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darticus

Learning To Play Without Music

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Towards answering the original question, about learning from written notation, but then learning to play without it:

Breaking the tune up into pieces, and learning to play each of them without the notation is really key. That method actually works whether learning from notation, or learning a tune by ear from a recording.

But one very useful trick is to learn the end of the tune first, then gradually keep adding the section just before. That offers two benefits: 1) you practice picking up the tune mid-way, which is great for when you make a mistake and keep going, and 2) the increased practice of the latter sections means that the farther along you are in the tune the more familiar it will be, which is great for confidence!

This is much easier to do when learning from notation than it is when learning by ear of course, since the recordings are generally made in the proper order!

 

To follow up on the side discussion about thinking of chords before melody when learning a tune, that intrigues me too. I know that many traditional tunes have significant variations, yet keep manage to keep the same character and somehow remain the same tune. I and know enough of chord progressions and cadences, to understand it in theory. Yet I find that so many tunes have the same chord progressions, but somehow have completely different characters, and would never be mistaken one for another. I've seen a lot of sheets of lyrics & chords for various popular and folk songs. They work great for someone strumming a guitar and singing when they already know the tune, but I sure couldn't find the tune if I don't!

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Bellowbelle,

I use your method of feeling for the chord progressions when I'm extemporising an accomapniment. It does give the tune a structure, because, for a given chord, there are only a few choices for the melody note at that point.

 

However ...

 

Music in general consists of melody, harmony and rhythm. But some musical cultures, or genres, tend to emphasise one element, other genres another.

Irish music, for instance, is strongly melodic. For an Irish dance, all you need is one fiddler. No guitars, no drum-kit. The reel or jig rhythm is built into the tunes, and the harmonies are hinted at by the grace-notes. Similarly, a lone singer can adequately render any traditional Irish song.

European academic music (and the popular music influenced by it) relies heavily on harmony to achieve its effect - though the composers of most eras have, of course, written some beautiful melodies. But rhythm is never added explicitly. The only percussion Bach and Handel had were kettle-drums, and these were not rhythm instrument as such, but rather the "bass" of the trumpet groups with which they augmented their orchestras for festive music. (During the Classical era, the kettle-drums became divorced from the trumpets, and became part of the percussion section of the orchestra, as the timpani. But they kept their role of enhancing the harmonies.)

African music, on the other hand, is predominantly rhythmic, using mainly percussion. A group of West Africans with drums, sticks, cymbals and what have you can produce polyrhythmic music that is as sophisticated as European polyphonic music. Again, this doesn't prevent Africans from playing catchy melodies on stringed instruments like the kora or atonking, though they don't bother much about harmony.

 

In short, all music has melody, harmony and rhythm, but to different extents. Basically, the predominant element in the piece you're trying to memorise will probably be the best door-opener to it. An Irish jig? Go for the bare melody, and add the decorations later. A Schubert art-song? Get the chord progression down, and you'll have fewer "wrong" melody notes to avoid. A pop song? Get the chord progresssion and the picking pattern, and you're almost there.

 

It depends a bit on the instrument you play, of course. If you're a fiddler, every piece will be just a melody. If you're a guitarist, a piece is just a chord progression on a rhythmic framework.

And what about the concertina? It's interesting that the "Irish" style on the Anglo is to all intents and purposes melodic, with a few harmonic accents thrown in here and there, whereas "English" style utilises the automatic harmonies offered by the Richter scale.

 

Hope this rather extensive excursion helps somehow ...

 

Cheers,

John

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Towards answering the original question, about learning from written notation, but then learning to play without it:

Breaking the tune up into pieces, and learning to play each of them without the notation is really key. That method actually works whether learning from notation, or learning a tune by ear from a recording.

But one very useful trick is to learn the end of the tune first, then gradually keep adding the section just before. That offers two benefits: 1) you practice picking up the tune mid-way, which is great for when you make a mistake and keep going, and 2) the increased practice of the latter sections means that the farther along you are in the tune the more familiar it will be, which is great for confidence!

This is much easier to do when learning from notation than it is when learning by ear of course, since the recordings are generally made in the proper order!

 

To follow up on the side discussion about thinking of chords before melody when learning a tune, that intrigues me too. I know that many traditional tunes have significant variations, yet keep manage to keep the same character and somehow remain the same tune. I and know enough of chord progressions and cadences, to understand it in theory. Yet I find that so many tunes have the same chord progressions, but somehow have completely different characters, and would never be mistaken one for another. I've seen a lot of sheets of lyrics & chords for various popular and folk songs. They work great for someone strumming a guitar and singing when they already know the tune, but I sure couldn't find the tune if I don't!

Very good thoughts. I need to give it a try. Thanks Ron

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John,

 

I think that's a useful perspective. I've thought for a while that each musical instrument (or tuning) is designed to make something easy, generally at the cost of making something else hard. For string instruments I know something about, guitar in standard tuning is remarkable at allowing rich accompaniments in multiple keys in first position, fiddle / mandolin tuning in fifths puts all the notes for most melodies right under your fingers in a predictable pattern, and clawhammer banjo builds a powerful rhythmic background right into every tune. Each of those instruments can do lots of other things, of course, but those are what they seem built to do.

