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Author Topic: "I don't trust myself"  (Read 4105 times)

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arty

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"I don't trust myself"
« on: May 02, 2014, 07:48:05 PM »

I bought my first melodeon exactly 2 years ago. I met Mike Rowbotham while spending 3 months in Cornwall and he invited me to his home, where he showed me his melodeons and explained to me what he did. He played a few tunes for me and there and then I fell in love with the sound and the music he was playing. I don't think I had ever knowingly heard a melodeon before. I left his place with a Pre-Pokerwork C/F because it sounded wonderful. I remember asking him how long it would take me to play like him and he said, 'if you work hard, about 2 years'.

Well, 2 years have passed, I have worked hard and I still can't play like him.

In one way I am doing ok. I have learnt my way around the instrument fairly well and I can play quite a few tunes. I have joined in with my local session a couple of times too. The second time I had a really good time despite making lots of mistakes. Every now and again, I have a practice session with a whistle player and that helps a lot.

In another way, I feel inadequate. Mostly it is because I always have to have the written music in front of me. Even when I am practising at home on my own, I feel a sense of panic almost, if the music is not there. As a consequence, my playing always sounds stilted - I am just playing the notes. I recognise that now.

I am 65 years old now and I have always been involved with music, classical music - I played the oboe from the age of 11 until I was 42. I also played classical guitar and CBA for a few years. I have never, ever enjoyed playing an instrument as much as I enjoy the melodeon! And I have never, ever enjoyed the music I am playing as much as I do now!  But I want to get better.

Then, some one sent me a link to this little video on You Tube and I think the answer to my problem is in this film. I just don't trust myself.

Tomorrow, I am not going to look at the music for the tunes I already know and I am going to start learning from my heart. Wish me luck! I thought I would share this for anyone else in the same position:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL9k2pTFYrE
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Sage Herb

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2014, 08:06:05 PM »

Sounds a good strategy to me - play from the heart, and good luck.

cheers
Steve
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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2014, 08:12:33 PM »

Somebody told me a story recently, about some friends of theirs in a band. The band lost a lead musician. They recruited a fiddler. She was a good player, but classically trained and always played from the music. Oh no! the band weren't having that: she'll have to learn her tunes properly and play without the music. She did, and it took a while, and after one of her first gigs with the band without the dots, she let slip this gem:

"do you know, that's the first time I've ever actually listened to what the other musicians were doing while I was playing!"

I don't know what your experience will be like. It may well be hard work, but I'm sure you'll find it rewarding, and you may learn new things about listening to and playing music. Have fun, and good luck!
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malcolmbebb

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2014, 08:23:08 PM »

Blimey Louie Louie - 1965 Kinks "they can't sing" LOL! There's hope for me, then, I can't sing either! But they were a bit younger then.


Good move. I don't play by ear. The dots have a job to do. They tell you (roughly) what notes to play and (roughly) what order to play them.

Don't know what tunes you play, but find the dots for tunes you like. The tune will be in your head. Then play from the dots, a few bars at a time, then repeat without reading from the page while it's fresh in your mind. It's easier with tunes you know. It will take a few goes to get each bit right, some will fall into place, some will take ages.

After a while you'll just be using the dots for an aide memoire.

Suggest you work in short bursts, do something else in between, do a bit, come back. Apparently that works better for older players. It works better for me than just keeping on and on at one tune, and I'm not far behind you.  8)
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malcolmbebb

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2014, 08:24:12 PM »

When I saw "I don't trust myself" my first thought was another MAD sufferer on Ebay ;D
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Mike Carney

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2014, 09:05:47 PM »

Go for it! You are right, it is about having faith in yourself. The notation is good for getting to know the tune and discovering how it can be played, but reading it while playing is definitely not the same as knowing the tune and bringing it out in your playing, through your fingers. You will find, I think, that you have internalized far more than you thought.
Mike  :D
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Chris Ryall

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2014, 09:15:37 PM »

I recall Mike Hirst calling at me "stop thinking about it!" when leading a tune at Chester FF 1990. Excellent advice, and something that moved me on …  to playing from the heart. For me that's usually "by ear" but if you like dot, the same applies.

Yes, listening too! See the thread on being a good player (:)
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arty

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2014, 09:23:23 PM »

Thank you for your encouragement everyone. I actually feel excited about starting this tomorrow. I will start with the tunes I already know and can play from the dots. I'll let you know how I get on.

Thanks for the quote Anahata, I can connect with what that violinist was saying. And thanks for your advice malcolmbebb, that all makes sense. I have internalised a lot Mike - it's strange, everyday while I am working I whistle the tunes that I have learnt but when I get home to practice, out comes the music!

