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darticus

Learning To Play Without Music

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I learn songs using music but wondered is there a best way to learn and play without music. Is the answer play it over and over with music or try to play without? Is there a good workable answer to this? Do you stay with a small group of songs and not learn more? Do you continue to play all your songs? Thanks Ron

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Perhaps you could provide slightly more information, what type of music are you playing, do you still want to learn your repertoire from a printed source or are you aiming to let that go in some cases and become less dependent on it (in other words, are you aiming to play by ear/). That sort of thing.

 

In general terms I would suggest that when you learn a piece from sheet and have it practiced well enough, and absorbed the music, you'll easily go from only needing the sheet as an aide memoire to not needing it at all. For a novice player this may take some time and practice (feeling 'at home' with your instrument and knowing your way around it is important but only comes with the time you spend with it). Play a lot in other words.

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Perhaps you could provide slightly more information, what type of music are you playing, do you still want to learn your repertoire from a printed source or are you aiming to let that go in some cases and become less dependent on it (in other words, are you aiming to play by ear/). That sort of thing.

 

In general terms I would suggest that when you learn a piece from sheet and have it practiced well enough, and absorbed the music, you'll easily go from only needing the sheet as an aide memoire to not needing it at all. For a novice player this may take some time and practice (feeling 'at home' with your instrument and knowing your way around it is important but only comes with the time you spend with it). Play a lot in other words.

Very helpful! I can play by ear but it makes my head hurt. LOL! I had to say that. I can play by ear but with a new instrument I feel more secure using music. I guess as you said keep playing until you can take your eyes off it and start to feel comfortable with it. Should you only put a small group of songs in your group and stop working with new stuff until that small group is perfect? Thanks Ron

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Hi,

 

Playing by ear is the only way I can play, I tried the reading thing, but after 18 months I was still counting up the lines and almost gave music away.

 

After a while playing by ear becomes like speaking, but it has its limitations, ear players tend to make mistakes and compromise, or they go away and add bits from some other tune because they think they remember that in the tune they are replicating, or they add entirely new bits of their own (ah, the folk tradition) and it is much faster to play music if all one has to do is read the score, further it is much easier to learn a new tune as a group if everyone is a reader. Finally I am forever frustrated that I cannot play a tune until I have heard someone else play it: a rather big drawback for me: but not big enough to tempt me to again try reading the notation..

 

BUT, for the ease of wandering into a session, or sitting in a corner by yourself, or stealing a tune from the radio/TV, or picking up an instrument and accompanying a singer, and so on, ear playing is fantastic.

 

Trying to read gave me a bloody awful headache. I now find all I have to do is hear a tune three times, and then maybe a little latter (at the next session for instance) and a very close approximation, if not an exact replication can be made.

 

As a point of interest, playing tunes by ear which have words to them is much easier when you are learning, until you become proficient. When I began, I used to sing the song, or make up word that would fit the tune, especially the opening bar or two, or if it was purely a tune, whistle it and then put it on the instrument.

 

David

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David, it's for that reason I asked darticus to be a bit clearer about the music he was hoping to play. Some time ago I visited a friend who is essentially an ear player but while experimenting with duet concertinas he ventured into playing pieces like The Entertainer and pieces by Bach, stuff you go to the sheet for initially. For simple music, Folk music, Irish Traditional etc, going by ear is perhaps the easier and arguably better option. But it all depends on the what and who, there isn't really a one size fits all type of advice for this.

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Playing by ear is an option once I get more familiar with the instrument. Not really great at reading and playing music. I have already started to add some ear stuff so we will see as time goes on. Thanks Ron

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I learned to play 'by ear' when I was a child -- had an accordion teacher -- but we usually used simple basic lead sheets that showed chord symbols and beats per measure. Later, I worked (with headaches!) to read music. I now do a combination of both.

 

What surprised me was to learn how truly different the two activities really are. Playing by ear and playing by sight-reading do not naturally help each other or mesh into one 'improved' formula.

 

Playing by ear, I listen first for the I-IV-V -- the chord structure. Even if there are no chords -- it's just a 'tune' -- I still find the chords.

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I learned to play 'by ear' when I was a child -- had an accordion teacher -- but we usually used simple basic lead sheets that showed chord symbols and beats per measure. Later, I worked (with headaches!) to read music. I now do a combination of both.

 

What surprised me was to learn how truly different the two activities really are. Playing by ear and playing by sight-reading do not naturally help each other or mesh into one 'improved' formula.

 

Playing by ear, I listen first for the I-IV-V -- the chord structure. Even if there are no chords -- it's just a 'tune' -- I still find the chords.

Same thing here. Accordion, guitar, keyboard guitar again. I do both ear and read. Thanks Ron

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Playing by ear, I listen first for the I-IV-V -- the chord structure. Even if there are no chords -- it's just a 'tune' -- I still find the chords.

 

Ditto Bellowbelle. First the chords. Then the tune follows from them... for me.

 

As for the OP's question... " is there a best way to learn and play without music?" I don't know if this is the best, but...

 

Try closing your eyes, or just looking away from the dots. In your minds eye, imagine how your fingers "look" on the keyboard. Perhaps "how they feel" is more like it, but I do think the information that connects my knowledge of how I play a tune to the sound of the tune is stored in my brain as an image. I pay attention to the image when playing something particularly hard.

