October 04, 2013, 12:16:10 PM
Mostly by ear, but I can read the dots though really only use them as a storage medium. Drawback of playing by ear is that it's easy to omit the detail of a tune.

Steve
Agree, it's very easy to get sloppy once you think you've 'got' a tune, especially if you adopt one of your regular keyboard shortcuts which just happens to fit the tune. Guilty as charged on several occasions.

But ... you're not guilty of anything! 

Trad tunes have been written down by collectors or compilers and if they've written down a particular flourish or ornament from that player then it becomes fossilised in that form as part of the tune according to that source.  By allowing your head to simplify the tunes you are simply doing what has been done with non-read music forever ... getting the basic essence of the tune embedded in there - and hopefully putting a bit of yourself in to the tune as well once you get on and practice it a lot. 

If it were in any way wrong to simplify, mis-remember, and add to any tune - then the tradition would be so much poorer.  Think how all those lovely little variations of the cotswold morris tunes change as you move between village traditions.

Have a look at the second half of this youtube clip of Joe Derrane (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVEXNj95Ls4&feature=youtu.be&t=2m14s) playing a set of hornpipes.  It's an amazing thing indeed - I know these tunes and he's missing out about half of the notes that I have seen written down for them ... and because he has done that the most amazing music and flourishes is put in it's place by a very great player.  If players always thought it was wrong to omit the detail of the tunes they've seen written down then music this brilliant would never be created!

Oh no ... I appear to have had another opinion!
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: pikey on October 04, 2013, 12:19:12 PM
Obviously written music has enormous value in providing a record of thousands of tunes; a slight downside is that it also tends to fossilise tunes in a particular version which comes to be accepted as "correct", and (some) players then strive to play it note-for-note EXACTLY as written, and slight variations when playing in the company of other musicians may attract a disapproving glance.  I've never been told "You're playing that wrong", but "That's an interesting variant" can mean exactly that!

Graham

Its just as bad as learning a tune by ear precisely from an old recording - I know of one fiddle player who even reproduces the scratches in the record  ;)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Open_G on October 04, 2013, 12:24:01 PM
Reminds me of seeing the guitar music for Alberta from Eric Clapton's unplugged album- For those that don't know it, Eric starts to play, realises he's still wearing his slide from a previous song, and removes it before starting again.

The music is written exactly as it happened, even including the "Hang on, Hang on" and "remove slide" in the the briefing notes beneath the music.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: GPS on October 04, 2013, 12:28:20 PM
If it were in any way wrong to simplify, mis-remember, and add to any tune - then the tradition would be so much poorer.  Think how all those lovely little variations of the cotswold morris tunes change as you move between village traditions.

I couldn't agree more. See, we DO need an "Agree" button!

Graham
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: malcolmbebb on October 04, 2013, 12:49:53 PM

Trad tunes have been written down by collectors or compilers and if they've written down a particular flourish or ornament from that player then it becomes fossilised in that form as part of the tune according to that source. 

Yes - it's how it was played on that day, by that musician.
I guess some ornamentation fits so well it becomes absorbed into the tune. But there have been occasions when I've struggled to get my fingers around a group of notes, only to discover later that they were just some bloke's favourite twiddle and the tune actually sounds better with something much more simple.
Quote
Oh no ... I appear to have had another opinion!
... and it's only Friday!
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: deltasalmon on October 04, 2013, 01:14:45 PM

But what I meant was for me, because I started by ear - then it was hard to succeed at any other methods because I kept going back to the old tried and trusted method I knew.  I was also inferring that I think similar forces are at work in the other direction too.

Cheers

Squeezy

I agree with this but in my case the opposite. I think it's a common problem for people who learned other styles of music that come to trad that they're so used to learning music by reading sheet music that learning by ear is more difficult. It's been a challenge for me when learning a new tune to not get frustrated and just look up the ABC on thesession.org
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Anahata on October 04, 2013, 01:32:49 PM
It's been a challenge for me when learning a new tune to not get frustrated and just look up the ABC on thesession.org

Then you can't make your mind up whether the printed version or the heard version is the right* one.
"A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure"

Been there, done that  :|bl

*FSVO (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=FSVO) "right"
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Steve_freereeder on October 04, 2013, 03:20:11 PM
It's been a challenge for me when learning a new tune to not get frustrated and just look up the ABC on thesession.org

