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Beer Tent The general discussion forum, and the place to start a new "beer-tent-like" Piping Related discussion...

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Old 05-02-2019, 03:40 PM   #41
John McCain
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

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One of the best evenings Iíve had was when I was in Helena Mt. for my uncles memorial.
Yes, Iím sure that was fun for you.
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Old 05-03-2019, 05:11 AM   #42
bob864
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

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But, when I play in a good Irish session, with good players, itís on a different level.
It might be fun, but even the best sessions sound like a muddy mess because at it's heart Irish sessions are about spontaneous creation, not rehearsed performance art. Listen to Music at Matt Molloy's as an example.

I have a friend who play harp and when we get together we'll work on individual tunes for hours (i.e., rehearse) until they sound the way we want them to sound. Six random musicians walking into a pub and running through tunes is never going to sound "good" by any objective standard.
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Old 05-03-2019, 07:07 AM   #43
Doug Walton
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

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Originally Posted by 3D Piper View Post
Does it have to be Scottish/Irish session style?
Although they are lowly sheet-music-readers, this sounds pretty good to me:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRuM2rk2miQ



-Matthew
That looks like a professional recording session, or at least a video performance. They are utterly awesome.
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Old 05-03-2019, 07:56 AM   #44
John McCain
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

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Originally Posted by 3D Piper View Post
Does it have to be Scottish/Irish session style?
Although they are lowly sheet-music-readers, this sounds pretty good to me:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRuM2rk2miQ
One of my favorite reels!

Kidding, of course, but it's a good example of the inaccuracies of a couple of session myths:

1. Real music is memorized
2. Memorized music is played at a higher level
3. Musicians can't interact while reading

Anyone who has visited sessions have heard some pretty dreadful music 'played by ear.' It's no guarantee that the music will be good. Not even a causal relationship.

I have a couple of pals whose playing gets noticeably worse when playing memorized tunes. Note mistakes and very poor rhythm.

Since I ran a Scottish music session in Texas for 15 years, I also got to ease some classical violinists (a couple of them pro musicians) into the vernacular. Imagine what their approach to a strathspey is from reading music. So, with an "easy" strathspey in front of them, they either quickly adapt, or stop and ask questions (and don't @ me with 'there's many types of 'speys' - I know). They hear what others are doing with the dot/cuts, cut/dots, triplets, etc.

The point is, one can listen to others while playing from the dots as Matthew's video demonstrates. If one can't, then it's likely one can't while 'playing by ear' either.

The other point is that many of the judgements of a quality of session based on playing by ear isn't based in reality. Just because one can do it doesn't mean it's the best/only/traditional/legitimate/blessed way. I can circular-breathe and it doesn't mean I think you should.

So, do what you wish. If you put up barriers to others, then you diminish joy. Your choice.

Any one watch Simon Thoumire's videos? Check out the one posted today. Any dots?
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Old 05-03-2019, 09:13 AM   #45
Tim | Birchen
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

A few other things that stand out to me about that video:

First, in addition to being very good readers, listeners, and players, they seem very well rehearsed.

Second, I can't help but wonder what this track would sound like óand even more importantly, what it would feel like for the musiciansó if they had memorized the music in advance, sat around in a circle without any written music on hand, allowing the possibility of more eye contact, and played it for themselves just for the pleasure of playing it for themselves (as in a common jam session). I think we'd hear more variation and improvisation, we'd hear less technical perfection and possibly some mistakes, and I bet we'd see more smiling.

(This pretends that all the voices and instruments would be at a volume that would allow everyone to be heard.)

It might also be worth pointing out that highly-trained musicians, brass players in particular, essentially have to hear in their minds what they're seeing on the page the moment they see it. It is not sufficient for them to simply press down on the appropriate button or valve and assume the right note will come out (or if it does, that it will be in tune). So for some, playing from written music is also playing by ear.

The ideal, in my opinion, is that both skills are like two blades of the same pair of scissors. Both skills can open more doors to making good music.

~ Tim
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Old 05-03-2019, 10:03 AM   #46
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

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Originally Posted by Tim | Birchen View Post
The ideal, in my opinion, is that both skills are like two blades of the same pair of scissors. Both skills can open more doors to making good music.

~ Tim
Exactly. Couldn't agree more. This is exactly why formal music education programs include theory, sight-reading, and ear training. It's all in service of giving us as many tools to use as possible.
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Old 05-03-2019, 03:48 PM   #47
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

Iíve never been to a Scottish session and really donít know what they are like. Most on this forum, Iíd image, comes from a background of Highland piping where every grace note and ornamentation is written out. Maybe the Scottish sessions relies on sheet music where everything is written out.

As Pancelticpiper said, about Irish session music; ď Itís an aural traditionĒ. The notation is not an accurate accounting of the music, but a guide. ďThe Notation is not the MusicĒ

I see Irish music like a foreign language. When one is learning a foreign language, you donít rely just on a book. The book is just one tool. You have to hear it spoken. To be fluent in a language you have listen to it and absorb it, and practice it. Irish session players are doing that by learning tunes by ear, and playing them by ear. Thatís not to say they donít use sheet music to help learn tunes, itís a tool. To be fluent in it, you use all the tools available to you.

Maybe it sounds like a ďmuddy messĒ if you donít speak the language. A Irish session isnít suppose to be a ďrehearsed performance art.Ē, but an enjoyable time to come together and play shared tunes. In an Irish session, when someone shows up with the dots, it kinda puts a damper on, and slows down the conversation.
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Old 05-03-2019, 06:33 PM   #48
CalumII
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

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Originally Posted by Tjones79 View Post
Iíve never been to a Scottish session and really donít know what they are like. Most on this forum, Iíd image, comes from a background of Highland piping where every grace note and ornamentation is written out. Maybe the Scottish sessions relies on sheet music where everything is written out.

Every session has its own character, and in truth most Scottish sessions in Scotland play a lot of Irish music as well.


As a generalisation, it's true to say that Scottish musicians tend to be closer to sources than Irish musicians, and so one tends to hear tunes much closer to their published or recorded forms. It's probably also true to say that Scottish players tend to be more positive about literacy.


As for that video, it's completely irrelevant. Which is not to say it's bad music, because it is very good: it's simply completely off-topic.
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Old 05-04-2019, 04:10 PM   #49
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Default Re: Learning Tunes By Ear

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One of the long-running pub sessions in Boston, at the Greenbriar, is coming to an end soon after many years, The Monday nightt sessions were in two parts- the early session was for beginners and intermediate players, and sheet music was allowed. The later session was for experienced players- no dots.
Just an update: although the Greenbriar is closing after three decades, ( This coming Monday will be the final session), The Monday sessions will go on, starting the follwing Monday at The Burren in Davis Square.
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