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How to learn to play by ear


Mary B
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I have worked through the EC beginner lessons by Martyn on Youtube. The most difficult one for me was the ear training. I could follow the tunes when he played very slowly, but at the end of the lesson he went faster, and I was lost. When he was teaching song tunes, I had to find the music in one of my guitar books in order to be able to play. I learned to read music as a child studying piano, and the skill has stuck for more than 50 years. Is there some way to learn to play by ear?

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I have worked through the EC beginner lessons by Martyn on Youtube. The most difficult one for me was the ear training. I could follow the tunes when he played very slowly, but at the end of the lesson he went faster, and I was lost. When he was teaching song tunes, I had to find the music in one of my guitar books in order to be able to play. I learned to read music as a child studying piano, and the skill has stuck for more than 50 years. Is there some way to learn to play by ear?

 

I would think not. I have always played solely by ear. I think that one probably either has the inherent ability to play by ear, or that one does not. An acquired dependence upon printed scores will have done nothing to help the situation.

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You are right in that there is no fast way of learning it. You will have to train you ear the same way you do with an instrument. Probably the progress will be much slower, at least that is the case for me. It is well worth it though. Especially with Irish Music where so much is based on oral tradition.

 

Just keep on trying. Obviously you won't get absolute tonal hearing (what is the right expression for this?) but you will be able to play a tune when you know the first note. And that can always be guessed.

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Is there some way to learn to play by ear?

 

I would think not. I have always played solely by ear. I think that one probably either has the inherent ability to play by ear, or that one does not. An acquired dependence upon printed scores will have done nothing to help the situation.

 

I'd beg to differ - I don't think there's an inherent ability as such, but there are definitely some people who find it easier than others.

 

Practice is the only way to progress, because the more you do it the easier you'll find it becomes. Start with some simple slow tunes - if you can't get someone to make up a few MP3s of some tunes being played slowly, download some MIDIs of simple tunes off the Internet and try playing along with them. Concentrate at first on picking up the first note of each bar, or a couple of the on-beat notes in the bar. When you get lost, don't panic, just stop and start again. See if you can find a local slow tunes or beginners' session, where tunes will be played slower than a full-on tune session.

 

Reading music is not a barrier to learning to play by ear, and both are valuable and useful skills - but Rod is right in that sheet music will not help you to play by ear, so put the sheet music away whilst you're working on your ear.

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I have worked through the EC beginner lessons by Martyn on Youtube. The most difficult one for me was the ear training. I could follow the tunes when he played very slowly, but at the end of the lesson he went faster, and I was lost. When he was teaching song tunes, I had to find the music in one of my guitar books in order to be able to play. I learned to read music as a child studying piano, and the skill has stuck for more than 50 years. Is there some way to learn to play by ear?

 

I'm absolutely sure there would be tons of literature out there because ear training is one of the cornerstones of musical education in music schools. Unfortunately, most of it is rather classically oriented and in parts terribly boring - things like repeated interval excercises etc. I suggest you go to your local university bookstore, look at the required text books in the music section and see if anything appeals to you...

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I used to play with a banjo player who gave me the best advise to learn to pick up a tune quickly: Know the Basics.

If you practice scales and arpeggios then when you hear a tune and know the key you have muscle memory that kicks in and makes it easier to play "by ear".

Trust me...it works.

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I have worked through the EC beginner lessons by Martyn on Youtube. The most difficult one for me was the ear training. I could follow the tunes when he played very slowly, but at the end of the lesson he went faster, and I was lost. When he was teaching song tunes, I had to find the music in one of my guitar books in order to be able to play. I learned to read music as a child studying piano, and the skill has stuck for more than 50 years. Is there some way to learn to play by ear?

Bit tied up at the moment but someone will surely give rest of trick:

If you are in firefox, there is quick video download function which allows you to copy the video to your computer.

 

you can download here:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/easy-youtube-video-downl-10137/

then

goto

and to the left of

 

English Concertina for Beginners Part 5

 

There should be three coloured balls (like pawnbroker)

 

left click on the little arrow at right of balls (choose quick download)

 

NOW - you should be able to open that saved video on your machine with another viewer/playback which offers a slow down sound function ...

Not sure which but someone else..........please?

