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"playing By Ear"?


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#37 JimLucas

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 03:22 PM

Hm, I think Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven would laugh at the very idea of the two ("classical" and "folk") not being connected. Although not from the "classical" period, I think Dvorak may have been inclined to chuckle as well. They all used thematic material from folk tunes.

Please don't neglect Tchaikowsky (or however one cares to spell it using the wrong alphabet ;)). I even know the traditional words to at least one of the tunes he "borrowed". :)

It's generally made easy with a few 'pneumonics'...

Actually, the word is "mnemonics" named after the goddess of memory (which is where that word came from).

I had forgotten that. :unsure:

But I think Rob got it right for the environment: "pneumonics" are "mnemonics" for squeezers. :D

('Course, there are those who think our squeezings are "demonic". :ph34r:)

#38 m3838

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 01:32 PM

>>I haven't tried, but Gennady was a typical classical musician. He did not listen to folk music.
>Are these two sentences connected?

Unfortunately I personally haven't met a single classical musician, who wouldn't look at folk music with "it can be improved" attitude. Or "it's in the wrong Key". Hey, I haven't met any, who would be well educated outside of music. It's a real problem for me (2 kids, musically inclined, sharp minds, boring teachers etc.)
Also, Mozart, Tshajkovsky, Beethoven were not typical classicla musicians, they were anything but.
I start liking american music education way better, then russian. It's freedom and creativity vs. strict adhesioin to the standard and attention to drills.
I guess the result is where most americans can pick up an instrument and play something somehow, but most super star performances are done by russian pros. Most russians dropped out of music early on and can't even tell, where is middle C anymore.
That's why I think Suzuki method is probably correct, but I suspect incorrectly applied.

#39 m3838

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 02:30 PM

Before anybody will start jumping and stomping.
I meant "I" have not met well educated musicians (mostly russian). To the point that I have my doubts about hiring russian music teachers.
I met 6 people, none knows what is the difference between just and equal temper, and how many types of piano keyboards are there and close to none knowlege about physics. All coupled with feeling of being very "cultured". Most not just teach the kids to play, but also attempt to take quite some time (paid for) "teaching" about culture and "developing" child's brain.
All look down upon Suzuki method, which seems very logical to me. What's inherently wrong with it?

#40 Samantha

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 06:52 PM

... american music education way better, then russian. It's freedom and creativity vs. strict adhesioin to the standard and attention to drills.
I guess the result is where most americans can pick up an instrument and play something somehow, but most super star performances are done by russian pros. ...


That's odd, because the Russian musicians I have met (both trained to professional level, and amateur) seem to me to be more willing to try (and succeed) with various different musical genres beyond their "specialisation". The British musicians that I have met quite often seem to be totally blinkered as to what they consider to be music worthy of their attention (especially at a semi-prefessional/good amateur level).
Samantha

#41 Mark Evans

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 07:04 PM

I have worked with a goodly number of Russian musicians over the years and found them to be excellent in technique, musical knowelege and a passion for their instrument that boarders on the insane. All but one was very focused on a somewhat narrow area of "classical" music, so I can hear a resonance of truth in what you say.

Very few of us are true musical omnivores. Scratch the surface, and there lies a musical bigot to one degree or another. I just had to face that about myself last week.

A fiddler I greatly admire sent me her new CD with an accordionist. My heart sank when I opened the envelope and saw that her collaborator plays a (forgive me Helen) PA. It took me several days to face the music so to speak, and put it in the player. She had mentioned Musette and other such delightful treats that had me expecting a button accordion. I had to work very hard to accept the drop dead beautiful cuts that came one after another. The fears I must deeply harbor of the Lawerence Welk Show and my three years as a singer in an Italian restaurant in Houston with Pino on the PA allowed a nasty little bigotted creature to wiggle out from under my corpulent hide for a moment or two. I'm still a good person...most days.

#42 Jim Besser

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 08:24 PM

The fears I must deeply harbor of the Lawerence Welk Show and my three years as a singer in an Italian restaurant in Houston with Pino on the PA allowed a nasty little bigotted creature to wiggle out from under my corpulent hide for a moment or two. I'm still a good person...most days.


"Those Darned Accordions," a punk accordion band, do a clever biographical song tracing Lawrence Welk's evolution from a lively polka player to a purveyor of insipid "champagne music." A slyly funny song that says all you need to know about Lawrence.

