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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:43 am 
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After 3 months of daily practice from a tutorial book, I think I've reached the end of the beginning. I can play a few tunes note-perfect, double-tongue (the t and k sound for quick notes), slur and pick out grace notes.

One thing I haven't managed to pick up yet is music notation. I've been playing by ear and by fingering charts. I was hoping it would somehow magically happen if I learned the fingerings and looked at all the black dots, but it hasn't.

I'm also a bit weak on where the notes actually are if that makes sense - I'd find it difficult to play an accurate scale because of the way the fingering on the high, harder blown, notes is different than a simple progression of covering holes. I've started adding scales to my practice so hopefully, that will come with time.

However, the end of the (fairly short) book makes it clear that there's a lot more to learn. I'm not sure where best to pick things up from here. Ideally, I'd prefer to learn techniques rather than have another book of tunes, because I just want to play what I like to play, and I'm sure I can find music online if need be. Ideally, though, I'd also like it to be a structured approach where I can practice something, improve it, and move on to something harder.

Suggestions for books or websites welcome?


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:01 pm 
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You may already know of Brother Steve's Tin Whistle Page http://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/
This is an evergreen resource for beginners and others alike.
There is absolutely no compulsion to learn standard notation; 'the Dots'. Irish traditional Music, like most traditional music is primarily an aural tradition. Being a 'paper trained' musician was at first, at least for me, a crutch and in some ways a hindrance. Musical literacy isn't to be sneered at, but it doesn't take precedence over the immediacy of the aural tradition. If you can hear it in your mind's ear, then you can play it.

Bob

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:59 pm 
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Which tutorial book did you use? I'm new to the whistle myself (though I play other instruments) and have picked up quite a few books to compare. But being able to learn new tunes by ear is a really important skill, so it's good that you're developing that.

Reading from notation is certainly challenging at first, but as with everything, it will come with time and practice. You might try one of the free apps that can help you memorize the notes in treble clef. And then maybe purchase another tutorial that doesn't include fingering charts for each selection and learn the tunes purely by the notation. I'd recommend Cathal McConnell Teaches Pennywhistle : A Hands-On Course in Traditional Irish Repertoire and Technique which starts with simple beautiful melodies that were entirely new to me. But at the same time, don't stop learning new material simply by listening. There's a lot of subtlety to phrasing and rhythm that doesn't typically get notated.

As for learning technique--many of the tutorials address that in later chapters that I haven't got to yet. Personally, I'm going to pursue Mary Bergin's tutorials which have received glowing reviews here for the detailed presentation on technique. The two volumes (with a third supposedly coming, though it's been a few years) are expensive and only available new through her website: http://maryberginwhistle.com/purchase.html. But they sound like the next best thing to private lessons.

Good luck from a fellow beginner.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:03 pm 
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Another vote for Siamsa/Brother Steve. I think he has the simplest yet most comprehensive intro to whistle.

I would suggest trying all your tunes without any tonguing at all. You can add tonguing in later, but the effort to play cleanly with just finger-strikes will be very beneficial.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:32 am 
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an seanduine wrote:
You may already know of Brother Steve's Tin Whistle Page


Thanks: I'd come across it on Google, but I found it hard to find a structure to go through the resources. Perhaps I just didn't look hard enough. I'll take another peek and see.

JackJ wrote:
Which tutorial book did you use?


This one:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Instant-Whistl ... 1899512055

Thanks for the suggestions: don't think I'm quite ready to pay the price on those Mary Bergin books, much as I love her playing.

tstermitz wrote:
I would suggest trying all your tunes without any tonguing at all. You can add tonguing in later, but the effort to play cleanly with just finger-strikes will be very beneficial.


I have tried this, and I found the results pretty interesting. Often, I found that a lot of note transitions just didn't sound so pleasing without a break between them, even when I managed the fingering to make it smooth. That may be a consequence of what I'm playing, which is mostly melodies to traditional songs rather than dance tunes. Either way, it's a useful lesson on how easy it is to overdo ornamentation.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:11 am 
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mattthr wrote:

One thing I haven't managed to pick up yet is music notation.