 

then you can play along easier. :)

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Choose a slowish tune you like a lot on CD and that you have the dots for, learn it as well as you can , listen to it over and over , tap your feet to get the rhythm (I notice ear players do that more than readers.Play along to it a lot

 

Then establish the key and play the scales to learn the buttons and bellows.

 

Play along with main notes and leave out twiddles the dots are only a skeleton for folk tunes which all vary round the theme..

 

Then play by ear and if you can sit in a session.

 

In between times sing it or diddle/lilt as you walk about and remember where it goes up and down the scale. May help to visualise the dots at first.

 

 

I only ever learned by ear and am now learning to read so i sympathise . I'd also advise using do re mi in that key and singing the notes from the stave in solf or as named notes as in ABc to internalise them (that helps in reading ABC notation or te Midi downloads now widely used. See post on this on conc.net

 

All the best in your escape from the tyranny of the page :)

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Sell your english & buy an anglo :P No, seriously; playing by ear is like any other skill: you can have good qualities but it needs a lot of practice.

 

Besides, if you play mostly one style of music - say, irish . you'll find a lot of phrasing similar in several tunes. And your fingers have memory, they'll know were to go - even sometimes amazing yourself! -.

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I first played by ear exclusively so only tunes I already knew were available. Later I had players asking me for the music to play along with me.my trick for a new tune is to play it over and over 'til I can whistle it,(I work alone it helps) and then go bar by bar through until I've got it all.Family members can get really irritated though.

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I've been trying to learn how to learn tunes by ear for the last several years so I can continue to enjoy making music when I lose my central vision (I have a rare inherited eye disease). I appreciate the discussion and the links.

 

In my experience it helps to learn how to recognize the framework of the tune and which parts of the ornamentation are ornamentation and which parts are essential. For me this needs to happen at speed, not slowed down or broken down into phrase fragments. It takes me much longer to learn a tune by ear (like a year or two) than from the music (a day or two) and I often find that it helps cement the tune in my mind if I have the dots for a version of a tune I've partially learned by ear.

 

One part of being able to learn by ear is being able to hear your own playing.

 

At this point I'm much better at picking up tunes by ear on fiddle (it's closer to my ear) than on concertina, but once I have a tune on one instrument I can often manage to play it on another. I play viola d'amore almost entirely by ear. You know you have a tune by ear when you can play it in D even though you learned it in E (or, as happened to me once when playing Christmas carols with my wife's grandfather, playing in Eb when it is written out in G).

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I'm much better at picking up tunes by ear on fiddle than on concertina, too. But I suspect has nothing to do with the distance of the instrument to your ear: I think that the fact that you have to tune the notes on fiddle, when concertina is already tuned, helps to develop your ear. And the choices of notes on fiddle are more limited than on anglo, and somehow more logical.

 

OTOH, I played fiddle for 15 years, and if not knowing at the beginning where the 'tina notes where, the intervals between the notes of a tune were already deeply rooted in my memory.

 

Just my humble experience. :)

 

Cheers,

 

Fer

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I'm at about 7 years on EC and 56 on fiddle, so some of my ability to pick things up quicker on fiddle may be because of longer experience! I couldn't make any sense at all of an anglo, but the EC (and to a lesser extent Crane duet) makes good sense. I find some tunes easier on EC than on fiddle at this point (Joys of Wedlock, for instance).

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I think I readed in this forum or elsewere that, generally speaking, people who plays by ear feels usually more comfy at the anglo; while the 'dots readers' feel better with the english.

 

This works for me, because although I can read music am very lazy and slow to, and only look at the score when unable to learn something by hearing :D

 

Cheers,

 

Fer

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I think I readed in this forum or elsewere that, generally speaking, people who plays by ear feels usually more comfy at the anglo; while the 'dots readers' feel better with the english.

Somebody said it, and it was rebutted.

Much closer to the truth, I suspect, is that most people who play either have never actually tried both.

 

For what it's worth, I have always found the English more comfortable than the anglo, and I actively read music for years before I ever knew what a concertina was, but I taught myself to play the English strictly by ear. I only began reading music with the (English) concertina when I reached the point of trying to play and learn music for which I had no source to listen to, but for which I did have written sources.

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