Then you can't make your mind up whether the printed version or the heard version is the right* one.
"A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure"
I've got it written on a bit of paper....   ;D
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: GPS on October 04, 2013, 03:59:42 PM
It's been a challenge for me when learning a new tune to not get frustrated and just look up the ABC on thesession.org

Then you can't make your mind up whether the printed version or the heard version is the right* one.
"A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure"
I've got it written on a bit of paper....   ;D

 ;D ;D ;D
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Sage Herb on October 04, 2013, 04:48:51 PM
Mostly by ear, but I can read the dots though really only use them as a storage medium. Drawback of playing by ear is that it's easy to omit the detail of a tune.

Steve
Agree, it's very easy to get sloppy once you think you've 'got' a tune, especially if you adopt one of your regular keyboard shortcuts which just happens to fit the tune. Guilty as charged on several occasions.

But ... you're not guilty of anything! 

Trad tunes have been written down by collectors or compilers and if they've written down a particular flourish or ornament from that player then it becomes fossilised in that form as part of the tune according to that source.  By allowing your head to simplify the tunes you are simply doing what has been done with non-read music forever ... getting the basic essence of the tune embedded in there - and hopefully putting a bit of yourself in to the tune as well once you get on and practice it a lot. 

If it were in any way wrong to simplify, mis-remember, and add to any tune - then the tradition would be so much poorer.  Think how all those lovely little variations of the cotswold morris tunes change as you move between village traditions.

Indeed the tradition would be poorer without some of the changes made by musicians on the fly. And indeed some of of those beneficial changes are simplifications - Pete Coe is one instance of a musician with a very fine sense of when to omit unnecessary clutter from a melody line. But it's not a one-way street - some simplifications impoverish the melody. I should add that I don't mean to elevate a detailed melody line above every other aspect of the music - as dance musician, I'd prefer to get the rhythm right, and as a song accompanist I'd prefer not to get in the way of the words.
cheers
Steve
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Chris Ryall on October 04, 2013, 05:10:53 PM
I'm reminded of "bear dance" which in Britain has a whole B phrase simplified to a dull repetition, whereas it has fresh tune in the Belgian original. Clearly something someone liked at a Festival and brought back (Dave Roberts?). The simpler version is now encased in sessional concrete, though I think we may all be the poorer for that.

Anyone else have examples? I'd agree with Steve - songs don't matter much. No one is listening to you anyway.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: squeezy on October 04, 2013, 07:22:29 PM
Indeed the tradition would be poorer without some of the changes made by musicians on the fly. And indeed some of of those beneficial changes are simplifications - Pete Coe is one instance of a musician with a very fine sense of when to omit unnecessary clutter from a melody line. But it's not a one-way street - some simplifications impoverish the melody.

Of course that's also true - but then you'd be taking out bits that are at the heart of a tune.

Luckily the oral tradition has a habit of conveniently forgetting those poorer modifications as people only remember and play good tunes.

The fuzzy grey area that defines where one considers the heart of the tune to lie is the bit that I really enjoy listening to the diversity in different people's interpretations ... and it's where I find the most fun in my own explorations to lie.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: pikey on October 04, 2013, 10:46:08 PM
Can't concur with Squeezy that learning other methods is wrong and bad for your

Conversely I don't believe anyone has a natural talent for sight reading

I'm lucky, I do. I learned to sight read aged 7, and can do it on any instrument. But I know that lots of people aren't as lucky as me.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Pete Dunk on October 04, 2013, 10:58:34 PM
No, contraception.  ;D

Contra dance tunes? Can't be doing with that!

I'm a reader and would expect to play 80% of a new Mally book of "Fred Blogg's English Selection" at a modest tempo correctly but without expression first time through. The other 20% would consist of tunes in 3/2 and 6/4, tunes with tied notes across bar lines (hemiolas. Oh yes I know what they're called but they always throw me) and that absolute rubbish in written in 7/8 and 5/4 and all that jazz!  :|glug
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on October 05, 2013, 11:38:42 AM
I've got into the habit of combining the both to try and resolve those difficult passages we all encounter in tunes. I often sit with dots in front of me listening to the track or YouTube vid. I then either work out how to play the tricky bit, or.... Realise that the dots don't sound right because that's not how people are playing it
As Pikey says, some things I'm not sure of when reading dots, but the basic tune is there.

