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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2001 11:00 am 
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I'd like to learn more by ear, but I'm fairly tone-deaf, and I simply can't (at this point, anyway) hear the tune the way others apparently can. I can't usually pick out the key, or even the intervals in anything other than a very slow passage.
<p>
I also find that even when I learn a tune by ear (which my whistle teacher forces us to do), that I don't really "know" it until I can see the sheet music. I'm a very visual person, and seeing the visual patterns clarifies for me the tonal patterns.
<p>
I also struggle with memorization. I can't imagine how anyone can know hundreds of tunes, much less learn tunes quickly. It takes me weeks to memorize a tune, and that tends to disappear if I don't play it often. On the other hand, if I can glance at the sheet music to refresh myself, I can recall and play many tunes that would otherwise be lost.
<p>
It also surprises me when people say they "can't" or don't have time to learn to read sheet music. Especially for folk tunes, and a simple instrument like the whistle, sheet music is very easy to read. At the simplest, you only need to know that the lowest note on the D whistle is right below the bottom line. Then every step (either a line or space) is one hole. Voila! You now read sheet music.
<p>
(Being able to pick up a sheet of new music and play it well is really a different skill.)
<p>
Anyway, those are my thoughts.
<p>
Scott T.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2001 11:49 am 
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Location: Elkton, Maryland
Scott has a critical point that I sometimes overlook: to straight-jacket learning is fundamentally to embrace some while excluding others. We are complex critters, and none of us learns quite like the next person.

If a person, blind from birth, reads tactilly rather than visually, we might find her comprehension intriguingly different to that of a sighted person, but would we minimise her method or suggest she couldn't read properly?

FE


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2001 7:15 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2001 6:00 pm
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Location: England
I always tried to dodge the issue of learning to read music, but I have to say that it really DOES pay off.
Other contributors have explained ways in which they, like me, have made use of it...don't ignore them!
Think of the written music as GUIDANCE rather than instruction, and listen to how people interpret a tune as well as finding your own way. It's just another tool for learning...optional, but hey...why not?
Take the plunge and learn if you fancy it, and if you do, I wish you the best of luck.
Bye for now, Adrian


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2001 10:47 am 
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Location: Ottawa, Canada - Originally from Galway,
Some great posts on both sides of the debate....

Personally, since I learned totally by ear - and with the right hand on top - I was self taught! I am teaching myself how to read music and find it great to be able to pick up a sheet of music and play the tune - however I couldn't do this with a tune that I hadn't already heard as I would have no idea how to determine the rhythm etc. Can people actually do this i.e read a piece and play it without ever having heard it played before?

Cheers,

Gerry


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2001 10:53 am 
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Gerry, of course, any classically trained musician should be able to do this. As for the true traditional style, that's a different story.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2001 12:13 pm 
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Location: Corpus Christi, Texas
Hey Everyone!

Couldn't resist throwing in my two cents worth here. I'm getting the impression that
many who read these posting come to the conclusion that this is somehow an either/or,
good/bad kind of thing. That hasn't been my experience at all. I started playing music a number of years ago (mostly guitar and hamonica) *allways* by ear. Later I became a music major and was forced to learn to read.
I've never regreted this and ,in fact,I can
learn tunes faster now than when I didn't.
Its a fallacy that one who learns to read
music (after learning by ear) will somehow
lose aural ability or even creativity!
Ear training IS important but I think that
both methods of learing tunes can be useful.
I still use both, no problem here.


Alberto


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2001 1:33 pm 
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I agree with you, Alberto, a good musician should be able to do both: sight-reading and playing-by-ear. I think that the "ear"-thing is more important, but if you can't read sheet music, you're kind of an illiterate. And it's not difficult, anybody can learn it, if they only accept to make a little effort. Music is an international language, if you know it, you'll be able to play with people anywhere in the world. So - as you all learned to speak and read english - why not learn music?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2001 2:11 pm 
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I understand that there are people in Japan who can read and write English fluently, but have only the vaguest idea of how to speak it. Of course, there are also those who understand and speak the language, but cannot read or write. Both of these extremes are missing out on much of the beauty of the language.

If I had to make a choice, I'd put learning to speak and understand a language over reading and writing it. But if possible, I'd much prefer to do both.