Personally I don't think there's any need to learn standard music notation, if your goal is to play Irish Traditional Music. Most of the players I've known over the years, most of the really good ones, couldn't read a note.

Many use ABC notation.

Not that knowing Standard Notation is a bad thing! The more ways you can access music the better, I think.

It's not necessary, though, and when I have beginning students I ask them whether they would prefer to learn by ear, or with the addition of sheet music.

mattthr wrote:
I'd find it difficult to play an accurate scale because of the way the fingering on the high, harder blown, notes is different than a simple progression of covering holes.


Not sure what you mean, unless you're going up into the 3rd octave.

The traditional gamut of Irish whistles and flutes is from Bottom D up to B in the 2nd octave. There's little need to learn notes above that, well except for a small number of tunes that go up to High C.

About where to go, in my opinion it's about the music, the tunes, and playing with others.

So if Traditional Irish Music is the end goal, the next step would be to find a session within practical distance, start visiting it, and (with permission) start recording their tunes, so that you can learn them at home.

Yes you could get a list of tune names, but each session tends to have slightly different versions, and it's always best to learn the versions your local session plays.

Not until you have some of the tunes 100% learned so that you can play them at the session tempo and with good rhythm would I try moving from listener to player.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:27 am 
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mattthr wrote:
After 3 months of daily practice from a tutorial book, I think I've reached the end of the beginning. I can play a few tunes note-perfect, double-tongue (the t and k sound for quick notes), slur and pick out grace notes.

One thing I haven't managed to pick up yet is music notation. I've been playing by ear and by fingering charts. I was hoping it would somehow magically happen if I learned the fingerings and looked at all the black dots, but it hasn't.

I'm also a bit weak on where the notes actually are if that makes sense - I'd find it difficult to play an accurate scale because of the way the fingering on the high, harder blown, notes is different than a simple progression of covering holes. I've started adding scales to my practice so hopefully, that will come with time.

However, the end of the (fairly short) book makes it clear that there's a lot more to learn. I'm not sure where best to pick things up from here. Ideally, I'd prefer to learn techniques rather than have another book of tunes, because I just want to play what I like to play, and I'm sure I can find music online if need be. Ideally, though, I'd also like it to be a structured approach where I can practice something, improve it, and move on to something harder.

Suggestions for books or websites welcome?


It sounds good I hope! Everything you mentioned seems in right order. I have only been playing for five years, however, in 2016-2017 I took Mary Bergin's class at Catskill Irish Arts week and she suggested a very practical exercise. I asked her about the half-hole C natural and she told me that she employs a technique where you "play each note in the scale to the (1/2 hole) C natural" In other words: B>C, A>C, G>C, F#>C, E>C, D>C. Start slowly and focus on the sound/pitch, then work your way up to a normal pace, then faster, etc. When you have perfected this, use the same exercise for more complicated passages, for example tonguing a double-stop for the C natural. She told me that she practices this daily to stay sharp. Not C sharp, but sharp, as in focused.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:17 am 
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I haven't even started playing yet, so I can't tell how best to advance your playing. However, I just bought a book which I think does not live up to its description (which sounded very interesting to me): Stuart Esson's "Understanding the Tin Whistle", Melbay. The description promises "But what makes this book truly unique is the discussion of mnemonic techniques and analytical listening skills..." - well, the mnemonic technique consists in listening to a tune 100 times (and not using sheet music at all) and the analytical listening is based on an explanation of the structure if Irish dance tunes. Unfortunately knowing that 8 bars repeat doesn't tell me which notes to play in them... (and I have an extremely hard time remembering tunes without words - I have a visual/factual memory, not an aural one). I'm sure there's better books out there, but I don't know them.

