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Learning how to play in Octaves

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Any exercises for learning how to play in Octaves? I can follow sheet music that explicitly have the notes written down for both octaves but if I want to play with octaves without the sheet music it is challenging. 

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Playing in octaves was super scary at first but I guess it’s ultimately a very mechanic skill, you learn to play two scales at once. For my learning style the best exercise is just learning many tunes with octaves.

If you play ITM there are many tunes gravitating around the G who are perfect for octaves: Na Ceannabhain Bhana, Jimmy Wards, Out on the Ocean and so on.


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I should clarify that the question comes from some who is new to music and wanting to start playing multiple notes at the same time.  

2 hours ago, davidevr said:


What's ITM?

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Playing in octaves on Anglo?


There are many approaches.  I will assume a CG Anglo.  Change the notes accordingly if you are on another tuning such as GD.


As a starting point, play a simple 3 note phrase in parallel octaves: CDE CDE repeated.


Then try CDE EDC CDE EDC etc.


Then try CDEF CDEF etc.


Build up in the obvious way.


In C, you will find that you can work up to CDEF GAAG FEDC without problems.


The next note is a problem: both B notes are on the right hand.


There are two ways to get round this.

1) The left hand drops down an octave for the B and C, or

2) Cross to the G row.


Crossing the rows is an important skill, so I suggest you work on this:

CDEF on the C row

GABC on the G row


Once you can do this, you can extend up and down the scale, building your confidence incrementally by adding one rung of the ladder at a time.


The next question is how you use this skill.  There are several approaches including:

1) Playing everything in parallel octaves, note for note.  This can be monotonous.

2) Only playing the lower octave on the down beats.

3) Doing 2 above most of the time, but with occasional bursts of 1 above.


I found that this approach of consolidating a short part of the scale, then adding one more rung every so often worked for me.





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Honestly, I use muscle memory. There is a pattern: most* octaves are three buttons wide on the push, and four buttons wide on the pull. But applying the pattern consciously is too hard and too slow for me. Instead, I've spent enough time playing in octaves that using my fingers in that pattern just feels right. 


It might be helpful to start with a limited set of notes, like Mikefule says, because then it's just a few movements that you're building muscle memory for.

*In fact, if you're the sort of maniac who moves reeds around, you can make it so the pattern has no exceptions. The simpler no-exceptions pattern is still too hard for me to think about consciously while playing, but it's at least easier to build muscle memory.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dan Worrall's House Dance is also in paperback with QR links to the audio files, available through Red Cow Music, McNeela Music, and Amazon.



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