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I have just read through the topic (Whats the point of Learning Scales) .I can read music or play by ear .What I am not totally good at is predicting the sound I will get from pressing any one button. For example before pressing Sing the note you expect the button will produce .Then repeat pressing another button an odd distance away .Its easy when its an arpeggio or the next note of the scale..Another example is sing three odd notes and then try to play exactly the same notes .Can any of you do this or is it a step to far .I am not the fastest at learning new tunes ,however I can manage in the long run..Bob

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Honestly, I'm not sure what you mean by "What I am not totally good at is predicting the sound I will get from pressing any one button." In my understanding, knowing *where* on the instrument the sound is you *want* to play next is a non negotiable basic requirement of any kind of music. So, associating finger positions and sounds is something that has to be as natural to your cortex as clutch, brake and gas pedal working. How you train that of course depends on the particular instrument you play (what layout?). Some are "more" or "less" logical or intuitive than others (on, noooo. Not that discussion again... ;.)), but without knowing where to aim, you certainly can't hit your target (which there was a less martial metaphore). So it's working on that ol' "finger memory," I guess.

 

Or did I get anything wrong in your posting?

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For me, it'll depend on what you mean by "sing 3 notes". If you are suggesting that you just randomly choose 3 unrelated notes and then seek to play them, you'll find very few that can because you'd need to have perfect pitch. You would have to be able to say "I hear a C#, an A and an F#" first, then know where to find them. Not many musicians have this skill.

 

Perhaps you are suggesting that someone choose 3 notes of the C scale at random, not notes adjacent or in arpegio as you state. In this case you are likely to find that many musicians will know where to find the buttons to match. Those who play by ear should do very well, and I would expect those who depend on reading do well also.

 

If you choose random tones (like a C#, an A and an F#) from the key of C, the exercise would be a bit more challenging because musicians are accustomed to playing MUSIC by ear and not oddities of the scale by ear, but I think most play-by-ear folks would still locate the buttons. I'd need a moment to sort it out and then play you back the pitches.

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Posted (edited)

Playing by ear is grand. Do it!

 

Other ways of playing can help you figure out difficult stuff, but it all comes back to your ear and the sound of the music you are making.

 

Listening to your ear is core.

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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I can play dozens of tunes from memory but I often feel I have a "bad ear" for music, in that I can hear a tune many times but sometimes struggle to pick it out on the instrument. However, the more I listen carefully and the more I practise, the easier it gets.

 

Sometimes I revisit a tune I learned by ear years ago and realise that I had learned... er... an idiosyncratic variant.

 

I also find that the more you get used to a particular genre/style, the easier it becomes to pick out the right notes for further tunes in the same genre/style. On the Anglo in particular, there is an intuitive relationship between the typical "shapes" of certain styles of music, and which options you automatically select for each note.

 

Although I mainly play English folk/Morris tunes, my preferred listening is hillbilly/rockabilly/country and I am just venturing into learning some Hank Williams tunes. They are mainly simple (a small compass of notes and many repeated patterns) but they follow a different "logic" from what I usually play. I'm already finding that by working at it, my "bad ear" is getting steadily better.

 

If you can play well by ear, you can get away with sight reading badly, but if you can't hear the music in what you're playing, it doesn't matter how well you read it.

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I think you have the jist of what I was trying to convey.Another example is a good choral singer will be able from a start note to go up , a forth ,a seventh and so on .I was thinking could one recognise the distance between the notes before playing them .As I said I can do this on an arpeggio an octave and adjacent note adjacent .I suppose it all comes down to practice.

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Playing by ear is a skill which can be learnt, unlike perfect pitch which you either have or you don't. Like any skill, playing by ear takes practice.

 

Playing by ear is copying something you've heard. First you need to be able to recognise what you're hearing. Rhythm and timing seem to come fairly naturally, but identifying the notes doesn't. Without perfect pitch we're always working in a relative way. I think you need two things: recognising intervals and recognising which degree (i.e. note) of the key you're hearing.

 

Intervals: A diatonic scale is made up of tones and semitones. These intervals are called major and minor seconds. Arpeggios consist of minor thirds, major thirds and fourths. So if you familiarise yourself with scales and arpeggios you should be able to get familiar with intervals of up to a fourth. Most melodies consist of fragments of scales and arpeggios strung together. An alternative approach, especially for larger intervals, is to have a list of songs which start with a particular interval as a way of learning to recognise them. For example My Bonny Lies Over The Ocean starts with a major sixth and In The Bleak Midwinter starts with a minor second (traditional tune, not Darke's beautiful version).