 

In my novice hands, the Anglo concertina seems designed to make harmony easy in the home keys. Initially finding the melody is not intuitive until you really wrap your head around the push-pull scale and figure out the zigs and zags where the scales aren't linear, but once you do find that tune, harmonizing is usually as easy as hitting a button or two in the same row somewhere.

 

There's great enjoyment to be had in pushing any of those instruments past what's easy, of course, but I don't have any problem playing to the strengths of the instrument in my hands. Of course, I have the most fun with any art in the fast-learning beginner to intermediate stage and am not all that excited about "mastery", either, so your mileage may vary. :-)

 

Mike

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John,

 

I think that's a useful perspective. I've thought for a while that each musical instrument (or tuning) is designed to make something easy, generally at the cost of making something else hard. For string instruments I know something about, guitar in standard tuning is remarkable at allowing rich accompaniments in multiple keys in first position, fiddle / mandolin tuning in fifths puts all the notes for most melodies right under your fingers in a predictable pattern, and clawhammer banjo builds a powerful rhythmic background right into every tune. Each of those instruments can do lots of other things, of course, but those are what they seem built to do.

 

In my novice hands, the Anglo concertina seems designed to make harmony easy in the home keys. Initially finding the melody is not intuitive until you really wrap your head around the push-pull scale and figure out the zigs and zags where the scales aren't linear, but once you do find that tune, harmonizing is usually as easy as hitting a button or two in the same row somewhere.

 

There's great enjoyment to be had in pushing any of those instruments past what's easy, of course, but I don't have any problem playing to the strengths of the instrument in my hands. Of course, I have the most fun with any art in the fast-learning beginner to intermediate stage and am not all that excited about "mastery", either, so your mileage may vary. :-)

 

Mike

I would rather play the instrument rather than a video game. Maybe these instruments are the invention of the video game. Ron

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Bellowbelle,

I use your method of feeling for the chord progressions when I'm extemporising an accomapniment. It does give the tune a structure, because, for a given chord, there are only a few choices for the melody note at that point.

 

However ...

 

Music in general consists of melody, harmony and rhythm. But some musical cultures, or genres, tend to emphasise one element, other genres another.

Irish music, for instance, is strongly melodic. For an Irish dance, all you need is one fiddler. No guitars, no drum-kit. The reel or jig rhythm is built into the tunes, and the harmonies are hinted at by the grace-notes. Similarly, a lone singer can adequately render any traditional Irish song.

European academic music (and the popular music influenced by it) relies heavily on harmony to achieve its effect - though the composers of most eras have, of course, written some beautiful melodies. But rhythm is never added explicitly. The only percussion Bach and Handel had were kettle-drums, and these were not rhythm instrument as such, but rather the "bass" of the trumpet groups with which they augmented their orchestras for festive music. (During the Classical era, the kettle-drums became divorced from the trumpets, and became part of the percussion section of the orchestra, as the timpani. But they kept their role of enhancing the harmonies.)

African music, on the other hand, is predominantly rhythmic, using mainly percussion. A group of West Africans with drums, sticks, cymbals and what have you can produce polyrhythmic music that is as sophisticated as European polyphonic music. Again, this doesn't prevent Africans from playing catchy melodies on stringed instruments like the kora or atonking, though they don't bother much about harmony.

 

In short, all music has melody, harmony and rhythm, but to different extents. Basically, the predominant element in the piece you're trying to memorise will probably be the best door-opener to it. An Irish jig? Go for the bare melody, and add the decorations later. A Schubert art-song? Get the chord progression down, and you'll have fewer "wrong" melody notes to avoid. A pop song? Get the chord progresssion and the picking pattern, and you're almost there.

 

It depends a bit on the instrument you play, of course. If you're a fiddler, every piece will be just a melody. If you're a guitarist, a piece is just a chord progression on a rhythmic framework.

And what about the concertina? It's interesting that the "Irish" style on the Anglo is to all intents and purposes melodic, with a few harmonic accents thrown in here and there, whereas "English" style utilises the automatic harmonies offered by the Richter scale.

 

Hope this rather extensive excursion helps somehow ...

 

Cheers,

John

Thanks, John....

Yes, that helps dig me out of the ditch I may have put myself in... :blink: I know what I meant to say, but I think it all ended there.

 

I played the guitar for years (no longer), and I find that the very best 'chord dictionaries' or chord reference books are usually for guitar players.

 

Any concertina players that wish to build up your chord recognition, perhaps try a guitar -- or a ukulele -- and strum out (and sing) some simple tunes for a while.

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Thanks Bellowbelle and eveyone who has contributed to the chordly diversion question. Your comments have helped.

 

Sorry Ron, I should have started a new thread.

 

About your original question of memorizing music from a score; once I can play it with my eyes open, I just see how far I can get with my eyes closed and keep that up until I can get to the end.