#43 JimLucas

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 05:30 AM

I have worked with a goodly number of Russian musicians over the years .... All but one was very focused on a somewhat narrow area of "classical" music, so I can hear a resonance of truth in what you say.

Is it possible that virtually all the Russian musicians you encountered had that focus because you only encountered Russian musicians in a professional performing classical music context?

The few performances of the Pokrovsky Ensemble in New York were delightful experiences for me. They're mainly academics who spend (spent? its' been some years now, but I hope they're still at it) their summers collecting music in the countryside and had a widely varied repertoire of songs, styles and instruments, even a Russian equivalent of what the English call a mummer's play. But switching genres, one of their members could sing and play trumpet so much like Louis Armstrong that if he weren't visible (and Satchmo no longer alive) you might wonder about it being the real thing. He certainly wasn't trying to make it sound like Tchaikovsky.

Then there are the various Russian ensembles (3-6 members) that busk the streets here in Denmark. Many -- but not all -- are conservatory trained, but all play to a high standard, doing a mix of Russian folk and classical, with instruments from standard strings to accordion, mandolin, and balalaika... both treble and contrabass. And one day on a local corner there was a girl playing Bach violin solos on the xylophone. Fantastic! Beautiful! (The music was, too. ;)) I got talking to her, and learned that 1) she is the daughter of two of the members of the Russian trio who were playing on the next corner, and 2) her main interest is jazz (back home in St. Petersburg she plays with a jazz ensemble), but she found that the public (on the streets in Denmark, at least) doesn't seem to appreciate the jazz and contributes much more when she plays classical.

There are a lot of narrow-minded people in the world, but there are a lot of others, too. My advice to anyone who hasn't met any is to start searching more widely. They are there, even if they're not part of your usual crowd.

[Edit: Corrected one typo. I hope there aren't more.]

Edited by JimLucas, 29 November 2005 - 05:39 AM.


#44 Mark Evans

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 11:39 AM

[Is it possible that virtually all the Russian musicians you encountered had that focus because you only encountered Russian musicians in a professional performing classical music context?


By narrow I meant no disrespect. Say Mozart: A singer whose vision of performing Mozart has been molded by a pedagogy steeped in a Romantic tradition is often unable to look at Mozart in a classical sense. It is still beautiful. Discussion is one thing, performance another. Do what you do best, I'm along for the ride baby. Besides with all the vibrato in a romantic rendition it is much more simple to cover intonation problems. Only recently has a respect for period performance risen to any noticable level of interest outside circles in Europe and a few cities in the States and Canada.


My one exception was a Russian born pianist, living in Vermont. His dad wrote a very heavy famous book I could not finish. The kid was a monster. You pick the genre, he would be there snappin' right on your tail. We read through a mountain of literature at the Marlboro Music Festival in 1991 just for fun. It is a very cherished summer. The then 18 year old taught me a lot.

Edited by Mark Evans, 29 November 2005 - 11:40 AM.


#45 m3838

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 02:30 PM

I've met 6 musicians. 2 were my daughter's piano teachers. 1 was my own teacher. 1 is our friend and the rest are a husband (bassoon) and son (trumpet).
The impression I got was:
rigid schooling, attention to details, percevering, focus, tiny accentuation, perception of classical music as something very serious, no joke allowed.
The result, to my opinion, is hight volume of drop-outs, champion making, career building.
Music as fun is a foreign idea. Perceverance is the motto. Perhabs that's why, although many russian professionals are very good, most russian kids develop strong dislike for classical music. It is a wonder what a marching school band can do to attract kids to music. As for british musicians, I know nothing about them, except perhabs for the fact, that they are not americans. I think "Music is fun" is purely american idea.
Also, because may be of love americans have for contraptions, many know alot more types of instruments, keyboard systems and the like. Russians generally stick to what have been fed to them. Also, take words of my bayan teacher. He said his eyes opened when he started attending concerts in SF philharmony. Americans generally know many more composers and many more works of famous composers. Russians are fed highly cencored volume of repertory, that became the standard teaching and performing material. My teacher said his musical life has begun after he moved to the US. Interesing impression of someone, who has been awarded "Hororable teacher of Ukraine" tytle.
Now, I'm not a fun and supporter of most of american livestyle, but music and dance is something, americans can be proud of. If they lose it - too bad.