But I do have tips for learning to read sheet music: There's apps for practicing (if you have a smartphone). I have Solfaread (for Android) which is French but offers do-re-mi or c-d-e... (I'm German - c-d-e, but had to learn the French system do-re-mi). Alternatively, without a smartphone, you can make little cards (index cards or similar) with a drawing of the note on one side and its name on the other side (only one note per card!) Then you look at one side, check whether you know the name (or the position of the dot if you looked at the name), if yes you put the card to the side, if no, you put it to the back of the stack to look at it again when you are through with the others. It's a technique borrowed from language (vocabulary) learning in pre-computer days, but I've also used it for stomach enzymes and hard disk specs....


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:43 am 
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the mnemonic technique consists in listening to a tune 100 times (and not using sheet music at all) and the analytical listening is based on an explanation of the structure if Irish dance tunes.


I don't know the book and I don't know if it's any good but this seems a basically sound way to approach the subject. Understanding the structure of Irish music and absorbing it by ear are the foundation of good playing.

Quote:
I have a visual/factual memory, not an aural one


The approach you quote would make a start developing the musical/memory skills you will need. Baby steps first but be realistic about the skills you need to develop: playing (Irish) music is not about learning strings of notes by heart and dismissing the approach offered out of hand is probably not the best idea, if you want to make a fair stab at it at all.

Quote:
knowing that 8 bars repeat doesn't tell me which notes to play in them... (and I have an extremely hard time remembering tunes without words


There's a bit more to the structure of tunes than that, and knowing the structure and the interaction of the different 'building blocks' that make a tune, creates an understanding that makes it an awful lot easier to make your way through a tune. I used to play with an older generation concertina player and over time gave her a fair number of tunes. Doing so I got to see how the mind works when a traditional musician, untouched by reading skills and theoretical learning but with a solid understanding of the nuts and bolts and the aesthetic of it all, is learning and retaining tunes. It's all in understanding the structure, the rhythm, what the important notes are and all that. Musicians who have that skill usually have the tune on the third pass. Having already heard/partly absorbed a tune only makes it easier. So, there's a lot to be said for developing that side of things. It won't come over night but if you don't give it a go, it will probably never come and you'll be forever stuck to what you have memorised.

And yes, immersion, listening, listening, listening and more lsitening is essential.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:23 am 
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matthr wrote:
tstermitz wrote:
I would suggest trying all your tunes without any tonguing at all. You can add tonguing in later, but the effort to play cleanly with just finger-strikes will be very beneficial.
I have tried this, and I found the results pretty interesting. Often, I found that a lot of note transitions just didn't sound so pleasing without a break between them, even when I managed the fingering to make it smooth. That may be a consequence of what I'm playing, which is mostly melodies to traditional songs rather than dance tunes. Either way, it's a useful lesson on how easy it is to overdo ornamentation.

I believe the suggestion is to play using (only) finger articulation, starting with cuts, and later taps or strikes, to separate notes, especially notes with the same pitch.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:00 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
...

Quote:
knowing that 8 bars repeat doesn't tell me which notes to play in them... (and I have an extremely hard time remembering tunes without words


There's a bit more to the structure of tunes than that, and knowing the structure and the interaction of the different 'building blocks' that make a tune, creates an understanding that makes it an awful lot easier to make your way through a tune. ...


I don't doubt that, but the book doesn't help me with the "interaction of different building blocks" because it only talks about the 8-bar parts (and primes), explains that a melody can by binary or ternary and says to practice the modal scales to help figure out the first note and how to play the melody (????). I was just trying to warn the OP that the book"s content does not live up to its description, IMHO. Because the description is very enticing...