Playing from the heart - that's feeling the music, listening to myself playing the tune instead of just reading it.

Thanks all.
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Mystery Jig

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2014, 03:33:56 AM »

Think of yourself as an actor in a play. You rehearse with the script in hand for a while. But you eventually have to go "off book." In the rehearsals right after that you may have to call "line" and get a prompt or two, but that's natural. The real acting, the real storytelling, can only start when you don't have the script in hand because when you do, you're just reading out loud.

I think it's the same with music. When you leave the score behind and really internalize the melody and bass hands, then you're playing music from the heart.
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AirTime

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2014, 04:02:13 AM »

Arty, if it makes you feel any better, I (and I'm guessing a number of other players) have precisely the opposite problem. No classical training, I play strictly "by ear". The melodeon definitely lends itself to this, as it is a simple, rhythmically-based instrument. I suspect playing by ear does lend itself to easy initial progress, but there are significant drawbacks. Picking up new tunes without dots can be challenging at times, & as one's repertoire increases, it becomes harder & harder to remember tunes that were earlier committed to memory - it's quite frustrating.

I can't quite imagine myself being in your predicament, but I can't help feeling that having the ability to read & play from music will be of great assistance as you progress & that if you work to break your reliance on the dots, you will end up with the best of both worlds!
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Marje

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2014, 08:37:24 AM »

Like othere here, I think you're making a good decision and have nothing to lose by trying a few tunes by ear. It may take a while to learn to trust yourself without a written prompt, but if you can do it, you'll be one of the privileged group who can play both by ear and from written music - many completent muisicans can't do both.

You may find there are things you have to try hard to forget about. You don't need to know the letter-name of each note you play, of where it falls on the staff. You do, however, need to have the tune - both rhythm and melody - in your head as you start to play, and be aware of things like repeats, big jumps, little runs and other familiar patterns. Anything you learn in one tune is likely to help when you learn others, so it gets easier.

Although I am musically literate, I don't use written dots much for the melodeon. I use written music to learn, store and retrieve tunes, but not generally to play. At the moment, however, a group of us are working on a project which we need to have the music for, as it's too long and complicated to memorise, but I'm finding that I still need to get familiar enough to play most of it by ear. One harmony line that I have to play was a bit of a struggle for me until I tried playing it with my eyes closed, and then it all fell into place! So I'll use the written music to remind me of the shape of the tunes and what happens next, but I'll eventually trust my brain and hands to play what I know is there.

Start with something you know really well and can play confidently. And do let us know how it goes!
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GPS

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2014, 08:44:14 AM »

Blimey Louie Louie - 1965 Kinks "they can't sing" LOL! There's hope for me, then, I can't sing either! But they were a bit younger then.
Quote

Pedant Alert - The Kingsmen, not The Kinks.  ;)

Actually I've just remembered - The Kinks DID do a cover version a year or two after the original - apologies!!

G
« Last Edit: May 03, 2014, 08:58:26 AM by GPS »
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arty

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2014, 09:24:55 AM »

Thank you everybody for your interest and help. I particularly like the analogy of being an actor in a play. I shall use the written music to learn new tunes and then learn the music by heart as soon as possible, probably phrase by phrase. Hopefully then, I can put a 'bit of me' into the tune and make it sound more alive  as Mike Rowbotham demonstrated when he played for me. I will also listen to recorded music more, with the aim of becoming so familiar with it that I can hum along. I have Anahata's CD - maybe that will be a good place to start. It's a shame that there aren't more good CD's of English music played on the melodeon.

As the teacher says in the film, I want it to become fun and not just a learning exercise.
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malcolmbebb

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2014, 09:47:42 AM »

Blimey Louie Louie - 1965 Kinks "they can't sing" LOL! There's hope for me, then, I can't sing either! But they were a bit younger then.

Pedant Alert - The Kingsmen, not The Kinks.  ;)

Actually I've just remembered - The Kinks DID do a cover version a year or two after the original - apologies!!

G
LOL Been straightened out on that - and I do have the Kinks version, somewhere, which IIRC is a very close copy  (:)
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Rob2Hook

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2014, 12:48:03 PM »

Whilst the acting analogy is useful, it's not quite the same as the classical music equivalent!  Anyone attending a performance of a concerto must surely notice that the orchestra will play from the score, although they could probably manage without.  But they have been rehearsed by the conductor to reproduce his interpretation of the piece.  The soloist, however plays from memory (not "by ear" - I'm pretty sure they will have learnt from the score!).  This is generally accepted as allowing the soloist greater expression - they've learnt the piece thoroughly and can work against the accompaniment of the orchestra. 