Early in the thread Ollie touched on something - basic sight reading is only counting up to 8, or multiples thereof and applying a couple of rules for keys etc.y. I know on the box which is the G button, and which is the D button, then I count!
I'm now ok on the first octave, but recently have used the knee end  more for the tunes I'm learning so employ this method.
Here we are, discussing such things using a method ( discussions on a forum on the web ) that would terrify some non computer users. Basic dot reading is just applying a fairly simple thing that improves the more you practice it.... Bit like melodeon playing!
( puts on tin hat and seeks shelter behind the parapet )
Q
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: ButtonBox21 on October 05, 2013, 12:55:57 PM
I learn primarily by ear. I can read sheet music but I must hear the tune first. The sheet music gives me the correct notes and as I listen to the song, I follow along with the sheet music. Usually in a short time I have memorized the music and then play from memory. On other tunes, I simply learn by ear using the Amazing Slowdownder. :||: :|||:
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Pete Dunk on October 06, 2013, 11:18:22 AM
Early in the thread Ollie touched on something - basic sight reading is only counting up to 8, or multiples thereof and applying a couple of rules for keys etc.

I couldn't remember seeing that so I've just scrolled through all four pages of the thread twice and can't find a single post from Ollie. Is this a post from someone who's name is Ollie that uses a different username?
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Chris Ryall on October 06, 2013, 11:26:07 AM
I saw that post, and wondered, but our excellent search facility merely wondered why I wanted to search for a single letter "8"  ::) but never mind. Nor was there anything on an Ollie profile search.

People do delete posts, especially if they don't read quite right next day and no one has responded ?
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: boxer on October 06, 2013, 12:40:56 PM
For me, learning an IT dance tune is a staged process.  I first have to get the tune into memory so that I can recall all or part of it at will. For that, ear or sheet music will work, but for detail, the dots are essential.

The hard (and longer) bit is translating the tune into fingering patterns that, when hard-wired, will enable me to phrase the tune as I wish, at the speed I wish to play it.  In this second stage a process of trial and error develops the fingering patterns.  It's easy to tap out the notes slowly and deliberately without any kind of planning, but the keying and breathing of the box (I play B/C) make an intuitive approach pointless in most cases.  I have worked out a number of rules that help me to get more quickly to what I want, but, of course, on B/C, you can't be absolutely sure of anything until you've tried the whole tune at the right speed.

For most of the tunes I play, even ones I've played for years, the fingering seems to continue to evolve and improve, long after I've found the first decent working pattern.   
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on October 06, 2013, 12:44:36 PM
Agh .... It looks like it might not have been in this thread.
Old blokie's memory syndrome. Abject apologies to those referring back and to Ollie for attributing a quote that didn't happen.

Somewhere recently, there was a discussion about sight reading, or thread drift to that effect.
I was thinking about that when I posted, ( assuming in error it was this thread) but trying to make the point that simple recognition of notes from dots and transferring that to the keyboard is relatively easy.
That's all I'm capable of doing, and it does help me identify runs of fast notes or those that trip up my ear.
Sorry to have confused.....

Boxer's come into this as I type, and agree on his point about dots and detail
Q
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Ollie on October 07, 2013, 11:34:39 PM
Wasn't me, m'lud, honest.  ::) You're getting old, Quint.   ;)

I use both. I've been reading music since the age of 4, so it comes second nature to me. Usually, if I play a tune from sheet music for about 15-20 minutes solid, it's committed to my (at least short term) memory. I've learnt a fair few tunes that way, and they tend to stay there. They have more of a chance of staying there if I can keep the tune in my head.

I'm slowly starting to become more competent at picking up tunes by ear. I'm not great at it in sessions, but can usually get something from a recording, as long as it isn't too fast or complex. My method of doing this is many, many repeated listenings. I usually listen to a tune 10-15 times before even touching the box. Then I try and play what my brain thinks is the tune, and see how far I get. If I have to, I'll go back to certain sections of the recording and make sure I'm getting it correct. One thing I rarely do is to try to play along with the recording until I'm fairly secure in what I'm playing.