I believe the same is true for music, is it not?

Tom


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2001 2:54 pm 
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Location: eastern shore of md
hi all,
I learned to read music more "fluently" when I picked up my first whistle. have always played guitar by ear. to me, alot of music that is done on the whistle (mary bergen for instance) is either played at such a fast pace or is so loaded with ornamentation, it's sometimes hard to follow the basic melody. this is the primary reason I like to get the sheet music, then after I've gone over the basic melody a couple of times, I try to pick up speed and maybe get a little fancy. am I listening wrong, or are alot of the tunes hard to follow (they sound good, but just kinda hard to follow). heck man, I like airs and ballads anyway. :wink:


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2001 3:43 pm 
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Tom, sure this is true. Maybe I'm not objective on this matter, as I learned to read music when I was a kid, so it feels just natural to me. It is certainly harder to learn at adult age. Anyway, I think that a good ear and feeling for the music is the most important thing. Besides, if the only kind of music a person wants to play is traditional, sheet music is probably less important than for other kinds of music.
So - peace - let's share our music and have fun, and forget about the rest.
:wink:


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2001 12:08 am 
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i see what you did there
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There's another side to relying on sheet music: Writing it!

One standard pedagogical technique for jazz is to transcribe solos: the idea is to take a recorded solo you like, and write it out as accurately as possible, and then analyze it or learn it yourself or both. It's <i>hard</i>, and while there's certainly a school that thinks that soloing is more holistic than "what notes did he play over this turnaround", it's certainly useful to take apart what the pros do note for note.

Given the improvisational nature of trad, it seemed perfectly natural to extend this technique to it, and while I've only done a couple of transcriptions, there is quite a bit to be pulled out when you listen bar-by-bar. Matt Molloy, for instance, blew me away even more than he does when I'm listening phrase-by-phrase; on some tunes, you'd swear he doesn't let one note get by unornamented.

Now, that sort of thing certainly doesn't address the problem of learning tunes; I think it <i>does</i> address the problem of learning approaches to ornamentation (I've picked up figures that I thought were rolls or crans but were really quite a bit more complex, that I wouldn't have heard otherwise), and especially addresses the problem of understanding a player's style. It doesn't replace whole-tune or -section or -phrase listening, nor player-to-whistle tune learning without paper in the middle, but I'd encourage anyone who doesn't have to struggle with the notation itself to sit down with a favorite recording and see if you can not only pull all the notes out, but look at the resulting transcription and see if you can see what the player was trying to do with it.
<ul>-Rich</ul>


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2001 12:54 am 
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Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
Hmm, here's some thoughts from complete beginner with no talent...

About reading and listening, I need them both. I need to listen to get the rythm. I now keep blowing int the rhytm when I'm listening to music. But I need to read the notes to play somewhere.

I would be interested to improve my ear.. But I just don't seem to get it. I sometimes try them with the whistle, and in many occasions find out later that it is in scale not playable with whistle, at least without transposing.

I usually find the notes other than trad stuff from midi files.. as I play the keyboard or guitar solo parts on the whistle with our "band".


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2001 8:46 am 
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I'm a lot like Claudine--I sort of take being able to read music for granted.

I still much prefer to play by ear on the whistle, and I pretty much agree with what people have said in support of that technique. My humble opinion is that listening should come first, and once you learn the style and rhythm, written music can be helpful for learning new tunes. This is, after all, the "traditional" way to learn any folk music.

However, one cannot underestimate the value of a teacher. I know; I don't have one. (: It is "traditional" to learn music from a person, not a recording. A person whom you can ask to play slower, "How do you do that ornamentation", etc. Going back to my language metaphor, how would you like to learn, say, Mandarin Chinese by simply listening recordings of people speaking it, without getting to ask them what they're saying, or see how they're producing the sounds?

So, those of you who have teachers, or just other good players around, don't take that resource for granted. For the rest of us, do what works for you, written or aural. It might be harder, but it's still fun.

