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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 7:20 pm 
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...besides drink, that is.

I'm working on a list of productive things you can do to learn music while at a session but not playing. Since I only have a few tunes under my belt, listening is something I do a lot of.

Here's the list so far; none of them require much, if any, musical experience. I'm arranging the list in what I think is roughly the order of difficulty for someone just beginning to learn the whistle, from easiest to hardest:<ul>
<li>Tap your foot to the beat of the tune.</li>
<li>Learn to distinguish <a href="http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/html/id15_en.html">simple and compound meter</a>.</li>
<li>Count the tune. This just means being aware of the general structure of the tune and following along where you are within the tune. Since Irish tunes <i>mostly</i> have simple structure with two eight bar parts, each of which repeat before the whole tune repeats, you don't need to know the particular tune to follow along with <i>most</i> tunes. You can count beats or measure numbers, whatever works out for you. You'll know you're starting to do it right when you can predict the repeats as they happen.</li>
<li>Learn to distinguish different types of tunes. Tunes in simple meter will usually be reels, hornpipes, or polkas. Tunes in compound meter will be one of several different types of jigs.</li>
<li>Learn the names of the tunes. This seems easy, but I'm putting it in the "harder" end of the list since folks don't always say (or know!) the names of the tunes they play at a session. But it's much easier if you're listening to CDs....</li>
<li>Listen to the tune and hum along with the repeats (quietly!). This is the <a href="/2005/05/tunes-how-to-learn-tune.html">first step to ear learning</a> — you have to know what note is coming before you'll be able to play it. This also helps you learn to listen to both yourself and the rest of the session at the same time — an important skill for playing with other musicians.</li>
</ul>Anything I've forgotten?

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:11 pm 
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Maybe enjoying the music, too? :lol:

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:29 pm 
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I've made some progress with following the structure of a tune. It still takes very intense listening for me for some reason---I have trouble remembering what I have heard I guess. It has made listening a completely different experience for me. I can only identify the simplest dance types, and some I'm not sure how you would tell the difference by listening, so I'm going to work on that.

"Learn the names" seems to be very difficult to me!! Or connecting a name with the right tune is difficult. And which out of fifty names is the one you learn? All of them? The name the musician calls it on the recording you are listening to? And what if the recording gives fifty names? Arrrgh.

Your ideas seem good even if one isn't at a session.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:30 pm 
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You can play along on the few notes you do know, even if most of the tune is still beyond you - just do it quietly... you can use the trick of holding the fipple against your chin and blowing down into the blade hole... this is very, very quiet, but does let you play the actual notes... nice trick for practicing without annoying anybody. (edited to add... Thanks for that tip, Joanie! And for a great example of how this sounds, listen to Track 3, The Otter's Next/Richie Dwyer's, on Joanie Madden's Song of the Irish Whistle, very breathy and cool!)

It's been said many times, but it is so true that it bears repeating... note the tunes that are comonly played and listen to them at home, in the car, wherever you can get near a player... over and over and over again. You'll be surprised at how you can learn even listening to them as you go to sleep! Then when you get to the nest session, you'll be even better prepared.

Also, you can whistle (you know, the type of whistling you do with you mouth and no whistle) the tunes along with the session... this helps you fine tune your own sense of the tune, and get the timing and intervals.

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Last edited by anniemcu on Sat Jul 16, 2005 10:27 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:43 pm 
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hum along with the tunes. Anything that gets the tunes into your head will help a lot. No fingering, tonguing or breathing to worry about: just the tune. Write down the names of as many tunes as you can and either find them in print, or find recordings (or both) to learn from.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 6:37 am 
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If there aren't a bazillion instruments playing at once, try listening for variations in the basic tune...such as when a player jumps and octave, throws in a triplet, or drops a note.

If there is a whistler or flute player, listen/watch for where they take their breaths.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 8:56 am 
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Interesting topic. I just got back from Swannanoa Celtic Week two hours ago. My new goal in life is to be able to learn a tune upon hearing it three or four times live. Lofty, but it seems possible. Maybe not know the tune intimately, but to be familar enough with the music to see the underlying patterns and contribute to the session.

One thing I've been working on is trying to figure out what key a tune is in from the first few phrases. This is easy to do if you watch another whistle or flute player, a bit harder (for me, anyway) to tell from a box player or fiddler.

IF getting a large repertoire is desirable, then the way to do it is by ear.
Learning tunes by ear is a skill that needs to be practiced, and the only way to practice it is to avoid sheet music (temporarily at least). Sheet music is wonderful for a lot of purposes, but relying on it exclusively is not the most efficient way to learn.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 9:18 am 
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Wormdiet wrote:
... IF getting a large repertoire is desirable, then the way to do it is by ear.
Learning tunes by ear is a skill that needs to be practiced, and the only way to practice it is to avoid sheet music (temporarily at least). Sheet music is wonderful for a lot of purposes, but relying on it exclusively is not the most efficient way to learn.


Actually, at least in my experience, the two together is very good for beginners, as it gives you a reference for whichever you are not as familiar with, and allows you to actually see and hear the relationships of the notes and the patterns. I do better, much faster, if I can get the tune in my head and use the seet music, or even tablature, to identify where the note I hear is in the written or tabbed music. I know not everybody will find that as helpful, but it sure is getting me along.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 9:34 am 
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Cynth wrote:
"Learn the names" seems to be very difficult to me!! Or connecting a name with the right tune is difficult. And which out of fifty names is the one you learn? All of them?

It is indeed harder than it sounds. What I've done is to pick a tune I thought sounded really interesting to me personally, then find a recording somewhere (like Clips 'n' Ships) and listen to it a lot. At the next session I'm more likely to recognize the tune.

Different names for the same tune hasn't been a big problem, because once you know one name you can use thesession.org to get a cross-reference by name. For example, I learned the "four hands reel" from dots in one of my tutorial books, and wanted to find a recording to listen to. I couldn't find any recordings on any of the audio sites under that name, but discovered that it was also called "the five mile chase" and found a couple recordings under that name.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 9:40 am 
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There are some great suggestions here. Thanks for all of them, and please keep them coming. I've updated the original list and gave credit to the forum.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 8:58 pm 
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#324: Resist the urge, however strong, to ask to lead 'Danny Boy', simply because it's the only tune you know really well.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:17 am 
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Its traditional in many Irish pubs to start a fight, you could try that.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:32 am 
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If you learn a tune by ear, you may want to check it against "the dots" to make sure you really have the tune down as well as you think you do.

Alternately, you may want to play it for one of the more advanced session players, for the same reason, just to make sure you really have it right before you commit it to muscle memory.

--James


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