Then add the title to a list of tunes to revisit so I don't forget.

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Thanks Bellowbelle and eveyone who has contributed to the chordly diversion question. Your comments have helped.

 

Sorry Ron, I should have started a new thread.

 

About your original question of memorizing music from a score; once I can play it with my eyes open, I just see how far I can get with my eyes closed and keep that up until I can get to the end.

Then add the title to a list of tunes to revisit so I don't forget.

No Problem!

You answered the original Question to confirm what I always believed. I thought maybe there would be a better method but it seems like the old methods are still are usable. Thanks Very much Ron

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FWIW, I started a topic on a related issue a few months ago which yielded quite some wonderful personal testimonies about different individuals' approaches to music (also touching the ubiqutous subject ear vs. eyes):

 

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=18699&do=findComment&comment=177080

 

there are probably a few contributions that are also of interest to the OP.

Edited by RAc

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I would rather play the instrument rather than a video game. Maybe these instruments are the invention of the video game. Ron

 

 

Ron,

I'm not sure what you're alluding to when you say "the instrument rather than a video game." However, this rather bizarre comparison triggered a train of thought with me (always a dangerous thing to do!) ...

 

Back when I was a young Systems Engineer, I had to learn to punch Job Control Cards for IBM S/370 computers. Each Job Control statement had a large number of parameters, most of them so-called positional parameters, which you had to know in detail to define correctly. Put in a comma too many or to few, and you got the helpful message "Invalid syntax." Nowadays, in video games and serious applications, you're presented with a list of the valid parameters, and very often a sub-list of the valid values, so you can just choose the values you need for the parameters required. Basically, the complexity of defining an environment for a programme has shifted from the user to the machine, which is now much more intelligent than it was back in the early 1970s.

 

A similar development occurred in musical instruments about a century earlier - during the Industrial Revolution..

 

Before that, music-making was a mystery, in the sense of an arcane activity that you had to serve an apprenticeship, or even study for. But when it became a common thing for people to wear factory-made shoes that actually fitted them, rather than going to a shoemaker who took your measurements, made a last, and sewed the leather by hand, people got the peculiar notion that they ought to be able to provide musical accompaniment to their workers' outings, family Christmasses, etc. all by themselves. However, the proletariat had neither the leisure time nor the means for tuition on "difficult, classical" instruments like the violin, guitar, piano, or whatever you needed to accompany a sing-song or a dance.

 

Violin, piano, guitar, etc. are difficult to learn without tuition, because they offer all the musical options. They have a chromatic scale, so you have to know the music theory about keys, scales, chords, and so forth. There is just so much you can do wrong if you haven't been "initiated" properly.

 

So in the 19th century, instrument makers began making "foolproof" musical instruments that anyone could play "without prior musical knowledge." And, of course, the technological advances of the same century came into play.

 

The most prevalent feature of the "easy-to-play" instruments was their diatonic configuration. This eliminated a whole lot of unnecessary potential "wrong notes" at the expense of only being able to play in one or two keys. The various "chord zithers", "guitar-zithers" etc. were diatonic - and so were the early German concertinas.

But even with only a diatonic scale at your disposal, you can still hit wrong notes when trying to play a chord. So the chord zithers had groups of strings that each formed a chord when you strummed them, while you picked out the melody on a set of diatonic melody strings. On the free-reed side, the Richter Scale, which is common to harmonicas and Anglo-German concertinas, was devised - all the blow notes are in harmony, as are the adjacent suck notes.

 

But even the upper-class, chromatic English concertina is an "easier-to-master" instrument. It has the range of, and a similar timbre to the violin - but it solves the problem of intonaion, which is difficult on the violin unless you have a very good ear and practise a lot. And the duet concertinas, though offering all the chromatic, melodic and harmonic capabilities of the guitar, are easier to use because they do not require the extreme manual dexterity of a professional guitarist's left hand.

 

Meanwhile, the early diatonic instruments have been enhanced almost beyond recognition. One of the early fretless zithers, the autoharp (a favourite of mine) has far outstripped its competitors, and can now do a lot more than the 3-chord trick in the key of G, which is all the first models were capable of. And the simple Richter-Scale concertina with 20 buttons in two keys has spawned the Anglo-Chromatic, the Chemnitzer and the Bandoneon. Even the harmonica has gone chromatic.

 

Even so, when I play my 30-button Anglo, I am aware that it makes certain music easier than on any other instrument, and that I must make an effort to transcend the restrictions that make this music easier in order to produce more sophisticared music. My Crane duet, which offers me less assistance with simple music, lets me do more sophisticated things more easily.

Is one an instrument and the other a video game?

 

Cheers,

John

Edited by Anglo-Irishman

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I'm retired but I still have many friends with musical talent and its much easier to play video games rather than try music. 10 hours a day they play. Just thinking maybe music was a better choice years ago. Now everyone believes video games are real! Just a thought better to play video than a young guy working I guess. Play war games all day Na! LOL Ron

Edited by darticus

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