Both methods are a means to the same end - to get the tune in my head, which is what it's all about really. Learning tunes for me isn't about memorising where my fingers go on the keyboard, it's about being able to hum the tune back to myself, really internalising the tune. That way, I can play it on another instrument if necessary, or (within reason) change key. As long as it's firmly in my head, I'm usually fine, and I don't really mind how it gets there.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: pikey on October 08, 2013, 08:12:31 AM
Wasn't me, m'lud, honest.  ::) You're getting old, Quint.   ;)

I use both. I've been reading music since the age of 4, so it comes second nature to me. Usually, if I play a tune from sheet music for about 15-20 minutes solid, it's committed to my (at least short term) memory. I've learnt a fair few tunes that way, and they tend to stay there. They have more of a chance of staying there if I can keep the tune in my head.

I'm slowly starting to become more competent at picking up tunes by ear. I'm not great at it in sessions, but can usually get something from a recording, as long as it isn't too fast or complex. My method of doing this is many, many repeated listenings. I usually listen to a tune 10-15 times before even touching the box. Then I try and play what my brain thinks is the tune, and see how far I get. If I have to, I'll go back to certain sections of the recording and make sure I'm getting it correct. One thing I rarely do is to try to play along with the recording until I'm fairly secure in what I'm playing.

Both methods are a means to the same end - to get the tune in my head, which is what it's all about really. Learning tunes for me isn't about memorising where my fingers go on the keyboard, it's about being able to hum the tune back to myself, really internalising the tune. That way, I can play it on another instrument if necessary, or (within reason) change key. As long as it's firmly in my head, I'm usually fine, and I don't really mind how it gets there.

Same here. Listen to new tunes over and over again. Some stick straight away though eg Gallant Smiths the Fireman, and I can play them in the session for the third time through. Maybe that's the measure of a great tune ?

The strange thing is that I can pick up tunes by ear more quickly on my banjo mandolin than I can on my melodeon's. Despite playing thousands more hours on melodeon than on the banjo.

It might be because I started as a cello player, or is it the power of the banjo   ;)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Howard Jones on October 08, 2013, 09:03:46 AM

Learning tunes for me isn't about memorising where my fingers go on the keyboard, it's about being able to hum the tune back to myself, really internalising the tune. That way, I can play it on another instrument if necessary, or (within reason) change key. As long as it's firmly in my head, I'm usually fine, and I don't really mind how it gets there.

Me too, although I do it by ear.  Because that's how I learned to play right from the start, I've never really got around to fixing in my memory what the individual buttons are called.  It's also why I've never managed to learn to play from the dots. despite making the occasional attempt - I can start to pick a tune out slowly and with a lot of counting, but as soon as I start to get my head around the tune I find I'm playing from instinct rather than reading from the dots  That means that my mental process for finding the right button is unrelated to what I'm reading off the page, and I just can't make that connection. 

Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: boxer on October 08, 2013, 12:34:20 PM
same for me with the banjo.  I can pick a straightforward tune up in seconds on tenor banjo or any other fifth tuned stringed instrument.  Of course fingering isn't an issue - there's no scope for ambiguity or alternatives on banjo, at least as far as fretting goes.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on October 08, 2013, 07:32:34 PM
Ollie: I think I washed the final brain cell away with all that free beer the other weekend!
I'm not old.... My birth certificate's just wrong, that's all  ::)
..... And less of the old you young whippersnapper  :D

Anyway.... The rest of your post makes total sense and I tend to work along similar lines.
Q
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Mystery Jig on October 08, 2013, 10:01:26 PM
Dots are too abstract for my brain. I learn by ear on every instrument I play -- and also by watching. Almost everything I know about melodeon, which I've been playing for a year now, I've picked up by watching (and listening) to melnetter's YouTube videos.

Thanks!  ;)
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Thrupenny Bit on October 09, 2013, 06:42:00 PM
Dunlustin:
I think by ear is sometimes the only way.
I listened to one of JK' bonkers tunes ( April Fool ) on the way home in the car. Somewhere I have the dots for this, and it changes time signatures all over the place. The only way I'd end up playing it is by constant listening and trying to repeat it.
I take the point that if it's a large musical score, this becomes unmanageable, but for us playing traditional tunes ( relatively short ) at times it's the only way.
Interesting points though,
Q
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: pikey on October 09, 2013, 11:14:10 PM
So what are the limits on learning by ear?
I see how it works with 2 * 8bars but how about last month's TOTM (Sous le Ciel) or longer?
Ragtime for example often comes in 3 sections with a couple of key changes and the whole thing spread over 2 pages.
How would this work with a song? Would you listen to it over and over or write down the words and then memorise them?
What about unfamiliar keys - do you need to be able to hum/whistle a tune before you can memorise it?
This whole business has interested me for years. For me, being able to read the dots makes unfamiliar stuff more accessible but I think it's only once it is memorised that it really gets musical.
But I find it quite an effort to bypass the dots if that's how I learnt a tune.

