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Author Topic: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music  (Read 9583 times)

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Chris Ryall

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #60 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"
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squeezy

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #61 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 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!
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #62 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  ;)
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #63 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.
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #64 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
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malcolmbebb

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #65 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.
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #66 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
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #67 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 "right"
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #68 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
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #69 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
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Sage Herb

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #70 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
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #71 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.
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squeezy

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #72 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.
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pikey

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #73 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.
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Pete Dunk

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #74 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
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #75 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!
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #76 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. :||: :|||:
« Last Edit: October 05, 2013, 12:57:50 PM by streetcleaner0 »
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #77 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?
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #78 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 ?
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #79 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.   
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