#46 Plamondon

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 03:09 AM

An isomorphic note-layout, in which the "shape" of the gap between two buttons on the button-field consistently reflects its musical interval, is much easier to play by ear.

Much of playing by ear -- like driving -- has to do with building an accurate mental model of cause and effect. If I want to change course by a certain amount, I don't calculate the angle in radians and rotate the steering wheel by the square root thereof -- I just turn the wheel a bit, based on an internal model of cause and effect built up by years of dirving experience.

Same with playing by ear. If I am hearing THIS note in my head, then I need to know what "musical gesture" I have to make to produce that note.

With an isomorphic note-layout like the Wicki/Hayden, a much smaller number of musical gestures need to be learned than on non-isomomrphic keyboards. The shape of any given interval -- say, a major third -- is always the same everywhere on the keyboard. Every time you play it, in any chord, key, or octave, you can't help but see, feel, and hear its essential sameness. In effect, you're getting "ear training" for free.

So when you're playing THIS note and then you want to play THAT one, the interval you hear "in your mind's ear" between the two corresponds directly to a musical gesture.

Which is pretty cool, I think.

#47 stuart estell

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 07:23 AM

I may well be in a minority but I actually find it the isomorphic layout of the Hayden actually makes life harder for me. I can get around a Hayden keyboard but I find the fact that all keys have the same hand shapes associated with them a source of genuine annoyance. Whether it has anything to do with the fact that I have absolute pitch, I don't know - I haven't really spent enough time thinking about it.

#48 Stephen Mills

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 11:23 AM

I feel like Iím playing into Jim Plamondonís hands by responding to a portion of his thread blitz, but I have to say that my experience with the Hayden layout supports his assertion in this thread. I not only donít have absolute pitch, like Stuart, but I have a bad ear due to years of over-reliance on printed music. Iíve played classical guitar since the mid-70ís, and am still very slow at picking out melodies on it. I picked up mandolin a few years thereafter and became better at the task on mandolin after a few months, probably because I played the mandolin in fewer positions, played simpler melodies on it and itís wholly in fifths, i.e., the task is more consistently isomorphic.

I do less well, but OK, on the Anglo (3 years now), probably due to more devoted effort to develop my ear training on that instrument, but hereís the thing. After only 3 weeks playing the Hayden system, it had already become the best instrument for me for playing by ear. My surprised and pleased interpretation was the same as Jim Plamondonís Ė the regular mapping of specific intervals onto specific finger movements helps me a lot. My guess is that this effect would small or nonexistent for those who have already developed good ears for reproducing relative pitch by voice or other instruments.

Extraneous to this thread, I love the Hayden, but there are of course prices to pay for any system. I don't like having to cross the fingerboard and go down a row to play an accidental, instead of moving a small and fairly consistent distance as on guitar, piano, etc.

Edited by Stephen Mills, 29 December 2005 - 11:26 AM.


#49 Mark Evans

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 12:58 PM

I may well be in a minority but I actually find it the isomorphic layout of the Hayden actually makes life harder for me. I can get around a Hayden keyboard but I find the fact that all keys have the same hand shapes associated with them a source of genuine annoyance. Whether it has anything to do with the fact that I have absolute pitch, I don't know - I haven't really spent enough time thinking about it.


I'm at home with the EC because I know where the naturals, sharps and flats are located. When someone pulls out a tune that is new to me in a session or jam and calls out the key, I'm home free. Two times around and most of the tune is under my fingers with very few 'clams' snapping about. Were the fingering positions (I love this fancy word) isomophic it would throw me off completely. Does perfect or relative pitch come into play? I would say no other than feeling something is pitched low or higher than expected before putting my fingers to the box.

At the Jamarama last month I sang an a cappella version of the "Girl with the bonnie brown hair" which I seem to always sing in A major. For the bluegrass/old time crowd I fly right into Gary Owen (G major or D depending on fiddler). My fiddler buddy 'Barky' who wouldn't know a written note if it bit him on his backside got a nod from me to start "Gary Owen" right off as I finished the solo and he ripped into it at light speed in A! Made sense to him and after a momentary suprise as my fingers transposed by themselves to A and I was cool with it too. That had more to do with Barky's sense of pitch and my realizing that I was a whole step high cowboys...and in need of three sharps, not one :o !



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