Similarly, when a player is playing for dance, or indeed playing anything, then playing from memory frees one from the proscribed score with it's implied fixed rhythm and phrasing.  Most simple, folk derived tunes are annotated very simply without any indication of how it is to be played - hornpipes aren't even written as synchopated.  Like many others, I tend to learn tunes from CDs of mostly dance bands and play them in the car until I can confidently whistle the tune unaided.  The same level of learning is fine from the manuscript, but that doesn't give you interpretive help - on the other hand, it means you don't learn someone else's interpretation.  Typically leading into each phrase, adding ornamentation and perhaps shifting emphasis around (some tunes will allow considerable abuse).

Whichever way you learn the tune, there is a leap of faith where you first play from memory and it's still part of the practice regime.  It's not that uncommon for the learnt tune to be just slightly different from the source material, but I don't often admit to that!  Consider however that baroque concertos were originally written almost shorthand and left considerable scope for the soloist to do his own thing.  I seem to recall that Mozart wrote every note for the Horn Concertos, which was unusual, to make it more difficult for his "friend" to play.  I've got friends like that...

Rob.

P.S.  There are many CDs of English trad music, but you are unlikely to find them in mainstream music shops.  Many bands do their own recordings and sell the CDs at gigs and from their own websites, with the unfortunate consequence that when the band breaks up the recording goes out of print.  There are a few specialist distributors and some of their output is now seen on Amazon.
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Anahata

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2014, 12:54:40 PM »

It's almost as if music as heard and music as read are two quite separate languages. A bit like Chinese, where the written language is not remotely phonetic, which means that someone can learn to read and understand Chinese without being able to speak or understand a word of the spoken language, and of course vice versa.

Not quite the same, because a "by ear" player and a dots-reader can play the same tune and you'll recognise it either way, but the point is that you have to learn both skills. Obviously reading music has to be taught, but playing by ear also has to be learned, though people have to a greater or lesser extent some natural ability to do that.
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Anahata

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2014, 01:28:12 PM »

baroque concertos were originally written almost shorthand and left considerable scope for the soloist to do his own thing.  I seem to recall that Mozart wrote every note for the Horn Concertos, which was unusual, to make it more difficult for his "friend" to play.  I've got friends like that...

In baroque music, solo parts were written out, but ornamentation was left to the player. The accompaniment, though, was often written in a musical shorthand called figured bass, consisting of a bass line and numbers indicating what harmonies were expected, but up to the player to figure out how to play the chords, and even up to the performers to decide what instruments to use.

In Mozart's time, concerto solo parts were mostly written out, but cadenzas were often left to the performer. Occasionally the composer would write out a cadenza. You are perhaps thinking of Mozart's 1st Horn concerto, which was written without a cadenza, and dedicated with many mock-insults to his friend Joseph Leutgeb.

(a cadenza is the part where the soloist plays alone, often in a very improvisatory style, before the orchestra comes crashing in with a brief recapitulation to end the movement. Some soloists actually improvised cadenzas on the spot, another thing that doesn't happen too much in classical music)
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Lyra

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2014, 10:38:28 PM »

I have the opposite problem, having gone back to playing in a concert band. Now find it really hard to follow the dots and actually found myself learning some of the trickier bits by ear. Not ever going to know whole pieces by ear though
We have a blind girl sits in front of me - I have absolutely no idea how she does it. (Yes I do - she has Braille scores, but how she remembers it all is beyond me). Mind, when we get it wrong the dog howls, which is hilarious.
Another blind friend came to Burwell and found the whole learning by ear thing "too hard".
Which kind of points up the difference between playing from memory and learning by ear. Although I'm not sure I could define it if pushed.
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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2014, 11:56:53 PM »

Quote
...so familiar with it that I can hum along.

That I think is the secret - if you can hum, sing or whistle it you should be able to play it. Start with some very simple tune/s,  nursery rhymes something you know by heart and work out where the notes fall - a few notes at a time, pretty soon it becomes easier.
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Lyra

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Re: "I don't trust myself"
« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2014, 01:23:35 AM »

My theory (which is mine) is that when you play from the dots you learn the notes. When you learn by ear you learn the intervals between them/shape of the tune. So, if I play from dots and someone gives me same tune written down in new key I struggle. If I learned it by ear I can play it in any key (not on melodeon, obviously) because I know how big the jump is to the next note, not what the next note is. Does that make any sense to anyone? So I have to NOT think about what note it is but how big the gap, and in which direction, to the next one. The only one I need to know is the first one.
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