 

Which degree of the scale: More tricky, but essential since you need to know where to start the tune. You need to be able to identify the key note. One thing that will help is that almost all tunes end on the key note. From there you can use recognition of intervals to work out other notes; in particular the first note.

 

Playing by ear is a combination of recognising which degree of the scale a note is, what the interval between two notes is, and recognising scale and arpeggio fragments; which is a sort of shorthand to encompass a small run of notes. Take Nellie The Elephant as an example. It starts on the third degree of the scale "Nellie the" is a scale fragment from the 3rd to the 5th degree, "elephant" is a scale fragment from the 3rd down to the 1st degree. "...ant", "lost her" and "trunk and" are the first three notes in an arpeggio. And so it goes on. In fact there is only one (or possibly two) intervals that are not part of a scale or arpeggio: between "trumpety trump" and "trump, trump, trump" (first occurrence).

 

Adding accompaniment by ear, should you so wish, is similarly a matter of learning to recognise chords when you hear them. Not easy, but perfectly possible with practice. And all very much worth the effort, in my opinion.

 

This could have been written for the thread "What is the point of scales"!

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What you’re talking about is called “relative pitch,” the ability to sing (or recognize) a note after hearing (or singing) a known note. This is contrasted with “perfect (or absolute) pitch,” the ability to sing (or recognize) a note out of thin air, without any previous reference. Most people don’t have perfect pitch. I certainly don’t. As a teenager, I spent a year with a tuning fork in my pocket trying to learn to predict its pitch. Never happened. (Don’t say it: Maybe I should have taken it out of my pocket once in a while.)

 

But (almost) anyone can learn relative pitch. If you can sing a song or recognize a wrong note when you hear it, you’re halfway there. You just have to suss out what you’re doing.

 

One popular way to work on relative pitch is to remember a set of examples of the more common intervals. Perfect 4th? Taps. Perfect 5th? Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Major 3rd? Blue Danube Waltz. Octave? Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Etc.

 

We are all indebted to Leonard Bernstein (centennial this summer!) for providing some of the less common examples in his score for “West Side Story.” Minor 7th? There’s A Place For Us. Tritone (augmented 4th)? Maria (also Cool).

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There's also one at:

 

https://portableapps.com/apps/education/solfege-portable

 

though I haven't tried it (yet).

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What I find interesting is that my brain allows my fingers to find notes on multiple instruments, but won't allow me to sing a note in the open air and identify it. LOL

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My brain makes me take the extra step, "My fingers are here on this instrument so it must be a d," g, b or whatever.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting these concepts of how our brains conceive of music. For me, the part of my brain that thinks of music as being symbols like F#m or middle C is quite different from the part of my brain that listens and hears and plays. Perhaps it's a right/left brain thing. Learning to sing while playing feels like a whole different thing than learning to talk while playing. I've learned both, but in doing so, I'm convinced that the speaking/analytical/thinking part and the singing/playing/listening parts can be reconciled, but only with some mental effort and practice.

Edited by Jody Kruskal

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What I find interesting is that my brain allows my fingers to find notes on multiple instruments, but won't allow me to sing a note in the open air and identify it. LOL

 

Logical, I suppose! I also play several instruments, and I sing. My instruments all have well-defined buttons, frets and finger-holes - but my vocal cords don't!

 

Cheers,

John

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You are exactly right! But the thing that has always astounded me is that I can play on the fly by ear accurately, with my fingers automatically finding the right spot to land to sound the note I cannot name until I my fingers hit it. I've tried off and on to hone the skill of pulling the names of the notes I hear from the air. I know there were at least two recorded classes I listened through years ago, but never could catch it. While I have friends who can hear a tone and say, Bb, or that's g. Minds are amazing.

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Minds are amazing! The intuitive / musical understanding of music is so different from the intellectual / analytical understanding of the exact same musical thing. Two brains struggling to achieve and reconcile the same artistic results... that's what it's all about for me. The two brains can learn from each other... if they both pay attention. Quite a trick to do in live performance or any time.

 

Still, the integration of both in a single performance is the ultimate of musicality.

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