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Difficult Beast.


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On 9/23/2019 at 3:46 PM, Don Taylor said:

Which would indicate that the tune was in D?

actully no. I was a little off, apologies. I meant to type "the first half of the A part" instead of first repitition of A (though sometimes it works with the latter as well). A prime example is Bonans March (there is a recording of it on my sc presence if you can not find it on the tube right away). It is a 32 bar piece structured AABB (identical A and B parts, respecrively). Each A part is sort of subdivided into two almost identical 4 bar parts A1 and A2 (coincidentally, this also applies to B, and as it happens, B2 is identical to A2. Do not cofuse this with AABA, please). The emphasis is on "almost identical." The A1 sub part ends on the dominant chord and rhe note A (one diatonic step above the root note G), leaving what is called a trugschluss (an unresolved ending). A2 is melodically equal to A1 except this time it resolves fully to the root note.


This is a very very typical structure, so if you can match the resolution note in A2 to the G AND the trugschluss note in A1 to an A, it is a very strong indication that you are in G major. Likewise, if rhe matching notes are D (A2 final note) and E (A1 trugschluss), you are almost certainly in D.


Of couse there are exceptions, and if the piece is in a modal relative key, you will need to translate accordingly, but this is a reasonable first approximation. As your ear gets better, you will become better in identifying the "pivot notes" in the pieces and thus identify the keys.

Edited by RAc
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2 hours ago, RAc said:

As your ear gets better, you will become better in identifying the "pivot notes" in the pieces and thus identify the keys. 

Ah! 1. Find the pivot notes, 2. identify the key, 3. recognize melody patterns (arpeggios, bits of scales, etc), OR 4. supplement discreet chords. I've got a plan. :)


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I've found this site to be a good practice tool if you know any of the tunes:




It's backing tracks for a load of old-time tunes which can be played with various instruments and at half-speed. I totally get your problem, I'm mainly a banjo player and thinking I was good enough to play at sessions and actually being good enough to play at sessions turned out to be two very different things!

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A device which helped me develop speed and enabled me to "play through mistakes with others" is a slow downer device or program.  Many digital recording devices have this feature and there are various downloads of it for your computer.  My favorite is "The Amazing Slowdowner".  These programs allow you to take a recording or CD and adjust the speed without changing the pitch.

(Or, vary the speed AND pitch to match your instrument)  It is also possible to take a troublesome section of a tune and loop it to hear or practice it over and over.


Some things that can happen using a slow downer. 

  • You can adjust the speed of the recording so you can play along comfortably.
  • The recording will help you keep good time in your playing.  (You will know when you break time, speed up or slow down)
  • If you make a mistake you can join back into the recording asap without embarrassing yourself or throwing someone else off (as at a session).
  • Gradually, over time, you can incrementally increase the speed of the recording until you are playing at session speed.
  • While not the same energy or chance of distractions as at a live session, playing with a recording will get you accustomed to hearing your instrument in the context of others.

I'd also suggest being patient with your progress and not let expectations get in the way of enjoying yourself.  It is a musical journey.  People start in different places with different amounts of experience.  Yours is unique.  Enjoy the adventure!







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