 

Just as in all learning, take a short chunk of the music and repeat that, until you have it by memory. Perhaps this would be the first phrase, or if that is too much, try just the first four notes. Then your fingers and arms will know what to do without having to think about it too much.

 

Add the chunks together piece by piece, but only when you can play them separately.

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Playing by ear, I listen first for the I-IV-V -- the chord structure. Even if there are no chords -- it's just a 'tune' -- I still find the chords.

 

Ditto Bellowbelle. First the chords. Then the tune follows from them... for me.

 

As for the OP's question... " is there a best way to learn and play without music?" I don't know if this is the best, but...

 

Try closing your eyes, or just looking away from the dots. In your minds eye, imagine how your fingers "look" on the keyboard. Perhaps "how they feel" is more like it, but I do think the information that connects my knowledge of how I play a tune to the sound of the tune is stored in my brain as an image. I pay attention to the image when playing something particularly hard.

 

Just as in all learning, take a short chunk of the music and repeat that, until you have it by memory. Perhaps this would be the first phrase, or if that is too much, try just the first four notes. Then your fingers and arms will know what to do without having to think about it too much.

 

Add the chunks together piece by piece, but only when you can play them separately.

 

I guess repetition is the only way. Thanks Ron

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Though "Repetition is the only way..." to practice. In performance, I never play it the same way once.

 

That's because I have learned a handful of ways to play the same material. I've practiced switching those ways mid-stream so I can put them together seamlessly and hopefully artfully.

 

You can do this too, but only if you stop looking at the dots. If you play only what's on the page then you play it the same each time. Listen to my Pixie Wings. The same tune, 10 times through as I attempt to keep your interest.

Pixie Wings - 94 vintage fairy paintings and illustrations by 36 artists, all set to my concertina tune, Pixie Wings. A miniature fairy vacation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMkIhDrb4-c

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I learn songs using music but wondered is there a best way to learn and play without music. Is the answer play it over and over with music or try to play without? Is there a good workable answer to this? Do you stay with a small group of songs and not learn more? Do you continue to play all your songs? Thanks Ron

 

I have learned a lot by watching other players, including live performance and video. There is no music to see only the players actions and the resulting music. For concertina this can be a bit difficult as you need to find someone to watch though youtube is full of concertina videos.

 

I think playing (or attempting to play) over the song is useful and I have figured out songs this way, usually I try to find the key first then the progression and/or melody. Often its when the music is off and I'm just goofing around I stumble upon fragments of songs I've heard. For example, the song "The Highland Widow" I have created an arrangement for by recalling the notes while playing around in C.

 

Concertina playing has improved my ear considerably, and after many years of playing around on synthes, guitars, the music score is finally becoming 2nd nature. The irony being that now I can read the music I need glasses to do it..

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Playing by ear, I listen first for the I-IV-V -- the chord structure. Even if there are no chords -- it's just a 'tune' -- I still find the chords.

 

Ditto Bellowbelle. First the chords. Then the tune follows from them... for me.

 

Could anyone with the "chords first" mindset please elaborate on how this is done?

 

When picking out a tune without a score, finding the notes first is not too hard, then finding the chords is always a challenge for me.

Doing it the other way around is too alien to imagine. Is there a whole different way to hear music? Or is my brain just note handed, vs chord handed?

 

If you think this subject is too far adrift from the original question, I'll happily create a new topic.

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Wot he (Patrick) said!

 

These statements from Bellobelle and Jody have really got me thinking that I am missing something very important.

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Originally the post was talking about playing a song without music but having the music and learning from it. How is the best way to memorize it? Would this be total repetition. We have almost got this to the point of a mind reading. Playing without music but having the music. I guess we would all say repetition. Thanks Ron

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Well....let's see.... maybe for tunes that really have no clear chords, there's a better way of putting it.

 

 

Way back when I was learning to play, mostly by ear, songs that we would regularly hear in church, the accordion teacher taught me to listen to the progressions -- 'home' or the 'landing' would be the tonic chord, the I ('the ONE'). Next, it was important to differentiate between the IV (the four) and the V (the five) -- what I call, for some reason, the 'under' and the 'over.' When the song got to a place where it had that lifted up, 'over it all' sound, that was usually the V chord.....when the sound was 'under,' more passive, that was the IV, usually....of course, we stuck with simple songs to start with. And, my teacher knew enough to tell me if my guesses were correct, of course.

 

Now, a lot of trad tunes, old songs, etc., don't necessarily move along with the same cadences that old church songs would have....so if they don't call for chords, it could seem strange to give them some, I guess. But, if you happen to be familiar with the way certain chord progressions do sound, in general -- like, you just know how I-IV-V does sound -- it's usually possible to determine what the I chord is and so on.

 

I took an ear-training course, though, too, several years ago in college (did not complete college), and so I guess I've had the benefit of that training. That was a class geared more for singing ('Sight-singing and Ear-training'). One good trick I learned for finding the I chord (assuming you don't know the key a song is being played in) is to sing Do-Mi-Sol-Mi-Do (1-3-5-3-1) starting at various different notes until one seems to be right.

 

You know, the more I type, the more I feel like I might be making things worse....

And I see that there's been at least one new reply since I started, which I have yet to read. I will probably have to come back to this later....

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