Incidentally, when we practised playing by ear in music school (a few bars at a time), I found that I could do it best when I did not try to consciously figure out which note I needed to play (or which scale or mode it was in) - when I let the fingers do what they wanted (on a recorder) it worked a lot better.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:44 am 
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the book doesn't help me with the "interaction of different building blocks" because it only talks about the 8-bar parts (and primes), explains that a melody can by binary or ternary and says to practice the modal scales to help figure out the first note and how to play the melody (????). I was just trying to warn the OP that the book"s content does not live up to its description


Fair enough. As I said, I don't know the book and it may well be no good at all but you made it sound like you were rubbishing the general idea of analytical listening/identifying structure etc.

I know, it''s a bit of a hobbyhorse but I believe those things are basic skills one needs to develop as soon as possible because they are helpful. I am not dogmatic about the whole ear vs eye thing, notation is useful and a great tool. But I do feel, from observation, that, broadly speaking, players who started as oral/aural learners have a different way with tunes, with regards to learning, retention and recall. And I see great advantages in that. But this is probably not the time or place for that whole discussion.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2018 7:40 am 
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Isn't this as good a place as any for this discussion? The OP wants to improve his skills just like I do and doesn't quite know how to go about it...

Mr.Gumby wrote:
...

Fair enough. As I said, I don't know the book and it may well be no good at all but you made it sound like you were rubbishing the general idea of analytical listening/identifying structure etc.
...


Sorry for not expressing myself clearly at first because exactly the opposite is the case! I bought the book because I wanted to learn about analytical listening and identifying structure and the Irish modal scales and how to improve my memorizing skills and I'm terribly disappointed (and pissed off) that I found it useless for my problem areas. Because I'm sure you are right "players who started as oral/aural learners have a different way with tunes, with regards to learning, retention and recall" - but the thing is, I learnt to read music in grammar school, had violin lessons, lessons in classical guitar and now (40 years later) the recorder, and my memorizing skill is completely gone - I think the last time I learnt music by ear was nursery rhymes!

Which means I can play Frère Jacques (in the first OAIM lesson) fairly fluently - but not Mary had a little lamb, because I did not learn that as a child!

Do you have any tips for developing the lacking skills?


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2018 9:40 pm 
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If I might. I have been a student of memory for some time. And there are some remarkable tools for performing seemingly astonishing feats of memory. The Palace of Memory, for example. But I have always felt music was a bit of a special case for me. I have always had the most success by using what is called 'chunking'. By breaking the melody down into sensable musical phrases, and focusing on securing each phrase, and then 'chaining' each phrase to the next. If you Google 'memorising music by chunking' you will have a lot to sort through. But as with any mnemonic technique, no matter how simple, the key is practice and application. Many people use something like this in learning languages.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:57 am 
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breaking the melody down into sensable musical phrases, and focusing on securing each phrase, and then 'chaining' each phrase to the next.


That is pretty much exactly what I was getting at. The way I see it in practice is that those who have learned their music purely by ear, like a mother language perhaps, are able to instantly identify the notes that are the bones of the melody, and from there fill in the building blocks (if I may use that term here) that make up the phrases and from that, get the phrases and knit together the whole tune. The wonderful thing about that is that they have a freedom within the melody, to vary the content of the building blocks/phrases and to vary the pathways from one important note to the next. It can lead to a wonderful sense of variation when a tune is played that way and ofcourse playing that way is one cornerstones of Irish traditional music.

In that sense it has always been educational for me to listen to the music of Seamus Ennis. Ennis, like many other great players, has a particular musical vocabulary, let's say he has a store of building blocks that he uses to fill in the structure of a (dance) tune. He also sometimes makes a complete mess of things when he goes into a tune he didn't really intend to play and you can hear how his mind has a perfect grasp of the structure of the tune while he is trying to get in the pieces to put it all together.

Different musicians have different vocabularies, in other words they may fill in the structure in a different way from the next man or woman. And there's that freedom again that makes Irish music so wonderful at times, there are so many way to get through a tune. And it's right there also where a player who acquired his/her music initially by ear differs from a sight learner, in my experience sight readers remain to an extend tied to the text and have a much harder time to find that freedom with a melody.

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