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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:45 am 
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When I'm picking up a jig or a reel at speed by ear (and eye, I like to watch fingers) I'm looking at the patterns. Jigs and reels are nearly entirely made up of stock patterns (often a half-bar in length) which are used over and over in different combinations.

Airs are different for me. With them I seem to need to understand a phrase whole. Once I get one phrase I go to the next and eventually have the whole air. It wasn't until I stopped thinking about airs as a sequence of notes, and starting getting a feel for the shape of an entire phrase, that I was able to remember them and play them.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:07 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
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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, ...

... 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.


Just to avoid misunderstandings: Sight reading is another "special skill", rather different from learning a tune from sheet music... Sight reading refers to the ability to correctly play a piece that you have seen for the first time half an hour previously - it's what Hollywood film musicians must be able to do (and they are rather well paid, so don't scoff at the ability...)

As for chunking the music, yes, that's certainly a good idea. I just have a hard time identifying what exactly is happening in the phrases. Especially when I listen to a player who adds ornamentation. Is there a website where simple tunes are played on a high D whistle, without ornamentation and where there is NO sheet music added (so as not to tempt me)? I thought slowplayers.org would help me, but they play on a flute, an octave lower (I know that shouldn't be a problem, but it is for me).

Though I'm pleased to find out that playing "by ear" (or memory of a melody) is a lot easier for me on a tin whistle than on a recorder :)

You compare with learning one's mother tongue - the problem with this comparison is that one is generally much younger when one does that. Children also seem to have a much easier time learning to sing songs and play music - until the day sheet music is forced upon them and they learn to rely on their eyes instead of their ears (at least that's how it was for me and a fellow music student who learned playing the piano before learning to read music). I'm pretty sure that we unlearn to use our memory - or parts of our memory, because I have a pretty good one for facts and even stories - once we discover that we can store information elsewhere, like on bits of paper.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:17 am 
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As with most mnemonic techniques, there really isn't any magic, just a lot of practice. The ability to break the the music down into phrases is also something you can improve with practice. I found using 'slow downer' software at first helped me to 'filter' the excess information of ornamentation, but over time as my ear quickened, I was less reliant on it. Oliver Sachs points out in Musicophilia that our auditory centers in the brain continue to grow brain cells throughout our life. I feel with greater focus this too can be expanded. But only through conscious effort. When I am securely learning a new musical phrase I find I play it over and over, until I have it 'grooved' into my memory. Only then will I move to the next phrase. And only after I have secured the second phrase will I attempt to smoothly chain them together.
To use your example: First;'Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques'. Now this melody is repetitive. Three repeats before a new phrase. Now 'Mary Had a little Lamb'
is a bit more challenging, but only a little. Neither approaches the seeming short term memory limit of 'the rule of Seven'. We can seemingly only keep about seven discrete items, plus or minus two, in our short term memory. But the fun thing is, with practice we can 'chunkify' all seven items into one 'item'. And again, with practice and application we can perhaps extend this limit of seven (or nine) by one and possibly two. Beginners tunes often have the repetive phrases of those nursery rhymes an this make them evergreen favorites for starting out. Entertaining and more challenging melodies, for example Paddy's Trip to Scotland have a more expansive phraseology, but even so, because it is dance music, and fits into the realm of repeating 16 bars, their is a limit to the phrase length. This not symphonic music!
When I first started out my frustration was that I was such a 'backward' student to my own self instruction. But really, if I cannot bear the patience to help myself learn this well, who will? And over time I find I am not really the dullard I initially thought myself. :lol:

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 5:13 am 
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an seanduine wrote:
Oliver Sachs points out in Musicophilia that our auditory centers in the brain continue to grow brain cells throughout our life. ....


That is very reassuring to know!

an seanduine wrote:
...And over time I find I am not really the dullard I initially thought myself. :lol:


I also find that it's not as complicated as I first thought - the tin whistle really is much easier than the recorder (where the crossfingerings always have stopped me from playing intuitively). I've figured out Amazing Grace, and Scarborough Fair, and only cheated a tiny little bit for two bars in the middle of The Parting Glass. I think I've said before that songs are easier for me than tunes.

I was going to whine that whenever I try to hum Marino Casino without hearing it immediately before (after hearing it I can sort of do it) I slide into a waltz instead. Then I discovered that the waltz I'm humming instead is the Marino Waltz ;) which I've had on tape since 1987 and probably heard a few hundred times more often than Marino Casino which I only discovered about three weeks ago. Seems my subconscious knows more than my conscious self (which can't get over how different a melody sounds when it's played as a waltz instead of in 2/4 or 4/4 - whatever Marino Casino is in. Guess that shows the all-importance of rhythm...)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 5:40 am 
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Kade1301 wrote:
Sight reading is another "special skill", rather different from learning a tune from sheet music... Sight reading refers to the ability to correctly play a piece that you have seen for the first time half an hour previously - it's what Hollywood film musicians must be able to do (and they are rather well paid, so don't scoff at the ability...)



I would say yes, mostly. Sightreading per se is the ability to play music accurately and at full speed while reading it cold (at first sight).

At scoring sessions the musicians' first run-through is generally flawless and they do a take after only one or two run-throughs. Time is money! It's extremely expensive to do a scoring session here in Los Angeles. The musicians are AFM. So it behooves the producers to do things as quickly as possible.

The expense of doing things here is why scoring sessions are often done in Seattle (non-AFM) and London.

I've never been a great sight-reader, but doing years of studio work made me better at it. The trick is to read ahead of where you're playing. You look for patterns, just as you listen for patterns when picking up tunes by ear.

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1978 Quinn uilleann pipes
1945 Starck Highland pipes
Goldie Low D whistle


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