I used to do Opera, and used the same approach for any solo parts, including some very challenging and long early 20th century stuff :

1) Use my sight reading skills to play the notes on my guitar , and record them.
2) listen to it as many times as I could, over and over again whilst driving to work
3) sing along with it once the tune stuck in my head
4) once in thought I knew it, sing with the sound turned off , then play it back to see if I'd got it right

The same technique works for learning new melodeon tunes from the dots, although mostly I learn tunes I've recorded in sessions
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Jack Campin on October 10, 2013, 12:31:43 AM
Quote from: Anahata
I've been told that John Clare "collected" some of his tunes by sneaking into the local bookshop when a new tunebook was in and copying them into his notebook.

I recently read (on a different forum and I forget where) about somebody who went one better than that.  He was a professional in the Fifties at some genre like pier-end Wurlitzer shows, where you needed to know everything in the current pop repertoire and be able to play it on request.  Buying sheet music or recordings for all that could get expensive.  So this guy used to prowl the music shops for the hit sheets just released, pull them out of the display, read them, memorize them on the spot and practice the day's haul when he got home.
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Howard Jones on October 10, 2013, 08:55:14 AM
For, and I suspect many others, the important thing is to listen to the tune a lot until it is firmly stuck in my head. Once I can sing it, I can play it - my fingers know where to find the right buttons, even if I couldn't tell what the notes are called.  That's not to say that a tune doesn't then need to be worked on, to find the best fingering combinations and bass chords, and work out tricky phrases that don't immediately fall under the fingers.  I might use the dots as an aide-memoire or to confirm how a tricky but goes. However the real key to it is being able to sing the tune.

The big disadvantage of not playing from dots is that I can't trawl through tune books for new material - when I do I'm usually attracted to unusual titles rather than the melody because I can't read the latter off the page.  I usually have to have heard a tune somewhere and then go to the dots for confirmation. 
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: Chris Ryall on October 10, 2013, 09:20:35 AM
Singing is the thing for me too. I suspect it depends on one's journey. In my case I was singing in clubs from 1969, only took up melodeon 1984, Stéf Milleret showed me you could do it from dots in about 1994, that was actually quite a surprise!
Title: Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
Post by: RogerT on October 10, 2013, 12:03:50 PM
So what are the limits on learning by ear?
I see how it works with 2 * 8bars but how about last month's TOTM (Sous le Ciel) or longer?
Ragtime for example often comes in 3 sections with a couple of key changes and the whole thing spread over 2 pages.
How would this work with a song? Would you listen to it over and over or write down the words and then memorise them?
What about unfamiliar keys - do you need to be able to hum/whistle a tune before you can memorise it?
This whole business has interested me for years. For me, being able to read the dots makes unfamiliar stuff more accessible but I think it's only once it is memorised that it really gets musical.
But I find it quite an effort to bypass the dots if that's how I learnt a tune.

I used to do Opera, and used the same approach for any solo parts, including some very challenging and long early 20th century stuff :

1) Use my sight reading skills to play the notes on my guitar , and record them.
2) listen to it as many times as I could, over and over again whilst driving to work
3) sing along with it once the tune stuck in my head
4) once in thought I knew it, sing with the sound turned off , then play it back to see if I'd got it right

The same technique works for learning new melodeon tunes from the dots, although mostly I learn tunes I've recorded in sessions

There is a bloke in his twenties, lives just down the road, parents both musicians, has perfect pitch himself, works on a farm as a tractor driver, but is able to learn big classical piano pieces by ear - and perform them (e.g. at the Anvil in Basingstoke). His Rachmaninov is pretty good... so his scope for learning by ear is prodigious to say the least.
Funny thing is: I lent him my PA and he struggled with the bellows and gave it back, bemused.