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Author Topic: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music  (Read 9586 times)

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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #80 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
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Ollie

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #81 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.
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pikey

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #82 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   ;)
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Howard Jones

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #83 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. 

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #84 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.
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #85 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.
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #86 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!  ;)
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #87 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,
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #88 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
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Jack Campin

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #89 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.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 12:37:29 AM by Jack Campin »
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Howard Jones

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #90 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. 

Chris Ryall

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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #91 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!
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Re: Do you learn by ear or off sheet music
« Reply #92 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.
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