And after all, fun, not perfection, is the whole point of this sort of thing. (:

God bless--
Tom


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2001 8:54 am 
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Reading (although I don't do it well yet) is just as important as playing by ear as far as I'm concerned. I can listen all day to Paddy Maloney, Mary Bergin, Joanie Madden ect. play a tune and not have any idea of the notes they played because
a) in whistle solo's they usually play the tune much faster than it would be played during say a dance to showcase their vituoso status.
b) People of this stature play so well and have played for so long that they ornament just about every note which makes it hard to determine the underlying foundation of the melody.

Listening to a tune over and over allows me to get the feel of the rythm and flow of the tune while seeing the unadorned sheet music in front of me allows me to concentrate on the fundamental melody I am trying to learn so that I can get the basic structure down free of the distraction of ornamentation.

Seeing the music has also, for me anyway helped with my ear training, because I can listen to a passage and then look at the corresponding sheet music and SEE the relationship between the notes that are being played and recongnize a 2 or 3 note pattern when I hear it again in another tune.

One last thought, L.E. McCullough states in his tutorial that contrary to popular myth most professional caliber players do indeed read music and the myth of them all playing by ear alone is nothing more that a myth of trad music. Does anyone honestly think Paddy Maloney could score a film without being able to read music? Does being able to read make him any less a player?


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2001 3:30 am 
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I like a lot of what has been said in this discussion and wanted to add some of my own comments, opinions, and views.

In school you are taught to read and in the beginning you focus on the words and punctuation. You learn to read, measuring your progress by the number of words in your vocabulary or the number of words read per minute. But the first time you attend and hear a dramatic or interpretive reading you recognize not all the message is in the written word. The same with music.

Is there a wrong way to play something. I hesitate to say 'wrong' but for me there is a poor way to play a tune, poorly played the tune that is just the notes and just the tempo and just what was heard.

To play any type of music well, you have to play what is felt, not just what is written, not just what is heard. For me, music is a medium that allows us to communicate even when words fail, with a richness that goes beyond. For a musician, the starting point is the sounds of those feelings.

That which is heard, is only the starting point. A musician that plays only by ear, misses half of every jig, for what is the tune without the dance? What is the sound and movement of the dance, if it doesn't express the heart and soul of the dancer? You want to hear great music? Listen to the fiddling father, play the first dance at his daughter's wedding. The mother's slow air played at the bedside of her babe as sleep drifts gently in. The last reel of the night where acquaintance have danced their way into friends. Waltz played by brother, sister, son, and daughter as their parents and grand parents dance on their 50th anniversary.

So what do I think is most important in learning I-Trad? <b>Never stop learning.</b>

Each of us has our own talents for learning, many have a better visual memory the aural, while others excel in tactile or motor memory, and some have better emotive memories. My step daughter can hear a melody once and remember it, I on the other hand most fall in love with the tune and listen to it 20 times before I can begin to memorize it.

I've been listening to music for over 40 years, when I hear I new tune, my mind immediately flows with emotive response. It also associates the tune with a hundred tunes that sound or feel the same. Seeing the tune in standard notation gives it a back bone, keeps me from morphing the music into a different tune. What I can't do is let the notation be the tune, nor can I let my aural memory of the tune be the tune. The tune is so much more.

Learning by ear, trains the fingers and breath to follow the ear. Just as sight reading trains the fingers and breath to follow the eye or notation. If I want to join folks in a session playing a new tune, then ear training is the channel that gets me started when I sit down. A good start, but to fully join in, I have to connect on more levels. I have to deal with the variation that is being played that reflects, not just the tune, but also the way the group feels and relates to the tune. If I have a backbone (standard notation) for a tune, I can readily recognize how the group is altering the tune to reflect what the group wants to express. For example, there has been many a time when some lightning fast reel has been played as a slow air. Often these changes are not thought out by anyone, they just occur because of the conditions in the session. If I can only play a tune the way I originally learned the tune, either by ear or notation; then, I'm going to miss the connections. Connections to the tune and connections to the musicians present playing it.

For me, part of enjoying the music is about connections, ears listening, feet tapping, fingers dancing to a tune that connects hearts and souls. Not just aural connections of the ear, but visual, social, emotive, temporal, and the whole gamut of life.

I suggest that you can start to learn any tune through any of those connections, but continuing to learn more through all the dimensions of the tune will help you to truly ...

_________________
Enjoy Your Music,
Lee Marsh
From Odenton, MD.


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